Tuesday, April 30, 2019

a visit

You know what really helps with grief? Writing. It's what I teach. It's what I do.

7 a.m. on yet another bleak, grey, chilly morning, and I sit here in tears. People have been sending the most wonderful notes; so many of my friends are writers, and all of them had met Wayson, so what they send is beautiful and profoundly moving.

Somehow, as well, one death brings up others. I've just heard from May, one of my aunt's best friends in Ottawa, so have been thinking of the recent loss of Do. And then I had a note from Penny in England, younger sister of my childhood pen pal Barbara and now my own friend. Barbara died in 1966 at age 16, a story I've been trying to get out into the world for years, without success so far. Penny and her siblings had just spent the afternoon cleaning the gravesite of their sister, parents, and brother Michael who died at two weeks old, a yearly ritual that brings them together in tribute and love. The stone was designed by their brother Peter, an artist, some of whose ashes they scattered there to help with the roses.
In the bleak council cemetery where stones subside and the grass covers the neighbouring plots where the loved ones of the children we grew up with are buried, Barbara's stone now stands proud, one of the cleanest and brightest. Peter designed it carefully, the text debated each time we laid another to rest and the wording cut by hand. Beneath it Babs, Dad, Mum sleep quietly together with the memory of first born Michael.

Yesterday I sat at the piano to try to start playing again but instead broke down and actually cried, out loud, "How could you leave me?"

It was almost embarrassing; that's the sort of thing a spouse says after the death of a longterm partner. And Wayson was definitely not my spouse. But he was an automatic part of my life, my day, my thoughts. My dinner table. It's a huge hole. Right now, it feels like an open wound.

Marsha Lederman from the Globe called; she'd been told I was a close friend and she's writing an article. The stories poured out; I jabbered, wept, and laughed. The best kind of remembrance.

Monty, a former student who met Wayson several times at classes here, sent me this:
Wayson was a shining example of being in life who you really are, wearing it on your sleeve, with no explanations or apologies, what you see is what you get. If only we could all have Wayson’s strength and courage to be so authentic and real. It was an honour to meet him, to be with him, to listen to him, to be inspired by him. 

Monty also wrote that after his father died when he was young, a friend told him his dad would never die while he, Monty, was alive, because Monty's memories would preserve him. His father would continue to visit in memory, and each visit would be a gift.  And, Beth, I think your gardenia story on your blog may be one of your first “visits” from Wayson. I will leave that for you to decide.

I think he's right.

Old friend from university days Isobel wrote, "I didn't 'know' him except through your blog - how you embraced him as a family member, his quiet, obviously happy presence at moments large and small. How wonderful that your family has your all-welcoming, open-arms approach to life... and that you record it all for posterity. And how magnificent for Wayson to feel that generosity and love -- infused with it all, his spirit shines on."

Monday, April 29, 2019


Still in shock. One dark thought passed through my mind in bed last night: it has begun. The losses of aging and old age - the gradual disappearance of loved ones - it has begun. We expect our parents to die before us. Wayson felt like another generation to me, but he was in fact only 11 years older than I. Except for the terrible losses due to AIDS in the 80's, he's the first of my closest friends to vanish.

I don't want to lose people I love. It will hurt too much. But the only alternative is that I die first, which wouldn't be so much fun either.

The other words that went through my mind were: Someone who loved me is gone. For those of us without a significant other, the loss of the significant others whom we choose is devastating. Wayson loved me and cared about my life, as I did about his. It was a powerful bond that hasn't faltered since we met in 2002 or 3. In the local Goodwill, of course. Junk junkies both.

Friends have been calling and sending beautiful emails of tribute to him and to our friendship, and I thank them. Nick Rice sent this pic he took at the Miles Nadal JCC - I gave a talk there and Wayson was with me to sell my books, hover solicitously, and beam.
Loss. Grief. Last night I found myself in the bathroom, madly cleaning the leaves of the tall gardenia that survived the winter and the renovation, but with dusty leaves. And then I realized - it was a gift from Wayson, years ago, that brings him to me every time it blooms. And it will be blooming soon.

And this I had from him also: Onward.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Uncle Wayson

 The loveliest picture ever - 2012, Eli had just been born

going through junk, as always, as our favourite store, Doubletake
the little aquarium was his Xmas present to Eli
Uncle Wayson
The worst picture of us ever
 his 75th
Wayson spoke to many of my classes, including a home group here

Sam loved to cook for him, and as we all know, Wayson loved to eat
At one of my book launches, with my former student and current friend, fabulous writer Laurel Croza - Wayson blurbed one of her books

 with Jean-Marc and Richard, my birthday party
a quiet moment in the garden - he never went anywhere without a bag full of books, pens, coloured pencils ...
The loveliest picture ever. Feasting joyfully on life, as always.

Wayson Choy: "utterly amazed and happy still"

I came back with Ben this afternoon from a visit to the playground and Riverdale Farm, when Anna, who'd stayed behind with Eli, greeted me at the door. Come into the kitchen with me, Mum, she said, and I knew something was wrong.

It says on Twitter that Wayson died last night, she said, opening her arms as I stood frozen in shock and then began to weep.

Impossible to believe. Not yet. Too soon.

I went over to his place Thursday, and we sat in the kitchen he shared with Karl and Marie. He wanted, as usual, to go out for lunch, but I did not, so we had tea. He was frail and his asthmatic lungs were wheezing, which is why he wasn't supposed to leave the house. But as always, he was full of humour and kindness and wisdom. We hugged, as always, when I left, with promises to see each other soon. He usually came here for dinner on Sundays, but this Sunday, today, my grandkids were coming and I knew they'd be too much for him. He called yesterday, and we made a date for him to come for dinner Thursday.

In hindsight, I think of the call, how insistently he thanked me for everything. I wonder if he felt something coming. Of course, whatever I did for him was a pleasure, he was family; he was ours and we were his. My kids adored him and he them, and my grandsons gave him nearly as much pleasure as they do me. Anna and Sam are devastated too by this loss.

There is much to say about his life and his work, his legacy. My textbook True to Life: 50 steps to help you tell your story is a tribute to him; he is quoted on almost every page. He was an important mentor to many, none more so than I; he taught me so much both as a writer and as a teacher. And in return, I made sure he had a home cooked meal once a week, if possible. It was a good exchange.

I can't believe he's not there. He won't be coming for dinner, we won't be talking nearly every day. But at the same time, I am glad for him that it was a peaceful end and not protracted. He knew he had Alzheimer's, he discussed it openly, though for now he was coping well. But that would not have lasted, and then it could have been terrible for him. It never was. He had it seems as beautiful a death as such a beautiful man deserves.

This was his last email to me, last week, after we'd exchanged words about what was happening to him.
Thank you again for being so understanding, Beth ...  I'm somewhat enjoying the scary bumps on this ride, if it weren't for the mental bruises that are leaving their mark and left me wondering -  but I'm not ever feeling alone or abandoned.   For example, you're pushing ahead and going on and on ... my hero!  

Keep writing - your life is crazy in the right proportions - crazy, yes, but as always crazy-smart and crazy-lucky!    Meanwhile, I'm just 'crazy' ... and utterly amazed and happy still.  

x0 Wayson.

December 2017 - playing pirate boats with Eli
 Dinner here in February - his favourite, steak.
My last shot of my friend, in early April, helping put together a complicated light fixture neither of us could figure out. 

Already missed missed missed. 

cardinal love, coming home

There's a wonderful scene outside: I propped a long mirror against the south wall in the garden, thinking it would go somewhere eventually - and now I see that the cardinal has fallen in love. He's married; Mrs. Cardinal is usually nearby because their nest is in a tree at the bottom of the garden, but he keeps flying down to look at himself in the mirror, hopping back and forth, gazing with fascination.

I will move the mirror later today to keep their marriage safe. But for now, cardinal love is a signal that it's spring at last; the sun is shining, the robins, sparrows, finches, and cardinals are singing full force, nesting, soaring. There's a sweet cover of green on most of the trees and shrubs - the willow is bright yellow - and the gardening helpers are coming tomorrow so we can begin the big job of pruning and clearing away winter detritus.

Like the garden, like the city, your faithful correspondent has come through a long hard winter. After months of panic, exhaustion, and stress, how light I feel. I know, a renovation is not a cancer diagnosis. It's not homelessness; in fact, it's the opposite, it's going through a rigamarole to improve one's home. And let me tell you, though the process was excruciating and I would never do it again - (never say never, girl) - it was worth it. There is light. Things are in their place and they actually have a place to be put in. Things that have never worked in my 33 years in this house are fixed. It's miraculous.

Of course, just saying this is asking for trouble, another sump pump explosion, perhaps; God knows what's in store, as the house has a way of producing nasty surprises. My close neighbours at 306 and 310, for example, did not have a recent infestation of termites, but 308 did. I will be paying for all this for a long time to come.

The house and I went through the fire in August 2005, the complete rebuilding of the basement and main floor which took till spring 2006. Then this felt like a brand new house. A couple of stylish friends came to visit, loved the sparkling modern kitchen and asked to see the rest of the house. I remember the look on their faces upstairs, because that part was completely unchanged. Old floors and windows, a strange jumble of rooms, a skylight stuck in a closet -

But now the glorious skylight is the centre of the house, the ceiling is opened up, the walls are painted, the windows are fixed, the floors are new, I can hardly believe it. And by next week, both the rental suites will be occupied and I can start paying off the debt.

Anna and the boys are on their way over; we'll go to the local playgrounds in the sun and then have a barbecue with Anna's oldest friend Shani, who's moving in Wednesday with her younger son Leo. Anna and Shani have been best friends since we moved here in September 1986, when they met at age 5 in Winchester Public School SK. Something has come full circle, and it makes me want to cry. I'll watch the cardinal admire himself and have a laugh instead.

Just for today, I won't think about the idiots in power, flooding, refugees, the heartbreaking list of injustices and horrors. Today, I celebrate rebirth.

another note from a satisfied customer

For some reason, the numbers for both my classes, so far, are low. Maybe it's because I dropped out during the winter. In any case, I hope the numbers jump next week. As if to encourage me as a teacher, I just received this from a student who was in the class at least 15 years ago. Yes, I replied. Yes yes yes.

I was wondering....will you be teaching True to Life at Ryerson in the Fall of 2019? I took your evening class eons ago. I see that Sarah Sheard was taking over while you took a break for other things - yay for breaks and travel and even renovations - but hoping you'll be back in the coming fall. Since I was 'under your wing' there have been many fits and starts, but I'm trying to get back to serious, regular writing. I'm still working so evening classes are my best option.

I've also been writing fiction and poetry, and am casting around for a writing class to focus my efforts in the fall. I so enjoyed my very productive time with you, and so much of what you shared with your students is/was helpful in fiction.

Only a few more days to register.



Friday, April 26, 2019

letter to the editor

Just like old times here today - Dan painting in the basement, Ed fixing things and putting up pictures; Kevin dropped by to see Ed, Evan dropped by to use Kevin's saw which Ed was using. Yesterday, Jean-Marc came to admire his design handiwork. All winter, I had to get used to lots of men in my house, and soon, I'll get used to no men in my house. I am more than ready for that day. But it's not here yet - they're all back next week. Plus the window guys, to fix something that doesn't work. And soon the roof repair guy and the termite guys will also be back.

It never ends.

In the night, I was writing protest letters about this government, so as soon as I got up, I put the words on paper and emailed both the Globe and the Star. I sent a long version and a short version; the Star wrote back immediately that they might use the short version early next week. Hope so. That's my writing for the day. Here's the long version:

To the Editor:

Here are words I never thought it possible to say: worse than Mike Harris. Harris destroyed the Ontario education system as my children went through it; year after year, their classes were disrupted by demonstrations and strikes, as vicious cuts came down, and teachers, students, and parents marched to make their voices heard. And then he attacked Toronto itself.

But this guy is worse. It’s possible Harris, mean-spirited and heedless as his policies were, may actually have believed they were for the best. Our current premier has no beliefs except winning, destroying, and getting even. He’s a vindictive, resentful blowhard, and his hates are many, education, healthcare, women, and this city chief among them. A man of lifelong wealth and privilege, he has no understanding of what a library means to a community, what legal aid means, safe injection sites, midwives – for that matter, what climate change means to our planet. He’s smashing the Ontario education system as my grandchildren go through it.

What shocks me most is not the man himself; we were well acquainted with his brother, and this man was his brother’s enabler. But what about the others in his team, can they not see how short-sighted and destructive these cuts and changes are? Where’s the conscience of Caroline Mulroney or Lisa MacLeod or the others who used to have a modicum of decency? Or maybe we just imagined it was there.

Donald Trump has eviscerated his country with the hearty backing of his spineless party. Now we are enduring the same here in Ontario. The damage inflicted by Ford and his team will bring harm to our province far worse than the damage inflicted by Harris and his. And that is something I once would have thought impossible. 

Beth Kaplan

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

coming together

The most wonderful thing happened today: I rode to the Y to do the usual Wednesday lunchtime class - Carole is away but someone always subs for her - to find that all the classes were cancelled! There'd been a power outage. Yes, I could have lifted weights or jogged around on my own, but instead, I sat for ages in the sauna, had a shower, and went home. I didn't need exercise, for God's sake, I've been hauling boxes up and down for days. I only went to see my friends, but another day. Hooray for power outages at exactly the right time.

Instead I rode my bike in the crisp spring sun - the day started cold but bright, and later it got hot - to the wonderful Carpet Mill in Riverdale, which sells carpet remainders at very reasonable prices, to replace the rug ruined by the sump pump leaks. Visited my beloved Wayson on the way, since he lives nearby. He is now quite open about what's happening to him. "I now know - I have Alzheimer's," he says, with his impish grin. He has notebooks where he writes everything down and though thinner, looks fine. The last time I called him to say I'd come visit, he misunderstood and set off for my house, so when I arrived at his, he was arriving at mine. What matters is that he's safe and will come over soon for dinner.

Ed was working here all day today. He was Kevin's helper during the reno; Kevin, my neighbour the contractor, was in charge of most of the work - carpentry, plumbing, drywall, he does it all, and so does Ed, who's a stellar problem solver in his own right. He's here to replace the baseboards damaged by the sump and put up pictures and do other stuff - my idea of heaven, a willing and able man with a power drill and a stud finder. Kevin came by, and there we were, the trio who somehow survived a brutally exhausting, protracted, and difficult winter renovation. It was good to be with them again, these capable men; good to know that we are all friends despite the stress and tensions we went through. Best of all, I'm still friends with Jean-Marc, who designed the project and was my main opponent - and ally.

So yes, it's all coming together, this investment, better than ever. If only the old bag who lives here could say the same.

note from a grateful student

My classes start soon - Ryerson next Wednesday and U of T the Tuesday after that. There's still room. Scroll down to the post from a few days ago for more information and links.

These are the treats that inspire teachers to keep going - out of the blue, this morning, I got this email from a Syrian woman who came to class 15 years ago. 15 years! But then, I've been teaching this stuff for 25. And still love my work.

Hello Beth, 
I wonder if you remember me :) I took one of your creative writing courses at Ryerson year 2007 I think! 

Just touching base with you to say that you an inspiring teacher. I learned from you.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

shelves of glory

Things are settling, I’m feeling more in control of my life and my home, and my cold is fading, so this morning, for the first time in months, I sat down to begin writing work. Then I noticed the internet symbol on the computer was off. Twenty minutes of fussing and anxiety later - the computer refused to recognize my network - I'd fiddled and tried and checked Diagnostics, then finally turned the router off, and the internet eventually came back. By then I was off on another track entirely. 

It never ends, does it? What was that glitch about? The computer saying, You think you're going to get to work? I have news for you. Mwa ha ha!

Okay, let's start again. I'm sitting in my east-facing bedroom because this is where the morning sun hits, and we've been hard pressed for sun this last while, except for yesterday which was sublime. The house around me is becoming recognizable again. The front hall is stacked high with empty boxes, because the books in those boxes are on shelves - and they're organized. There are shelves for memoir and books about writing, shelves for poetry and theatre and plays, sections for subjects that interest me: Jews, Beatles, E.B. White, travel, and languages; shelves for my own published work and for the family photo albums and books from my childhood, like Little Women, and a special section for family treasures - my grandmother's Shakespeare, my mother's little book of Rupert Brooke poetry, Virgil's Aeneid with marked inside "Gordin Kaplan, 1939" - what Dad was reading at 17. Barnaby Rudge with "Xmas 1907, Marion, from Father and Mother." What my grandmother was reading at 17. 

And two other special sections: the little red record player Lani gave me with my old Beatle records stacked beside, and a shelf of toys and dolls: my teddy bear, my mother's, my aunt Do's, our dolls, the Sootie hand puppet that was mine in England in 1956. 

Immense satisfaction.

Outside in the hall, in the new bookshelf Jean-Marc created, two more categories: classics, and books by friends, and in the spare bedroom, current children's books for when the boys come. Downstairs, stacked miles high, books I've yet to read. Luckily, Doug Ford has destroyed the magnificent and generous Ontario library system, so instead of getting out new books - I just counted 14 ordered, delivered, and read between November 2018 and March 2019 - I'll have to read the ones I have. Gosh, thanks, Doug. 

My office is still a mess but much better. The closet is getting there. I went out in the garden yesterday and did a bit of pruning, though there are still days of work remaining. Shani the downstairs tenant came yesterday and we saw what has to be done: the baseboards need to be replaced after the flooding, Ed I hope is coming tomorrow to do that and other things, and I'm hoping to buy a new carpet today. The new sofa is arriving next week. Otherwise, she's good to go. 

In the upstairs rental, again, more needs to be done - her toaster oven is ordered, also arriving soon, thank God for online shopping and delivery. We'll get there.

Best of all, yesterday I went across town to visit Anna and Thomas and the boys. Thomas has created an even bigger fenced-in garden and a whole greenhouse of seedlings under gro-lights - amazing. Being with the boys fills my heart with so much joy that it hurts. The day before, a very rainy day, Anna had entertained and fed some of Thomas's extended family, including six children plus her two. We had leftovers and I did storytime - Harry Potter, such a treat to read it again - and bathtime, because she was exhausted.
How to tell Anna lives here? Eli's sign: "Queen Victoria PS against education cuts!"
Helping in the garden by flinging dirt. Nothing better.

And then the streetcar home to a house which is now, once more, after a long and difficult and expensive year, my home. 

Dear blogger friend Theresa Kishkan, 3 books by whom are in my hall, wrote yesterday that instead of saying I have incurred debt, I could say, I have made an investment. And it's true, I have spent a year investing in the future of this house and my own future in it. I'm aware, however, that while I was busy renovating and fretting, arguing with Jean-Marc and choosing trim, Theresa was writing essays and books, with several published and others coming out soon. She made an investment of another kind - in her talent and her work. Which is what I must get back to too.

I settled down here this morning to begin writing work but the computer intervened, and now I'm writing to you, and then it will be time to get on with the practical side of the day, the hunting and gathering, before the predicted thunderstorms roll in. 

Stay tuned.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

in which she fusses about money

Friday would have been my aunt Do's 99th birthday. We all thought she'd get to 100, until her fall on the area rug by her bed that she refused to get rid of. I miss you, Do.

It's Sunday morning of a long grey wet weekend - constant rain since Friday morning. Your faithful correspondent has a bad cold, with much snuffling and stuffed head. So happy to be sick at home and not on the road.

But I got a lot done yesterday. Bill my helper came over and we carted stuff about - boxes of books back into my bedroom, furniture moved around in the basement, tote that barge, lift that bale. Should not have done so much, definitely made myself worse, but it had to be done. Got some groceries, especially my most fave things, Tangelos. They even have Tangelos in Europe now. Pure health in an orange sphere.

But then there was the bad news. I got the plumber's bill for coming three times to check the sump pump and finally installing a new one: $1455. Plus I'll have to buy a new carpet as the one there was ruined. And then I got my income tax bill from the friend who does my taxes. On top of what I owe for the renovation.

Debt. I hate debt, yet here we are. I now have a one-bedroom flat in the basement, a cathedral ceiling and walk-in closet on my second floor, a private rentable space on the third. And I have debt.

I know, it seems hypocritical for a woman who has just spent 3 weeks in Europe to moan about debt. I assure you my trips to Europe are about as thrifty as such journeys can be; the funky little apartment in the 12th Lynn found us cost about 55 euros each a night, unheard-of in central Paris. We ate in more than we ate out. But still - travel is a luxury, and it costs. On top of the reno. So much money flowing out, time for some to start flowing in. A bit of fretting going on here.

Teaching starts in a week, and the same day, the basement tenant moves in, so both spaces are rented. I'll start to fill the coffers again. No spending except on essentials until the debt is under control. As the Beatles sang, Your lovin' gives me a thrill, but your loving don't pay my bills.

Happy Easter, Happy Passover, whatever you celebrate, I hope you have friends and family and a feast somewhere. Without incurring too much expense.

Oh - and my talented student Jennifer Venner has a powerful, searingly honest piece in The Walrus. Terrific work.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Beth's courses at U of T and Ryerson - plus jet lag

It's 5.30 a.m. and it's all systems go in this kitchen - toast and Ovaltine and lists. Such is jet lag.

This is to let you know that both my classes are open for registration, start soon, and have room: True to Life at Ryerson starts Wednesday May 1, 6.30 - 9.15 for nine weeks:


And Life Stories at U of T starts Tuesday May 7, 12.30 to 3, for eight weeks.


Please email me at beth@bethkaplan.ca if you have any questions, and please forward this to anyone you think might be interested or might benefit. I'm sure you know someone who would.

And now I'll try to go back to sleep.

Friday, April 19, 2019

the state of the province and the world

Dear friends, after a bit more sleep and some coffee, there is life in these old bones. It's 9 a.m. on a gloomy wet day - a good time to retrench.

I didn't mention yesterday what I saw as I came home from the airport. When returning from Europe, I always marvel at how ugly Toronto is, a tasteless jumble of buildings and advertising. But the taxi went up Sherbourne Street, where many of the homeless shelters are; the poverty and desperation I saw there made me ashamed of my city and my country. Later I took out my bike for the first time since December and could not help but note the state of our streets and sidewalks - potholed, gouged, filthy. Meanwhile, construction is rampant, cranes on every corner, scores of giant buildings going up with no accountability to us, the citizens of this city.

And then there's Alberta, another neanderthal neo-con elected. I came back not just to that but to more news from Ontario - one billion cut from the public health budget, the library budget cut in half, the endangered species act to be gutted, not to mention the ongoing relentless war on the federal carbon tax. It is to weep and took me back to the kind of blind, vicious duplicity and cunning shown in Vice, to what Bill Maher has been saying for years - that those on their side don't play by the rules, they have no rules except winning, whereas we play nice. When they go low, we go high, said Michelle Obama. Except it doesn't work any more, going high. What works is the lower the better. Who can understand it, but it's true.

Now there's huge understandable resentment about the rebuilding of Notre Dame - that billionaires step up instantly to make a grand gesture about an ancient pile of stone, but give nothing for human beings or the planet we all live on.

So this Toronto woman mewling about her house being a mess - please ignore. The world is a giant fucking mess right now, and it's hard to see how it'll improve anytime soon. Truly, see Vice if you want to understand how they win and we lose and what it means for us, our children, our grandchildren. The future.

My house may be a mess, my debts so big they scare me right now - I did wonder yesterday, briefly, if the renovation was a mistake. But above me is a roof. My children are healthy and have homes. We have nothing to complain about. Except the state of our government, the heartless people who purport to lead us.

Enough for today. Time to get dressed and get to work.

home on the range

5.30 a.m. I'm in a strange bed in a newly painted bedroom with empty bookshelves and framed pictures stacked against the wall - but it feels like my room so I guess it is. I have a cold or flu and so will spend the day here. I think I belong.

This was the strangest and one of the hardest homecomings ever. The journey was uneventful, always a good thing - thank God for the bus that goes from the Gare de Lyon, five minutes from our flat, straight to CDG - so much easier than schlepping on the bus to the metro, if only I'd known about it before. Waiting there at 6.50 a.m., I met a woman with two small sons who told me her wallet was stolen in the metro. "I was distracted for a few moments," she said. "It was two little girls, barely older than my boys. All our money and my cards." A cautionary tale.

I watched Vice on the plane, an excellent movie about the life and diseased heart of Dick Cheney - I'd avoided it because I just didn't want to watch those loathsome men in action, but it was recommended by Madame Blin. And indeed, it's an important film that details just how, step by step, the Republicans in the 80's led us to where we are now. For example, they were having trouble repealing the estate tax, that taxed estates of over 2 million dollars. But through focus groups, they found that if they called it the "death tax," people were fine with getting rid of it. That easy. It shows in excruciating detail how they sold the Iraq war, with painful footage of Hillary Clinton and Tony Blair jumping on board. How very much Cheney benefitted financially from that war, which decimated a region and millions of lives.

Cheney himself is an appalling man and his ambitious wife Lynne, aka Lady MacBeth, the same. But it's an extremely well-made movie; I urge you to see it if you have not yet. Made by Adam MacKay who also did The Big Short, another excellent, entertaining, almost unbearable exposé of human vileness and greed.

As an antidote, I watched Spiderman, a cartoon version starring the first black Spiderman - very entertaining. But the flight was long and uncomfortable, no way around it.

Thus, home. Nicole had been living here and the house was sparkling. She had dealt with the various floods in the basement; the plumber told her in 30 years of his work, he'd never seen a case like this - some flap in the sump pump had broken. He has replaced it but the flat is dank and there's water damage; I couldn't bear to go see yet. But besides that, there's everything else - the garden is a disaster, there's still tons to do after the renovation, after winter, after the flooding, new tenant moving in in May needs the apartment fixed, current tenant on the top floor needs various things. The rooms upstairs are different, I don't know where things are, most stuff is still in boxes. It took me about ten minutes before I was overwhelmed. I can't live here, I said. I have to move. It's too much work.

This house is too much for me.

At least, it is now, when I'm sick and jet-lagged. Check in in a few days. If I've recovered, maybe I'll feel better. Or maybe not.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

last day in Paris

And it's the most beautiful day of my trip so far - 18 degrees with a breeze. I'm returning tomorrow to winter, 8 degrees or so and raining. But I will be HOME! While I was gone, Anna and Thomas finished putting together my bed frame - the one I found on the street - and so I will sleep on my new mattress, on my new bed, in my new bedroom, for the first time.

In the meantime, I have a head cold, wouldn'tcha know? C'est la vie.

Last night, a great treat. When Lynn and I last stayed together here in the 12th two years ago, we fell upon the perfect French restaurant, unpretentious but superb in every way - L'Ebauchoir. She has been back several times, and last night we were there when they opened at 7.30, meeting Dan, an old friend who is working with Lynn in this short job they have here in Paris. We were there till after 10, eating, laughing, drinking, telling stories. (click to enlarge)
 L'Ebauchoir at 7.30, before it filled up
My hors d'oeuvre: white asparagus in sauce. The meal was heaven and very reasonable for what we had.

Today I had some errands across town, so I took the metro and got things done. The mothership of Galeries Lafayette was nearby so I wandered around there; the top floor had toys, notebooks, pens...
A whole department for Waterman pens, my fave.
Create your own Parisian restaurant, complete with sidewalk tables, out of Lego
This ridiculously ornate store has created a kind of trampoline suspended in the middle. As always, there were long lineups of Japanese people waiting to buy Chanel and Louis Vuitton bags - at least 30 people waiting patiently outside the latter. And please don't say I'm racist because I point out their ethnicity; it's just so strange that so many people from the Orient fly to Paris to buy luxury French handbags. I don't get it, but whatever, as they say.

Couldn't wait to get out of the palace of consumption, she said, clutching her own purchases. Got the nearest metro toward home and realized it continued on to the 5th, so changed my plans - got off at my old stop in the Latin Quarter, bought a sandwich on the rue Mouffetard, went to the Jardin des Plantes for a picnic in the sun and a last commune with Dad, to tell him how very grateful I am he made me go to school here and learn to speak French.
Dad's tree
As I crossed over the Pont d'Austerlitz toward the flat, there she was, Our Lady, the world's beautiful cathedral, standing. Today was the day I'd planned to climb up her towers for the view. If only.

Left stuff at home and went out for last purchases - a pirate kite for Eli and Ben at the kite store near the Marché d'Aligre, and lastly to my favourite shop, Monoprix, for two big bags of herbes de provence and other light last minute gifts. At the cash, I was amazed to see this:
It's saying, make a gift for the reconstruction of Notre-Dame, by rounding out the amount of your purchases. That did not take long!

All Paris is out in the sun, sitting at cafés, talking, smoking, drinking espresso. I will go out again, to sit for a bit in the sun. This is my last post from France, probably, though I will certainly have further thoughts about my trip and life here. Another thing I bought today: a metro ticket from CDG airport into Paris, so I don't have to line up at the airport for a ticket when I come back. I'm ready for my return.

Merci for coming with me. Talk to you from home.