Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Stratford and Ingersoll pix

 Carol's lovely Victorian house
 Lani at the cheese museum - info on the biggest cheese in the world! ...
... and with Mr. Hapi, who lost a leg in Taiwan and landed in the most loving home on earth. Nothing holds him back now.

My new resolution: turn all electronics (except the TV) off at 9 p.m. It's that now, so I'm off. "Don't look back," the Bob Dylan documentary is on, and I'll watch a bit. I do not want to leave my manuscript though. I am truly at the obsessive stage, going over and over and over - only a few more weeks to finish it before teaching starts. I wrote today to a literary agent. This mama is nearly fully dilated and ready to push.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Stratford 2017

Last month, I emerged, blinking in the light, full of joy, from seeing a fabulous musical - and found myself in Times Square, surrounded by a trillion people and honking cars. This weekend, I emerged from seeing a fabulous musical and found myself in beautiful downtown Stratford, surrounded by swans floating on the River Thames, fields, gorgeous old Ontario houses, towering old trees, fabulous gardens, almost no one. That's the Stratford experience - incredible theatre in the middle of cornfields.

On Saturday morning, I got the Stratford express bus - $10 each way, from downtown Toronto directly to the three theatres, about two hours. My friend Carol was waiting. Carol and her sister Mary-Jane took my U of T class twice - wonderful writers, both of them, and also inventors of a clever game. But eventually they both moved out here, and finally, I had a chance to visit. Carol lives in one of Stratford's many perfect Victorian houses. We had a chance to get caught up in the sun before I went to the Festival Theatre to see a matinee of my favourite musical, Guys and Dolls. It was written in 1950, a very special year as far as I'm concerned, a year that produced a LOT of great stuff. And it's just the best musical ever written, brilliant book, music, concept - but especially the music, one glorious song after another, I had to restrain myself from singing along at the top of my lungs. "When you see a guy/reach for stars in the sky/you can bet that he's doing it for some doll..." So so good. I was in heaven.

Out into a mild August afternoon in this lovely little town, back to Carol's for a glass of rosé, then to her sister's for dinner. MJ and her husband live in a Victorian mansion; we ate out by the swimming pool surrounded by flowers, and I told her it was like being on the Riviera. Another catch up there. And then to Bakkhai, a new translation of Euripides' The Bacchae by Canadian poet Anne Carson. The production could not have been further from Guys and Dolls - and was terrific. Greek tragedies are almost impossible to pull off, and this one is about a mother who is roaming the hills with her wild feminist sisters and eventually rips her son to bits. She appears with pieces of his body and carries his head around, before she realizes whom she has killed. Not your everyday kitchen sink drama, but beautifully done with haunting music by the very talented Veda Hille from Vancouver.

And then out into the still Stratford night, to walk home to Carol's elegant spare bedroom. Lucky lucky me.

This morning, I bought sourdough bread and cheese at the little Stratford market, and friend Lani appeared for lunch in Carol's pretty garden. Lan and I have been friends since 1975, acting together in Vancouver; recently she and her husband Maurice moved from Stratford to Ingersoll, about 40 minutes away. She was coming in to have lunch with me and Carol, we'd see a show, and then drive back for me to spend the night in their new home and meet their new dog.

We saw what is meant to be a groundbreaking new play, The Breathing Hole, about the life of the Inuit in northern Canada, ranging in 2 acts over 500 years, with, as the chief character, an imaginatively made polar bear activated by a man underneath the costume. Very evocative. But the play, unfortunately, though with an interesting first act about the Inuit experience, fell apart with cheap choices in the second. Very disappointing, though the polar bear was almost worth the price of admission.

And then zipping through the green fields of southern Ontario to the small town of Ingersoll, pop. 12,500, where my friends now live with their dog, Mr. Hapi, who was a street mutt in Taiwan, hit by a car and crippled, rescued by a wealthy Taiwanese woman who takes in stray dogs, neuters them, heals and trains them and finds them owners. This one went to a shelter in Hamilton where he was found by my friends. He only has 3 legs, bounces happily along, and is the luckiest of dogs, in this house which overlooks a park by a river. Lots of people are moving from Toronto to Stratford because they can get more house for the money; Lani and Mo moved here for the same reason. They certainly got a lot more house, and greenery too.

The air, right now, is redolent of skunk.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Pam's memorial

Suddenly the weather changed - it was actually quite cold for a bit. Summer is winding down. I am still ploughing through cucumbers and tomatoes, give me strength. And the book, ditto.

Saw Kathleen Trotter again, for my detailed list of exercises. My right hip tilts forward and my right shoulder droops, leading to pain on my compensating left side. I now have pages of exercises to fix that. The question is, when will I do them? Add them to the very long To Do list. But I will.

Today I went to the memorial event for Pam McConnell at St. James Cathedral which, it turned out, was organized by my dear friend and neighbour Richard, now working at City Hall. And beautifully organized it was too. The church was filled to overflowing, so they had canopies with tables and chairs set up in the park next to the church, with the sound from inside piped out, and that area was full too. Pam was indefatigable, as the speakers were saying, a fierce fighter for social justice and equality. Now my neighbourhood is without her vital spirit, and also without our provincial rep Glenn Murray, who has quit to take another job. In Ottawa we are represented by Chrystia Freeland, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who's got a few other things on her mind beside Cabbagetown. We are orphaned.

My daughter took Ben to the Police Services Board meeting yesterday, to be part of the protest about the police treatment of black youth in the city after a boy was brutally assaulted by two off-duty cops and the case was shoved under the carpet. She amazes me. One of Thomas's sisters had a baby recently, and one day last week, Anna and Thomas's mother took six young children, the sister's four older kids and Anna's two, to the zoo for the day. Six energetic and often difficult children at the zoo - my idea of hell. But that's what she does.

Tomorrow, a special treat - the bus to Stratford, to see three shows, my favourite musical Guys and Dolls, the Bakkhai, and The Breathing Hole. I'll send a report. Unfortunately, I'll miss our dear Prime Minister who was there today, not to see a play, just to have a tour of the theatre and charm the pants off of everybody. Carol will be holding down the fort here at home.

Happy end of summer, bloggees. May there be many fresh organic cucumbers in your life too. And if there aren't - have I got a cucumber for you!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Fitness by Kathleen

The eclipse saved the day, lovely to see Americans gathering happily to do something other than celebrate their own poor sad endangered whiteness or to protest Nazis. I missed the eclipse here in Toronto - tried to look up mid-afternoon but without special glasses, saw no moon passing by. Apparently I could have looked at the sun through a colander. Next time. My American cousin Barbara, however, who has an undergraduate degree in astrophysics and spent her working life as a research scientist, was in Wyoming; her high school physics teacher had called a class reunion to watch the eclipse together there. Barbara was interviewed by CBS and appeared on national news for a whole 15 seconds! "Come with us next time," she wrote to me. I sure will - it'd be wonderful to watch the next eclipse with an astrophysicist who happens to be a very nice cousin.

Sam just sent me a text. "Everybody over the age of 5: Never look directly at an eclipse. Leader of the free world:..." And there's a picture of Trump, squinting up into the sun. While we're on the subject, how I wish the world would let the disgusting Steve Bannon crawl back under his rock. Now the press is quoting Breitbart at every turn. Giving these hideous guys a platform is how we got into this mess.

I had a treat yesterday morning. One of my dearest friends is Kate Trotter, lovely and talented actress and now psychologist-in-training. I've watched her daughter Kathleen from earliest childhood grow up to be an accomplished, lithe young woman, now the fitness columnist for the Globe, author of a book about fitness and personal trainer to the stars. I've been feeling achey and creaky, as if my poor body is losing ground, which it undoubtedly is, so I got in touch with Kathleen to ask for a fitness assessment. She went over my body, measuring my range of motion, watching for drooping shoulders and misaligned hips, pointing out that I favour one side, but mostly, she said I was pretty fit (for my age, she didn't say because she's much too nice.) She just sent me a detailed list of exercises I should do and will explain them on Thursday when I see her again. But this morning, I did the stretching exercises she'd assigned for me to do before getting out of bed - only five minutes or so, but I feel better already.

All this is especially necessary as I am doing nothing, I mean nothing, but sit and write and revise. I'm on a roll, want to finish this draft before the end of the month. Was supposed to go to a friend's glorious cottage this week and instead am sitting here fiddling with words - as Oscar Wilde said, I spend all morning putting in a comma and all afternoon taking it out again.


Eleven cucumbers growing, and here are the fading magnificent roses of late summer:

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Menashe, in Yiddish

Saw a deeply moving and highly unusual movie on Thursday with Ken - Menashe, filmed within a Hassidic community with amateur actors and in Yiddish. It's about a schlemiel, a kind but impractical man whose wife has died and who within the strict laws of his faith cannot raise his young son alone - it says in the Torah that children must be raised by two parents, so his son must live with humourless relatives. Our hero wants his child back. It reminded me of I, Daniel Blake, another film about one good man against the universe. But that one was didactic; we knew Daniel Blake would not get anywhere. This film is humane and haunting, goes deep, stays with you. It clarifies the power of religion to provide comfort and community, and at the same time, to restrict and terrorize.

I was at the High Park playground with Eli, Ben and Anna's best friend Holly on Friday, when a large group of Orthodox Jewish women arrived with their children, the women in wigs and demure clothing, the girls too in skirts and long sleeves, and the boys in yarmulkes with payes - sidecurls. I don't understand people's need to shut themselves away in any community, let alone a religious one with hundreds of rules, but at least, after seeing the film, I felt I knew more about who these people are.

We had fun.

Danger Baby, aka Ben, keeps saying the word "up", which means, I want to go as high as my big brother if not higher. Terrifying.

Today, with Wayson to keep me company, I cooked with stuff from the garden, including a mint-yogurt-cuke gazpacho, fresh green in colour and taste. As mentioned, I am drowning in cucumbers and tomatoes. Next week, of course, pesto. This has been a beautiful summer because of the rain - have hardly had to water the garden - and the mild temperatures. Had my AC on a couple of times in early July and not once since.

Mostly, I'm doing two things: scouring my manuscript, going over and over it, line by line, which is giving me joy because it is coming together. Yes it feels good now, like I'm polishing, or deepening, rather than rescuing.

And I'm reading the papers and FB and the NYT and Twitter as part of the "What the @#$# next?" brigade that we all are now. How much worse can things get? Plenty, I guess, as a few weeks ago we thought it couldn't get any worse, and voila, Nazis on the march, and an apologia for "nice people" Nazis, and more attacks in Europe, and tonight an item on the national news about women in South Sudan who are starving, who turn to prostitution to survive and contract AIDS.

To cheer myself up when it seems unbearable, I go out into the garden and watch the bees, covered with pollen, rolling drunkenly around on the pistils of my rose of Sharon. It's nearly pornographic, the way they rub, splaying themselves, sometimes writhing and sometimes motionless, as if exhausted or overwhelmed. It's love.
Saw a documentary about trees; it said that most medicines are plant based and trees exude chemicals that are good for us not just psychically but physically. Get thee into the greenery, the garden, the trees and plants. Sometimes it feels like that's the only sanity left.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

a chuckle in the rain

I could not help myself - "Eight Days a Week," the movie about the Beatles' touring years, was on the movie channel last night, and I had to watch for the third or perhaps fourth time. Each time, I find something new to celebrate. So so joyful at a time when the horror in the news is almost unbearable. A resurgence of fascism, how is this possible? No, let's focus instead on singing along with Carole King and the Beatles. I want to hold your hand.

It just started pouring - this has been the wettest summer on record, nearly, not complaining as it's been good for the cucumbers - and Anna is at the zoo with the usual passel of children. I'm sure they're all huddled in McDonalds.

So here are a few laughs for today, one courtesy of the blog of my dear friend Chris. Who, incidentally, continues to visit Bruce almost every day in the rehab hospital. Our dear Bruce, according to a recent long phone call, is recovering miraculously from his stroke. He went home overnight with his sister and on Thursday will go home for good with no follow up appointments! An absolutely amazing recovery.

 And, below, gluten free art...
Yesterday, the dentist; today a facial - teeth and pores sparkling, spiffing up this old bag of bones. But mostly, I'm in the obsessive stage of writing, not wanting to leave my beloved ms. for long. I'm getting there. Yes I am. So, goodbye, I'm busy.

Five minutes later - rain over, hot sun. What a summer.

Monday, August 14, 2017

a successful student

Can't help blowing my own horn a bit today, especially after the week I've had ... Sarah Meehan Sirk, who took my course some time ago and then took a number of other writing courses, was given a two book deal by a major publisher and has just come out with her first book of short stories, "The Dead Husband Project," given a rave review in the Star yesterday - half a page!

I wrote to ask her if she'd write a blurb for the Ryerson writing school website, and she sent this. Very nice to read. What she says about perseverance is very true. I can't tell in class which students are going to bloom, as she has, and which are not. Talent has little to do with it, because without perseverance, all the talent in the world is useless. So, brava, Sarah, for sticking with it.

In my early twenties, I knew I wanted to write, but I needed help. I needed feedback, I needed direction, I needed deadlines. I needed to know if I was any good. I enrolled in Beth Kaplan's True to Life class at Ryerson's Chang School of Continuing Studies - which became the first of many writing courses I took at the school - and found what I was after and more: the honest feedback, the direction, the deadlines, a writing group, and the help I needed to start becoming a much better writer. I still think of Beth's advice often. She assured me that writers blossom in their own time, at the right time for them. She encouraged me to abandon a flowery, polysyllabic writing style in favour of a clean, honest one. I doubt I showed much promise in those early days but there's something to be said for perseverance, and for great teachers.

Sunday, August 13, 2017


God, a day or two without blogging and already, too much to tell you. A stunning peaceful Sunday here. Time to pick some cucumbers. By September, I won't be able to look a cucumber in the eye.

On Saturday, there were two - two! - reviews in the Star of books by former students - "Dr. Bartolo's Umbrella and other tales from my surprising operatic life," by Chris Cameron, that I'm reading at the moment and thoroughly enjoying - the story of the trajectory of his operatic career, a very funny, beautifully written book - and "The Dead Husband Project" by Sarah Meehan Sirk, another former student who has gone on to fame, glory and good writing. Bravo to you both.

Went Saturday morning to St. Lawrence Market, heaven in summer, came home loaded down with way too much - blueberries, peaches, salad, corn, hot bagels, smoked salmon, cream cheese, other cheeses ... not just for me, but because an old friend was coming to visit. Harriet and I were at theatre school in London together in 1971, and now she's Dame Harriet Walter who had a recurring role in Downton Abbey and has most recently played several male Shakespeare roles, like Prospero. In fact, she told me that not long ago, for some weeks, she was required to do three different Shakespeare plays in one day - one in the morning, one in the afternoon, and one at night. The force needed for that seems superhuman, but she did it. We sat and ate bagels and talked shop, the kind of theatre talk I don't get to hear often enough. "My friend Alan Rickman, God rest his soul," she said at one point. "And then there was the time I met Paul McCartney backstage after a show I did with Twiggy's husband, a good friend of his. He came to say hello with Linda, Stella and Mary. I noticed that he has small feet," she said.

Scream. What a treat.

And then work, till 11, and again this morning. It's coming.

This aft, another huge treat - "Beautiful" at the Ed Mirvish Theatre, which used to be the Pantages, the theatre renovated beautifully and with enormous effort by Garth Drabinsky and my ex-husband for "Phantom", which played there for ages. The whole place is filled with bittersweet memories for me. But today, nothing but pleasure - a fabulous musical that tells the story of Carole King's early life and career, from selling her first song at 16, writing hit songs for the Shirelles, and on to the breakup of her marriage to her lyricist and "Tapestry," the album of the decade. The star, Chilena Kennedy, is perfect, simply stunning, the music is glorious, the whole thing spectacular. If you're in Toronto or New York, don't miss it. You make me feel like a natural woman. You're beautiful. You've got a friend.

And now - rosé, corn, gazpacho, cucumber salad. The cicadas are buzzing. Time to water the garden, and Sam may come later to watch "Game of Thrones". It does not get better than this. Except that neo-Nazis and violent white supremacists are newly empowered - have there ever been such reprehensible losers? what exactly do they have to complain about? - and nuclear war is looming between two spoiled lunatics who might destroy the planet, it doesn't get better than this.
Except for this - Madison Square Gardens, 1939.

Friday, August 11, 2017

moving right along

Oh my friends, what a difference a day makes. Early this week, I was ready to give up, not just my current book, but perhaps as a writer. I was profoundly discouraged. A writer I respected highly had given me a pretty harsh critique of something I'd been working on for years, and with my tendency for self-defeat, I believed him. It seemed pointless to continue.

And then a friend's perspicacious note pointed out that the writer's style and mine are very different, perhaps he simply wanted to read something resembling what he himself would write. My writer friend agreed completely and apologized. A huge weight was lifted from my shoulders.

That writer friend, Wayson, had already asked to read some other pages from the memoir, the ones I was in any case much more sure about. And after reading, he wrote a warm note full of praise for those pages, how much he liked them, how powerful was the voice, how completely he'd been captivated. Okay, I thought with a touch of skepticism, there's a happy medium between this radiant encomium and "flogging a dead horse," but still, it was lovely to read.

And then I got notes from my editor, Colin. I'd sent him the first 50 pages which I'd recently rewritten, the ones Wayson had so much trouble with. Colin had trouble too, had done a lot of editing with a lot of suggestions, but they were purely technical. It was a blinding revelation. He adheres to a method of storytelling, "The Three Act Template," with fancy technical names - Act One, the Call to Adventure, the Intervening Mentor; Act Two, the Ordeal, the Mid-Act Breakthrough etc. Too coldly technical for me, I'd thought, but this time, he showed me how moving stuff around to even minimally follow the pattern would make the story stronger and guide the reader through the journey. Plus, he insisted I cut unnecessary stuff, even one long scene that has been in the manuscript from the beginning. And I did.

It's now nearly 10 p.m. I have spent the entire day, except for a half hour class at the Y and a meal or two - and an emergency rosé run to the LCBO - sitting in this chair, chopping, hacking, moving chunks of text around. Yesterday, I was going to apply for a job at McDonalds. Today, there's the semblance of a book.

Thursday, August 10, 2017


One of those moments of sheer joy an hour ago: picking cucumbers - ridiculous, seven big ones -
then making gazpacho in the kitchen, chopping cukes and my own pungent garlic with peppers and tomatoes, Side Four of Macca's compilation, Pure McCartney, playing, his sublime genius with instruments, singing, composing, such a diversity of sound, I'm dancing and singing along; the sun is hot, new blooms on the rosebush once more, a white load of laundry hanging outside to dry - and one more thing to add to it all, I do not have glaucoma according to the surly ophthalmologist who tested my eyes yesterday. My father and grandmother had it so I need to be tested regularly. So far so good.

It's all good.

Importantly, Wayson and I had it out today. Other friends wrote with encouragement after reading the blog, but I was most helped by my dear Chris, to whom I'd sent the story of what happened Sunday night, Wayson reading some of my pages, as he often does, and giving me quite a severe critique, as he often does. I know he does it out of love, because he cares for me as a person and a writer, he wouldn't bother otherwise. But on Sunday night, I felt obliterated.

Chris sent the perfect note.
Is he accepting “your voice?”
It seems to me he uses very literary language. Your style feels less formal, more colloquial. Your style feels to me like it comes from a writer with both feet on the ground. You are like a reporter. He strikes me as a memoirist deeply invested in the emotional. His pages bleed. Your work feels like you: we (readers) are rushing through an incredible landscape of events and people. We are on a train rushing through a story whereas with Wayson we move SLOWLY VERY SLOWLY, observing and feeling everything.

Does he want to turn you into him? How is a man of his style expected to react to a writer of your style?

I read this to Wayson, who agreed 100% that he wants to see in my work what he likes to write, what he likes to read. He needs to step back, and I need to keep going in my own flawed way. 

And I realized - to get all psychoanalytical on your ass, as my son says - that my parents were extremely critical, and I grew up thinking that nothing I did was good enough. And I think Wayson and I reproduced that, in some ways. Not in our wondrous friendship - he is family to us all - but in our mentorship. It has to stop, because it doesn't help me any more. In fact, it hurt so much Sunday, I felt like giving up. What's the point of slaving over another book that's not very good and no one will read? 
Enough mewling. Onward. By the way, this doesn't mean that what he said isn't right, because it partly is. Something isn't working and I need to figure it out. So that's the job.
I made guacamole too, with my garlic, tomatoes, and of course cucumber, so now I'll have a glass of rosé with guacamole and then gazpacho with smoked salmon and thick slices of sourdough bread from the market and the rest of the cheese my daughter gave me for my birthday, and I will be thankful for every bite. 

Let us pray that two insane and loathsome creatures don't blow the planet into oblivion. I'm going to go out and smell those roses. 

Any good cucumber recipes? Please send.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

high summer

The other day, I was at the Regent Park playground with Eli when I looked around and thought, here it is, the best of Toronto. On one side was a transgender parent with his kids, a man, indubitably once female, with hairy legs and a beard and a woman’s demeanour and voice. On the periphery nearby was a woman – I assume a woman – completely covered, head to foot, including her eyes, with black cloth, like a black ghost. There were others walking past in niqab, covered but with eyes showing, or just in hijab, with heads covered; there were Somali mothers wearing long robes but with faces revealed, and Caribbean mothers wearing almost nothing. There were Oriental children, black children and brown children, indigenous children, and even a few white children, like my grandson. Who went right up to a multicoloured group of boys playing on a roundabout and joined them. And we were off.

Thus began the latest sleepover with Eli. We had Sunday dinner on the deck with Eli’s extended family - Wayson and Carol, my tenant and friend. In the morning, he woke me at 7.15, got into my bed and slept for another hour, giving me time for peace and coffee before the fun began again – Snakes and Ladders, books, watering everything in sight, playing hide and seek, always hiding and waiting, with screams of pleasure, to be found. And stories, tall tales of things he has seen and done (not). A trip to the farm, ice cream. When we finally left to go back across town by streetcar, he sat on his own in the single seats on one side, while I sat on a double seat across the aisle. He sat alone the whole way, looking out the window and studying the Pokemon cards a friend had given him. He’s growing up too fast!
Then off to another treat for me – to TIFF, to see “The Trip to Spain” with Sam. We’ve seen the first two in the franchise, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, British comedians and actors on the road, staying in heavenly hotels, eating fabulous food and doing ridiculous impersonations at each other – Michael Caine is their favourite, though this time, they both did a perfect Mick Jagger. It’s silly and gets tiresome and yet is compelling, scenery, cuisine, and skilful comedy combined, the perfect film for Sam.

We walked to Terroni, one of the best restaurants in Toronto where Max, a good friend of his, works, and sat at the elegant bar in this beautiful restaurant eating pizza and ravioli, drinking rosé and talking with each other and with Max. It was like being in the movie.
It has been the strangest summer – some days hot, some chilly, almost every day with a bit of rain, then perfection like right now, then rain again – even a tornado out of town and a sun shower sometimes. No complaints, as the garden is flourishing – my cucumbers are enormous and plentiful – but my friend Rosemary is frantic, trying to plan a wedding luncheon in her garden next weekend.

However. Into each life. After dinner on Sunday, Wayson read some pages of the memoir, the new stuff I thought finally might be working, and had some harsh words for me. Not going deep enough. Too flat, cool, distant. Reporting not recreating, summarizing not showing. Etc. etc. etc. It was brutal, and it hurt, especially when he said that with this memoir I might be flogging a dead horse. A dead horse – just what I wanted to hear about three years of work. I need to stand back, take some distance, work on something else for a bit. In any case, luckily, I had already arranged to send a few of the new pages to Colin Thomas, my editor in Vancouver. I hope he’ll be able to give me some perspective.

So, up and down, but mostly up, very up. I am proud to announce I’ve become a major killer with the saucers I put down in the garden, not of milk for kittens, but of beer to murder slugs. When I come outside and see the saucers full of little dead slugs, happy in their beery death, I feel triumphant – basil, tomatoes, saved from their munching jaws. It doesn’t take much to make me happy.

This does too:

Thursday, August 3, 2017

love is ...

... a boy and his mother in a selfie at the market. If this were on iPhoto, I'd rub out that line between my eyebrows, maybe soften those deep, deep brackets beside my nose. But I can't, so there it is. The unvarnished truth.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

you're gonna have a good time

This was the menu for my birthday dinner yesterday, prepared by the master chef, my son: hors d'oeuvres included tomato/mozzarella/basil rounds, to be eaten with the fingers. For the main course, all from St. Lawrence Market to be cooked on the barbecue - except the green salad and the cucumber salad (my own cukes!) made by me - and sprinkled with my very own garlic: marinated arctic char and salmon, and shish kebabs. Grilled corn, grilled peaches, grilled fingerling potatoes, grilled green beans served with goat cheese, grilled mushrooms, and grilled zucchini. I think that's all, but there may be more, I can't remember, it's a blur.

An hour before guests were due, I was frantic - people would soon be here and nothing was ready except the salads I'd made. All the food had been prepped by my staff:
it was sitting in packages of tinfoil, marked, on the kitchen counter and the chef was sitting with Wayson watching Game of Thrones. "Ma," he said patiently, "I know what I'm doing, it'll all be ready in time." And it was, all of it, even the fish that barely needed to be cooked, and the corn and potatoes that needed a lot of time, it all appeared at once and was perfect.

The day was beautiful and hot, and I had got the 3 tables all ready and set outside.
Then it started to pour so we moved everything inside, and then it got hot and beautiful again and we moved back. Old and dear friends appeared, and family, and we drank a lot of rosé and beer and ate a lot:
and enjoyed watching the little boys. Ben was delighted with everything, pointing ecstatically as the solar lights flickered on at dusk. How blessed I felt.
Today, in Carol's class at the Y, she announced it was my birthday and every time the exercise was particularly hard, she said it was specially for my big day. She herself will be 70 next year and looks 50. A true inspiration. How I love the Y, which feels like another family.

It's incredibly hot and Sam and I are both exhausted and hungover, so not much is happening today. He's watching last week's John Oliver in the living-room, and I'm waiting for today's thunderstorm to begin. But I have to tell you this: I went to the end of the garden to work this morning and found a new beginning for the memoir. I know, you've heard this before. Have faith in this ancient, lucky 67-year old crone: she'll get there.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

they say it's your birthday

I think of my father today - hard to believe he was only 65 when he died, and today I am 67. Strange to be older than your parents. But here I am, carrying him with me forever.

My son is asleep upstairs. He came over last night bubbling with ideas and enthusiasm - he loves his new place of work, five of his expressly-designed cocktails are now on the menu, and the day he opens his own restaurant or bar is getting closer. On Thursday, he told me, he's going in on his day off to learn how to shred duck. Yes, my son will know how to shred duck.

But best of all, he'd just come from a movie and dinner with his sister. They drive each other crazy and will have each other's backs always. Nothing could give me greater joy than to know that. Later this morning, he and I will go to St. Lawrence Market to buy provisions for tonight, a dinner my son is going to cook for twelve or fourteen of my closest friends and family. We'll eat in the garden, if possible, where the Rose of Sharon, the goldenglow, the hydrangeas, the phlox and rudbekia and echinacea are ridiculously bright.

I picked two huge cucumbers, some tomatoes, and some flowers for our feast. Have received notes from distant friends, including Lynn in Provence.

The only thing to say is - I'm grateful for every minute. i thank you god for most this amazing day.  I'd like a few more of them, if you don't mind.

Just before my father died, he said, "I have no regrets. I've been given so much."

Me too, my father. Me too.