Friday, June 23, 2017

breathing in the sweet, sweet air

Why, why, why are we on this fragile planet wasting time on a vile bag of orange-haired gas? The election of that ghastly man is one of the great tragedies of our century so far. So much to do on climate change, hunger, disease, homelessness, water shortage, disaffected young men turning to violence and religious extremism, the destructive power of new drugs - my son just lost a young friend to Fentanyl - a million important things, and busy, intelligent people, every day, are wasting their fucking time dealing with a cretinous lying idiot, his villainous sycophantic lying henchmen, and almost every single ghastly excuse for a human being in his reprehensible lying party, none of whom are worth one iota of our valuable grey matter.

Okay, thank you, that's all for today. My rage simmers some days and explodes others. Just hearing the orange blow-hole's voice turns my stomach. Disgusting. And millions still support him. It's enough to make you give up on humanity, some days.

But stop. The scent of gardenia, rose, and lavender, the birds in full voice at dusk, the incredibly lush green after yesterday's torrential downpour - so much to celebrate. My daughter correcting my not-quite-left-enough sensibilities. I texted that, to protest the forced exclusion of police in uniform by Black Lives Matter, a gay friend who used to be a Pride parade marshal is boycotting the parade on Sunday.
"A white man, I presume?" she wrote back.
"An older gay man who has suffered from discrimination and believes in tolerance and inclusion," I wrote.
"So yes," she replied. "A white man."

I see her side, and his too. Marching together is vital, the fact that gay police in uniform are part of the event - how extraordinary that is in a world where it's illegal to be gay in many countries and can even lead to death. But then, according to the people of colour I've heard on this issue, the very next day, after marching merrily in the parade, the police, gay or not, continue racist practices like carding.

Anna has a thing or two to teach me. On a happier note, she took her older son for his yearly check up, and the doctor thought he was in Grade one, not JK. He's a big boy and mature for his age, our Eli.

Busy as always, three classes this week, all thrilling. I'm already recruiting for So True which isn't till November, but you can never start too early. Two new library books, Maggie Nelson's ground-breaking "The Argonauts," which may have broken ground but I'm not sure I like its disjointed, aggressive style, and - of course - "Dreaming the Beatles - the love story of one band and the whole world," by Rob Sheffield, telling me nothing I don't know. Watched the dramatic finale of "Genius" on Wednesday night, about Einstein, a magnificent man and a lousy father - so what's new already?

Yesterday was Brucie's 70th birthday. He's doing better all the time and will soon move to a rehab hospital. He has to learn to walk again, because his apartment building is not wheelchair-accessible, and he wants to go home. May those legs soon start moving again, my beloved friend. To think, only a few months ago, the two of us went on a long hike on the Cote d'Azur. What a beautiful memory.

Today Wayson kindly drove me to the liquor store - there's serious talk of an LCBO strike, so I bought two full cases of wine and some beer, yes I did, better safe than sorry! And then he read a few new pages of the memoir, ones I thought pushed through my block. And he had quite a bit to say. You're such a good writer, he says, and yet you refuse to confront the issue holding you back. Which has to do with telling and showing, how I prefer telling, standing at a distance and reporting, rather than showing, unpacking, painting the picture vividly with detail and dialogue - SCENE. Much harder than reporting. Once again, it's easy to tell other people how to write, not easy to come through myself.

Wayson has a thing or two to teach me too. I know, my dear bloggees, you think I am perfection itself, but it turns out I'm riddled with flaws. Only not quite as riddled, as potholed, as holy as Swiss cheese as the current President of the United States. At least there's that.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

a Father's Day essay

Happy Father's Day to all you fathers out there. I'm posting an essay I wrote for the CBC 19 years ago. (Wish I could reduce it in size but I don't know how.) It's about fathers in general but also secretly addressed to my ex-husband, a nice man and a workaholic. I found out later the piece was being used in a law school course about divorce law. Without royalties, of course, but still, I was glad, because it's just as true now as it was in 1998. Don't get me started on how our world is ignoring the crisis of lost young men. What are terrorists, after all?

And just so you know ... I am working. It's like wading through peanut butter, trying to fix the front of this memoir, but I'm working at it. "Arse in chair," as Colum McCann says in his terrific book, Letters to a Young Writer, that I just got from the library. I'm not young, but I'm drinking in his words, and "Keep your arse in the chair" is among them.


Not long ago, I wrote a short article about my father, and read it to a writers group. It was about the difficulty he had conveying love, as I grew up, and how long it took before I understood that he really did love me, he just couldn’t say so. “Our communication was subterranean,” I read. “I learned to decipher his signals like secret code, like sign language.”

When I’d finished reading, there was complete silence. “Oh oh,” I thought, “they hate it,” and then I looked up. Around the table, every face was stricken; two were in tears. This was not just my story, I learned. Trying to read love on Daddy’s face, or to hear affection coming from Dad’s mouth, was a search we all shared. Heartbreakingly so.

A search that our fathers, ironically, shared with us. For how many of our fathers had ever heard loving, supportive words from their fathers? How could they learn to speak lovingly when their own fathers were sternly silent, as men were meant to be? It’s only now, in our post-feminist time, that men are allowed - even expected - to speak of feelings, tenderness, love. 

Now that men have new emotional freedom, will our children be the first generation raised with the guarantee of affectionate attention from fathers? Well, no. Because, having addressed that problem, we’re reeling from another, a crisis of disastrous, almost unknowable proportions. Just as we encourage men to be more open in marriage, marriages are falling apart at a record rate. Just as men are freed to connect emotionally with their children, they’re increasingly living somewhere else, apart, and so are able to connect only sporadically, if at all. In some ways, I think many modern fathers are even more painfully distant from their children than the hiding-behind-the-newspaper, go-ask-your-mother, Father Knows Best fathers of the Fifties.

There’s no blame here. Our society has lived through several earthquakes in recent times - the permissive sixties, the self-centered seventies, the workaholic, driven, selfish eighties and nineties - and, especially, the feminist revolution. None of these things made marriage and child-rearing easier and more secure for men and women. Women, in particular, found an entirely new world of possibilities, and men were left figuring out where they fitted in the new scheme of things. We’re an interim generation, rejecting what our parents had, but not knowing quite how to fashion, successfully and workably, what we want. 

The greatest tragedy in all the flux is this: because of widespread divorce, fathers are vanishing, and children are suffering the consequences. I fear that we as a society will suffer the consequences, too. Our fathers may have been aloof, but most of them were there. So many divorced fathers now, it seems, are living on the other side of town, or in another city, or have a new girlfriend or are plunged into work. It’s not that they don’t care for their children; I’m sure they do. They’re just not sure how to connect without the structure of marriage and family and home. They seem to feel, eventually - well, the children’s mother is keeping me out; or - she’s taking good care of things; I might as well go back to the office. The kids don’t need me.

They need you. They need you more than ever - even if it’s the children, now, who are silent, and can’t speak of love and need. Boys desperately need a role model, to watch Dad in all kinds of situations, to understand what men do and how they do it. Girls need to hear a man’s point of view, to feel themselves growing up under the appreciative gaze of a loving man. These things are fundamental, and so often, now, they’re missing.

Children don’t need that much; they just need you. My own son, a few years ago, flew off for a special visit with his dad, who now lives an hour and a half away by plane in another country. And his loving, generous father laid it on, all kinds of fancy events - expensive outings and shopping and shows and restaurants. Later, my son wrote about the visit for school. “The best part of my trip,” he wrote, “was playing catch in the park with my dad.”

There’s a saying women know about - that if you asked your children which they’d prefer, their mother nearby and wretched, or somewhere else and blissful, which would they choose? No question. Kids need their parents to be there, happy or not. If I’d had a choice between my father as he was, judgmental, sometimes even cruel, but present, and my father far away but sending adoring letters, which would I have chosen? No question. I needed him daily, difficult as he was. And eventually a love grew between us which nurtures me still, though he’s no longer there to love me back.

All fathers - but especially divorced fathers - there’s an emergency out there. Your children are hungry for you. Don’t worry if you’re not the type who can say ‘I love you’; that’s not the issue any more. You don’t have to say it, though it’s nice if you do. You don’t have to be living under the same roof as your children to be an involved, committed, passionate father, who’s there. All you have to do is be ready to play catch as often as you possibly can, to catch and throw, to listen and talk, to listen, and talk, as fully as you possibly can, until the day comes when the need for you to be there stops. 

Which, if you play your cards right, won’t be until long, long after the day you die.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Macca, Companion of Honour, turns 75

Okay, what's really important this weekend is that on Sunday, tomorrow, June 18, a certain Beatle turns 75. It's also Father's Day, and he is a much-loved father to his own 4 children and his adopted daughter Heather. And just in time, he was granted yet another huge honour by the British government - a Companion of Honour. "A companion of honour – an honour created in 1917 -can have no more than 65 members, so vacancies only arise on the death of a holder." 

Half a century after the release of the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – now being celebrated in a festival across their native Liverpool – McCartney was jubilant. He said: “I’m very happy about this huge honour, and with the news coming on my birthday weekend and Father’s Day, it makes it colossal!”
He has been my very own Companion of Honour for over 50 years, since January 1964. Happy Birthday and mazel tov, my dear Macca.

One of my other great heroes, J.K. Rowling, also won the award. Brava, brilliant generous woman with a giant heart.
Another beautiful peaceful weekend, rain, sun, apparently severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings just outside the city but not here. Lots of planting this morning. Yesterday Anna and her gang arrived, after school; we went to the Wellesley St. splash pad where Eli got very wet and Ben ran in circles near the water but not in it. Ben never walks; he only runs, including into the road, so his mother is considering a leash, which I think is a great idea for her peace of mind. He moves so fast, it's terrifying. Then they came here. David Sedaris once described a friend's kids as "a wrecking crew of four" and that's how my adored grandsons are,  a wrecking crew of two. No problem with that.

Hard to believe, as I stare out now at the lush green, the scores of frilly pink roses, the glorious white gardenia, that not far away, there is chaos and horror - that crazy Americans can now more easily buy guns, that a patently crazy man is the most powerful man in the world.

But Randy Bachman is celebrating Bob Dylan on his program right now, with Bob's own voice and covers. Now Roseanne Cash is singing "You ain't goin' nowhere." The roses, gardenia, and lavender, are also singing to me. And I am in heaven.

And more great news - Bruce is home. After a month in hospital in Ravenna after a stroke, he finally made it back to Vancouver yesterday. He's in St. Paul's Hospital receiving some very welcome Canadian health care. Welcome home, dear Brucie.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Edgar at the Tonys

I have to take a wonderful book back to the library today - "The Seven Good Years" by Israeli writer Etgar Keret, one of my favourite writers. The book is extremely short, a bunch of brief chapters detailing the years between the birth of Keret's son and the death of his father. It's about life in Israel and being a man, about families and life. He's witty, hilarious, and very moving, and he's extraordinarily concise. I don't know how he does so much with so few words. Highly recommended.

It's heaven out there today - not as hot as it was on the weekend, when it soared over 30 degrees, but hot and bright. The roses are - I wish there were a verb to go with the noun 'profusion' - profuding? Bursting out all over, and the gardenia too.

But it's also a sad day; my friend and tenant Carol's mother died early this morning. Born in 1914, she'd attained the phenomenal age of 103, so this was not unexpected, but still, it's a passage, a loss, an ending; a much loved mother is gone. I picked a bouquet of roses, mint, and lavender for Carol's room.

On Sunday night, much excitement - Sam and Wayson came to watch the Tony awards from Broadway. "Come From Away" sadly did not win, but "Dear Evan Hanson" did; my ex Edgar was one of the early producers at Arena Stage, his theatre in Washington, and he was onstage with the other producers. (He also produced the Tonys twice, but that was years ago.) We at home were very excited - "There's the old man!" shouted Sam, and rewound the program after so we could take a screen shot. Bravo, Edgar. What fun for you to be at the Tonys; what fun for us to watch.

Last night, another celebration - to thank John, a dear friend from the Y who does my income tax and recently bailed Sam out of a complication with his, I took him on Sam's night off to dinner with Sam at his new restaurant, the Emerson, at Bloor and Lansdowne. A grand night, delicious food, all the waitstaff coming up to say hello and joke around - sheer delight.

And now, time to put on my big girl clothes and ride beautiful blue Marilyn to Ryerson.

Sunday, June 11, 2017


Five participants confirmed already ... only 5 or 6 more to fill it. Looking forward to a July Sunday in the garden. There will be roses.

A one-day writing adventure.
Inspiration, structure and support for those with lots of writing experience and for those with none.

Spend a summer day learning to trust your voice and tell your stories. Listen to your creative self. Gain confidence and perspective from friendly contact with other writers. Write in the garden and enjoy positive feedback, bushy perennials, and lunch.
Who: Writer and teacher Beth Kaplan has taught writing at Ryerson for 22 years and at U of T for 10.
When: Sunday July 23, 10.00 a.m. to 5 p.m
Where: Beth’s secret garden in Cabbagetown.
Laughter, camaraderie and insight guaranteed.
For more information -
To register –
Cost: $150, including food for thought and actual food (and wine). Register early; registration is limited.

“Glorious stories, a beautiful setting, great food, a garden to die for.” - Kelsey Mason
Just what I needed to get started writing again!”  - Pat Broms

“Beth has a special gift for creating a safe learning environment, with a well of positive things to say without passing judgment. It was a joy to be there with her and the others. Her garden is magical, and she created a magical day for me.” - Ann C.

brava Bonnie Raitt

Sunday morning in paradise - my green garden. The roses and gardenia are overloaded with buds about to burst, and the tender lettuce leaves are begging to be picked and dressed. It's so quiet here on the weekends because, I guess, the neighbours are at the cottage. My idea of heaven is not having to get in a car, ever.

Bonnie Raitt - what an inspiration. She's a few months older than I am, with a career spanning more than 4 decades, fabulous to look at in her skinny black jeans, and listen to, with her powerful guitar and her clarion voice as strong if not stronger than ever. I read on-line that she went clean and sober in the mid-eighties, right afterwards had her first mega-hit and has been sober ever since. She was gracious to her longtime band, constantly pointing out their solos and talent, and they to her. The music ranged from real old-timey blues to raunchy rock to achingly beautiful ballads. How can she still wring so much from "Angel to Montgomery"? "How the hell can a person/go to work in the morning/and come home in the evening/and have nothing to say?" She made me cry at least twice, and I was not alone. Magnificent.

This is what she said recently about getting older:
"My end of the music business doesn't rely so much on looks. It allows you to age more gracefully than the mainstream pop stars that are total babes. People are snarkier about them getting older. It's just terrible. So I'm actually relieved that I'm in the character actress end of the world, where I can just get more seasoned and people go, 'Oh, well, look how mythical she's become!'"
Time to get out those old records and listen again. (And FYI, I rode my bike to see her at the Sony Centre.)

Yesterday, off to the documentary cinema to watch "Sacred" with Ken - a doc about religious practices around the world. We were going to see "Wonder Woman" but chose this instead, and I wonder, as a woman, if that was a mistake. It's a messy film, skipping about all over the planet, a bit of a Filipino crucifixion re-enactment here, a bizarre Buddhist practice here - monks walking ceaselessly around a mountain for 1000 days - an almost violent Christian service in Botswana, a terrifying view of zillions of worshipers at the Hajj in Saudi Arabia. All the way through, I the atheist kept thinking - bizarre, cruel, a waste of time. The fact that countless people worship with ferocious blindness is no surprise but scary nonetheless.

The only place where it seemed to me religion actually served a great purpose was in a Louisiana prison, populated almost entirely by men of colour, some of whom have found god. Faith gives them hope, kindness, something to live for, which is good because most of them are serving life sentences and will never emerge from that hellhole. But otherwise, even Ken, who's a practicing Catholic, was completely put off by what was shown. We'll have to try again for "Wonder Woman.

I realize - as I bop around, seeing musicians and films and plays and friends - how lucky I am, but also, how easily distracted. There's SO MUCH TO DO! And summer is just heating up in Toronto, the Luminato arts festival is just starting and all the other festivals non-stop around town. How to settle down to the work?

First world problems.

Tonight, the Tony Awards from NYC. I am rooting for the Canadian "Come From Away," but am torn - my ex was the original producer of "Dear Evan Hanson," another best musical nominee, as well as one of the nominated plays, and will be in the audience. So either one. Break a leg, Newfoundland. Break a leg, Ed.

Friday, June 9, 2017

a beautiful gift

Just had to post this and give it a separate page. Mary, a dear friend and on-going writing student in my home class, read my blog posts about my frustration with the rewrite of the memoir, the fact that right now I'm stuck and avoiding work. She just sent this generous, thoughtful, kind note, which filled my heart to bursting:

Here is my humble suggestion for you - try to stop looking at your struggle and start looking at your successes. Your writing is not the only measure of who you are (in my humble opinion). You have a gift for connecting with people - you empower and inspire, helping people to scour their souls and minds which in turn frees them of demons and angels who lie below the surface. It is so powerful.

Try to work back from your present, instead of forward from your past.
Start with today and then yesterday, last month and last year - then go back to how you got here. Here to self assured, highly engaged mentor, teacher, grandmother, mother and long time friend to so many. You are a traveler, an explorer who came from wandering without goals and purpose, self love or a sense of identity to a driven, self-assured woman who snatches every ounce of what she can in life, each day.

Start with today's gifts and work backward to the gifts and charms you acquired along the way. Where in your journey did you find the things that make up the Beth of today? Start with " I am..."

It may do nothing for you but I hope it helps to you to see that your writing flows from many pens beyond your own. You are witness and voice for many who would otherwise be silent. 

YOUR voice may be still for now or it  just may be quiet for the moment. Let it come peacefully; invite it in and listen quietly to its sound, as you do for so many others.

readings and CNF competition

It's summer! John came yesterday and we spent our usual hour standing on a chair and a ladder, putting on the pergola cover; it's infuriatingly difficult but once it's done, I have another room, an outside living room with retractable roof. My home class came yesterday evening and we sat outside in the new room. The lettuce in the deck containers is lush and the roses and gardenia about to burst. My own Garden of Eden, except that I hope not to be expelled by a vengeful god anytime soon.

Yesterday, Anna came with her boys on the way to a school board meeting; she's getting involved in local school politics, not a surprise as she's so articulate and engaged. Two little boys appear; my soul is flooded with love, they rip my house apart, and they leave. My very own little endorphin-producing beings. Oxytocin, the cuddle hormone—released through closeness with another person. It can also be triggered through social bonding, like eye contact and attentiveness. This helps strengthen existing bonds and relationships.

This morning, the termite hunters came with their equipment and their drills, seeking colonies and nests. Last month, as I wrote here, I was sitting in the kitchen when winged ants began to emerge from an old wooden column in the kitchen. Horror! I sprayed Raid madly in all directions, but Richard, aka Mr. Termites, came last week to confirm what the ants were. However, even after the two young guys this morning had done their worst - ripping up carpet, drilling holes, digging into walls - they found nothing, no colonies and no nests. I must have obliterated a small fledgling group, or else they're hiding somewhere. The guys injected their anti-termite poison anyway, since the holes were dug, and Richard comes back in 3 months to check. But for once - though I still have to pay the bill - good news.

And tonight's good news - I'm going to see Bonnie Raitt. I've been a fan, bought her first album in 1971, but have never seen her live.

Lots going on literature-wise: Ben McNally is producing an event with young female writers, and there's one of the best-known non-fiction prizes.
In Her Voice Festival
Next Week
(June 15-17)
Just a reminder that next week we'll be hosting our big
In Her Voice Festival.
Tickets are still available, and we hope you all can make it out to hear about these interesting books, and the remarkable authors behind them.

The festival is being held at:
Crow's Nest Theatre 
345 Carlaw Ave (at Dundas)

Click the button below for more general information about the festival and to buy tickets. 
Crow's Nest Theatre

Dig Out Your Best Truths! $1,000 Goes to One Winner

CNF contest call
The Malahat's annual Creative Nonfiction Contest is now accepting submissions for the $1,000 grand prize!
Writers from around the world are invited to submit. Send us personal essays or memoirs, narrative nonfiction or travel writing... if it's real and creative, we want to read it!
Word count limit is 2,000 to 3,000 words. Entry fee varies by location, but comes with a nifty one-year subscription!
This year's contest judge is Brian Brett.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

If you're not in the obit, eat breakfast.

My friend Gretchen just sent this, a list of things you can do to deal with writer's block. Good ideas, though most of them dealing with fiction, the sense that writing is coming up with ideas, whereas memoir writing is coming up with memory, scenes from the past, and figuring out how and where they fit. And that's the block - I have hit a memory brick wall, for now.

But I'm re-energized, from a most unlikely place - watching a program last night with the marvellous title, "If you're not in the obit, eat breakfast." It's produced by Carl Reiner and features a bunch of his comedian friends and others, all in their nineties and some in their hundreds, who are still active, busy, working, and most of them, this being Carl Reiner, extremely funny - Mel Brooks, Betty White, Norman Lear, Dick Van Dyke. He shows the amazing black woman - I've seen her on FB - who started running at 67 and still runs races at the age of 100. Life is a gift, they all say, over and over. Don't waste it.

As I watched these marvellously calm, wise, humorous old people, I felt so young! I've been feeling old, as I complained yesterday - I'm not used to pain, but these days when I get out of bed, my back hurts, my knees hurt. That's something new and not fun. But that's not necessarily age, I think it's partly because I'm not moving enough. Dick Van Dyke says he was asked to write a book about aging well and replied, It would be a short book with one line: Keep moving. (He did in fact write the book and that's its title.) And he's right. KEEP MOVING.

I will move more and I will get my memoir mojo back. How, when there aren't enough hours in the day? Something has to go, and perhaps it's the time I spend falling down the rabbit hole of Facebook.

It must have rained hard in the night, because there are puddles on the deck and the air is heaven - green and fresh. It smells of spring. In my heart, too.

PS I shouldn't include this, it's vain and boastful, but what else are blogs for?! My old friend Terry sent me this, from someone who came with her to the last So True. Good to hear - golden! - on a day when I am already feeling rejuvenated:
Sorry I'm unable to accompany you to Beth's event at the Black Swan this time...  You'll have to tell me all about the readings. And when Beth holds the event again, please let me know in advance. Did I ever tell you I read her book, True To Life, which I bought last July when you and I attended? Her advice was very helpful, and the tone was pure kindness. But you'd know that. I've learned when out and about that Beth's reputation is golden in this city. But you'd know that too.

Monday, June 5, 2017

saved by "Sgt. Pepper"

Still avoiding work. I sit at the desk but am stuck. Stuck stuck stuck. Stuck. Did I mention that I am not making any progress? Everything in me is fighting going back to this material, opening it all up again.

Sigh. But it'll happen. This is sheer self-indulgence; I'm wasting so much time, it's sad. However. 

More nice things coming in about So True. Everyone, it seems, was very pleased, and if they weren't - well, who wouldn't be? 

Just had a phone call from Sam, whose life is never dull. Apparently, last night at his restaurant, a group of women he was serving asked if he was single. When he said he was, they asked if his mother was "a character". When he said she was, they asked if the two of us would like to appear on their TV show - in which, apparently, mothers choose dates for their sons who go out with the woman and then discuss afterwards. He’s coming tomorrow with a DVD of past shows so we can watch. As I said - never dull. 

And here's Anna's critical assessment of the new Wonder Woman movie. Also never dull.

!!!Wonder f***ing Woman!!!

So now I have to go see it.

P.S. There's a wonderful old-fashioned record store, Mike's Music, across the street from the Black Swan where we hold our readings, and I always visit when on the Danforth. This time, I bought the remastered "Sgt. Pepper", and just listened with headphones. What a stunning accomplishment - the harmonies, the classical instrumentation, the incredible variety from one song to the next - from George's serene Indian musings to Paul's glorious bouncy retro music hall to John's sardonic twist on everything - God, I miss that man - and behind it all, Ringo's fantastic drum beat. Mesmerizing.

Wept, flooded with sound and memory. I was 16 when I first heard this record and am 66 now, and it's just as good, no, better, that it was then. How many things can we say that about? Certainly not I myself, with my sore knees, slow brain, riddled memory, and painful back, feeling, these days, every bit of my years. But that record made me fly.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

So True - inspiration

Sometimes, in the course of preparing for another So True reading event, I wonder why I'm doing this. It's a lot of time and work - we've done it 11 times, and each time, it's at least 8 essays to find and edit, some extensively, 8 readers to coach and prepare, then the event itself, sitting there like mama bird nervously watching fledglings take flight - and then I have to stand on stage and do something myself, talk and read and wrap it all up. I feel it as a huge responsibility and weight.

But today - once again, for the 11th time, when I'm actually sitting in the audience watching one writer after another read fantastic, powerful, moving stories, and then standing there myself to speak directly to that long dark warm room - well, it's wonderful and I wouldn't stop doing it for anything. It's fabulous. One writer has already emailed, Thank you for this wonderful experience. It was a privilege to read in public with such wonderful story tellers. I learned so much and left inspired. I'm grateful. 

And so am I. This time, I told them with our world as dark as it is now, what we were doing there - telling the truth, bearing witness, and especially listening, listening hard to other people - matters more than ever. That I wished I could bottle the kindness, empathy, and honesty in that room and send it south to the giant orange blowhole. We just might save the world.

So yes, one proud mama tonight. Tired, though. And disappointed - lots of friends, though often invited, do not come. I guess they imagine it's a bunch of whining people feeling sorry for themselves, instead of a series of the most moving, funny, uplifting, human stories. Just received another email, from a woman whom I don't know: What an incredible afternoon ! I'm hooked and have November 5th in ink in my calendar. You and the other readers and writers have truly inspired me. 


Yesterday, I spent much of the day riding my new bike, Marilyn, around town in the soft sun. I'm crazy about her - so comfortable, her handlebars so high, I feel like a little kid with his first BMX. Here she is at the Y today. Sea foam blue, Norco named her colour. Not sure I've ever seen sea foam that colour, but who cares?
Have you ever seen a bike so beautiful? I think not.

I confess that apart from my new bike, So True, and my classes, this was not a good week. I was confronted with the task of rewriting the first 50 pages of my memoir, and I failed miserably, doing everything possible to avoid the work, including, at one point, sitting at my desk with a tooth pick in my hand, cleaning gunk from the edges of my computer keys. That took a good 20 minutes. Now my keys are clean and the new pages are not there. I have the self-discipline of a toddler. However. It has to be done and I will do it. At some point. Soon.

As Eli might say, I DON WANNA.

But I will.

At some point.

Read an interesting book - "The Blue Touch Paper," a memoir by playwright David Hare. Lots of gossip in a restrained British way. But in the end, brilliant as he is, he had an affair and left his wife when she had five month old twins and an older child. Phooey, is what I say to that. Now reading Etgar Keret, "The Seven Good Years." Etgar's wife, according to his writing, has his number; he won't be going anywhere. He is a very funny writer.

Bravo to the So True team today. What a joy to hear you, such a diverse group in ages, ethnicities, backgrounds, approaches to the work. Spectacular. And now, Sunday night TV for me. Tomorrow morning, I will go to my desk once more and try to ignore the toothpick.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Sgt. Pepper and pot, the joys of 1967

Since this is Sgt. Pepper day, and no one wants my essay about the Summer of Love, I'm posting here a cut down excerpt about the album. Surely I enjoyed the ultimate 1967 experience - Pepper and pot simultaneously, both for the first time.
The first week of June, a seismic event - the Beatles released an album. My neighbour, Brent, asked if I wanted to come listen to his brand-new copy. Brent was 18. His parents were out.
He showed me the album – a far-out cover and such a strange title, the Beatles as a “lonely hearts club band,” whatever that was. The Beatles were many things, but I was pretty sure lonely was not one of them. Brent got something out of a tin. “I have a treat for us,” he said, holding a scrawny cigarette. “It’s pot.”
Brent put the record on the record player and lit the little cigarette. I’d never taken anything into my lungs except air. It made me cough to inhale the hot bitter smoke.     
We heard incredible music, one song sort of linked to the next, a kind of circus show. My head grew light, my body fizzing, heart hammering. The last track on side two was like nothing I’d ever heard, a whole orchestra, it sounded like, every instrument gradually climbing up, up, straining ever higher. As I sat in Brent’s father’s La-Z-boy chair, eyes closed, caught in that soaring crescendo, I was a flower, bursting through the hard dark soil into the sun.
At the end, a long quivering chord held forever, and I, hanging onto the arms of the chair to keep from flying away, my petals still glowing in the light.

As I floated home, I thought, well, pot’s fun, and that’s a really great record. But it’s the Beatles, that’s what they do. In six months, they’ll come out with something even better.

I really thought that. Just another brilliant album. Many more to come.


Here's a brilliant Simpson's episode for your viewing pleasure. Sometimes they can do no wrong. And after all these years, too.

Watched a PBS documentary on aging. Though there's nothing you don't know, here as a reminder are some of the things they said help you age better, according to studies they've done on the island of Okinawa, for example, where people routinely live to be over a hundred healthy in mind and body:
Eat less meat - there are enzymes in meat that contribute to aging - and more colourful fruits and vegetables, especially purple ones.
Keep fit: dance and walk.
Learn something new.
Eat nuts. People who eat nuts have 50% less chance of a heart attack. Or something like that.

Okay. That's your wisdom for today.

Tonight's the rehearsal for So True. Today's thrill - my new bike. After much research, several trips to Canadian Tire and other shops, I bought a Norco at my local bike shop. Finally, I have a stepthrough- also called a girl's - bike with high handlebars. Thrilling. She is turquoise blue and I've called her Marilyn, because she's old-fashioned and big and show-offy and gorgeous.

I HAVE REGISTERED HER WITH THE POLICE and she has a big fat lock.  So if you're planning to come by and steal her, think again.