Sunday, September 30, 2012

Wake the @#$#@ up!

Find this on YouTube, my friends. Marvellous. 
Samuel L Jackson " WAKE THE FUCK UP " Barack Obama AD

And here, my son and grandson, at a family wedding in B.C. Be still, my beating heart. 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Nuit Blanche - report from an early quitter

Yes, at 10 p.m. it's all still raging out there, and I'm already home. A beautiful night for Nuit Blanche, the city-wide art installation. I asked my son this afternoon if he was going to go. "Probably not," he said. "I don't care for huge crowds and weird art." And that's what the night is - huge crowds and weird art. And le tout Toronto, all types, all ages, pouring into the jam-packed streets to see something new and interesting and weird. I felt jaded before I set out to cycle around and take it in, but there's no doubt ... it's pretty great. 

 Yonge Street, 8.30 p.m., Saturday night. Impassable, as was Bay Street, Queen, King ...
 An installation. A car, some video, apparently about the life of a student. Hmmm.
Young revellers. Many of these light plastic people were being carted about all over the place. These girls were thrilled. "We were being followed by the Globe and Mail!" they cried. "We're taking her to school on Monday. Her name is Sarah."
Nathan Phillips Square - giant platters with film - about the end of the world? I saw a segment of floating jellyfish. Quite beautiful.
My favourite - the Renegade Parade on King, a big truck blaring great music, preceded by fire jugglers, followed by crowds of kids dancing, some in costume. Art students? It was very Mardi Gras. Meaningless and fun.
In the middle of Jarvis - hundreds of cardboard tubes filled with long plastic pipettes of light, delighted kids walking through. A man in a suit asked the artist incredulously, "My God - how long did it take you to set this up?" And I thought, there are undoubtedly more misses than hits, but this is what the night is about - introducing lots and lots of people to artistic concepts. There were music installations, tons of film - one using the giant walls of City Hall as a screen - people lecturing about Canadian history, an installation of filmy sheets being blown by fans, one of xerox machines making smoke ... Well, yes, weird. I saw a cop, in the middle of a vast crowd, laughing. Much good will. A full moon, and a great deal of street food, including a cupcake truck and our very own poutine.

It'll go all night, till dawn. Not for this old bird, though, safely home with the crabby cat.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

growing up with Eli

Roses! Late blooming roses, to give us one last taste of summer sweetness before it vanishes under a layer of frost.

Just picked. A fall bouquet.

Today at Judy's guided meditation, she asked us to encounter our older self. We do this regularly, and our younger self too, one of the most interesting parts of our practice. Today I took a stroll with moi, aged about 80, and we talked about Eli. Because when I am 80, he will be 18. (If he goes on as he is now, he'll be nine feet tall and weigh 300 pounds...)

Anyway, I realized another blessing of grandparent-dom - a fresh relationship to time. Children change so fast; a week is a very long time in the life of a baby. Whereas a week, in the life of an older person, is just a week. So though growing old myself is not exciting, to say the least, the thought of watching that boy over the next 18 years is thrilling. When my own children were young, yes, time was important, but I was too fraught to appreciate it. Now, I can relax and watch the weeks pile up, watch him changing day to day. My 80-year old self had enjoyed the whole thing.

I just hope to get there, to meet her. To celebrate that birthday. Fingers crossed. More broccoli, please.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

catch up

I started this after that last batch of pictures of Eli and was delayed, so it got shifted to here.

Sunday night: Sorry, yes, I'm turning into one of those women who whips out pictures of her grandchild and burbles. Stop me when it gets too tedious. I do have a bit of a life, even when I'm not dandling. A few days ago, for example, I went to a two-hander modern opera, "Julie Sits Waiting," starring my neighbour Fides, at the tiny Theatre Passe Muraille back space. I have to say that I don't get a lot of modern music - modern art generally - and this one went right over my head. I could see, though, how extremely difficult it was to sing and much appreciated Fides's skill and dedication.

Then went to see another singer - old friend Nancy White.  Nan and I did a 3 month tour of southern Ontario in a musical version of "Under Milk Wood" in 1971, yes we did. She has made a living as a singer and songwriter of topical and satirical, sometimes hauntingly honest songs, and now her two daughters are musicians too. She was singing at the Flying Beaver Pubaret on Parliament Street with a very young singer called Ghislain Aucoin. What a wonderful team - Nancy's songs are often hilarious but also moving and melodious, and Ghislain, who's Francophone from New Brunswick, accompanies her on electric piano and does harmonies. I'm so proud of my friend.

Watched the Emmy's, the American TV awards - a guilty pleasure. My beloved Jon Stewart and his team of writers won again. Otherwise, I hardly knew any of the shows, so the whole thing was meaningless. But fun.

On Sunday I took my first weekly dose of osteoporosis medicine - you have to take it first thing in the morning and then not lie down again or eat anything for half an hour. This is a huge challenge for me, a woman who within seconds of rising from bed moves zombie-like into the kitchen to make coffee and eat oatmeal. However, I'll do anything not to turn into a little old lady.

Speaking of which - my mother continues to flourish. "She's a medical miracle," my brother said, and it's true. And long may that last.

And finally - I'm reading a book called "The Power of Habit." A life-changer. Stay tuned.

nice words indeed

You know - I hope! - that I am not a boastful person. There's plenty for me to be humble about - my phenomenally slow writing process, my cluttered house, chaotic finances, crabby pussycat. Today though, out of the blue, I received an email from a former student, B. J. Richmond, who wrote to say that she has nominated me for the U of T Excellence in Teaching award, and sent me what she sent them.

I want to have it tattooed on my body. I did not pay her for this. No money exchanged hands. She just wrote it because, I guess, she wanted to. Imagine. Thank you thank you, B.J.

I needed this today. Because today was the first day of the new once-a-month home class I'd recently set up. Twelve students were eager to participate, though four told me they were travelling this month but would be there next. So I was expecting 8 today. But one after another, people wrote that they couldn't come, sorry, my mother's sick, the water in my house is turned off ... So tonight, instead of 12, there were 2. Two eager writers. We had a great class anyway. But receiving this from B.J. certainly makes it all worthwhile.

"Beth Kaplan arrived at the first class as a superlative educator -- with super enthusiasm, authoritative knowledge, an appropriate structure for students to give and receive the maximum feedback on their writing, a clear enunciation of the experience that she would provide for her students, an array of aids and and a wealth of information. Each class was as well-prepared and stimulating as the first. Beth provided information, inspiration and leadership that come from years of writing and coaching others, a love and knowledge of literature, specific instruction about memoir writing and the issues that it raises for student-writers, respect for her students' life experience and skills, and a knowledge of effective adult education. Her summaries and critiques of student work were masterful, fair and delivered with grace, beyond anything else I have experienced in other writing courses. 

She provided our class with an extracurricular opportunity to meet an award-winning Canadian author and memoirist, who, in turn, generously shared his notemaking and preparation for writing, a tremendously informative experience for me. Her well-organized and fun blog provided another extracurricular tool allowing students to tap into a banquet of information and inspiration. 

I have years of experience and a PhD in Adult Education from OISE/UT. For me, Beth Kaplan personifies excellence in teaching and I was fortunate to learn from her."

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Many Words on the Street

I've been going to Word on the Street since its very first year, 1990, and used to volunteer at the PEN booth and work at the Ryerson table, when there was one. I always come home loaded with books, mags and paper of all kinds, having seen old friends. This year, I ran into a former student who told me proudly her book is coming out in October. Never, though, did I think I'd attend this wonderful event with my very own grandchild. By next year, he'll be reading. No? 
Eli and his cousin Dakota at Word on the Street, in the rain
Our picnic in Queen's Park - couscous and sweet potato!
Four months old and so trendy already.
Check out those paws. Hungry to hold books.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Eli today

Eli had his first visit to the paediatrician the other day. The verdict: at four months, he weighs more than 17 pounds,  he's strong, bright and alert, and he's in the 99th percentile for height and weight. Time to start solids in earnest. 
 Let's eat this.
 Or this.
I can close my mouth sometimes, but I'd rather not.

Daniels Spectrum

That's the name (without apostrophe, it's a company called Daniels) of the brand new community arts centre on Dundas Street, in the middle of the brand new Regents Park. What a wonderful place. There was an open house today - full on energy, everywhere. It houses the Centre for Social Innovation, the Coba Collective of Black Artists, the Native Earth Performing arts group, the Regent Park School of Music and much more. Stunning. 
 Very young dancers.
 More dancers, getting ready.
 In the lobby, a violinist making Stephane Grapelli-type sounds on half an electric violin.
 Outside, drummers. I could hear them for blocks.
And at home, my own arts centre - a beautiful new poster, a gift from my dear friend Alannah Cavanaugh, who has a new collection of chic housewares debuting soon at the Bay! (And next to it are Eli's feet in plaster, my birthday present from his mother.)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

from this week's Canadian Jewish News

A bumper harvest of books from all over

Tags: Books and Authors

When Beth Kaplan’s Finding the Jewish Shakespeare: The Life and Legacy of Jacob Gordin first came out in hardcover several years ago, a review in these pages lauded it as a “wonderful and meticulously researched book” and concluded: “Although Finding the Jewish Shakespeare does not convince us that Gordin deserves the epithet of ‘Jewish Shakespeare,’ it easily demonstrates that he has found the biographer he deserves, and shall certainly find no better.
A great-granddaughter of Gordin, Toronto resident Beth Kaplan wrote the book as a labour of love and used it as her master’s thesis in creative writing. Also praised by Aaron Lansky, Tony Kushner and other notables, the book was recently released in paperback by Syracuse University Press, making it accessible to a new audience of readers. Finding the Jewish Shakespeare should be essential reading for everyone interested in Yiddish theatre, past and present.
Beth Kaplan lives in a heritage home in Cabbagetown and teaches memoir and personal essay writing at both the University of Toronto and Ryerson University. She maintains a blog of her creative writing ( and recently published Yours Truly: a Book of the Blog, a collection of her online pieces. The book came into being after some of her readers suggested she put her online chronicle into more permanent form. 
Wouldn’t that defeat the purpose? I wondered. A blog’s advantage is its fluid immediacy; could that up-to-the-minute zap translate to print? And yet, though I love and depend on my little white laptop MacZine, books will always mean much more. A book is a perfect package of thought and feeling, just the right heft to slip into a pocket, open on the beach or in the bathtub, read in bed. The only battery a book needs is the reader’s brain.”

The author writes of her own personal world. She discusses art, literature, music, politics, writing and other topics. The prose offers realistic characters and incidents. Although her entries won’t appeal to a universal audience and may be of most interest to a limited range of readers, Kaplan writes well. Niche books like this one may be the future of book publishing.

Thank you, Bill! Please check out his website at

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Have you seen the cover of the "New Yorker" this week? The best ever. The brilliant Roz Chast eviscerates the Republicans in the most cheerful way, portraying them as a fun park of "American values." Though they don't need her, they're doing a great job of eviscerating themselves. Surely after the release of that tape of Romney's disgusting comments, the election is over. Thank the lord. No, never make assumptions or speak too soon, says the pessimist in me. But - who would still vote for him?

Don't be stupid. Mayor Ford was voted for by many happy folk. There you go.

Inside, the New Yorker cartoon issue, to be devoured with glee. What a treat. Especially Page 65 - "How we do it - a week in the life of a New Yorker cartoonist." The third last panel: "On Tuesday, we show our work to the cartoon editor. When he finishes laughing (10 - 30 minutes, usually) he hands us an attaché case full of money or precious gems." 

Why, cartooning is just like writing!

And another treat, oh how guilty I feel - I've discovered that CTS, the Christian television station - and surely this is the most enlightened thing they do - re-runs "The West Wing" almost every evening at 8. OMIGOD. I didn't want to watch again a program I'd loved so much, thinking it'd be dated, faded, gone. But no, it is still relevant and vital, fantastic writing and acting and thinking - like a bath in intelligence every night. What's so novel, so subversive, is that Sorkin portrays clever, compassionate, extremely informed people in government trying, over and over, to do the right thing, not for an ulterior motive, just because it's the right thing to do. Imagine! What a crazy naive concept!

Just got a call from my friend Myriam Beckerman, an elderly woman who's my scout in the Yiddish world - every time Jacob Gordin is mentioned somewhere, Myriam calls. I was interviewed a few months ago by Bill Gladstone of "The Canadian Jewish News," and apparently the article is in this week's paper. Myriam says it's great. So I will try to find it somewhere. Myriam, unfortunately, does not have email.

A visit to the doctor this morning. She doesn't know why I have a bit of pain in my left arm, but it's maybe muscles or tendons, not my heart. She suggested some physio; we'll see. But she did check the results of the bone scan I had a few months ago, and informed me that I have osteoporosis. Phooey. I eat a LOT of cheese, as you all know, and yogurt and milk and cottage cheese. But that's not enough. She gave me a prescription for an osteo drug. She wants me to take a drug. I do not like drugs, except cabernet sauvignon, burgundy, cotes de rhone and vignier. But if I don't take it, I'll be five foot two in no time.

Phooey. I pride myself on telling my doctor that I'm radiant with health and that's it, we're done. Don't like this prescription/physio stuff. Feels like the beginning of aging to me. Impossible in one so young.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Winston Reckert, R.I.P.

I was lucky enough to do at least four shows with Winston, who just died of cancer at the age of 63. He was a beautiful man and a talented and very sexy actor. We all had a crush on Winston.
From my theatre photo album, above, with the beautiful Susan Wright in "Walls" at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre in 1978 or 9.
With yours truly (in  fat suit) in Michel Tremblay's "Bonjour la, Bonjour" at the Arts Club Theatre in about 1977.

Too young.

Fini NYC

 Display at the Jewish Museum of manuscripts from the Bodleian Library in Oxford, magnificent books, including the Kennicott Bible - showing the convergence of Christian, Islamic and Judaic scholars
 Text is Islamic in shape but in Hebrew
From the Met: a huge oil painting entitled "The innocent eye test" by Mark Tansy, born 1949. Love it.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

recap NYC

And here I am; the cat is still alive, the plants look good, and the termites, I do believe, are dead. My own bed awaits, but first, pottering and, if I can stay awake that long, Jon Stewart. The internet and the TV both work! Amazing. My mother is fine. I went for a walk around my neighbourhood - so beautiful, peaceful, the air so sweet. Blessed.

A few notes about NYC: I really felt conspicuous with my big Obama button, the only button of any kind I saw. I felt like an ambassador for him, always tried to have a pleasant expression on my face, especially on the east side, where I think his fans are not legion. The guard at the Jewish Museum, like the saleslady at Bloomies, appreciated my button. "The other guys are just for the rich," he said, when we were alone in the room. "The poor are forgotten." Amen brother.

After Lola's event on Saturday, I got the bus down Fifth Avenue - my God, the busses and subway are freezing in NYC, as is almost everywhere, theatres, restaurants, freezing. I always had a sweater, scarf and even socks with me. Insane. Watched the hippies in Washington Square, celebrating the first anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, the folk festival a minor event in a corner in comparison. And then I wandered through the village - Bleecker Street, Hippy Central in the sixties. There was a street festival and market, and I ended up being wrestled into a massage chair for a ten minute massage, $10. Would have been great if my face hadn't been mashed against the plastic.

Found a quiet French bistro for dinner, sat facing the crowds passing in the street, had a nice chat in French with the waitress and then with the French couple sitting behind me, here from Paris for a week. There were tons of French people in NYC. Off to the Barrow Street Theatre to see "Tribes," another British import with American actors using British accents - in fact, similar in other ways to "Cock," another disputatious group sorting things out. But this group was loud and unpleasant, I found, and I was just too tired to take it in, knowing it would take me ages to find the subway in the winding warren of Village streets. I left at the intermission. Andrew Garfield, the young movie star, was there. He is very skinny but good-looking, there with an actress whose name I forget, quite a bit older than he. This is your gossip sighting for the week.

Forgot to mention that at my talk, the reading from "The Jewish King Lear" was wonderful - five actors, two scenes, just a taste of a much bigger play with a bigger cast, but it was well received and thrilling to watch.

On the plane, I started to read an article in the NYT Magazine about Glenn Gould's Goldberg Variations, the first one, then his decision to make the second, and then only a few days after the record came out, his sudden death at the age of 50. Just reading it made me cry. At my first dinner party in heaven, I'm inviting Glenn Gould and Pierre Trudeau. For Pierre a gourmet meal and for Glenn - arrowroot cookies.


back to Tranna

Sitting in the Newark Airport, goin' home - yay! Another heavenly day in NYC, sun, clear skies, puffy white clouds, seven billion people all trying to get somewhere as loudly and quickly as possible ...

No, it's a great place and all, truly. But I am always glad to get out. I remember "My Dinner with André" describing NYC as "a concentration camp built by the inmates." A bit grim, but sometimes it feels that way.

This morning, after my time at Caffe Noi, off to the Jewish Museum for a wonderful exhibit on illustrated manuscripts through the ages, about which more anon, because internet keeps going in and out here. And Vuillard. And then a walk through the Park, watching the beet-red runners. Then to the Met, briefly, because I can't not go, but was really too tired to take it in, gorgeous as it is. There's an amazing Warhol exhibit that opens on Tuesday, open now for members only - I tried begging at the door, saying I'm from Toronto and leaving soon, could I sneak in? Nyet. Ah well, had to see fabulous treasures from around the world instead.

On the way home, after looking high and low, I found the perfect teddy bear for Eli in a little candy shop on Lexington Ave. Not even F.A.O. Schwartz yesterday had one - either too expensive, or plastered with slogans. This is a nice, simply cuddly bear with a lovely face. A good bear is important. I have one, given to me when I was six months old, and now so will he. Don't tell him - it's for Xmas.

I left Ted's so early, I was laughing at my neuroses - I like to leave lots of time to get to the airport so there's no stress. No stress, ha. I'd decided to take the Liberty Bus to Newark instead of the train, and as I arrived at the bus, the woman getting off said it had taken, not the 45 minutes advertised, but 2 hours to get in from the airport to the city. The driver scoffed, at least, as much scoffing as a Chinese man who barely speaks English can do. But when we made a final stop in the city to pick up passengers, there was an enormous line-up waiting to get on and some hold-up, the previous bus still sitting there, no one knew what was going on, the drivers said they couldn't move without the dispatcher who was saying don't move - panic everywhere.

An impatient man was trying to find out what was going on; mouthy moi joined him, of course, and finally he mentioned a cab and I said, I'll share one with you, and he went off to find one, not easy around the bus terminal, and I had to fight my way back onto the bus to get my luggage off. But did. So Bob, an American who now lives in Montreal, and I shared a blissful, stress-free cab to the Newark Airport. It cost a little more, but it was delightful. We laughed a lot. When we arrived, he said they're probably still loading back there. He got out first and after handing me half the fare, told the driver his girlfriend would pay. So long sweetheart, he said, and I said, take care, honey.

Here in lots of time. Time to write to you.


more NYC

Lola receives a colour xerox of a painting she did in 1947
The birthday girl and the Canadian contingent
The first anniversary of Occupy Wall Street in Washington Square in the Village - every hippy in NYC was there. We were invited to type messages of freedom and revolution.

Central Park

 New mothers exercising in the middle of the park, with their thousand dollar strollers
 What a park!
 Strawberry Fields.
 My picnic.
Avenue of plane trees.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

NYC bliss

The pain au chocolat I just ate, or as they call them, the chocolate croissant, at the Caffe Noi was as delicious, rich and fluffy as the ones in France, yes it was. The cappuccino is delicious. And outside, another gorgeous New York day. The NYT this morning says that the days and nights are getting colder because of a chill wind blowing in from Canada, smelling of the pine forests. That's us Canadians, always with the chill wind blowing in.

My new morning ritual - well, I've only done it once, so ritual is beaucoup dire - but if I lived here, this would be it - buying the NYT and going to Central Park to sit on the grass and read it. Heavenly. A bit crazy today - they're getting ready for the German parade on Fifth Avenue, which will soon be closed down. Why there's a need for Germans to parade, I don't know, but they do, I've seen it, a lot of tubas and lederhosen. Important to get on the right side of Fifth Avenue before it starts.

Howling baby now at the Caffe Noi. One thing I have noticed here in NYC - very badly behaved children. Children screaming at their parents, howling in rage, one yesterday, a girl of about 4, hitting her mother and scowling. Also noticed - you are forbidden to smoke even in parks here. Imagine. Also designer flip flops, yes, and day-glo sneakers, very big.

A few more treats yesterday - I ventured into Bloomingdale's and was accosted by a saleslady trying to sell me an expensive eye cream. I refused, though she managed to dab some on my wrinkles anyway. And then she said, "Let me give you some samples," and handed me a huge bunch, whispering, "Yay Obama!" I then walked towards Times Square to go to the theatre, and there, in Bryant Park, a huge crowd gathered. What were they waiting for? Be still my beating heart - the Backstreet Boys, once, long ago, the most beloved of my daughter. So I stayed to film a bit for her with my phone, along with everyone else. A fabulous New York moment - stunning Bryant Park with its over-arching old plane trees, the band only metres away, the sky turning indigo - how I love this city sometimes. I realized that I know the music of the Backstreet Boys so well that it was a joy to hear it again.

And then, more "I love New York" - a superb British play, "Cock," from the Royal Court. Except that four excellent New York actors had to attempt a British accent - and didn't do too badly - it was first rate in every way. The story of a young man living with an older man, who also falls in love with a woman and has to figure out who he is, sexually and in every other way ... riveting. And then, the Lexington Avenue subway home to Ted's.

Caffe Noi crowded - I'm off into the day, off to Lola's 90th at the Terrace Club on 51st, where there will be family members I haven't seen in years, then the Fifth Avenue bus down to Washington Square where there's a free folk festival, and then to the theatre down in the Village. My last full day. By tomorrow, I will be happy to go home. There's only so much of this city one can take. But a quiet hour in the park makes all the difference.

Michel Bublé singing. A melodious wind from Canada.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Noo Yawk again

Sitting at the Caffe Noi on Second Avenue, where there's blessed wifi. It's a sublime day in New York, 80 degrees with a breeze. Sensation is gradually returning to my lower back, where tension accumulates. Soon the pain may be gone. Below my notes on yesterday. But today is today. I spent a lot of time in beautiful Central Park, which defines the word 'oasis.' I walked to the west side, poked about, went to my new favourite shoe store (Harry's) and bought myself exactly what I'd set my mind on, little purple boots, yes, little purple boots, because I am worth it. Because it's New York. Because yesterday went well and I'm staying at Ted's for free. Because if there's one thing Beth Kaplan needs right now, at the age of 62, with her new grey hair and her gorgeous grandson, it's a soft pair of little purple boots.

Then I bought a New York Times and a sandwich and sat in a field in Central Park, back propped up against a giant slab of rock, reading the newspaper. Heaven. The great city roaring in the distance, around the edges. On the way in, I passed the Dakota - crowds of tourists gathered at the entrance, where our beloved John died. And just inside the park, Strawberry Fields, the tribute to him - a huge crowd. How much that man still means. I passed someone on the west side wearing a t-shirt that read "Still pissed at Yoko."

I'm not doing much today - writing to you, walking, and tonight, the theatre, a highly recommended play called Cock on 42nd Street. Tomorrow, my father's cousin Lola's 90th birthday. I called her last night. She was watching "Seigfreid" on PBS, and told me about all the art exhibits I should see. She has seen everything. She doesn't stop. Amazing.

Here's what I wrote last night, at home at Cousin Ted's:

Tonight was as alone as I have ever felt. I was so nervous about my talk at the Studio that my back had been rigid and aching for days; as the seasons shift, I had a cold coming and was wrestling to keep my voice and my head clear. I’d worked on the Gordin play for the talk, condensed, cut, sent to Tom. I’d rehearsed my talk, re-read notes from past talks, re-read my book, re-read related books. I did meditation just before, connected with my right brain, knew it would be fine. And yet my spine was rigid with tension until 8.30 tonight, when it was over. An hour and a half, that’s all, to 60 people or so at the Stella Adler Studio. How do people who perform or talk to millions do it?
I’d awakened at 6.30 a.m., finished what needed to be done to leave my house, including getting ready for the new tenant who’s moving in while I’m away. A seamless flight, and once more, as happened on my last Porter flight, I sat next to an ordinary-looking woman who turned out to be amazing, fabulously interesting, wise and wonderful.
Train from Newark Airport into Penn Station, C train uptown to 79th, crosstown bus to 3rd Avenue, Cousin Ted’s doorman gives me the key and here I am. Ted is going to his weekend home in Northport today, and I won’t even see him. His apartment is crammed with treasures he has picked up in his many years of travel – pre-Columbian figurines, Incan, Chinese burial figures, vast silver pots from India, a mini-Metropolitan museum. Also the latest interesting books. I went out to buy milk and peanut butter – my staples – took a brief nap, reviewed my talk. Went out to meet David, artistic director of the Target Margin Theatre in Brooklyn, which is performing my great-grandfather’s play “God, Man and Devil” next month. We went to a café for a chat, and then I left to go to the Studio for my talk. Lexington Avenue subway to 26th.
All around, this city, its excess, its wealth. I had an Obama button on my purse; last time I had an Obama button, four years ago, it felt like we were a secret society changing the world. Now – not so much. I can’t help but feel some anger at these Americans. You live in the most privileged society on earth, in the history of the earth, I want to shout. How can you complain that you don't have more? How can you not support a man who’s at least trying to do good for all?
Anyway – there I was at the Studio, surrounded by youthful thespians. A wonderful cast was assembled for the JKL reading, and we had a rehearsal. People arrived. Tom introduced me, and the moment came, I had to stand up in front of all these people and do it.
And I did. It worked. They wanted an hour and fifteen minutes, and that is exactly what was delivered, including the play-reading. When I’m standing in front of a group of people, something happens; it works. It worked.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


I am beat. I am bushed. Despite these heavenly warm days, life has felt like an unrelenting onslaught - worries about my mother, daily calls to Ottawa, decisions; worries about the house, mounting bills; worries about work and life. An hour and a half today, finding a car to rent for an upcoming trip and understanding related insurance issues. The haunting conventions in the U.S., so stark in their contrasts. A recurring pain in my left arm - I finally made an appointment with the doctor. The six foot high pile of brush in my yard, which the homeless guy Bill, his toothless friend Cleo and I slowly cleared away this afternoon. I was supposed to be getting ready for my talk in New York, and instead I was hauling giant chunks of ivy and slinging them into a battered Chevy truck.

But the house is fixed and bug-free. The yard is now pristine. The Ryerson term started last night - sixteen keen new writers. My beloved neighbours Jean-Marc and Richard had me over for a nourishing dinner to talk of their recent long stay in New York. They gave me two recommendations for theatre: "Cock" and "Tribes," and I've bought tickets for both. Life is, as ever, good. But I am beat.

Now I have to clear the decks - one day to prepare the talk and pack for NYC, always a challenge to find exactly the right few pieces that'll cover all the bases - a lecture, a 90th birthday party, endless walking, theatre, 90% chance of rain on Sunday - in a small carry-on bag.

And mostly how to build up my spirits and energy and health so that I leap joyfully into the overwhelming city of my birth.

In the meantime, TIFF is out there. Sparkly movie stars are prancing about my city. But over here in C'town, the real world, we're clearing brush.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Cabbagetown weekend

Uncle and nephew. Be still, my beating heart.
Mountains of crapola for sale, and where are the buyers? Elsewhere. But my helper girls and I had fun.
 OMYGOD! says Eli. I had to wait like FIVE MINUTES for this bottle and nearly starved. Imagine.
John shaving the backyard ivy. Sixty yard waste bags worth of brush. Lashings of new light for plants and residents.

One Term More, adapted from Les Mis

Ah - what musical theatre can do at its most stirring. Highly recommended - a musical piece about the American election.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Festival in the rain, and Dems triumphant

The Cabbagetown Festival today, rained out for the first time, or almost. In my 26 years here, this has never happened; there have been a few drizzly Festival Saturdays, but nothing like the biblical downpour of today. And I, with mountains of junk in the living room, priced and ready to be put out for a garage sale. Which did not happen. Tomorrow, is the hope. Tomorrow, the hoards will come back, purses and wallets in hand, eager to take away my possessions. Please.

In the meantime, however, I had paid for my entry in the C'town Mini-Marathon, which I've run for almost all of my years here. So, despite the downpour, I decided to go. Oh, stalwart souls, huddled under umbrellas, sodden, waiting for the starter gun - and then off we go, squelching 2 1/2 k. through the neighbourhood. And once again - I find it hard to believe that for years now I have placed in my category, which is Senior Women - women over 55. The first year I entered in this category, I won, despite stopping to tie my shoelace en route, which is an indication of the speed of my competitors. Now there are some zippy women out there, and I am slower than ever - but still, I came fourth. The fourth fastest senior woman in Cabbagetown! And won a gift certificate to a local dry cleaner. Now that's practical. The certificate was so wet by the time I got it home, it had nearly disintegrated, but still ... my prize. Too bad my legs and shoulders ached mightily for the rest of the day.

The rain slowed and then stopped, and by late afternoon the sun came out, then vanished behind rainclouds again. Still, the fest went on, Parliament Street and the crafts fair by the Farm crowded with the usual extraordinary assortment of souls eating, shopping, drinking, dancing to the many bands playing on every corner. Every size, shape and colour of human being. The usual Americans Abroad distributing Obama buttons - I now have one to wear in New York. A woman in full black hijab pushing a stroller and perusing the garage sales. Cross-dressers and ancient cowboys. My hood.

Both of my children appeared to celebrate the place where they grew up, and we ended up at Mary and Malcolm's, as every year, a crowded neighbourhood party, only now, there are babies. The Cabbagetown children are having babies. So Eli got to meet Charlie and Mabel, and many old friends got to meet Eli. We've all watched each other's children grow up.

Tomorrow is supposed to be milder and we're going to try the sale again.

One last word: the world is saved, I think, from the Republican menace. The Democratic convention was a triumph. After Michelle's wonderful speech, there were so many others, but particularly Clinton's. The man is a master, spectacular. And then Obama himself. The comparison with the vapid platitudes spouted in Tampa could not be more clear. As Obama said, the choice is stark - which kind of America do voters want to live in? And though my faith in human nature has diminished greatly in recent years, I cannot believe that a majority of my neighbours to the south, including my own relatives, are so divorced from reality as to vote for a man who straps his dog to the roof of his car.

Press release from New York - woo hoo!

The Stella Adler Studio of Acting Presents “Finding the Jewish Shakespear​e,” a Talk on The Golden Age of Yiddish Theater

Posted by:Official_Press_Release 06:47 pm EDT 09/07/12

The Stella Adler Studio of Acting Presents “Finding the Jewish Shakespeare,” a Talk on The Golden Age of Yiddish Theater

Performance from “The Yiddish King Lear” to Follow Discussion

New York, NY – September 7, 2012: The Stella Adler Studio of Acting is excited to host renowned author Beth Kaplan for a presentation on Jacob Gordin, known as the Jewish Shakespeare. Investigating a family mystery, Ms. Kaplan, a writer, teacher and actress, spent years tracking down her great-grandfather Gordin’s controversial story for her book.

“Finding the Jewish Shakespeare is a witty, shrewd and elegant book… Beth Kaplan resurrects the richness, magnificence and complexity of the world of Yiddish theater.”
-Tony Kushner, Pulitzer, Emmy and Tony award winner

Following Ms. Kaplan’s presentation, Sam Schacht, the former Dean of the Actors Studio Drama School and co-founder of two thriving New York acting companies, The New Group and The Workshop, will perform scenes from Gordin’s Yiddish King Lear along with Michael Howard, actor, director, master teacher and founder of Michael Howard Studios.

Finding the Jewish Shakespeare
Thursday, September 13 at 7:00pm
The Stella Adler Studio of Acting: 31 West 27th, 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10001

Jacob Gordin became the first serious writer in Yiddish Theater after immigrating to New York’s Lower East Side and meeting the great actor Jacob Adler. Gordin and Adler’s collaboration escalated Yiddish Theater from musicals and light fare, introduced high art and realism and ushered in The Golden Age of Yiddish Theater. Adler’s starring role in Gordin’s Yiddish King Lear gave Adler new respectability and stretched his acting capabilities. Gordin and Adler worked together throughout their careers, and their frequently stormy and competitive relationship reflected the world of drama they helped define.

The event is free and open to the public.

About The Stella Adler Studio of Acting: The Stella Adler Studio of Acting is an acting school based in New York City founded by actress and teacher Stella Adler in 1949. Adler founded the Studio on her belief in the seriousness of her art. Adler and the school have trained many of the brilliant actors of our time, including Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro, and Elaine Stritch. The Stella Adler Studio of Acting is a nonprofit organization, which trains over 500 actors annually. The Studio also presents public lectures, poetry readings, concerts, theater performances, dance theater events and an annual arts festival.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Learning to write - now.

It's fall - time to acquire new creative skills or hone the ones you have. You're thinking, "I've always wanted to write. Perhaps now's the time." Yes, it is. Yes, you can.

Here are the classes for you:

 Starting Monday September 10 at 6.30 at Ryerson: "True to Life."

Starting Tuesday October 2 at 12.30 at the University of Toronto: "Life Stories." 

Learn how to transfer your life experiences, your stories and thoughts and feelings, from your heart and mind to the page. Perhaps for publication, perhaps for family or even just for yourself, it's time to get the words down. I am there to help.

Please consult this website under "Learning" for more information, and write to me if you have queries.

The time is now. See you soon.

to cheer you up...

Watching the video about the honey badger on YouTube.

pass the baby

 His friends get to hold their favourite young man.

Michelle rocks

I couldn't bear to watch the Democratic convention last night. The Republican event was so nauseating that I feared almost the same from the Dems - not of course the same level of hypocrisy and white bread smugness, but all that flag-waving the greatest country on earth hoo ha ... couldn't take it. Luckily, though, my friend Bruce emailed how brilliant Michelle was, and I just watched her speech on YouTube.

And am still mopping my tears. Wow, what a knock out! Thank you, Michelle, for reminding us all of what really matters. Give those speechwriters a raise. The shots of the audience - orthodox Jews, elderly black women plastered with slogans, kids, gay couples, every nationality and demographic - as opposed to the Republicans who kept showing the one black man on the convention floor. Michelle's speech was so heartfelt, so powerful in invoking the idealistic core values we all cherish - love for family, sacrifice, courage, tolerance, patience, hope. Of course, we know what reality will do to all that, and political expedience. But I believed every warm, thoughtful and generous word she said. One of the best speeches ever. He's a lucky man.

It's the beginning of September; how did that happen? A hint, a bite in the air, a freshness. As if announcing the change, yesterday, the first day of school, was dark and dire with rain so torrential that roads were closed. My friend Chris's plane took off, though, and he made it home to Vancouver, where the sun was shining. It feels as if a close member of the family has gone away, and I mourn his absence. But he'll be back. On Monday, we had a barbecue with a variety of friends, and then watched a Japanese movie my son had picked: "Jiro dreams of sushi," about a master sushi maker. It's stunning - really about excellence, about finding something you love and learning to do it well and struggling all your life to do it better. A life lesson in the meticulous slicing of raw tuna. Highly recommended.

So - on into fall - my heart lifted by a wise and beautiful American woman.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

the Tea Party as the Taliban

Seen on a wall in Kensington Market this afternoon - some fine art.

My friend Chris walks - walks and walks and walks. So I'm learning how, with him. Yesterday, we were to visit my daughter, at Roncesvales and King, completely on the other side of the city. Usually, I ride my bike to King or Queen and take the long streetcar ride, and once, I rode my bike all the way there, by the lake.
"Let's walk," said Chris. So we did. It only took 2 1/2 hours, including a pit stop at Clafouti by Trinity-Bellwoods for dessert and a drink. We walked along Queen Street from Parliament. What an interesting road it is, and how great to see my own city on foot, like a tourist.

After a wonderful dandle of the baby, which you saw in the previous pix, and a nice Japanese dinner on Ronces - Eli's first Japanese restaurant, during which he ate rice (cereal) along with us - we walked up to get the streetcar home. I thought I might never walk again.

But today, we walked to Kensington Market, all around the market, buying nuts and fish and exploring a marvellous store called Good Egg in which every single thing is either beautiful or funny. I took the streetcar back; he walked. Such a contradiction - so health-conscious he almost never eats meat and takes an amazing amount of exercise, yet lives on Diet Coke.

Jon Stewart's final show on Friday was the most brilliant of all - he thanked Clint Eastwood and his eccentric rant for pulling down the facade and exposing the stupidity of the Republican party. Next week - the Dems. Chris is apolitical and can't understand why I care so much about American politics. How about the fate of the planet, does that matter?

Speaking of which - here is a most brilliant scene from the brilliant Aaron Sorkin's "The Newsroom," proving that the Tea Party is the American Taliban. Take a minute or two and dive in. Highly recommended.


 Eli likes Uncle Chris.
 Worried about Glamma, his official photographer and papparazza
Two of my three favourite males on the planet (the third one has tattoos and hair.)