Tuesday, September 29, 2015

good job, Trevor Noah

Last night, what joy to sit down again at 11 and turn on the TV, for Trevor Noah's first Daily Show. It was a respectable start. I loved his intro, which hit just the right notes of respect and self-deprecation. The set is streamlined, simpler, less stuff going on. A few horrible jokes, but then, Jon made some too.The interview was awful, but then it was awful when Jon interviewed Kevin Hart - he’s something of an egotistical blowhard. I give Trevor great credit for his courage - what a difficult job, to follow an adored and brilliant man at the top of his game. 

So, so far, I’m in for the long haul. Happy to have that time slot back, even though I will miss and love Jon Stewart forever.

I didn't watch Trevor Noah alone. My dear friend the wonderful, multitalented actor and writer Nicky Cavendish is here, visiting from Vancouver. We performed together many years ago, a hilarious time touring a shallow sex comedy to remote northern B. C. communities. With Nicky, everything is an adventure and a joy. She's the most honest person I know. And right at this moment, she's reading the excerpts from my memoir that deal with the theatre. She'll let me know exactly what she thinks.

I will not write about the election. I will not write about the election. I will not write about hijabs, which are highjacking this election in a terrifying way.

Let's write about something else: the essay by Carrie Mac that won the CBC Non-fiction Literary Competition. It's good - immediate, visceral. Takes one's mind off the election.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Supermoon, superdad

It was too cloudy to see the vast romantic orange supermoon last night, but there are fantastic pictures online. Today is gloomy and wet. Teaching tonight, so a quiet day at home. Some pictures for your delight:
This is Paul McCartney with his daughter Stella. No, she's not a nervous young teen, she's one of the world's most successful and visible fashion designers, but here, she's a girl being held by her dad. Who among us has not dreamed of being cherished like this by our own fathers? Say what you like about Macca, but he has been a wonderful dad to his own kids, including his stepdaughter Heather who considers him her legal father, and to John's son Julian, and to all the world's children who have grown up bathed in music.

Here's my own (grand)parental pride:
Benjamin Bunny, yesterday. Just over eight weeks old and feelin' perky. Bald and perky.

I leave you with these, my friends. Back to work, and then time for a delicious nap. Life is tough.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

hot Sunday

A gorgeous bike ride on the Don Valley Trail this morning - the Parkway was closed, all was silent, except for the sound of summer closing down.

Later: Word on the Street, this year at Harbourfront. Hot hot hot. Marc Cote of Cormorant Books said his sales are way down in the new venue - not sure why. It's always overwhelming, so many books and writers. Usually I have a tinge of sadness that I'm not an official part of the day; at one point I worked at the PEN table and the Ryerson Creative Writing table, and I always dreamed that one day, one of my books would be on sale somewhere. Not yet. Much to celebrate in the work of others.
On the way home, parked the bike at Sugar Beach and started to read one of the books I'd bought - "Waking Up" by Sam Harris, "a guide to spirituality without religion". Just what I need: more books. Most of the ones I bought, luckily, were for Eli. Many people liked my anti-Harper button, and I gave a bunch away.

Now listening to Eleanor Wachtel talk to a Mexican writer, and then - what else is a writer to do on a beautiful Sunday afternoon? Time to get some work done.

Here's my daughter's Sunday: I bought a shed in a box for her at the Cabbagetown Festival, but looking inside at the incredibly complicated instructions and hundreds of bits of metal, I thought we should just shut the box and sell it again or give it away - which is what the guys we bought it from had done. But Thomas, Eli's Dad, read the instructions carefully and began, spent all yesterday afternoon, and today with a friend, putting it together, with Eli playing at his feet. I can't imagine what it would be like to have a father who can do practical things. Mine knew many things but could do few things with his hands, besides play the violin. Wonderful to have a skilled man in the family.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

wealth beyond my wildest dreams

Another stunning day - so much more precious because we know these warm sunny beautiful days are limited. Enjoyed every minute. Here are some shots old and new - click to enlarge:
 From the Cabbagetown house tour last weekend - where my serious upper floor deck envy came from - this was one of several.
 A typical humble child's humble, messy closet
 The star, the house up the street that was renovated for two solid years
The all candidates meeting - democracy in a church hall.
 This morning at Riverdale Farm - the centre of the metropolis
 Goats having breakfast
Looking for turtles in the ponds. And then we went to our dance class at the Y, where once again, Glamma was grooving and her grandson was more or less motionless and stone-faced. "I don't feel like it," he said, when asked why he didn't dance. But he did twitch a few times. We'll try once more.

So exciting! Just checked my bank account - and the government of Canada is paying me for staying alive. Hard to live on it - but $835 a month that wasn't there before is better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.
Sep 28, 2015OLD AGE SECURITY   $564.80
Sep 28, 2015CPP                                $270.08

Friday, September 25, 2015

love and tapes

My grandson is asleep upstairs, in the bedroom, the very spot where his uncle Sam used to sleep. Sam and I used to play a nighttime game called Lump. Why was it called Lump? The point really was tickling, and we both enjoyed it. Eli wants his special bedtime toys - Giraffy, his favourite stuffy, who he decided could live here and wait for his visits; the London taxi and the double-decker bus, the two yellow trucks, and the same books we read every time, Mog, some poems from Winnie the Pooh, and Harry the dirty dog. Routine; we have it down. And the main routine, that I am falling asleep and he is driving trucks all over the covers.

His mother is going to some drag queen extravaganza tonight, a friend is babysitting Ben, I've got Eli and she is FREE for a few hours. A pleasure to give her some time. It was a glorious day; Eli and I went to the Regent's Park playground, which has a squishy kind of ground cover that means if a child falls, s/he will not scrape knees and be hurt - where was that when we were growing up? We went home and watered the garden, his favourite activity; we ate supper which - contrary to my lofty goals - was mostly frozen French fries and fish sticks with lots of ketchup. Bath time was long and very wet. And then bed, in the exact spot where I used to put his uncle to bed, now a man whom I hardly ever see, six foot eight and covered with tattoos.

This afternoon I went into the dusty basement with my friend Grace, who comes to help me sort stuff every so often, and dove into the huge dusty boxes of old family pictures. OH so many - my kids, my childhood, my father and mother, their parents, their grandparents, going back at least a hundred years. Couldn't deal with the box, just brought it up and will sort it slowly.

BUT - here's the thing - I found a box of tapes. Tapes - remember them? For a tape machine? My beloved uncle Edgar the world bridge champion was a great lover of Baroque music, and when he travelled, he had to have his music with him, so before the advent of CD's, he made himself a series of Baroque mix tapes. They are beautiful and there are tons of them and I don't know what to do with them. I have lots of classical CD's, I don't need Uncle Edgar's tapes, but I can't throw them out. ANY IDEAS? ANY TAKERS? Anyone with a tape machine and a love of classical music is in for a treat - I will mail you this box, as long as it goes to a good home. Otherwise ... back to the basement. Please help me give them a new home.

It was the same with the box of old videotapes and, even older, film of family. I've had them all transferred to DVD, I think. But what if I missed some? Do I really think I'm going to go through all the old videotapes and compare them to the DVD's? GET A LIFE! And yet I could not throw them out.

So what's the point of sorting when it all just goes back? Well - at least I know what's there. A lot of old photos and tapes and videotapes, that's what's there. Old stuff. Luckily, upstairs in Sam's old bedroom, is some very new stuff, some 3 year old stuff. I could not love that 3 year old more; what joy, to look at him as he sleeps, snuffling with his cold. This week there is bad news in the newspapers, there's a groundbreaking Pope in the States - that pic of him and Obama laughing, so wonderful! We are all obsessed with the terror of this election, the possibility that vileness might triumph once again. But for a few blessed minutes tonight, all that mattered was a brown-haired head on the pillow.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

remarkably cheerful

Great news: http://www.zmonline.com/random-stuff/drinking-half-a-bottle-of-red-wine-before-bed-can-help-you-lose-weight/

Half a bottle! Be still my beating heart. AND Happy Birthday is now public domain. We can use its lyrics in our books and sing it in our films. As someone who was terrified to quote even a line or two of music in her Sixties memoir - so many great lyrics, unusable - this is good news. Let's pry open those music copyright doors, guys.


It is a stunning day, hot, bright. Since waking up this morning I've been thinking, Beth Kaplan, this is the best day of your life, so far. I slept well, had a good breakfast and delicious coffee, worked at my beloved manuscript, heard from friends via email, messed around in my beloved house and watered the garden, which is still blooming, if faded - harvested a few tomatoes and one luscious strawberry. My beloved daughter called with a hilarious story about her older son, who takes everything literally; my only son, who has just had a promotion at work, texted. Went to the Y for a gruelling class and much chat with dear friends. Home for lunch, more delicious coffee, more email, Facebook, piano practice. Now more work, and my beloved Wayson coming for supper. I may just have to drink a few glasses of wine, just for my health.

Does it get better than that? Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you. Even if it's not.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

the vote split on the left

Oh the confusions of democracy. I come from fierce NDP stock but have been wavering about on the left for years. Who to vote for, with Mulcair promising to balance the budget (what??!) and to allow separatism with only 51% of the vote (very dangerous) and Trudeau voting to support Bill C51 (bad move) and promising a deficit budget that invests in infrastructure (good move usually more NDP than Lib) ... Back and forth, splintering the vote on the left, not to mention the divisive Greens, while the Conservatives have hired some hideous rightwing adman and are hammering away at the paranoids about terrorism and financial collapse. It makes my head hurt.

My riding is so far left that at the all-candidates meeting I went to tonight, the Conservative didn't even bother to show up. The Green guy did but was an embarrassing lightweight, even he admitted it. That left two heavyweights - the NDP's Linda McQuaig and Liberal Bill Morneau. I have Linda's sign in front of my house, and several of my dear neighbours have been arguing with me relentlessly about the NDP's weak spots, so I went tonight to help make up my mind.

The tragedy is that they're both great candidates; he is very impressive and so is she. They agree on many things, including the shameful way the Harper government has responded to the refugee crisis. They agree on homelessness, on senior poverty, on immigration. They just disagree on how to pay to fix these things; Morneau talks the Lib line about a deficit budget for the next few years to pay for massive infrastructure investment in transit, housing, which will create employment.

McQuaig points out that the Libs are not talking about increasing the corporate tax rate; she says the NDP would tax the richest, invest heavily where the money is needed, including in universal child care, and still balance the books, "as Tommy Douglas did for seven straight budgets, while founding Medicare!" she said, to roars of applause, including mine.

I'm still torn. At the moment, since my vote doesn't matter anyway in terms of defeating the Conservatives, I'm going to vote for the woman who's such a feisty fighter with head, heart and soul. A friend who was at the meeting said, beforehand, "The last thing this riding needs is another wealthy businessman representing us." (Though I don't think any wealthy businessman have in fact ever represented us...) In any case, Bill Morneau is a great deal more than that; he's a terrific guy who has been on several meaningful boards - though also on the board of the small c conservative C. D. Howe Foundation - and has founded a school for girls in a refugee camp in Africa. But he doesn't need this the way she does. So I'm voting Linda. For now. But we have weeks to go. I'm exhausted already.

Speaking of the 10% - on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, I went on the Cabbagetown Tour of Homes, where for a fundraising fee we get to see a bunch of the classy houses of the 'hood. My neighbour Richard says it's simply about being able to admire interesting architecture, renovations and interior design, whereas I see it as rich people showing off their ridiculously expensive bathrooms and stoves and the vast number of pillows on their enormous beds. I wanted to see inside the house up the street, a wonderful mansion which took two years to renovate - and sure enough, it was renovated within an inch of its life and much too decorated for my taste, as were nearly all of them. The one I liked was the one where the inhabitants were reading really good books - Lydia Davis on the bedside table! Not THAT'S impressive. And an unpretentious comfortable well-used kitchen and good art. I liked them.

Oh my she's judgmental.

NOT judgmental Monday night at my class, where the students read their essays for the first time. Sheer pleasure to hear people open up and begin the journey into their own stories. OMG I love my job.

today's tree

A descendant of the Royal Oak at Boscobel House, Shropshire, England, in which the future Charles II hid in 1651 after the Battle of Worcester. The image is one of the finalists in a contest run by the Woodland Trust to find this year’s best tree, out of more than 200 nominations.
Woodland Trust

Sunday, September 20, 2015


Beatles in 1965 and PETITION AGAINST SHELL

Hard to believe - can it be true? No, I guess it's not hard to believe at all, when you look at the Harper government's environmental track record- that is, their utter disdain for the future for the planet. PLEASE SIGN AND PASS ON.

Canada has just given Shell permission to drill for oil off the coast of Nova Scotia -- and to let any blowout go uncapped for 21 days.

Can you join me in telling the Petroleum Board to refuse Shell’s application to drill in Nova Scotia?

Okay, now that you've done your civic duty, relax, put your feet up and watch this not-very-clear but still delightful tape of the Beatles in Paris in June 1965. Your faithful correspondent was there, both at the afternoon show and the evening one, which is the one shown. And amazingly, it's shot from my vantage point - in the afternoon, as my friends know, I was in the eighth row centre, but in the evening I was on the right side facing the stage - JOHN'S side, I was chagrined to realize, not Paul's.
Now I can watch the whole thing on very grainy tape from exactly the same pov. Wonderful to see French teenagers have such a good time, though they're infinitely more controlled than their US counterparts, and the boys themselves are obviously enjoying it all too - just the four of them and their tiny amps, that was it.

I'd discovered this clip myself and lost it - thanks to Alan Millen for sending it again. Poor Alan, at twelve, was too young to go when they played in Vancouver in 1964. My parents nearly didn't let me go either, but they knew I would never never never never never never never have forgiven them. So they gave in. And if you want to know more about the concert and Paris and Beatle love and growing up in the Sixties, THERE'S A VIVID AND UNFORGETTABLE BOOK!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Heather Mallick for Prime Minister

SUPERB article sent by friend Bruce. Read it and weep. And get angry. And VOTE.
The Nixon of the North, by Heather Mallick | Harper's Magazine


And if this depresses you, Bruce, via his brother Stan, also just sent me this hilarious parody:


Emmylou Harris forever

Emmylou Harris - woo hoo! The woman is 68 years old and looks incredible - that glorious thick mane of silver hair, legs in tight ripped jeans and fringed cowboy boots, and that plangent voice, almost unchanged after 40 years on the road. Okay, there's been a bit of work on the very smooth face - but we'll forgive her. She's gorgeous.

It was a fantastic concert, beginning with Amy Helm and her band - she's Levon Helm's daughter and I'm now a huge fan, will get her CD. And then Emmylou with Rodney Crowell, who also has been around for decades though without the high profile of his friend. What an incredible group of five musicians they had with them, particularly the guitarist, absolutely brilliant. I loved every minute of it - wild, powerful, haunting, hurtin' music. Yee ha!

I also loved the fact that at 7.30 I was sitting in my kitchen in my work clothes (which means braless in t-shirt and sweatpants) and by 8.01 I was at Massey Hall - changed into basic black, hopped on my bike and zipped along Shuter St. It's such a wonderful old hall, luckily unrenovated and snazzied up - funky and friendly, just perfect. I saw K.D. Lang there many years ago, Handel's Messiah, have been to several protest meetings ... one of my favourite places in all Toronto.

Speaking of the favourite of favourites:
Be still my beating heart. Is there a more serious face than that one? There will be drama.

There's a giant raccoon waddling about my deck. And - I confess, I just looked up the word 'plangent' to be sure I was using it correctly. Yes.

Oh, and one more thing - I'd like to show you yesterday's Doubletake purchase. You never know what you'll find there - it's like fishing. So I wander about casting my line, and what I saw yesterday were two lovely, very heavy pewter picture frames for $6 each.
Checked at home - they're made by Royal Selangor, which it turns out is the pre-eminent pewter manufacturer in Britain, for the Victoria and Albert Museum. And I know which photograph will be the first to go in one of them. (See above.)

One more more thing: my children's board book submission to OwlKids was sent back yesterday, with a form letter. It's still out with one other publisher, so I'll wait for it to come back and then figure out what's next. Life is not all kittens, roses, music and pewter frames. There is REJECTION.

Moving right along.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Terry Fox and TIFF

Former student now friend and colleague - and one of my editors - Chris Cameron has a beautiful piece in today's Globe about being inspired by Terry Fox. An opera singer, a talented writer, an endurance athlete - how many combine those disparate talents with such panache and grace? Bravo, Chris.

These are Cinderella days. Toronto's film festival, one of the biggest in the world, is on now, so I'm reading in the paper about all the movie stars in town, the red carpet, who wore what. My friends JM and Richard are out every day, the first to see fab new films, while I sit in my dressing-gown reading all about it. I don't go to TIFF because it's too much like a job - a lot of work to go through the enormous catalogue, pick the films, work out a schedule, mail in the requests, block out the time needed not just to see the films but to get there, line up, get from one to the other. I'm exhausted just writing about it. If the movies are really good, I reason, they'll get a general release and I can see them without all the hassle. But then, I miss a lot of spectacular films, and in the dull humdrum of my days, there are no sparkling glimpses of movie stars.

Oh well. First world problems.

Another: I finally stayed up late enough to watch "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert." Of course, I'm still in mourning for Jon Stewart, find it hard to believe, each night, that at 11 he's not there, waiting for me with wit and wisdom. 11 I could do; 11.30 is usually too late, but I finally made it, and was saddened; it seems to me, on one half-hours viewing, that the deeply ethical and intelligent Colbert has been sunk by the American entertainment machine. Capering, giggling, foolish stunts, a barrage of quips - what happened to the man with a sharp-eyed message about rightwing idiocy? His only fine moment came with a brief quip about Trump, and then it was back to silly. Am I wrong, those of you who watch? It made me depressed. Another good one gone.

On Tuesday night I met two younger writers who also teach at U of T at the Drake for drinks; they'd invited me to a book launch at the Gladstone nearby. I was thrilled to be at the epicentre of trend, sitting outside on the Drake's patio surrounded by cool, talking writing with two youngish writers of enormous promise. Now that's a good use of my time.

Today my calendar is blank until the evening, when I go to see Emmylou Harris, hooray. A blank calendar is a rare treat; the days are more and more full as we move into fall. The weather is beautiful again, sunny and hot with a hint beneath of what's to come. Quick - no time to waste. To work.

But FIRST a quick detour to FB and a gorgeous musical treat: Eric Clapton and Macca - and Ringo! - in a tribute to George Harrison, with George's son Dhani, a perfect clone of his dad, playing with them. At the run on Sunday, I ran into Davey, the son of a very dear friend and neighbour, Len, who died of cancer a decade ago. Davey was there with his toddler, who he told me is named Len. It made me cry. Here's to the power of genetics and honouring our fathers.
https://www.facebook.com/MusicalHallFlashBack/videos/466956453461206/ Lito P Garcia

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Macca and moi, together at last

For those of you who thought I made up my early marriage to Paul McCartney, here's a photograph that proves that we really were together, way back then ...
Or maybe not - since he looks so very young and the old bag beside him does not. But thank you, dear friend Chris, who's so adept with Photoshop, for making my dream come true for a minute or two.

Just rented an Autoshare car for the first time in ages and drove madly around town doing errands and buying heavy things, like computer paper at Staples and milk and most of all, wine. I got two cases. That should last me a week or two.


Yesterday early afternoon, I met Anna, Eli and Ben at the West End Y to get Eli registered for swimming lessons, just like his mother lo these many years, then we all had lunch in the beautiful garden of old friends Jessica and Geoffrey nearby, then walked north to Long and McQuade where I bought the acoustic guitar I'd ordered from Quebec, the very last 65th birthday present for myself. In my teens I played and sang, badly, soulful folk songs and lots of Joni Mitchell, and now I intend to do the same. "And the seasons, they go round and round ..." "Suzanne takes you down ..."

Last night, the term started at Ryerson, a nice full class, the usual fascinating bunch, lucky me.

It is boiling hot, blazing sun. And on the weekend, when thousands of people wanted to roam the streets of C'town, it was freezing and wet. Sheesh. Still, first world problems. The pictures in the newspapers make me feel like the richest person on earth.

Monday, September 14, 2015

the elite

The winning Senior Women of the Cabbagetown Mini-Marathon: 4th, 3rd, 1st and 2nd. Gina wearing the cabbage had two very small grandchildren running too, and the one with the anti-Harper button hopes to run with her older grandson next year. Proud of us, girls!

In fact, I don't think any other senior women even enter this competition - only, year after year, this sleek bunch of gazelles. You do understand I am a very slow runner, right? That every year, in the middle of this very short race, I wish I'd done even a little bit of training. And yet there I am in the winning circle. No one is more amazed than I.

Much more importantly, I was just checking my Goodreads page - to find that a fine person called Robyn, who reads a lot of good books, rated my book more highly than the best-selling Miriam Toews! Now, that's being in the winner's circle.
Robyn rated a book 4 of 5 stars
All My Loving: Coming of Age with Paul McCartney in Paris
by Beth Kaplan (Goodreads Author)
read in February, 2015
Robyn rated a book 3 of 5 stars
All My Puny Sorrows
by Miriam Toews
read in March, 2015

Sunday, September 13, 2015

running in the cold

Just spent my usual Sunday afternoon from 3 to 4 cooking and listening to Eleanor Wachtel - another old friend and fabulous woman to add to the list. Made a ratatouille and the last of my green beans engrossed in her fascinating conversation with Jonathan Franzen, who does not suffer fools gladly and obviously loves Eleanor, as does anyone who likes writing and thought. Her interview last week with Oliver Sacks, replayed from the archives on the occasion of his death, was a masterpiece. CBC's Writers and Company is available as a podcast. Get out your saucepans and give her a listen.

This is the weekend of the joyous Cabbagetown Festival, a special one this year as I had a friend and her sister in from London England, visiting Canadian family, coming to see Canada for the first time at our festival. And I have to say, I cannot remember worse early September weather, ever, and I've enjoyed these festivals for nearly 30 years. Both days, cold and wet and grey, just miserable. Luckily the rain stopped for awhile yesterday afternoon and this morning; it was still cold, but at least the musicians could play and we could walk around, poking into the garage sales and the crafts fair, eating street food and meeting friends. Anna has long wanted a shed for her backyard, to store all the sleds, tricycles and water pistols cluttering up her apartment, and we've been watching Canadian Tire sales; even the cheapest that are big enough are over $500. But yesterday, I found a shed in a box for $120. Getting it home - pulled on a child's wagon - and across town were challenges, as it weighed a ton, but that's what the C'town Fest can do - provide a shed in a box. For myself, I bought the only thing I need - 6 beautiful wine glasses for $10. Hmmm. Time to try them out. Excuse me for a moment.

A perky French pinot - the wine isn't great, but the glass is perfect.

This morning was the annual fundraising "mini marathon" - two or three kilometres through the neighbourhood, a friendly run with many dogs and children as well as a few serious speedsters and a few faithful old regulars, like moi. It was so cold this morning, I almost didn't go, but I was inspired by my friends Chris and Sam, ultra-marathoners and triathletes, crazy people who run, bike and swim through all kinds of hideous weathers and situations. I could just see their faces if I didn't do 2.5 k because it was a tiny bit chilly. So I put on some warm stuff and went, and of course it was wonderful, so much fun, my 'hood. And - well yes, I have to tell you, she said modestly, that I came third in the Senior Women's category, age 56 to 98. It's the same group of us every year. Last year Marion ran past me at the last minute, and this year I ran past her, waving as I went, but she passed me again. Marion was second. The extremely speedy Sylvie, who's a serious long-distance runner, was first, and my Sackville neighbour Gina was fourth. I do have to say, I think I'm the only true senior citizen in the bunch. Ahem.

So now my legs hurt, and this raunchy pinot isn't making my aches feel better. But my prize, a gift certificate to the Peartree Restaurant to which I've already invited my family, is taking the sting of the cold away. And tomorrow I teach.

Friday, September 11, 2015

fabulous women!

My former writing student now friend Laurel Croza, whose first book for children, I Know Here, came out of a writing assignment for class and went on to spectacular success, including a review in the New York Times and several huge writing prizes, has done it again. Her second book, a sequel, From Here to There, has been nominated for the prestigious Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award. Laurel is a focussed, meticulous and powerful writer who, hard as it is to believe now, had never done any creative writing before coming to my class. She still sends work to me to read and edit, and I am happy to send some of my work over to her, asking for her honest and perceptive eye.

Brava Laurel. What's next? I know you're hard at work on it, whatever it is.

And speaking of what's next ... one of my oldest and dearest friends, Lynn from the south of France, as she is known among my blog readers, has just retired. She did things differently than most of us baby boomer women - she had her children (five!) very early and then went back to school, eventually earning the French equivalent of a Ph.D. in linguistics - she was smart enough to choose as her thesis topic an aspect of the works of Alice Munro, who went on, as we know, to some acclaim in the world - and in her late fifties, beginning a university teaching career. Not surprisingly, she rose to become head of various departments, sitting on important committees and publishing articles in scholarly journals.

Lynn and I first met at Carleton University in 1967, I just 17 and she, as I always like to remind her, A YEAR OLDER. We became instant best friends and have remained best friends for nearly 50 years, despite her spending her entire adult life in France and I much of mine in Vancouver. Long before email, we kept in touch with letters and occasional visits; whenever we saw each other, we were immediately teenagers again. She is one of the youngest people I know, one hot, beautiful and joyous Ph.D. Here she is at her retirement party.
She's coming to visit in October - there will be more Champagne and much laughter and Motown music and dancing. Beloved friend, brava to you on your illustrious career, not to mention your EIGHT GRANDCHILDREN.

Other great women - my friend Grace has finished her first year at U of T and came over tonight to help me get organized; we spent two hours in my office digging through the mountain of paper and now my desk is a hundred times lighter, and my recycling bin much heavier. Tomorrow Anna's best friends Holly and Nicole are coming to help with the garage sale I have every year at the Cabbagetown Festival, for which, unfortunately, rain is predicted. Perhaps the junk will just have to come back inside till next year - let's hope not!

The best news is that today baby Ben had his "procedure" at Sick Kids, where they cut the twisted tendon of his foot and straightened it; he got through it in record time and now has a cast which will set the foot in its right position. In only a few months, his feet will look normal and he'll just have to wear special shoes at night for a few years. Another brava - to his brave, strong mother, and to Barb at Sick Kids whose life's work is to make parents and children dealing with sideways feet healthy and happy. And lucky me - I got to spend the day with Eli. We argued at one point, and I said, "You will find, young man, that I am always right." And he replied, "But I am the most rightest."

Yes, yes you are. And so like your mother, you stubborn, fierce little soul.

I was at a U of T event at University College last night, leading off the teaching year - what a pleasure it is to be in those elegant old buildings.
There are many interesting people to talk to, and, even better, the food is delicious and the wine is flowing. Happiness is.

Happy weekend to you all, you fabulous women - and men.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

U of T's Life Stories nearly full

Update: I've just learned that my U of T class, which doesn't start till October 6, is already almost full - there's only one place left. So if that's the one you want, you'd better move fast. There is still a bit of room at Ryerson but not much.

Woo hoo!

Tomorrow the Cabbagetown Festival starts, and the neighbourhood will go nuts. My British friend Liz is visiting Canadian relatives with her sister and is coming to check out the activities on Saturday; she loves jumble sales, as they call them in England, and will have more than her fill here - including my own. The weather right now is heaven - hot with a breeze. Tonight my home class arrives, stories in hand, and work starts for the fall term of 2015.

This afternoon I saw my shrink. I still see her periodically because I love her, and she might also be fond of me. There's someone out there who knows just how much it means that these days, I'm as tranquil and productive as I am; this woman knew me just as my marriage was falling apart and then through the tormented years of divorce and small children, when I was going mad with grief and stress and fear and exhaustion. I'm a zombie of calm in comparison now. A good kind of zombie. Happy to stagger into her office and babble.

And there's my woodpecker, working away outside. As I will be soon, right here.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Michael Coren - today's hero in the Star

I've written about him before - the extraordinary Michael Coren, who went from angry narrow-minded right-wing blowhard to open, thoughtful, articulate left-wing commentator in just over a year. If only everyone of his stripe could go through this miraculous conversion, what a beautiful world it would be! As my friend Lynn posted on FB yesterday, "If you see your god as angry, racist, sexist, violent and cruel, you are creating him in your own image."

Something like that.

Coren has written a superb piece in the Star today. I wrote to thank him, and he wrote back to say he'd had lots of abuse about the piece. Not a surprise.

re Beth's classes and body parts

Dear writers, my Ryerson class True to Life starts next Monday at 6.30 and is a go, filling up quickly. It runs to November 16. Ryerson is now running a Writing Certificate program; if you take a certain number of required courses, you earn the certificate.

The U of T class, Life Stories I, starts Tuesday October 6; it's a day class, from 12.30 to 3, until November 24. U of T, which has recently been voted one of the top 25 universities in the world, already has a certificate program. You don't need a certificate to become a good writer, but it's fun to have a goal and a piece of paper.

Officially I start teaching tomorrow night in my home class, and have been editing privately all summer. But mostly I've been working at my other work - writing. It really is true that for free-lancers, work is always, but mostly in your own time. Ideal, as far as I'm concerned.

Today Bruce, the cable engineer from Bell, came by one last time to seal the deal - they are going to bury the hideous tangle of cables that runs through my back yard and my neighbour's. He's efficient and courteous and a very nice guy; I am now a huge fan of Bell. Cineplex, on the other hand, has not responded to my request for a refund, though I detailed how I was charged twice for a movie, paying over $80 for 3 of us to see Minions. Good guys/bad guys. But always first world problems.

Speaking of being spoiled in the first world department, yesterday I went bra shopping. The array in my top drawer was simply unsatisfactory, and my fashionista friend Debra said the Bay was the place to go. The store on Queen is being renovated, a huge mess, and by the time I got to the 6th floor and saw the vast array of feminine accoutrements, I was ready to turn around and go home. However, luckily I did not because a treat was in store: Maggie. Maggie is a diminutive Swiss woman who understands the female form. It took awhile - she was dealing with a complicated female form - but in the end, I left with not one but three new bras that are comfortable and fit perfectly. I wrote to the company to praise her and am now sending every woman I know to Maggie. She is at the Bay on Queen from Monday to Thursday. Tell her Beth sent you.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Mary Oliver and dancing

a hill of beans!

The hottest days of the summer so far have been in September - weird. The last two have been brutal. Yesterday I rode my bike across town - almost safely all the way, on the bike trail along the waterfront - to meet Anna and the boys by Summerside Pool for a swim. But it was incredibly crowded with a lineup at the door, so we picnicked under a tree instead. Not quite as good.

It hurts to watch my grandson figure out his life. He has been wounded, no question - his beloved mother, with whom he was joined at the hip, is now joined to someone else, tired and impatient just when he wants to hang onto her with every bit of strength he has. He has phenomenal energy and is bouncing off the walls when she wants him to be quiet and not disturb the baby. This is a scene that has played out in families countless times, but still, it pains me to watch a boy I love so much going through it. He is so like his mother, stubborn, contrary and social. I remember at this stage, when her brother was a newborn, she was at a nursery school, and one day I left the baby with someone and went to pick her up. She was in the playground and did not want to leave. "But we have to," I said. She turned and appraised me coolly. "You think you're so great," she said. She was three! I knew I was in big trouble. And now her son is the same kind of fierce, feisty, rambunctious child, only with four times the physical energy.
He spilled milk all over his pants in a restaurant. This person is 3 1/4. Doesn't he look like 29, only with no pants, to you?

Today's excitement: picking tons of beans and tomatoes:
and making a delicious dish with onions, garlic, white wine, basil:
My own veggies! Very proud.

Speaking of proud - well, I printed out and read the memoir so far. And once again, I have to say there's something there. 61,000 words, for a start. Lots more to be done, but I did manage to carve out time this busy summer. Work starts this week, but I'll still be able to do some writing until things really go nuts in October. Oh I love it so, the mulling, fiddling, reading, pondering, adding, subtracting. Maybe, as my friend Chris pointed out, all this work will amount to almost no remuneration again. I just got out of the library a beautiful, massive book about my favourite Canadian artist David Milne - Painting Place, by David Silcox. Milne painted all his life and barely made enough to live on, worried about money constantly. So I'm in good company.

Have been watching TV as research - CNN's terrific series on the Seventies and last night a documentary about Jean Vanier's L'Arche, both important for my book. I've entered the obsessive phase; everything is linked somehow to the current project. Tonight - if I can make it to 11.30 - Stephen Colbert's first show! I have so missed Jon Stewart - but at the same time, it has been something of a relief not to confront the idiocies of the planet, especially the American planet, on a daily basis.

Finally - I promise I'll stop. But could not resist this pic.
Macca with one of his grandchildren. I know just how he feels.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Ottawa overload

Home, exhausted and enriched. I've been in Ottawa for a major dose of family.

I only have two first cousins, the daughters of my mother's older sister, who both live in Washington D.C. and whom I don't know well. Barbara, the elder, wrote to tell me she'd like to come in to visit our aunt Do in Ottawa whom she didn't know at all, would I meet her there? We chose the first week of September, which turned out to be the exact time my ex-husband would also be flying in from Washington for a family wedding. Anna and her boys wanted to come too. Sam was working.

Tuesday Barbara and I both flew in and met at the airport, rented a car and drove straight to Do's. She is phenomenal - feisty and independent, coming into her own at 95. Barbara's parents, both British, turned their backs on their roots after emigrating in 1948, so Barbara knew very little about their U.K. past and sat listening for hours to stories she'd never heard, piecing together the family puzzle. She wanted to stay at the Chateau Laurier, so adjoining rooms at the Chateau it was, a pleasure to be right downtown instead of near Do in Britannia. We wandered around the market; I took her, with great pride, to the stunning National Gallery and introduced her to the Group of Seven and Emily Carr. But mostly, we sat and talked to Do, which included taking her to a luxurious tea at the Chateau. The American Open was on - Do's life revolves around tennis, so we watched with her while she explained the game to Barbara. (Explaining the incomprehensible scoring to someone who doesn't know the game is difficult.)

On Thursday my cousin and I drove to the airport again to meet Anna, Eli and Ben; we had lunch together, then drove Barbara, who is also a recent grandmother, back to the airport to fly home, and the rest of us went to the airbnb near Do's. It's a basement suite in a fantastic location right on Britannia Park with the beach two minutes away. Two days of running and splashing, and nursing and crying, and eating and eating and eating. And visiting Do, who was not fazed by the invasion of a very energetic 3-year old and a newborn. We had two great dinners out, a family ranging in age from 7 weeks to 95 1/2. What a blessing.

Friday, a visit with Edgar my ex, who is a terrific grandfather, patiently playing catch with one boy and holding the other. We took him to visit Do, who had seen him only once since the divorce 34 years ago. Ed's mother, once a powerhouse, has Alzheimer's; Do exclaimed in sorrow, but she's so young - only 88!

By Saturday, however, this Glamma was bushed after four days of organizing everything - transportation, accommodation, meals, visits, plus endless wrangling with Eli. He is a powerhouse too, in his own small, noisy, rebellious way - still acting up, mischievous and rambunctious, driving his mother crazy. Thank God for my computer, Netflix, and the "chickmunks movie," which kept him quiet for nearly an hour. The baby is fussy with a cry that goes right through to my nervous system, like a dentist's drill. However, my daughter is, as Barbara said, "Mother Earth." She pointed out that both our mothers were nervous neurotics, full of quivering anxiety. It looks like Anna, calm, patient, unflappable, has put that gene to rest forever.

At the airport, a tiny glitch - the plane was late getting in, and once we were all finally on board, there was a mechanical problem, we had to get off, get our bags, wait for another plane. Luckily, there was a play area in the airport where I watched Eli jump from a plastic cloud for an hour. We left 3 hours late. The televisions at the airport were showing unbearable footage of the migrant crisis in Europe. We had nothing to complain about.
 Baby at the beach
Do meets the newest member of the family
I always fall in love with the huge old trees at Britannia Park
As beautiful as it gets
The roundheads
 The park is a lifesaver in the heat, or, in fact, at any time
We all play "admire the baby."

The most important part of the visit: after Barbara told Do that her father, also 95, whom Do knew well in Britain, is in a Lutheran assisted living place, I remembered that Do had once considered the not-for-profit Unitarian seniors' residence nearby, and asked if she'd be interested to visit. She was, and we went. It's shabby, no question, not like the chic, upscale place my mother lived in the last year of her life, but it's far friendlier, open and warm. The rooms are of course minuscule, but there are lots of communal areas with activities, and even a big old friendly dog - a vital draw for animal-loving Dorothy - and raised flowerbeds where the residents can garden. After an impromptu tour, when Do was asked if she wanted to be on the waiting list, to my amazement she said yes.

It would be a wonderful move for her, not far from her Scrabble friends, safe with nursing staff always nearby, and fed. I'm sure she'd be happy there. My aunt spent most of her life even more tense and anxious than her sisters, and in these last years of her life, she is finding friendship and even joy. I am grateful for her time with us, for ours with her.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Where I am

Explanation to come. Family! I'm wearing my "Oct. 19, 2015 - Stephen Harper's Last Day" button to tea.