Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Get Back, Part Two, in the snow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From a Rolling Stone magazine review, about Paul: 

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

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

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

Saturday, November 27, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 25, 2021

furnished basement apartment to rent

Can hardly keep myself awake, and it's 2.30 in the afternoon — one of those drizzly, dark days. Luckily I went to the LCBO before the rain started and bought a good French Côtes du Rhône, though I won't open it for a few more hours. Dark chocolate almonds, stem ginger cookies, and more coffee. 

Celebrating the conviction of the cold-blooded murderers of Ahmaud Arbery. At last, after the disgusting travesty that was the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict, justice. 

I've a new rule: no scrolling on FB or IG before 5 p.m., when I'm having my first glass of wine and my brain starts to melt. Let It Be is on Disney+ today, SCREAM!, but I'm not going to watch the first episode, because I'm going to see it in a cinema on Saturday with a crowd of other Beatle people. I can't wait. 

Two terrific shows I recommend: the Australian series Wakefield on Crave, about a mental hospital in a remote place and the people who work and are treated there; and Sort Of, a CBC show that's well written, clever, entertaining, starring Bilal Baig as a gender fluid East Asian nanny. Yes, you heard that right. Last night, a doc on the immune system in which I learned that massage ups your immune responses. Must take advantage of that. Also that excessive alcohol diminishes those responses. We get to define 'excessive' for ourselves. 

And sorry to have to do this, but I do: my furnished basement apartment is available as of January 1. In a great location, downtown but tranquil, $1700 a month everything included: high speed wifi, utilities, even bedding. Believe me, for Cabbagetown, that's reasonable. This is how a writer whose books are not on the bestseller lists keeps herself solvent. Please get in touch — beth@bethkaplan.ca — if you know anyone who might be right. 

Thank you!

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

I exist! Alice Neel in The New Quarterly

I was just out front raking a mountain of leaves, had a chat with an elderly man on a bike who'd stopped at the Little Free Library. He was a recent widower, obviously lonely, grew up downtown, told me many jokes. "Trump and Giuliani are in a car. Who's driving?" Answer: "The police." 

If only, I said. 

Luckily I'd just gone through the Library. Someone had left a porno DVD about hot Asians, and we're not talking heat wave. I'd just thrown it in the garbage when my nice friend appeared. A vast variety of stuff is left in the Library, including religious tracts of various kinds, but rarely that. Imagine, someone felt they should share it with others. Yuck. 

Happy news today: The New Quarterly has appeared, with my article on Alice Neel. After so many 'no's', seeing a 'yes' in print is a wonderful thing. My writer self exists.

It's a beautiful magazine full of good writing. Hope you can check it out.

Today's U of T class was a triumph of honesty and craft. Brava, mesdames! Yesterday, I worked with a new editing/coaching client on her memoir about a very complicated family. Afterwards, I received this: It was a huge thrill for me to find just what I was hoping for— an empathetic brilliant insightful voice to give me tools to get on track in this massive new undertaking.

I guess my coaching self exists too.

More old family photos: my dad as he was when my mother met him at a Chopin concert in 1944. I can understand the instant attraction. They talked classical music, until they didn't. 

The army pic is from January 1944, the 27th Medical Training Battalion at Camp Grant, Illinois. There are six groups - hundreds of men in this very long shot; I didn't even try to find Dad. 

And yet, amazingly - I did! Dead centre and turned in a slightly different way than the others. He was 21. 

Sam cherishes Dad's army stuff, including his US Army ration book and honourable discharge papers, so he'll get this too. He was only three when Dad died, but he feels a powerful bond. How glad I am for that.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Protest, and a treat

It's a weekend to protest. My daughter, of course, was at a big rally yesterday in support of the Wet'suwet'en that closed down a major street. She posted today that arresting journalists, as the RCMP did at the protest in B.C., is the work of fascists. I would like to talk to her about what real fascists are and do. The Canadian government and its police forces have made many mistakes and will make more; they've done bad things, no question. But fascists they are not.

I won't say that to her, however. No point.

I went to my own protest, much milder. The transit people want to take a portion of the Don Valley Trail and use it as a parking lot for trains. I'm not kidding. As if we have green space to throw away, here in the Big Smoke. I thought there'd only be a few people at a sad little event, but there was a goodly crowd on this lovely afternoon and lots of signs and a chant: NO TRAINS IN PARKS. I chanted and signed the petition and went home. 

A few bicycle police were keeping an eye on this violent crowd, but no one was arrested. No fascists here. There's another protest later today - a march in remembrance of people in Toronto killed by cars. I'd like to be at that one, but it's across town, and one protest a day is enough. At least for me, though perhaps not for another member of my family.

Last night's entertainment: the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I fell into it and couldn't turn it off, though it went on and on. Dave Chapelle made a powerful tribute to billionaire musician and entrepreneur Jay-Z: "Being black in America isn't as easy as it looks," he deadpanned to a huge laugh, and spoke about what it means to black Americans to see a man from a Brooklyn housing project achieve what Jay-Z has achieved. I used to hate my kids' rap and hiphop, until I saw that it's made by marginalized young men creating rhyme on the fly. I still don't like it, but I appreciate its value. Great segments on Carole King and Tina Turner, whom I appreciate much more. You've got a friend. What's love got to do with it? And then there was Macca, introducing the Foo Fighters. Dave Grohl was sitting with his little daughter in his lap; he seems like a nice guy. But when he plays, his face is covered with sweaty hair. 

It was a huge spectacle. How I wish we had even remotely comparable noise, star power, and entertainment value in literature. 

Here, with beauty and joy, are four men in a staircase making another kind of music. Don't miss it; it's stunning.

Going through old photos; I'm 19. The hair! I thought I was ugly. 
My family last week - Anna and Sam, my brother Mike and Nancy, Eli and Ben. 

And then this short story, from a town with fresh snow. I love it.

And this cuts VERY close to the bone.
For me, another slice is needed: blogging.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Macca cheers me up, again

Don't know what I can say to make this day better: B.C. is drowning, farm animals are dying in the thousands, people who had to move out because of wildfires have to move out again because of extreme flooding. And yet again, a white vigilante has gone free in the States. I'm reaching the point that I can't read news from there any more, what the Repugs are doing is so reprehensible. Last night Bill Maher talked to Fareed Zakaria who believes that though authoritarian China is moving ahead with incredible rapidity on all fronts, the US has myriad resources and will keep up. Maher doesn't believe it. Neither do I. 

Sick at heart. I guess it's also that it's fall, days are generally gloomy, the trees increasingly bare, the bright colours littering the ground. The real cold is around the corner.

It's also that I've invested in a huge mailing to book club members, trying to entice them to read my memoir and have me as a guest at their clubs. So far, nada. I'm trying, sweet book. And also, that I found out one of my favourite places in all Toronto, the Merchants of Green Coffee coffeeshop not far from here, a wonderful friendly room full of battered furniture and the smell of roasting coffee, has closed and been sold to be renovated. Renovated! Phooey!

I was supposed to go out to two in-person events yesterday - a movie with Ken and a concert in the evening with old friend Ron, the first live cultural events in two years. Cancelled, feeling under the weather, wanted to stay home with my head under a pillow. So I did. 


Really, I'm fine. Judy and I were talking on our weekly Zoom call last week about how it helps to be positive and resilient, and we are. That doesn't mean we don't get hit, periodically, with sadness or fear or a sense that things are pretty dire in the world. Because they are. 

Two dear friends right now are awaiting results of a biopsy.

On a cheerier note, Paul McCartney is everywhere, because the three Let It Be films open on the 25th. As you know, a sighting of him always makes me feel better. Talk about positive and resilient! He was interviewed by the brilliant Terry Gross on NPR, one of the best interviews I have ever heard, not of him, of anyone. She's sharp, direct, insightful; not once does she ask, "And how did that make you feel?" 


To really cheer myself up, I read obituaries. The other day, a woman with the last name Smellie. Can you imagine high school? And a man with the last name Jaszczyszyn. Can you imagine how many times he had to spell that, laboriously, over and over? How great to be a simple Kaplan. I just have to shout "K! K!" over and over. But they get the rest.

This morning, riding to the market in a cold wind, loading up — no floods here, no shortages, stacks of produce, everything ticking along - could we be luckier? Except for our lunkhead premier planning to spend billions on a highway to nowhere. My tech assistant Nishat is coming over now to help me with various snafus, and then I'm walking with Ruth. And then I'll light the fire, pour a glass of wine, and read a book. I have nothing, nothing, to complain about, except that occasionally, the world is too much with me.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Penelope Jane Harris, 1948-2019

It's been an intensely emotional day. I was re-reading an essay I've written, sent out, rewritten, about my best friend when I was 12, in Halifax. Penny was older, with thick black hair and very pale skin; she was an only child, had been adopted. We invented a world together, an island where we were fraternal twin orphans. We kept two diaries, one for our real lives and one for our island selves. 

It's too long a story to tell here; you'll have to read the essay. Only now I have to rewrite it. She moved away and she and I lost touch; when we reconnected by chance 32 years later, I learned that she had been severely abused as a child by her adoptive mother. We began to write to each other again and then lost touch again, in unfortunate circumstances. I've tried through the years to Google her, to no avail. Today for the first time, I Googled Penelope instead of Penny. And what came up instantly was her obituary: Penelope Jane Harris, 1948-2019. She died in Vancouver in August 2019. I was shattered. 

Then what came up was an article in the Prince George news. In April 2019, a woman named Penelope Harris gave two parcels of land to a First Nations community near Prince George. She'd bought them as an investment and never used them, wanted to give the land back to the people who owned it first. She was honoured in the community, given a ceremonial jacket. There are pictures, so I was able to see her, with white hair, but it's her. My Penny. 

This is someone I haven't seen since 1995. But it's her. My best friend when I was twelve. 

She died four months later. 

It's a story I've been working on for years that now has a completely different ending. I called the phone number associated with her name; it's disconnected. She had no family. I want to find someone who knew her, who can tell me about her life. 

And then my friend Antoinette, who sends out poems to her meditation group, emailed a poem I'd sent her by my beloved friend Patsy, who died this year. So both Patsy and Penny were with me all day. 

Yesterday my brother came for dinner with his lovely girlfriend and my gang. It's never easy but it was fine. Tonight two of my friends from university, Suzette and Jessica, came for dinner. Jessica is moving to Montreal next year. 

Flux, my friends. Three things we can be sure of: taxes, death, and flux. 

Here's Patsy's poem:

winter light

deep in november, the sea
holds the light for us

beneath heavy cloud cover
the water’s surface is smooth

as polished pewter, slow waves
with a sheen like rippling silk

a luminosity floods the mind
and lingers through the days

in the long nights, when the air
is clear and sharp with cold

the sea becomes a mirror
for stray stars and a waning moon

as darkness descends
a radiance remains

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Paul McCartney's triumphs and Dan Aykroyd's music

As if the man doesn't have enough honours and success, he's #1 on the NYT Bestseller list! Honestly, could you just slow down for once, Paul? I've asked for his book for Christmas, hope Santa is listening. And excitement is building because Peter Jackson's three-part Get Back film launches Nov. 25. I know some of my friends laugh at my adolescent fan girl enthusiasm, but there are many, many millions of Beatle lovers just like me. It's a fine club to belong to.

Even louder sigh. #1 on the NYT Bestseller list. Sigh sigh sigh sigh sigh. 

Yesterday, Ken and I were going to see Dune, our first movie in a theatre in nearly two years. But it was such a stunning day, I called his cell, and both of us had had the same thought - this might be the last lovely day of the year, let's see a film when it's dark and raining. We met at Queen's Park instead and sat people-watching in the warm sun under a shower of gold, orange, and scarlet leaves, then rode along Harbord and stopped for lunch at a restaurant with a patio until a sudden rainstorm had us hustling inside. While waiting for the rain to stop, which it soon did, we FaceTimed our dear friend Lynn in Provence - how surreal is the technology, that there on the little phone in my hand was our laughing friend in southern France. She and I meet regularly now on the Zoom screen; I sent her the link to Nicky Guadagni's fabulous daily dance party, so Lynn and I now dance together several times a week, as we did when we were teenaged roommates, when Danny Aykroyd used to come to parties at our apartment with his favourite record, the music from the film Psycho. Yes. We danced to the screechy stabbing music. That was Dan.

It's a gloomy day - perfect for Dune. Let's make another date, Ken.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Remembrance Day

Amazing news: I got my booster shot today. My doctor's office emailed that all their patients over 70 could apply, so I did, though it's been a bit less than six months since my second shot. They said that was okay. As well, I'm a real mixed bag, since I've had AstraZeneca and Moderna — and now Pfizer. That vaccine smorgasbord also is okay, apparently. 

How grateful, yet again, to live in Canada! The appointment was at Women's College, a ten minute bike ride from home; the line-up of us old folks was orderly and moved fast. A very old couple, she with a walker, were behind me. "My wife goes first," he said. "My mother said so." Made me laugh.

My arm is a bit sore but my spirits are high. I know, we should not be getting boosters when the rest of the world is waiting for their first shots. But I was not going to say no. 

Before that, I went with Ruth and Jean-Marc to the first Cabbagetown remembrance day event, at Carlton and Parliament. There were readings including, of course, In Flanders Fields, and a talented young trumpeter played the Last Post; I talked to him after, he just graduated and is looking for a trumpet job, please let me know if you hear of anything, he's really good with a pure, sure sound. There were two minutes of silence, and we finished by singing O Canada. I cried, as is my wont. Singing O Canada at a joyful event makes me cry, let alone when we are thinking about those killed in the vileness that is war. Today we remembered Corporal Ainsworth Dyer, a 25-year old soldier originally from Jamaica who grew up in Regent Park and was killed by an American drone in a friendly fire incident in Afghanistan. In case death in war isn't tragic enough. 

Much chatting before and after with neighbours who've been friends for over three decades. And then on this lovely mild day, Ruth and I did another walkabout in our favourite place, the Necropolis, where the young solider is buried. Glad to be alive, even as the leaves tumble and the light fades, and remembrance makes us thoughtful and sad. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Ruth takes on corporal punishment

Incredible as it seems, the corporal punishment of children is still legal in Canada, protected under an archaic law. But not if my dear friend and longtime writing student Ruth Miller has anything to do with it. Here's her editorial in the Star today. Hope you can access it.  


My dad believed in whacking — slapping his kids on the side of the head when anything annoyed him. I know he was beaten by his father. I never hit my kids, though I can tell you, I was pretty close on occasion. Once my daughter pushed me so to the brink of rage that I raised my hand. She looked at me cooly and said, "If you touch me, I'm calling a lawyer." She was 13. 

In fact, as Ruth points out, thanks to Canada's dreadful law, her lawyer would have had nothing to go on.

Parenting is the hardest job, and doing it as a single parent, as so many do, is 100 times harder. But still, there's no excuse for hitting. None.

Dad was a veteran of WWII and as a Jewish medic in the American army had seen close up the horrors of the Holocaust. He made mistakes as a father, but he was a great man. However, if hitting us had been illegal, as Ruth suggests, he would have been even greater.

Tomorrow I will be remembering him, and my mother, who spent the war working on farms in the Land Army and cracking codes at Bletchley Park, with love and respect.

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

praise for "Loose Woman" and writers in general

We have been blessed with a few of those marvellous late fall days, the special last days of heat before the cold comes in for good. Yesterday people were out in shorts and tank tops and will be today too. Heaven, especially because it's so short-lived.

I received a most welcome email today, from the eldest daughter of my friends who are called in the memoir Gail and Alain. She wrote about having read Loose Woman, which contains an account, in honest, intimate, and sometimes unflattering detail, of her family's long ago life. I'd wondered if any of their five kids, three of whom actually appear in the book as small children, would read it and if so, what they'd think. 

She wrote: I loved your account of a free - not just loose but curious and alive person who has seen l'Arche and my family's craziness for real. I cannot count the times I thought I did not have the words to describe what that life has been. Your book does this in wonderful and touching ways. And for all the times that pre-date l'Arche in your story, you tell of moments that we can all relate to, as we grow and discover life and the world. Your description of Gail and Alain is so sensitive and brings objectivity to my lived experience. Finally, it's incredibly funny. 

So thank you for this book, I loved it - and good luck for the next one.
I wrote back to assure her that her parents were sent the manuscript to vet before any attempt at publication was made. The travails of the memoirist: writing about people who are very much alive; the great relief when they appreciate what's on the page. I've known this fiercely idealistic, lovely, hilarious young woman, now a mother of three herself, all her life. How glad I am to have her stamp of approval. 

What I want to write next is about my fascinating and appalling parents, who are not here to complain or object. I just re-read last year's attempt at embarking on the story — 38,000 words, half a book, I'd say — and was chagrined to conclude that it doesn't really work. The problem is voice — tone. Finding the right tone and POV helps find the way to start, and I'm off. But finding tone and voice and starting place can take years, at least, for me. 

I take heart as a floundering writer from the words above, and also from the words of the first reader of Loose Woman for the Whistler competition, who chose it as a finalist and whose review spoke of "the author's distinctive personal voice — smart, insightful, and humorous. She consistently engages the reader with her authenticity and candor." And more nice things. 

The reviewer concludes: The story will resonate with folks who listen too attentively to the voice of the inner critic. It's a beacon of encouragement to stay open to the epiphanies of the soul, trust their innate wisdom, and show the same love and respect to themselves that they offer to the world.

I may have written that, but when my inner critic takes over, as she so often does, I need to be reminded of it on a regular basis. I will try to trust my "innate wisdom." Hard as that is, sometimes. 

Thanks to all who write to writers and give them, in their solitary endeavour, a boost!

A surprise inclusion in the Writers' Union of Canada newsletter:

Speaking of giving writers a boost, I watched the Giller awards last night. The maxim goes, If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all. So I will not say anything, except that the event is a welcome celebration of the craft of writing fiction.

Friday, November 5, 2021

Stonehenge and fame

Females! They do everything together. Talk about teamwork.

What an amazing picture. A bush book club. A kaffeeklatsch with snacks. Pass the brie, girls. 

I was briefly famous today. In the letters to the Editor in the Star, one writer began, "Letter writer Beth Kaplan was wondering who's buying all those expensive condos downtown..." and proceeded to answer. (Developers.) So at least one nice person read my letter! And then later, on Instagram, to my amazement, I saw this: 

In the immortal words of! Fun. Alas, such fame, though welcome, is fleeting and does not pay the bills. 

Last night I watched a doc about Stonehenge. How they discovered the quarry in the Welsh Preseli Hills where the bluestones came from, and then, laboriously, how they tried to figure out the method of dragging them - perhaps on sledges - and that they were erected closer to Wales first and then four hundred years later moved to Salisbury Plane. All research done with various complex pieces of scientific equipment. Riveting. From 2300 BC! 

I've been there twice, once at fourteen with my parents, and in 2012 with a British friend. In 1964 we could walk around the stones and actually touch them; now you're kept back by barriers. They're just as awe-inspiring, though. Memorials to the dead, they think, to the ancestors. Stones, like the ancestors, are eternal. 

Documentaries forever. 

The tourist.

It was a stunning day and is going to be so all weekend - warm and bright. The leaves are gorgeous, a cavalcade of red, orange, yellow. This is right outside my house:
The city looks good, for once. Even if the developers are buying all the condos.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Letter to the Editor and Shuggie Bain

It's November of the Year That Vanished. Frost tonight, they say. My son is in mourning; the other day, a good friend of his, a young woman, had a relapse with drugs and alcohol and committed suicide. I just found out that a friend from the Y, a fit woman younger than I am, has Alzheimer's; she got lost driving in the summer and totalled her car. If the vote in Virginia was a referendum on Biden, as everyone wants to make it out to be, then things look bad for the embattled Dems, and thus the world. 

So, given all that, I am going to stop reading the novel Shuggie Bain. It won the Booker this year, was described by Lynn in France as perfect, and is indeed beautiful, stunningly well written with immense sensitivity. It's a devastating portrait of life in Glasgow under Maggie Thatcher - blasted lives, dire poverty, damaged, brutal people, a mother sunk by alcohol and bad choices, and a dear good child desperately trying to save her and survive. I've read 100 pages, and that's enough. Not that I am looking for light or fluffy or cheery. But that desolate I cannot take in the early days of November, as the light grows dimmer, the days grow colder, the government of the United States flounders, and its monsters loom. As well as our own: suicide. Alzheimer's. Homelessness. 

Yesterday, the Star printed my letter to the Editor. It was originally three times as long, about several things; they reduced it by many words and issues. But it makes its point. (Last week, as the billionaire Rogers family battled for control of their company, we learned Mayor Tory is paid $100,000 a year to sit on their board in his "spare time.")  

The city I love feels dangerously out of control.

For the first time in a while, I took a bike trip through downtown. What I encountered is a hellscape: high-rise buildings going up on almost every corner, overwhelming noise and dirt, concrete trucks and other huge pieces of equipment blocking sidewalks and streets.

Who are these thousands of expensive new units for? Our parks are home to desperate people living in tents, yet luxury buildings are going up with no provision for affordable units.

This metropolis is being battered by a pandemic leading to unemployment and business failure, by gun violence, drug addiction, snarled streets, unaffordable housing, hunger, and homelessness, overseen by a tone-deaf premier who has eyes only for the suburbs.

Perhaps our dull, decent, admittedly hard-working mayor should not be devoting his spare time to a company board. The citizens of this once-liveable city deserve undivided focus.

Allen Gardens, serene city park, where there are many tents, as there are in every city park. Winter is coming. 

Today, back to the Y, where they've decreed that though we must wear masks in the halls and change rooms, we don't have to wear them any longer as we exercise. We could understand Carole as she told us what to do; we could breathe. Though the place is still nearly deserted, it started, barely, to feel like old times. Now I ache from head to foot, not from the flu vaccine that I got on Monday, but from Carole. That's why I go to the Y - because I never push myself the way she pushes me. 

Skyped with Lynn for an hour this weekend. And thought, again, is there anything as heartening as getting caught up with an old friend? We laugh and laugh. She sent me a recent photograph of her in her wedding dress; considering that it's fifty years and five children later, it fitted amazingly well. Brava, my beloved friend. Be well. Promise! 

I won't be moving much for the rest of the day. Naptime.