Wednesday, October 26, 2016

first world problems and bad bad John Tory

Had one of those days when the world seemed intent on defeating a hapless city woman just trying to get by. The roofers arrived to do $2000 worth of roofing because the crook who repaired the roof not long ago did it so poorly, the tiles were falling off. He also took a $250 deposit for materials and vanished. If you ever hear of Luke's Roofing, please let me know.

Then, a lengthy battle with Home Depot about my washing machine, which was supposed to be delivered tomorrow, so I'd cleared the day to wait for it. When I called to confirm - no, not tomorrow, probably not Friday, maybe next week. I hit the roof. A long call with Rogers about my cable bill and home phone and what's wrong with the TV which shows a "Loading ..." notice on the screen every few days when it's loading nothing. A call to a dermatologist about the red blotches on my face. My iPhone decided on an upgrade and then was all different and confusing. My plants are inside because it's cold out and I haven't had a chance to take them back out to wash the pots and prune them, so there are plants in the way everywhere. The basement is nearly inaccessible with the old washing machine disconnected and laundry in baskets everywhere. It's really cold. Brucie left. I did Carole's class at the Y and I was at the end of the line, as always, and everything hurt.

The world was one giant PHOOEY.

And then, first, my dear friend John came over to do some work; he spent the morning washing and sanding and oiling the butcher block top of the kitchen island, which looks beautiful again.

And then at the Y, I saw again the woman with the bald head and the thinnest body I've ever seen, still exercising, still smiling.

And I was ashamed of myself and my first world problems, my whining. What have I got to complain about? Not a fucking thing.

EXCEPT okay one thing - that City Hall is cutting the library budget. The library - one of the most used, most useful amenities in this city! So much for you, mealy-mouthed John Tory. If I had a shred of respect for you ever, it's gone. And I didn't anyway, not after the vote to KEEP the Gardiner Expressway East, a hunk of rotting concrete.

Oh dear, she's still in a bad mood. No, I'm not. Well, maybe a little bit.

Monday, October 24, 2016

a place in Paris?

Brucie and I just spent two hours here in the kitchen, sitting face to face with our computers, fingers clicking, discussing among other things Paris and airbnb. I will almost certainly return end of March/beginning of April next year, as I usually do, and need to find a place.

IF YOU KNOW ANYONE WHO RENTS IN PARIS, please let me know. I need light and quiet and, if possible, the Latin Quarter, because I know it best and it feels like home. But really, anywhere affordable with light.

AND: at the same time, my comfortable bedroom in this beautiful house will be available for rent. So again, IF YOU KNOW A NICE QUIET PERSON COMING TO TORONTO NEXT MARCH and/or APRIL who needs a place to stay, please let me know.

Okay, business done. Brucie is reading my memoir and giving me feedback as he goes - which is strange and interesting, because it's feedback about my life as well as my writing. My wild and crazy young life.

I have finished Marni Jackson's "Don't I Know You?" for which she told me the way was "paved" by my "All My Loving." Young Beth wrote stories about her life with Paul McCartney - as boyfriend, lover, husband - in which the other Beatles figure, as does Paul's real girlfriend of the time, the hated Jane Asher, who appears most often as a vicious alcoholic. Marni created a novel about a writer with a wry sense of humour very like Marni's who has encounters through her life with extremely famous people, which she treats as ordinary experiences. Some of these work wonderfully - the last chapter of the book, a canoe trip in Algonquin Park with Leonard Cohen, Taylor Swift and writer Karl Ove Knausgaard - hilarious and beautiful. Some to my mind don't work as well - Jimi Hendrix and Agnes Martin as a couple in New Mexico, Keith Richards as a surgeon in his spare time ... But whether you enjoy her quirky pretext or not, Marni is a fabulous, richly imaginative writer.

Here's what she writes about Karl Ove's fixation with his father:
His father again. It's dreadful, how we continue to love our parents regardless of how they treat us. How we keep returning to them, to solve the mystery of who we are. I thought of all the fathers who have turned their sons into writers, compelled to re-create the family on the page. Slowly stacking up the sentences until they resemble a human figure, like a stone inukshuk.

Marni has always been a non-fiction writer; this is her first novel and her first time on the Best Seller list. Whereas I like and appreciate non-fiction which is all I write and which is why my work is nowhere near the Best Seller list. Sigh. The protagonist argues with Karl Ove, at one point. He challenges her to write in her books "the things that matter to you ... personally. The questions or regrets that won't let you sleep."
Her reply: "Is that what you think it takes to write something worthwhile? Just being raw and autobiographical? Exposing the people closest to you to public scrutiny?"

Well - yes, actually, though I wouldn't put it that negative way.

Now I'm reading "The Secret Life of Trees." Not exactly raw and autobiographical but thrilling, about how trees communicate with and protect each other. And after that, there's an 800 page tome about the Beatles. Perhaps I will skim that one.

Bruce just sent me this with the caption The election in a nutshell. Yes indeed.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Krugman on Hillary

Lynn left, and Toronto collapsed - the weather has been unremittingly gloomy and damp after days of brilliant sun. Ah well - Brucie is from Vancouver, so this dark wet is nothing for him.

A bit of boasting, as it's so welcome when a lonely writer receives a pat on the head: two readers have emailed to tell me how much they've enjoyed "All My Loving." The first: It's really terrific, Beth. I love it and have laughed out loud. I figure we're very close in age and sensibility as so many details, such as the brush rollers and what we were taught that girls do, I deeply identify with.

And the second: a student wrote, "I am LOVING your book about Paul," and then sent me a story of her own about Ringo. Yeah yeah yeah!

Yesterday, oh the drama - my eagerly-awaited new washing machine - a Consumer Reports Best Buy, no less - arrived, only it would not fit down the narrow stairs to the basement and went back on the truck. All the appliances in this house are ten years old, bought in 2006 after the big fire here in 2005, and now they are all breaking. The repairman for the washer told me the computers inside are programmed to break after ten years, so I shouldn't be surprised, but still, there I was with an overflowing basket of dirty clothes and no washer. John to the rescue - he came over and hacked off part of the drywall covering the walls to the basement, and soon there was drywall dust everywhere and an inch to spare. But of course, the washer had gone off somewhere and it'll be a week before it comes back. Neighbour Monique let me bring a pile of clothing next door to wash.

First world problems, I know. A bit more importantly - the planet is saved from the giant orange blowhole, who has self-destructed hooray! Again, no surprise, the only surprise being that he was there on the public stage, being taken seriously, to begin with. How did that happen? The Republican Party has some 'splaining to do. In the meantime, Paul Krugman has written a succinct analysis of Hillary's strengths. Thank God someone has finally said it.

When political commentators praise political talent, what they seem to have in mind is the ability of a candidate to match one of a very limited set of archetypes: the heroic leader, the back-slapping regular guy you’d like to have a beer with, the soaring orator. Mrs. Clinton is none of these things: too wonky, not to mention too female, to be a regular guy, a fairly mediocre speechifier; her prepared zingers tend to fall flat.

Yet the person tens of millions of viewers saw in this fall’s debates was hugely impressive all the same: self-possessed, almost preternaturally calm under pressure, deeply prepared, clearly in command of policy issues. And she was also working to a strategic plan: Each debate victory looked much bigger after a couple of days, once the implications had time to sink in, than it may have seemed on the night.

Oh, and the strengths she showed in the debates are also strengths that would serve her well as president. Just thought I should mention that. And maybe ordinary citizens noticed the same thing; maybe obvious competence and poise in stressful situations can add up to a kind of star quality, even if it doesn’t fit conventional notions of charisma.

Furthermore, there’s one thing Mrs. Clinton brought to this campaign that no establishment Republican could have matched: She truly cares about her signature issues, and believes in the solutions she’s pushing.

I know, we’re supposed to see her as coldly ambitious and calculating, and on some issues — like macroeconomics — she does sound a bit bloodless, even when she clearly understands the subject and is talking good sense. But when she’s talking about women’s rights, or racial injustice, or support for families, her commitment, even passion, are obvious. She’s genuine, in a way nobody in the other party can be.

So let’s dispel with this fiction that Hillary Clinton is only where she is through a random stroke of good luck. She’s a formidable figure, and has been all along.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

cuteness alert

The third debate is about to begin; the horror, the horror! But we had a great evening here. Lynn left this morning, sadly, but this afternoon Bruce arrived. And Sam agreed to make a superb dinner for Bruce, Wayson and me, to cheer us up before we watch democracy being smushed once again.

Here, some lovely things to look at before the horror:
Eli has asked to have a "sleepover" with Ben, so last night his mama let them do it. Could I drown in love?
And again - this is my son in Washington D.C., visiting his dad - here he's at his six-year old sister's Grade One class, showing them how basketball is played when your head is on the level with the basket.

And now it begins.

Monday, October 17, 2016

"All but gone" and Chihuly

In 30 years, I have never seen this - my garden without a thick tangle of wires across the sky. Now - just birds and green.

So busy! So little time, so much to do with my best friend visiting from Provence. How the city has opened up to her. On Saturday, the market, a walk with Anne-Marie around Ashbridge's Bay in the hot sun,
then dinner here with old friends from university days.
On Sunday, a Pilates class at the Y and then the matinee of a Beckett play at Canadian Stage - "All but gone," a stunning production, beautifully directed, acted and sung. Lynn judged it "perfect." As soon as I got home, I sent an email reprimanding the Globe's theatre critic Kelly Nestruck, who gave the show a ferociously bad review simply because a bit of it had been mounted a few years before. The house was nearly empty, perhaps because of his review, when it's a very good show that should be seen. Don't miss it! As Lynn says, Beckett is so revered in France that if a production like this were mounted in Paris, it would be sold out.

In the afternoon, listening to Eleanor Wachtel interview Sir Christopher Ricks on his book about Bob Dylan, with excerpts from the songs. Bravo Bob! A hero. I think it's wonderful that the Nobel committee is embracing popular culture and music - albeit the music of a genius.

Last night, "The Hunt of the Wilderpeople" - a New Zealand film about a Maori boy and his foster father on the lam in the woods - very entertaining. Did we do enough for one day? Well, when we got home, I rushed to turn on "Poldark," but Madame Blin did not watch. A little too bodice-ripper for her. I love that show.

This morning - MORE. Off to Chihuly at the ROM with beloved friend Ken, whom I'm grateful to know through Lynn. A gorgeous exhibition of sculptured glass - and the artist's collection of First Nations artifacts.

And then smoked meat for lunch, which Lynn adores because you can't get it in France. She's a cheap date.

She is only here for two more days, and tonight and tomorrow I have to go off to teach, so our non-stop round of cultural activities will have to slow down. I will miss her very much. But luckily, Bruce is arriving a few hours after Lynn leaves, also to stay for a week. The Kaplan Hotel is in full swing, which makes the host very happy.