Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Twyla Tharp: "Wake up and dance, y'all."

They say we haven't had this much snow in mid-November for 70 years. 12 centimetres or more. Very very pretty for those of us who don't have to wrestle our way to work. The leaves are still on the trees and I'd just blown up my bike tires for further riding. I think not. It's sunny today, blindingly bright.
I know, you've seen this view many times before. But not in NOVEMBER.
The view, through the screen, from my bedroom window. Very David Milne, no?

Yesterday's excitement - a trip with John to Staples, which is having their annual chair sale, to buy myself A NEW DESK CHAIR. A first - mine so far have all been second-hand; the one I'm sitting in now has a variety of cushions to support my back. The new one is snazzy with built-in lumbar support. Half price. Delivered tomorrow. I spend a great deal of my life sitting here, so might as well do so in style and comfort.

The salesman who sold me the chair had, without doubt, the worst haircut I have ever seen. It was pressed straight at the sides, like wide sideburns but growing straight down and sticking out, off the face, and short with weird bits at the back. Indescribable - well, like a large leprechaun with a very bad barber. I kept wondering what he saw when he looked in the mirror: Ooo, lookin' good today you handsome devil! But maybe he was thinking the same of me. And he did know a lot about desk chairs.

On Sunday, to an event put on by the King's University Nonfiction program - the only degree in the country specifically for nonfiction, yay! It was about publishing nonfiction, and it was, as always, depressing - about how hard it is to find an agent or a publisher, and even when you do, to get a book out into the world and - cue laughter here - to make money. However. We do it anyway, because we are lunatics of the best sort.

Speaking of lunatics, finished 78-year old Twyla Tharp's new book Keep It Moving. She urges us to dance. Good news: my friend Gina and I are again going to produce a dance event at the Black Swan. Thursday Feb. 6 2020. Great music, no partners needed, just move that bod!

Here are a few inspirational quotes:
Age is not the enemy. Stagnation is the enemy. Complacency is the enemy. Stasis is the enemy. Attempting to maintain the status quo, smoothing our skin, and keeping our tummies trim become distractions that obscure a larger truth. Attempting to freeze your life in time at any point is totally destructive to the prospect of a life lived well and fully.

To move is the provenance of all living human beings. And by my definition, to move is to dance. With the time you’ve got, choose to make your life bigger … I say this with love: shut up and dance … You might want to start now.

If you look at your body as a job, then gathering the discipline to stay strong and limber isn’t a chore. Fitness expands our social, emotional, and intellectual well-being. When we make time for physical activity … we are not stealing from other parts of our lives. We are making it possible to live each day productively.

Wake up and dance, y’all. As you best see fit. Dancing is a beautiful way to say thank you to your body and to join the human race. Welcome to the tribe.

Hope to see you Feb. 6, if not before. 

Saturday, November 9, 2019

the joys of Michel de Montaigne

My dear Chris has chastised me for not posting daily, as he does. He thinks I should rename this site "Born to Blog Occasionally." I wrote back to say I didn't think there was anything in the Official Blog Rulebook that insists we bloggers must post every day. I love that he does, that I can follow the daily activities of one of my oldest and dearest friends who lives on the other side of the country. But for me, the need to write begins to bubble inside until I can't bear it, I have to let it out; this takes time. And writing each post also takes time, often up to two hours I don't have in the day.

So - "Born to Blog when the need arises and I can make time and there's something to tell you." How about that?

What I have to say today is not much, however. It's our first real autumn/winter day - cold and bleak, a grey-white sky, nothing moving, no desire to go anywhere. The time for hibernation has set in; suddenly I'm more tired, want to eat chocolate and carbs and go lie down. Did not ride to the market this morning. Will not go to the Y. Will however go to the library, if I can read a bit more of the massive tome I need to return, The Complete Essays of Michel de Montaigne, who, in the Screech translation, is a most entertaining companion, thoughtful, erudite - quotes in Latin every few lines and many examples from his life experience and from classical literature - as he examines thumbs, prayer, cannibals, and many other disparate subjects with wit and profound insight into human behaviour, especially his own.
On Solitude:

We should have wives, children, property, and, above all, good health … if we can: but we should not become so attached to them that our happiness depends on them. We should set aside a room, just for ourselves, at the back of the shop, keeping it entirely free and establishing there our true liberty, our principal solitude and asylum. Within it our normal conversation should be of ourselves, with ourselves, so privy that no commerce or communication with the outside world should find a place there; there we should talk and laugh as though we had no wife, no children, no possessions, no followers, no menservants, so that when the occasion arises that we must lose them it should not be a new experience to do without them. We have a soul able to turn in on herself; she can keep herself company; she has the wherewithal to attack; to defend; to receive and to give. Let us not fear that in such a solitude as that we shall be crouching in painful idleness.

1267 pages like this; it would take many weeks to do it justice. But I need to take him back - the book is overwhelming and too thick to hold comfortably, I'll come back to it - and get the one that's waiting for me, Twyla Tharp's new Keep it moving: lessons for the rest of your life. I loved her The creative habit and quote it in class, that routine is the friend of the creative person. Make a work behaviour automatic and you won't have to push yourself to do it. Routine helps us stop crouching in painful idleness.

Have never been able to follow it myself, but it's great advice.

Much to do besides reading books, papers, emails, websites, FB, the New Yorker etc. - cooking a ratatouille, practicing the piano, maybe though probably not watching a good movie - Temple Grandin - that's on this afternoon on one of the movie networks, laundry, work. Gretchen came to watch Bill Maher last night and brought a freshly-baked apple pie - an inspiration. I had an idea for a new writing project at 4 a.m., which is when many of my ideas appear. Contemplated going out to see Pain and Glory, one of several great movies out now, but won't. The day, which at this moment, 1 p.m., feels long and empty, will vanish.

As they do.

Spent yesterday morning listening to Sandy and Nora's Podcast, one of Anna's favourite political podcasts; she sent a link to a specific discussion about the recent library controversy, on which Anna and I have opposite viewpoints. I listened and responded at length and in detail about how much I dislike and am offended by these two judgemental, closed-minded, foul-mouthed, misinformed, censorious, sanctimonious young women and what they have, so self-righteously and with such frightening self-confidence, to say. How can my daughter ... no, stop. No point.

Go on, Beth, tell us what you really feel.

On the other hand, had two emails this morning from my new BFF in Edmonton, a poet and spiritual counsellor who was one of my mother's good friends and who has now, amazingly, through the internet, become one of mine. We write long emails about our families, our writing work, the past. A great and unexpected gift.

So that's it for today - nothing much from this long silent solitary day in the grey. But here I am, not crouching in idleness but here, in my room at the back of the shop, writing to you.

We have lived quite enough for others: let us live at least this tail-end of life for ourselves. Let us bring our thoughts and reflections back to ourselves and our own well-being.

Amen, Michel.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Barkis is willin'

Snow! Not much, but there it is. The trees are still covered with leaves, which are now covered with snow. Very pretty out there. And there goes a black squirrel clutching a peanut - where did he get that?

A thrill this morning - yesterday I wrote to the information officer at Bletchley Park, asking for information on Mum's 2 or 3 years there, and immediately he wrote back, telling me what he knew. I'm sending more questions. Busy day today - teaching at U of T, a CNFC meeting on Zoom, a class here tonight. But right now, have to go find the snow shovels and salt and fill the bird feeder. I can hear the blue jay complaining and see the flash of cardinal red, waiting. Sorry, guys.

Finished a marvellous book, Unquiet, by Linn Ullman, daughter of Liv and of Ingmar Bergman.  It's annoying that she calls it a novel when it's obviously, in every line, a memoir of her upbringing with two fascinating eccentric parents. However, she writes, "In order to write about real people — parents, children, lovers, friends, enemies, brothers, uncles, or the occasional passerby — it is necessary to make them fictional. I believe this is the only way of breathing life into them. To remember is to look around, again and again, equally astonished every time."

An interesting notion - I guess especially if your parents are as famous as hers'.

And good TV - the end of "The Durrells in Corfu," delicious, and "His Dark Materials" on HBO - as in the Harry Potter films, nice try, but the books are SO MUCH BETTER!

More transcribing of my parents' letters yesterday. I knew, but was reminded, that they had a pet name for my father's penis: Barkis, as in the David Copperfield character looking for a wife who repeatedly says, "Barkis is willin'." And I gather our family Barkis always was. There's a letter written to the boat bringing my mother, brother and me back from England to Halifax after months of separation, when Dad gives Mum instructions on how to lie to customs officials - an effective lesson he taught me too, later - and tells her how much she is missed. At the end of the letter, he writes, "An old friend wanted to add a few lines." What follows is written in messy, child-like handwriting:
I too have missed you terribly and am quivering with excited anticipation of our renewed connection.

There are repeated allusions to their sex life. When he was looking for a new bed for them, she wrote, "Try it out well first—if it creaks, don’t buy! (Bearing in mind our favourite winter sport next to skiing)…. It makes me happy that despite years of unhappiness together, this part of their lives always worked, until the end.

I know, not all of you are acquainted with your parents' affectionate name for your father's penis. My family believed in sharing, for better and for worse. Perhaps if I pretend the two of them are fictional characters, it'll be easier to do this work.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Jojo Rabbit

It's starting, the closing down of that big room outside the door, where we can walk and sit and play from May to November. Today, mild but windy, wet, and grey turning to sun. But snow predicted. Got out boots and winter coats today. I think I'm ready.

Thursday was Hallowe'en; after the class at U of T I met Ken to see a movie, both of us gladly escaping candy, costumes, and merriment. We saw Jojo Rabbit, which in fact brought us a great deal of merriment. Any film that can turn Hitler into a figure of hilarious ridicule wins in my books. We both had a really good time seeing this thoughtful comedy with a dark underbelly and wonderful child actors. Then we had dinner and gossiped, and by the time I got home, the madness was nearly over. This 'hood goes crazy; the people up the street have giant inflated pumpkins and spiders and neon skulls and a fog machine and an electronic witch who cackles and a vulture in the trees ... I just can't get over that we're trying to cut back on plastic, but Hallowe'en has now become a competition to see how much crappy plastic shit you can shovel into your front yard. My neighbour scattered about a collection of severed bloody legs I'm hoping will vanish soon.

Ooo. As Ken says, I know I'm getting old and crabby. Me too. But it was a success across town - maybe the lousy weather meant people gave even more to the brave kids who were out.
Friday, crabbier than ever - first the electricians in to fix something relatively minor which took all morning and $300, then the minute they left the plumber, ditto, $275, while I was online with a CNFC conference call. Didn't get outside all day. Gretchen came to watch Bill Maher; she was bearing her divine chocolate chip cookies, and now I have to beg her not to bake, because these are lethal. Bill Maher was crabby too.

Anna's partner Thomas's sister is temporarily homeless, so Anna is providing shelter for her and her many children into the near future. Again, my daughter leaves me mute with admiration. It's called putting your time and effort and love where your mouth is. Her speciality.

Here, today's laugh:

 The gardenia Wayson gave me usually shuts down when it comes inside - but no, it's blooming. He's around, keeping an eye on things.
 The last bouquet of the year - Japanese maples in their glory
And yet life stirs in those tiny tendrils. I've forgotten what this plant is. But it's happy.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

So True Sunday Nov. 24

Will post this a few more times before the day. We've got a fabulous lineup for you, folks — hope to see you in the audience. Be there or be square.

fall forward

Aching left shoulder - got my flu shot today, the booster for old folks. A demographic which somehow, for some bizarre reason, includes me.

Sunday, walked across town - an hour - to Christie and Bloor, to take Stella to dinner for her 60th birthday. We went to the Indian restaurant Banjara, next to Christie Pits Park. I wandered in the park beforehand; the trees were beautiful, even in the fading light of dusk, and the whole place smelled divinely of curry. The weather, still, is warm and soft and heavenly. (click to enlarge)

Yesterday, most of the day on the computer for CNFC, though also had an important discussion with my beloved friend Chris. It turned out that something I'd done, or not done, had irritated him, and something he had done, or not done, had done the same for me; we had it out, both explaining ourselves and coming to an understanding of each other. Oh human beings are complicated. As he wrote at the end, "Friends forever!" We are and will be.

Speaking of complicated human beings, that night, the most difficult assignment for my Ryerson class, an emotional truth-telling that demands everything. And they aced it, all of them. Luckily one of them had brought Kleenex. I say, chuckling, how much I love to torture writers, but really it's about forcing them to dig deep, and they do. I pointed out that only a few weeks ago, they were a group of complete strangers, and now they're telling each other their most powerful, important, and often painful stories. The air in the room is transformed afterwards. It's remarkable.

Also had my early assessment from the U of T class: they seem to like what's happening. One wrote, Great instructor. I count days for the next session and listen to every word Beth says, with such an amazing personality and depth of experience and knowledge she has. 

Thank you, but if my children read that, they'd laugh out loud at the concept of listening to every word I say, they who learned to tune me out at birth.

Stopped my bike on the way back from the doctor's office to photograph a magnificent sky through the buildings. Toronto is growing so fast, soon it'll be like NYC, we'll be grabbing desperately for the bits of sky we can actually see. But not yet.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Wayson's memorial

Drained tonight. Today was Wayson's memorial event at Harbourfront. There was a lot of laughter, of course, and many tears. I still find it hard to believe he's not here; that he doesn't want to hear how my classes are going and give me advice, that he won't be here for Sunday dinner tomorrow, with lots of meat. The Fleck Theatre was full of his friends and admirers. I was there with friend Anna who drove in from Stratford; she'd once optioned All That Matters as a film but was ahead of her time, the world was ready only a few years ago for an all-Asian film, but not then.

My heart ached with missing him, but it was wonderful how many of us there were, aching. So many thought of him as family. How did he manage to make so many people love him so very much? And not just adults but children. He was a child himself, in a way, with his joyful enthusiasms and the toys he loved to buy and distribute. The stuff - I'm sure everyone there, those who knew him, have Wayson memorabilia in their homes. Eli now has a heavy dragon paperweight Wayson gave me. Eli loved him too.

He would of course have adored every minute of this event, would have made self-deprecating jokes about people being forced to be there and pretending to love him. But he knew how much we really did. How could we not?

I took a few notes for those of you who could not be there.

People remarked on his: beautiful calligraphic handwriting; love for dim sum; envy of Francoise Sagan’s youthful fame and her red Ferrari; belief in ghosts, symbols, and omens; origami butterflies; countless collections - hundreds of rubber stamps, pens, books, watches. Vanity. Spirituality. Many families. 

His sayings: Onward. You matter. Family is who loves you. Bravo! The heart knows no rules. You’re lucky to be queer; there is beauty in being different and in choosing your family. Be guided by love. Too many rhinestones. Hot bits.

His editor said he started to write about his first serious health crisis, when a combined heart and asthma attack put him in a medically induced coma for 12 days. He said he couldn't remember anything so had another heart attack and wrote Not Yet. 

People said: He spoke for the marginalized; he was the champion of the underdog. A brilliant teacher. He looked healthier and younger than he was and dressed like an undergrad, in jeans and sweatshirts. He was a charismatic drama queen, scripting his life. He had a gentle stubbornness. More than a prose writer, he was a dramatist, loved the theatre, musicals, films. He taught racialized and queer writers that they mattered. He took us all seriously; he let us claim him, and in return, he claimed us. He was a great, patient listener and made everyone feel special, noticed, valued. He felt he’d been very lucky all his life. Wanton kindness. Insanely generous. Wise beyond words. A great man.

Family is who loves you. You are missed and loved, my dear friend. More tears.

Lani just sent this: 
All day I thought about Wayson. I even went to a book sale full of people everywhere. And you know me and crowds. But there were kids. Kids who were picking out books for their parents to buy for them. One little girl who could not have been 2 years old yet wanted her dad to buy her every book she recognized.  She recognized them because she already had them at home.  When her dad pointed that out she said, "Daddy, you can never have too many books."
I bought 5 kids books to give to the little kids on our block.
Thank you, Wayson, for books. Thank you, Beth, for books. Hope it was a marvellous celebration.
Love, Lani

Thursday, October 24, 2019

pleasure and colour

These fall days - with sun and wind and whirling orange, red, and yellow leaves showering down - are the best of the year. This must be why older people are the happiest: because we know to appreciate every bit of what we're soon going to lose. There is nothing as welcome and beautiful as a sunny Canadian autumn day. A red maple leaf is our flag for a reason.

The electricians have finished part of the job, after digging a trench across my ceiling and decimating the room.
But now there's light, including a vital motion sensor light above the little deck outside the door. When this room was my bedroom, a man jumped up there once in the middle of the night and terrified me, though my screams also terrified him and he jumped down and ran away. Now the light will make me feel safe. The other part of the job, decimating part of the kitchen, remains to be done at some later date. Hooray.

A stellar class today at U of T - such good good stories! - and a CNFC board meeting via the miracle of Zoom. Now I'm cutting 400 or 500 words out of an already short piece to send it somewhere. Hope springs etc.

Wanted to share something with you, something I mentioned a few weeks ago, a miraculous discovery at this late stage of life. And that something is Adams 100% Natural Peanut Butter. Adams is an American company, I just Googled, founded in 1922. You all know my addictions include red wine, dark chocolate, anything printed on paper, and the Internet. And now - Adams Peanut Butter. I eat it by the tablespoonful. It's got no preservatives or sugar but a tiny bit of salt makes all the difference. As someone who hated all food until the age of 18 and survived on this stuff, the discovery of a fabulous new peanut butter is something of a miracle.

It's Diwali, and my daughter celebrated with the entire South Asian community of her sons' school, which is a lot of saris. Nooo, I want to say. Don't hold this fabulous festival of colour now, when we're buried in colour. Defer it to February, when we'll really need to see something warm and bright!

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

a stress zombie

One of those days - a beautiful crisp bright day, too - when I'm screaming with frustration. Haven't felt this knot of tension in my stomach since the renovation last winter, which makes sense because the electricians were back today, shouting at each other in Cantonese as they ripped apart my office to fix what should have been a simple wiring issue. Of course it's not. They were here all day, my office is dust and rubble, and they'll be back tomorrow. The old wires in walls and ceiling are dangerous, they say, showing me a blackened wire; all of them need to be replaced.

Oh hooray.

And tomorrow, they also need to explore why a central plug in my kitchen went dead last year, which will mean cutting into my kitchen wall. More hooray.

Plus the plumber who was supposed to come last week to fix a leak has not come, the woman I work with on social media stuff is supposed to be doing something and has vanished, and there's a ton of CNFC work to be done and confusing signals about what and how, leaving us dangling. Plus all kinds of reports in the world papers today on Trudeau's weakness and how this government may only last a short time. And of course, always, the ongoing limbo of the memoir out with publishers who are silent. NO ONE CARES!

Except John. In the middle of the chaos, John appeared. One of my dining room chairs, which along with the table was a lovely gift from Suzette years ago, was broken, the leg splayed at what looked like an unfixable angle. John took it away and brought it back this afternoon, glued to perfection. I couldn't survive here without him.

Many heartfelt thanks to the handymen of this world - and handywomen - who fix things and keep us helpless klutzes going. And, yes, the electricians - because those blackened wires could lead to something we don't even want to think about. So - good news.

It's 5.30. Wine Time. And here's a good laugh - you've probably seen it before, but just in case ...

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

win some/lose some

I'm sorry my daughter is sad and angry today. She's fiercely idealistic, a social justice warrior whose friend from grade school was running for the NDP in her riding; she worked hard for his campaign. He was a terrific candidate, tho' the Liberal who won is a great guy also. But nothing will console her today.

I think it was a victory for Canada and Canadians. We sent the far right party packing, and the nearly as far right Cons, though they made gains, did not win. SNC, "blackfacegate," all the stuff they threw at Trudeau did not deter people from picking a leader who is flawed but progressive. Pundits are saying the Libs didn't so much win as the Cons lost. Fine. I'll take it. Trudeau will be able to pass legislation with the backing of the NDP, which ensures an even more progressive direction in the future.

The CBC's map showed how divided this country is - the prairies solidly Con, the urban areas solidly Liberal or NDP, Quebec solidly Bloc Quebecois which focuses only on Quebec issues and is ominously separatist, the north NDP, and other provinces splatterings of all. A poor showing for the Greens, once again, not because Canucks don't care about the environment, but because they also care about other things and want a party that can address several issues at once.

There's nothing I can say to make my daughter feel better. She wants Canada to move far to the left and especially to fix Indigenous issues immediately. I agree with her, that would be ideal. But let's remember the millions of people who voted Conservative, who oppose any climate policy and want pipelines built immediately, who even opposed Trudeau's apologies for the injustices done by previous governments and want Alberta to separate. Somehow, he now has to govern them too.

Incredible relief that Andrew Scheer was sent to the corner to sulk. As my friend the playwright Paul Ledoux wrote about him on FB,
The zombie-eyed dimple-machine’s whole campaign was rife with lies, stupidity and Neanderthal pleas to return to the golden era of Stephen Harper. What a small-minded, petty creep. I think to a great extent people saw beyond the smile. Unfortunately the west bought his snake oil and chugged it down assuring they will have no place at the table when the big conversations about the future of the country are taking place. This is a tragedy for us all and will make it very hard for the Liberals to move the national agenda forward.

True. But let's worry about that later. And on the other hand, Michael Coren on Twitter:
Lower turnout than 2015, nasty campaign,
lost seats,
failed to win what should have been their race,
didn't break through. Bad night for democracy and the major parties. Only victor was Bloc.

Okay, I swore to go on a social media diet today, but ... it's gloomy and damp and I'm interested in the commentary and ... Tomorrow. I promise.

Monday, October 21, 2019

we'll be fine, she said with fingers crossed

Thank you Jesus, it's nearly over. I am trying desperately to have faith in my fellow Canadians, even though they elected Stephen Harper twice and even worse, Mike Harris and Doug Ford. YUCK! Listened to Cross Country Checkup yesterday about pipelines - and what a problem it is, people desperate for jobs, people desperate to stop oil from flowing. Who would think the word 'carbon' would be one of the most spoken words in our election? I still barely know what carbon is.

Luckily I teach tonight, so will be unable to hang around TV and computer biting my nails till I get home at 9.30 or so. But despite other polls that have the Libs and Cons neck and neck, the amazing pundit Anna told me to watch on TVO, Erin Kelly, predicted a Lib minority and I'm going with that until further notice.

Saturday night was my friend Stella Walker's 60th birthday party - Stella, as I've written before, is an operatic singer and singing teacher, a comedic actor, a visual artist, a non-Jewish Yiddish speaker who has worked as a cantor, and a non-Indigenous teacher of Cree = an extraordinary person. A treat to know. Had a discussion with one of her friends, who has a 13-year old son, about TicToc, how his son had flown with friends to L.A. to meet their favourite young YouTube stars, some of whom are now millionaires. "Blogs are so ten years ago," he said. Soon our world will be run by pre-teens.

Sunday I listened to Michael Enright interview the brilliant Harold Bloom, who kept calling him 'dear'. The interview was from some years ago. At one point, as they discuss death, Bloom tells Michael that 3 different gypsies in Europe predicted that he, Harold, would die in October 2019. He died in October 2019. Pretty strange and marvellous. I don't want to meet those gypsies.

Bloom quoted William James: "Wisdom consists in learning what to overlook." Very wise.

Today - being completely honest with you - I saw my shrink about the letters I've been reading. I needed someone to affirm what I was seeing, and she did, pointing out that my parents were fascinating people but not very good parents, unable to put their own voracious needs aside to deal with the two small people in their care. That yes, it's clear that very early, they stigmatized me and idolized my brother, which harmed us both. That in different ways, for some reason, I was threatening to both my parents.

I knew all that, but the letters show it, prove it, and I needed to hear a wise woman affirm it. My family was not the family of Educated with horrendous abuse and neglect, not at all. But still, there was harm by adults to children, and this former child needs to process and figure it out.

Came back to heartening notes from former students, welcome words for my sometimes vulnerable self and for this ancient, old-fashioned dinosaur of a blog:
A quick email to tell you how much I love reading your blog and how much I deeply echo your feelings about the election and the attending madness... Thanks for writing it and also for celebrating the light (familial and otherwise) constantly creeping in. In spite of it all. 

I read your blog all the time and want you to know how much you inspire me and no doubt others - hope that helps the bummed out feeling you have been having re your writing success. I know it's totally not the same thing but still.

Thanks to you both. Yes, it does help. The city was brutal today - incessant noise, ambulances, dump trucks, revving cars, a tow truck spewing exhaust that nearly shoved me off my bike. But it's not too cold, the sun comes and goes, the garden is still green - fading, but green. I'm alive, you're alive, and Andrew Scheer is almost certainly not going to run this country. That's the good news, for today, and it'll do just fine. 

PS. Just took an online biological age test. YAY!
Well done your Biological Age is 32.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

the Balenciaga ballgown

Just back from the market - the last raspberries, tons of apples, multi-coloured cauliflower, sourdough raison oat bread, freshly roasted almonds, Merchants of Green Coffee beans, spinach - my backpack full. (No meat - I'm going to try to eat even less of it. Thanks, Greta.)

On this most heavenly day. This may be the very best day of the year - bright sun, fresh - because it is probably the last before everything shuts down. The feeder is full, some wonderful bird is twittering madly. Enjoy enjoy my friends.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about young Amelia Purdy, known as Mia, my dear friend Anne-Marie's daughter who has a photography business on the side, coming to take some headshots of me. I wanted to learn how to pose for the camera, because I regularly look hideous, my face grimacing when I think I'm smiling. I learned to relax my shoulders, to tilt my head, and that I'm better with my mouth closed rather than open.

At the end, before she left, I asked if she'd take a few of me in my ballgown. 20 years ago I walked into the Goodwill on Gerrard Street and there - this moment seared into my memory - on a rack to the right, I saw something glowing dark eggplanty mauve. And then I saw that it was a ballgown, and the tag inside read Balenciaga. I read it again and again - Balenciaga. It was priced at $18. Buying it was, shall we say, an orgasmic experience. I was trembling when I got it home. It fitted me perfectly.

So all these years, I've had a Balenciaga ballgown - with a train and a giant bow at the back - hanging in my closet. For awhile I hoped Stephen Spielberg would adapt my Jewish Shakespeare book into a movie - it'd be wonderful, Steve! - and like my neighbour Michael Ondaatje, I'd go to the Oscars. But that does not seem to be happening. I do not seem to be travelling in circles that require a ballgown. But I'll hang onto it, because YOU NEVER KNOW.

Here are some of Mia's shots: Lady Sackville, at home, in her Balenciaga. (click to enlarge)

Now to go get some sun.

I asked her to crop one shot.
My New York grandmother's necklace. My mother's thin-lipped mouth, my father's down-sloping eyes, my English grandmother's narrow shoulder. And yet somehow - moi. (Minus - keep this a secret! - the deep groove between my eyebrows that Mia kindly erased without even being asked.)

PS On last night's show, Bill Maher offered Trump up to a billion dollars, donated by himself and many other anti-Trump celebrities, if he'd retire. Maher calls his fundraising campaign Prickstarter. I know, dark, but it's good to laugh. Though he was, in fact, serious. And rightly so.

Friday, October 18, 2019

frazzled and fried: election overkill

Please God, let this election be over. No matter the outcome, I'm determined that on Tuesday morning, I will go on a strict media diet, restricting the FB and Twitter calories I've been gorging on for months. Just argued with a high-profile friend who emailed her inner circle that we should show how much we care about the climate by voting Green. I wrote back that I could not disagree more, I am begging everyone to vote strategically, because if the Cons get in, it won't matter how much we care about the climate, big oil and many more horrors will be ascendant.

I was afraid I'd offended her but she wrote back, "I LOVE THIS DEBATE!" And then she agreed and wrote, OK, I revise my advice to: When you don't HAVE to vote strategically, vote for a Climate Champion.

Non-stop coverage online and on the CBC; it's madness out there. But at least it's sane madness, whereas the President to the south of us has gone right off the deep end into true murderous lunacy. Beyond horrifying.

Okay, enough. It feels like garbage is being shovelled in and my head is going to explode.

On the other hand, joy on Wednesday - our late Thanksgiving and Sam's birthday meal - turkey and much else, a huge feast for a small group. No homeless waifs this time, just family. Blessing.

Thursday two classes, powerful stories, and an important discussion at U of T about "trigger warnings." This dinosaur is trying to move into the 21st century, despite sometimes thinking that things are going in entirely the wrong direction. Most of today, a chilly but sunny day, the final closing down of the garden and hours on the phone with CNFC business.

Tonight, on the advice of my very involved daughter, I'll watch Steve Paikin's TVO show featuring a pollster who's always right and whose algorhithm will give us the facts. Then two recently-widowed friends are coming over to watch Bill Maher; I'll make this a regular Friday night salon. It's a relief, in a way, to plunge into American politics and forget our own, even though theirs is beyond belief. These are surreal times, my friends. Hang onto your hats and keep your loved ones safe, because it's ugly out there.

Most importantly, there's sadness, great sadness and grief; one of my oldest friends sent a group email to tell us she has been diagnosed with ALS. She is well-supported in her community, and, she wrote, her doctor is experienced in assisted death; she wants to be outside when she decides the time has come. I've never known anyone so serene and accepting of a brutal fate. She's a Buddhist.

So the world is much too much with me. I'm reading a marvellous fantasy YA novel, His Dark Materials, at night, a great escape from all this. I should re-read Harry Potter, that'd take me away. I'm thrilled my local library has just reopened after being closed for months - but on the other hand, the library is embroiled in a scandal about allowing a woman who opposes transgender rights ...


Monday, October 14, 2019

holiday blessings, and Nuala

A silent Thanksgiving day - nothing open in the city, nothing scheduled here. What a gift. I was sitting on the deck in the sun reading Nuala O'Faolain's Are You Somebody?: the accidental memoir of a Dublin woman when I had to put the book down, I couldn't see the words for tears. Nearby, the cardinal chipchipchipping at the feeder and the last roses, drooping, nearly gone, but not quite.

How grateful I am to belong to this crazy league, in however minimal a way: the writers. How I want to do what she does. She's writing about her Irish past, her parents, schooling, and work, a great swirl of sensations of such vividness and honesty and humour - exactly what I would like to do, what I have tried to do. These days it's harder than ever to get words out there; I realize I have no idea about the new ways it's done, the online zines, the podcasts, the ... whatever they are. It's discouraging. But I will take heart from Nuala's truth.

Lynn just sent pictures of her 70th birthday party this summer. Student Andy just sent an essay for So True. Antoinette, my mother's dear friend and piano teacher, just sent her thoughts on my work with the letters and on her own life. Wendy, a glamorous university professor, and Barry, an actor I've known since 1972, just sent pictures of their surprise wedding in Tofino.
Anna sent me a picture of her just-washed floors gleaming in the sun. Longtime student and friend Mary wrote to say, "I am thankful for you and the gift you bring to my life - friendship, encouragement and your wisdom." And I sent friends this, from yesterday at Sam's bar:
Blessings to you all, on this blessed day. Though it's a far from blessed day in many, many places in the world, I know that. But today I give thanks that here, now, it is.

And now - back to Nuala.