Monday, May 30, 2016

So True recap - we done good

Well, to paraphrase Sally Fields, they liked it, they really liked it - our eighth So True reading event yesterday afternoon. People are so kind! Many nice things were said by audience members; emails flew back and forth. The students who read were universally articulate and pleased. Here's one:

It was truly a thrill. Thank you for creating the environment that enabled us to realize our potential as writers in such an enjoyable and fulfilling way. Sitting there in the dark  experiencing with great pleasure the work of our classmates and friends, I felt tremendously privileged to be a part of such a talented and committed group. So I thank you for your passion, leadership and hard work in creating this wonderful event, and for inviting me to be part of it. We’re all feeling enthused and inspired, thanks to you, Beth. 

So glad it works! I realized yesterday why I am always exhausted afterwards, though. The process of choosing and editing stories starts months beforehand, and then during the show itself, I sit there like a mother bird watching as each reader triumphs. Yesterday, they were all marvellous, surprising themselves, I think, with the ease and skill of their performances and the rapturous reception to their writing work. It's a joy.

Then it's my turn. I stand up to finish the evening, say something wise and witty and then either tell a story of my own or read one. I may have self-confidence as a teacher and editor but not so much as a performer. Despite my years on the stage, I am full of self-doubt as a reader and speaker.

And then it's over, everyone says how much they loved it, and I sometimes believe them. Several audience members said they were going to take my course, and former students said they are anxious to submit for the next event. Which will take place October 30. Topic, in honour of Hallowe'en: DISGUISE.

It's way too hot for May. Today I bought a big purple elephant wading pool that caused much delight. I carried it home from Home Hardware on my head.
And then, after a visit to the Farm and supper, we settled for a second or two. Two little boys is a lot, really really a lot, of work.
David Sedaris protested once about friends visiting with "their wrecking crew of three." Anna visits with her wrecking crew of two, and I love every minute. (Incidentally, that little boy above was born with a club foot, and thanks to Sick Kids and the dedication of his mother, look at those perfect little footies.)

Paul Krugman writes in the NYT today that Donald Trump will not win. I'm going with that.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Bernie maybe and Storycorps

Beautiful beautiful weather - though not really, because it's May and it feels like July. So what July will be like ... Fort McMurray, anyone? Though of course July may be snow, too, who knows these days? Speaking of global warming, I watched Bernie Sanders on Bill Maher last night, and you know, I may make the shift from Hillary, not that I can vote or anything - but he's amazing, full of energy and speaking such incredible sense. I know, he's a bit one note and it's very hard to imagine him as a president, so it's frightening. I'm still with Hillary. But - imagine if it's Bernie versus the giant orange blowhole - what a matchup!

The So True reading event tomorrow - exciting as always. We had a rehearsal last week, a chance for the eight readers, especially those who haven't done this before, to stand up and read their most private stories aloud, get a final edit on the writing and tips on the performance. It gives me such joy to hear their efforts come to fruition - even more so tomorrow, when they'll go public. Thrilling work. And this time, I'm not going to tell a story, I'm going to read one too, an excerpt from the memoir. Nerve-wracking. I'd much rather not put myself on the line, preferring to watch my students go through that torment. But it's important that I do.

Happy beautiful too-hot May 28th to you all.
P.S. My students Michelle and Christie sent me a link to something I'd never heard of, and should have, called Storycorps. Fascinating - kind of like what we do, collecting stories, except that these are oral stories and not sculpted in any way. We sculpt.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

check your passport!

OMG! My tenant and friend Carol, who lives on my top floor part of the year, makes her permanent home in Banos, Ecuador. Her mother, aged 103, is in a nursing home here and Carol and her sister, who lives in Toronto, share caregiving duties. Now Carol's sister is back from travels, so Carol left this morning to go home to Ecuador - a very long journey, many hours of travel including a long stopover in Miami before flying on to Quito, with three heavy suitcases which have required days of preparation to pack, as she brings back gifts of shoes and clothing from Doubletake for the families of friends there.

She left early this morning after many goodbyes, and a few hours later, she was back. It turned out that her passport will expire in five months. She was going to get it renewed in Ecuador, where there's no lineup, but apparently, she is not allowed into the United States, even for a stopover, with a passport that will expire in less than six months.

Poor Carol! She'll expedite matters and try to be off again within a few days. But in the meantime, I rushed upstairs to look at my passport. It expires in November. I fly to NYC in July. The same thing would have happened to me - I would have arrived at the airport ready for my trip and been sent home.

Be warned, my friends. I am printing the renewal forms as we speak.

Monday, May 23, 2016

the perfect holiday

Much popping and banging - it's 10 p.m. and the Victoria Day fireworks are going off. There used to be a lovely neighbourhood ritual - many families would gather in the Sprucecourt schoolyard, we'd pool all our fireworks, the dads would let them off in the centre of the field and we'd sit and ooh and aah for at least half an hour - our own personal fireworks extravaganza, perfect for small people who were excited to be up so late. I don't know if it continues to this day. The small people in my life were camping this weekend at a friend's place in the country with not even a toilet, brave Anna with two little kids - and apparently it was wonderful.
And I - on this holiday, quiet except for the chatter of my neighbours, so incessant that I put in earplugs - I did nothing but work. I went out once for a brief walk, and the rest of the day, I sat on the deck, editing a piece for So True, sending it back and forth 3 or 4 times, and two pieces by students. But more importantly, I wrote a new chapter, rewrote it twelve times, and edited bits of the rest. My bottom is asleep because I have hardly moved from this chair all day. Unhealthy. But wonderful, a writer's idea of heaven - a stock of food and wine, a stunning warm day, a quiet garden (once the earplugs were in) and nothing to do except fiddle with words. And fiddle I did.

Right now I love this book, I love moving the words around, I love the stories and the voice. I know, how vain. But it's good to love it sometimes, because other times, I think it's a big stinking pile of hooey.

P.S. Here's a beautiful article in the NYT about "Call the Midwife," one of the best shows on television, the only program I've ever watched that unfailingly brings a tear to my eye, in the best way, with its warmth and truth. This article heaps praise, says it's better, in some ways, than "Downton." And I agree.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Bryan Cranston as LBJ - brilliant

That's it - yesterday was spring, today is summer. It's hot, the garden is exploding into green before my eyes, where's the sunscreen? At 8 a.m. this morning, before the crowds, I bought $80 worth of vegetables from Jay's garden centre down the road - a bit of lettuce, a few peppers and cukes, strawberries, parsley, lavender, eggplant, cherry tomatoes and two kinds of basil. Planted some, will wait to plant the rest till I've made a garden plan. Then I cleaned out the garden shed, getting out spades, fertilizer, chair cushions. Summer!

Two hours this afternoon doing the season switch - moving the wool to cupboards and drawers, getting out tank tops and sandals. (And getting rid of stuff that's too small - finally accepting that those pants, those shorts, now that I have no waistline, will never fit me again. OUT!)

Now I'm in paradise - the quiet city, the lush garden, baby sparrows learning to fly perched on the lilac or the fence under the worried eyes of their parents. Just gardened while listening to Eleanor Wachtel interview one of my favourite writers in all the world - Alan Bennett - and laughed out loud. It is a fine world.

Last night, JM and Richard came over to watch "All the Way" about LBJ's first months, the extraordinary backstage machinations it took to pass the Civil Rights Act - convincing both Martin Luther King and the impatient leaders of the black community, and the racist old boys of the white Democratic south, to toe the line. The show paid warm tribute to Lady Bird, who was a political force herself as well as a loving wife and mother. A fascinating drama beautifully produced, particularly the phenomenal performance of Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston as LBJ - the actor vanishes into the role, a tour de force.

And then we watched the last hour of the Peggy Guggenheim documentary - TV at its best and an evening with two of my dearest friends. I got HBO because Jon Stewart announced he'd do shows there - which have yet to appear. My son watches Game of Thrones when he comes over; I can't, it's too gruesome. But last night was wonderful.

Grow, little basil, grow.

P.S. I hate to even mention it but feel I must because everyone else has. Justin Trudeau - understandably, in my eyes - grew impatient with the slowness of proceedings in the House of Commons and tried to move things along. I would have done the same. But unfortunately for the most visible man in the country, things did not go as planned, and now every pundit, including, predictably, the gloating Margaret Wente, feels the need to weigh in. Look, I'm a bit worried too about the many photo ops, wondering who's running the shop while Justin does - yes - important things like hug Syrian immigrants and beam at Obama. It's all eye candy for us Canadians after the nuclear winter we endured with the Man with the Frozen Eyes and Helmet Hair. There are certainly things to worry about. But the fuss about this event is ludicrous.

And speaking of worrying - there's a piece in the Washington Post about Trump signalling the rise of fascism in the U.S. Now that's worth writing about.

And now, back to focussing on my tomatoes.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

long weekend - and "Hangmen"

Beautiful - a long weekend, a sweet day of sun and cloud, and the garden exploding with green and bloom. Lucky me - the family came to visit yesterday to celebrate Eli's 4th birthday with his favourite treats - sushi, Duplo and cupcakes. And time in the garden, Eli and I watering, his favourite activity, and Ben crawling on the grass and eating some nice dirt. Here's a shot Anna sent me, Glamma and grandson with their watering cans, Eli's his fave colour - lello. Hard to believe that willow tree above us was five feet high in a flower pot when it was given to me by a neighbour who'd sold her condo to Jian Ghomeshi and was moving away.
This afternoon I went to National Theatre Live at Cineplex, "Hangmen" by Martin McDonagh, well-known for "In Bruges." This is another kind of "In Bruges," about violent, loud, racist, silly, sometimes mysterious men - also about the end of the death penalty in England and the daily life of a pub. As the nice lady next to me said, When I see something in which I don't like a single one of the characters, I wonder why I'm there. It was entertaining, a powerful production, well-acted with great sets and dialogue very reminiscent, in its menace, British class system awareness and rhythms, of Harold Pinter. But not my fave.

Now a quiet evening - it's wonderful when almost everyone in T.O. is at the cottage. Here's what I have in store:
Also Randy Bachman at 7, the HBO drama about Lyndon Johnson at 8 and maybe a documentary about Peggy Guggenheim on TVO at 9. There is just too much to do in this world, or in this city specifically! Yet it doesn't overwhelm me, as it once did. I woke this morning to the dawn chorus of happy birds, the sweetest sound, so glad to be in my own bed. This is the first time since I got home from out west, 3 1/2 weeks ago, that life has settled back into order and normalcy. I'm not struggling to keep up, I'm feeling almost in control of the chaos. A welcome relief.

Happy Victoria Day weekend to you all. Hope you too are getting through the chaos. And may you too be swamped with too much to do.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

for your reading pleasure

And on the other hand, I saw this at Ryerson last week, the list of prize-winning students. Check out those names - not the names that would have been there 20 or 30 years ago. These are the people the idiot above is warning us against, those who have no truck with the American or Canadian dream, some fond, misty, rosy lie about what was. They're just forging the future. Go Bethlehem, Perfecto, Orsam, Madhu, Vickness, Anna, Mary, Johnson, Bryan and Shu!

Cabbagetown house for rent July 1-6

I am going to New York in July! My cousin Ted, who lives at 77th and 3rd, has always been extremely generous with his apartment, which has made regular visits to NYC, the city of my birth and my father's entire family, possible for me. But I have not been for a few years. This time, he said I could use his flat while he's in the country over the July 4th weekend, so I'm there from July 1 to 6. I'm going, most importantly, to see Cousin Lola, who's 94, exactly the age my father would have been if he were alive. And the exhibition on the Yiddish theatre at the Museum of the City of New York, featuring the noble bust of my great-grandfather. Otherwise - strolling, seeing theatre, trying not to think about the exchange rate on the dollar. It's all possible thanks to Ted's apartment.

My son is happy to live here at the house while I'm away, but I'm letting you, my bloggees, know I'll be away then in case you know someone who wants to come to Toronto around that time and would like a downtown place to stay. This is, as many of you know, quite a nice house and garden in a very nice location. Please let me know.

Also possible - a week or two in August. Again, please get in touch.

My ex went home yesterday, and I collapsed. What a lot of big personalities together in one small room, including the baby and Eli! And yet, no problem. It was a wonderful visit, and at the end, I was drained. Was going to do various cultural things and instead, when my handyman John offered a ride to Canadian Tire, I went with pleasure, buying solar lights, a new trowel - a new trowel! - and other exciting goodies.

And today, to a toy store with Wayson to buy Duplo for a certain four year-old dear to my heart. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, travel is in the air - all's right with the world.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

the famdamly

Great blessings, despite this crazy Sunday, with weather that ranged from hot sun to sleet to chilly rain to hail ... freezing! And then sun. Glad I didn't plant anything last weekend.

Yesterday, Eli's fourth birthday party, and miraculously, the horrible weather cleared just enough to let the kids play in Anna's yard. The many many kids - perhaps 12 or more, ranging from 8 months to 8 years. Insane - and if they'd had to be inside, impossible. But they rampaged on the slide and scooters in the yard while the adults, many of them, huddled inside. Anna of course had prepared vast quantities of food, Thomas barbecued, friends brought more food, the birthday cake was spectacular, the birthday boy had a very good time, and all was well. Grandpa and I, who got there at one p.m., and Uncle Sam, who came at 5, were all happy to escape at 7, leaving a giant mess for the hostess, who was fine with it all.

Today, a long slow morning with two of my favourite grown-up men, and then the family arrived and chaos ensued. Despite the weather, we walked to the Farm.
Lunch - all over the face, the high chair, and the floor
Sam's latest girlfriend whispers sweet nothings
 The boys
The beloveds. Sam was chasing the stroller which was rolling down the hill.

This afternoon - I thought of my friends Lynn and Denis in France, who play host to their many children and grandchildren in the summer, and much, much cooking is expected. This afternoon we were all here, and the TV went on - the Raptors were playing Game 7, the semi-finals, an important game. To some. "As if it matters," I scoffed, and Anna said, "Says my mother, who is one of the seven people who watches the Gillers!" The Canadian fiction awards. She's right.

True. They watched, we ordered Swiss Chalet take-out, they ate chicken and fries watching the game - an exciting game and the Raptors won! - while I bathed babies and played with them and saw the end of the game. It was not a French family gathering, it was a Canadian one; the food was not nearly as good, no question, but it was a hell of a lot less work. And the Raptors won!

Now Grandpa is off at Sam's bar with him for some drinks, Anna is at home putting her boys to bed, and I'm cleaning up and going to watch "Call the Midwife." "Come back to watch it with me," I told my son. "It's about midwifery in England in the Fifties."
"And what time is it over?" he asked.

I love them all so much, and the best thing is, we make each other laugh. A lot.

And for final good news, this was the headline of an article in the Guardian:

Books are back. Only the technodazzled thought they would go away.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Anne Lamott

Sitting here on a gloomy wet Saturday morning with a man I know well at my breakfast table, reading the paper, both of us in pajamas and slippers. He and I were married for ten years and have two children and two grandchildren, and the fact that we've been divorced since 1990 does not matter one bit any more to our friendship and love.

One of life's great victories. Truly.

Poor Anna has a big party this afternoon, at least 30 people including many small children, and it's dark and very wet. But if anyone can cope, it's my daughter, a born hostess. Ed and I are going to pick up the birthday cake and get over there early to see if we can help, but chances are, we will just watch her organize. That's what she does.

Last night I went to see the wonderful writer Anne Lamott, author of the highly recommended "Bird by Bird," giving the Henri Nouwen lecture. Because I worked, albeit briefly, at L'Arche, I know of Nouwen, a renowned Jesuit and intensely spiritual man who has written many books. So I guess I should not have been surprised that the evening was slanted quite so powerfully toward Christianity, God and Jesus. But it was slanted a bit too much for me.

Lamott was very funny and open and had some great lines. To writers, she said, "Trust me, there's not a single person in your family who will be glad you're writing a memoir." True!
Her mother was English. "There's a twelve step program," she said, "for the children of the English." Been there, done that, only for me it was called psychoanalysis.
"Get your books at an independent bookstore," she said,"you'll have a better seat in heaven." Yes!
Presbyterians - "God's frozen chosen."

She talked about radical self love - that a successful life requires radical self love, service and quiet. I liked that. Meditate, she said. "Learn to bear the stillness." "Trust and surrender." But still, she talked of filling "the god-shaped hole within." Presumably, her god-shaped hole is filled with God. I will just have to continue filling mine with dark chocolate, red wine and the love of family and friends. That seems to do me just fine.

Here are a few things for your edification: another grammar error, a misplaced modifier that's a headline in the Guardian on-line today - shame on you, Guardian. I didn't know Trump was an American muslim! What a turn around. Was he born in Kenya?

"As an American Muslim, Donald Trump doesn’t scare me."

Yesterday with Grampa, visiting the firehall with the drop-in kids. One of these boys is off-the-charts big, and the other is off-the-charts small. It'll be great - Ben will have a big BIG brother to protect him at school. Always thinking ahead, is Glamma.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Tony Kushner - an intelligent homosexual's guide...

A long slow spring - sunny but still chilly, especially at night. That's okay; we can wait. The city is beautiful with bloom, but my forsythia, which is usually spent by now, has yet to flower. 

Lungs better, nearly well, though not quite. But I'm back on my bicycle, a sure sign that strength is returning. What joy that I can get to U of T entirely on the safe, separated bike track along Wellesley. Thankful, too, for the new Bloor St. bike track, whenever it appears. Slowly the city becomes enlightened after the Ford years - aka the Dark Ages. 

On Monday night, a huge treat - I went to hear a talk by the superb playwright/screenwriter/all round genius Tony Kushner. Yes, I have an added bond with him because he was kind enough to write and send the blurb that's on the front and back of my Jewish Shakespeare book. But I'd be a huge admirer anyway after seeing his magnificent plays Caroline or Change, the Angels in America plays, the Intelligent Homosexual's Guide etc. 

It was a a stimulating, entertaining, thought-provoking evening with an extraordinary man, so honest, gracious and self-deprecating, extremely funny and knowledgeable. I learned a great deal about the theater, writing, playwriting, screenwriting. And once more, as I have so often, I fell in love with a brilliant artistic gay man. 

There was a controversy about the talk - a major Jewish group in Toronto urged a boycott because Kushner is a member of an organization urging peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis. He addressed the issue: growing up in the deep south, he said, if you ever challenged the orthodox view – that slaves liked being slaves, were treated well, everything was fine – you’d be met with vehement denial and rage. He realized that they knew they were spouting lies and so had to hold the edifice up with all their might, because the minute they allowed a hole to be poked in it, the whole thing might fall down.

That’s the way he feels about people who won’t brook discussion about Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians: they’re clinging to a fantasy version of Israel and can't bear to try to see the truth. Even in Israel, he said, there is ferocious discussion about these things, whereas in the States, and I guess in Canada too, he said, no discussion  is allowed. McCarthy-ite, he called it; I agree and so did the entire audience, which gave him a rousing ovation. 

He talked about the 8 year nervous breakdown white men have been having in the US because there’s a black president and he’s really good at his job and he’s STILL THERE! And he talked about the many incredible people he knows, including Spielberg and Sondheim. It was all riveting. Thank you, Koffler Centre for the Arts, for bringing him in and having the courage to stand by him all the way.

Tuesday, another thrill - my friend Curtis came back to hear the other half of my memoir manuscript. And he still likes it. This is what he said: "A masterful work of art, highly entertaining. A fascinating journey." I had to pay him a great deal for that. LOL. Now I have a ton of work to do - there's a huge structural problem, lots of rewrites, cuts etc. But I am heartened and full of cheer. There are flowers, there's a potential book, there is genius in the world. Onward. 

Speaking on onward, a tall young man is moving out into the world.
So big! This boy is THREE. For two more weeks. 

And one more thing - I was really disappointed to receive the Short Form Census. What wonderful geeks we Canadians be.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Happy Mother's (and Writer's) Day

Cup runneth over this morning. Sun shining though it's chilly. Lungs still hurt but whatever, as they say. Friend Shari is coming over soon for brunch. And on my computer this morning were these delicious gifts:

A writer friend who'd asked me to edit some pages of her manuscript did not respond after I sent them back to her. Finally, afraid I'd hurt her, I wrote to ask if my edits had not been helpful - I really wanted to know if I'd done something wrong. She just wrote, "Heavens Beth I'm so grateful for your comments -- and embarrassed that I didn't acknowledge them! Thank you so much for taking the time and trouble to think about the writing and give your feedback: it is so much appreciated! I will take everything you say to heart, you can count on that."

Okay, one less thing to worry about.

My friend Grace, a U of T student who helps me with social media and throwing stuff out, wrote to say she has time next Friday. YES! Friend and student Rita sent pictures of Beatles from China, where she's visiting right now. Others, including dear friend Gretchen, wrote sending good wishes to my sick self.

And then this - Curtis, who listened to half my manuscript yesterday, wrote:
It's a wonderful book, beautifully and eloquently written, with a fascinating story that draws the reader in and generates empathy, sympathy and emotion. It's got great humour in places too. I am pleased you feel my comments were helpful. I most certainly want to hear the rest of the story.

Now, I must remember he is an old friend and now also student. But still. Thank you, thank you. 

And finally, this greatest of gifts, sent with Mother's Day wishes:
I'm going over there this afternoon. My body may not be in perfect shape but my heart certainly is.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

it works

First, it's impossible to complain about anything these days, when Fort McMurray is first in our thoughts, the photos of the horrendous destruction growing more apocalyptic by the hour. How to rebuild an entire city and all its lives? I salute Alberta's socialist premier Rachel Notley, who inherited a nightmare - an oil-rich province reeling and broke from the drop in oil prices - and is growing stronger as the nightmare gets worse. She's spectacular. 

On the plus side, London has just elected Sadiq Khan, the Muslim son of a bus driver, as its mayor. I try to imagine my British grandparents, Percy and Marion Leadbeater, who lived in London, reading in the Times about Sadiq Khan. For them, my Jewish father from New York was the furthest reaches of exotic and difficult to understand and accept. But that was a long time ago. Thanks - yet again - to a non-Muslim man called Barack Obama, who certainly helped clear the way for this revolutionary election.

I've just had an amazing and exhausting day. On Thursday I asked my home students for volunteers; I wanted to read this memoir draft out loud, which I’ve never done before but thought it would be valuable, and wanted another pair of ears. My old friend and now student Curtis Barlow, once the Canadian cultural ambassador to England and head of various Canadian arts institutions, a supremely knowledgeable and sophisticated man, offered to come listen. When he arrived, I was breathless with terror. Today, from 11.45 till 5.15, he sat patiently listening to me read in my hoarse, barely getting over the flu voice. I only got halfway, but it was a fantastic experience; he had great insights about what he heard, and I heard, too, bits that I thought were weak or not. 

But mostly - he loved it. He loved the writing and the story and wants to hear the rest, he wants to know what happened to that young woman. Of course, he’s an artsy guy and a dear friend who knows many of the people in the tale, not the average Canadian reader - but then, I’m not writing for her, I guess. Perhaps all my writing is for people like Curtis Barlow.

Anyway, now my throat hurts and I need to not think for awhile. But it was thrilling, absorbing, reading intimate details of my past life aloud to a friend and fellow writer whom I respect, like and trust. Many more pages, the other half of the book to go - we're going to try to find time. But if not, I've already had a huge boost. And now have a long list of things to fix and rewrite. It ain't over yet, not by a long shot. But today, I know it's real and it works.

At least, for friends.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Nettie Wild won!

She won!! What wonderful news on this beautiful spring day. Nettie Wild's extraordinarily beautiful and powerful film, Koneline: our land beautiful, won the Best Canadian Feature Documentary award at Hot Docs tonight. Brava, Nettie. So well-deserved. I hope it will soon be in a cinema near you.

Hot Docs 2016 Festival Award Winners Announced

Hd16 Koneline Lrg
On Friday, May 6, at a reception hosted by Garvia Bailey, host of Good Morning Toronto! on Jazz.FM91, at the Isabel Bader Theatre, 12 awards were presented to Canadian and international filmmakers, including awards for Festival films in competition and those recognizing emerging and established filmmakers.
Best Canadian Feature Documentary Award
KONELĪNE: our land beautiful (D: Nettie Wild; P: Betsy Carson; Canada)
Sponsored by the Documentary Organization of Canada, the award includes a $10,000 cash prize courtesy of Hot Docs.

arguing about Trump and Bernie

Lungs! Yes, they're a bit battered and squishy, but they're there! Legs, arms, all are returning to life. Thrilling. I thank you god for most this amazing day. It's beautiful out there, and at last, I am able to appreciate it. I bought a big pot of flowers for the garden. Life stirs.

Yes, one of my neighbours has young adult children who are having a very loud party in the yard right now. But that's okay, I like hearing young people having a good time, even if the language is pretty blue - they only seem to know one word. Though the long battle over the power lines continued, on and on and on, today, scores of frantic emails zipping back and forth - issues are at last being resolved. Finally, I did what I should have done months ago and asked my neighbour to come in for a talk. She did. We talked. We discussed what was going on, we resolved the problems; adversaries at first, we parted as friends.


Bruce just sent me a clip of Trump talking about hairspray that made me want to throw up. A friend yesterday posted a joyful proclamation that the success of the outliers, the non-establishment rebels Trump and his own beloved Bernie Sanders is a triumph of democracy and the little people. This is what I wrote back:

I disagree with a great deal in your current post, but that’s what friends are for. I loathe Trump and everything he stands for and yes, it does upset me that you would use that word for Hillary. I think there is a great deal to Sanders, a whole other negative side, that his supporters are not admitting. 

I do not see the rise of Trump as a plus for democracy, I see it as a horrifying surge of disaffected, angry people who want more and better and don’t understand why they’re not getting it. We’ve been through this with Ford. They want to blame someone, anyone, immigrants, especially Muslims, and certainly and most of all government, that’s the culprit. Good sense, logic, truth, fact has no place in their discourse, only racism, sexism, misogyny, horrifying mindless torrents of abuse - including homophobia. Absolutely terrifying, reminiscent of Nazi Germany. I am amazed that you can see the positive side of it. Good for you. 

Further to the point, here's a terrific article for any of you who are still uncertain on the issue of Bernie versus Hillary. All our fates depend on American voters seeing sense. .

Called Auntie Do, now 96, who is taking her 32-year old Toyota to be serviced this week. She will be on the road soon. Ottawa, you have been warned.

The joy is that, with my health returning, I can care about the world again. And I do.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

A sign for Macca

Several people have asked what my sign in Vancouver actually said to Paul. It took me a long time to come up with the wording, many drafts. I tried things like "You saved my life in Paris. Story in my book," and "We met in Paris June 1965. I was in the blue dress. Remember?"

Lame. I'm a writer, I said to myself. Come on! How to entice him with only a few words on a bristol board sign?

It came to me at 4 a.m. one morning, and luckily, when I got up, I remembered and wrote it down. At the concert, I saw him read it. His face didn't change; he did not smile. He spoke in Japanese to the two women in kimonos sitting right next to me, screaming "Pauw! Pauw!" in very high voices. And that was that. I wondered if perhaps my wording reminded him too much of his age. Or perhaps the people in the Sgt. Pepper's costumes had already been chosen.

Oh well. My sign did not do its job, but I don't care - I had done mine.
I may deeply regret not getting a ticket to the Hamilton concert in July. But if I'd gone, there'd have been no sign. Just love.

Beth meets a nice guy with strangely big eyes

Writers, here's an example of how poor grammar can undercut a sentence full of important news: I just received an email from Cycle Toronto, a bike advocacy organization I belong to, that after years of hard work, they'd managed to get the city to approve the Bloor Street bike lane project. Great news. But this is what they wrote:

Today, after years of advocacy, Toronto City Council approved pilot bike lanes on Bloor St. The approval marks a key victory in the development of Toronto’s cycling network, bringing us closer to safe streets and a healthy city for all.  We expect the Bloor pilot lanes to be installed in late summer.

Because of a misplaced modifier, the sentence read as if Toronto City Council has put in years of advocacy. The clause at the beginning, about advocacy, is attached to the subject of the sentence, City Council. So Cycle Toronto, which has advocated non-stop for years, has just, in one sentence, handed credit for the victory to Council, which dragged its heels and did little to help until yesterday.

Grammar, people! Okay, I know, I sound like a little old lady with a ruler. Well sometimes I am.

And don't get me started on the Republican nominee for President of the United States, who can barely speak English. A whole new definition of the word 'loathsome', which I used to reserve exclusively for our former premier, Mike Harris. Mike, meet Don. Soulmates. If either of you has a soul. Which I doubt. 

I'm still in bed and crabby - as you can hear - but definitely, there's hope. I will get out soon and put one tentative toe into my daily life. Hooray. May even venture out - to Shopper's Drugs, my new favourite place on earth.

At Banff, a talented young photographer called David Whyte took head shots of some of the writers. Here's my favourite of me, with a cute guy I met there. Oh, why are all the good men taken or gay?

Perhaps you can't see, speaking of all the good men, but I'm wearing my fave Macca t-shirt. Sigh.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

fury today

Marginally better but not by much. Talked to my nice doctor - a flu virus, she said. Okay, got that.

More battles locally with neighbours who are determined to make the job of burying the hideous power lines that run through our backyards - especially prominent, if I may delicately point this out, in MY backyard - as difficult as possible. The work was delayed again today by someone fussing about damaging the roots of the enormous tree in her yard and killing it, as if Bell is in the habit of carelessly slicing through the roots of vast trees as it buries lines. Oops! There goes another one. Oh well, no problem, there's a tree over there, what do you need this one for?

I'm amazed the companies are putting up with all this hooha; it's not costing us homeowners a cent, and this is the second time work has been delayed. But there they were, six very nice Bell and Rogers people standing around my yard, still trying to make plans.

Next week, on the third try, the work will go ahead. If no other frantic objections appear. Don't hold your breath. Hell, as JP Sartre so wisely pointed out, is other people.

And then I went online to check the Ryerson website to try to figure out why the registration for my course is so low - it has not been this low for at least a decade. I entered Chang School spring 2016 to check the courses, scrolled down to "Writing" - and my course was not there. All the others were, but not mine. Eventually I saw why - my course is not listed with everyone else's under W for writing, it's under A for Autobiographical Writing. Why of course! If I were looking for a memoir writing course, naturally I would look under A.

Jesus. I had a few furious moments, and my lungs already hurt.

Nothing to be done, until it can be fixed next term. To be fair, if you access the site another way, all the writing courses are together under W - it's just this particular way that separates my class. I'm paranoid, after decades of fighting for the inclusion of non-fiction and specifically memoir at the big writer kids' table. There used to be a perception, and some still have it, that real writing is fiction and poetry; non-fiction is mere journalism and memoir is mewling self-indulgence. But the world has changed that, as memoir takes over the publishing industry. LObloodyL.

The class is very small, and it's wonderful; I love them all already and we'll have a great time. So moving right along, to the next freakout horror show which I can't bear to think about - and this one means the end of the world.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

birthday and Woodstock 2016

First class over - U of T,  a fabulous group. Now I can go to bed. I actually bought a thermometer on the way there and took my temperature. Normal. The druggist was coughing and said she'd had the same thing. So no, I am not dying of tuberculosis, nothing romantic like that.

Two joys: 1. It's my daughter's 35th birthday today. 35 years ago I became a mother. Thank you, powers that be, for that greatest of joys. This is what her brother posted on FB, of the two of them with Eli at a family wedding:
And then he wrote this: My ( Much) Older sister Anna turns one year older today. I don't know a stronger woman or better friend. I love you Anna I don't care what Lana says about you, you're great.

And here's Anna's birthday party, at the playground - where else? - with Lana, her best friend, beside her, and a child or two, some of whom might be hers: 
Lani wrote: Lani Ashenhurst Lookit your team! Thanks for making this world more wonderful for 33 years (there were a couple of years there when you were driving your mother nuts so we have to subtract them from your age). I love and admire you.

Yes it's true, and more than a couple. But let's not go there, days long gone. Happy Birthday, my beloved daughter. Sorry I couldn't be there.

And 2. - oh my. It's called Desert Trip. Too bad I'm too old for this and it's on the other side of the continent and in the fall when I'm working. Can you IMAGINE? What a gathering! Historic.

kind notes

That does it, I've left a message for my doctor. It's such a lovely day, and I'm in bed. Something must be done - maybe this is more than flu. Of course, whenever I finally call the doctor, by the time I see her I'm well again. Usually. So let's hope this happens now. I teach tonight and realize this is not like having to go onstage when ill; I can just explain that I am not quite my bouncy self and do my best, can't do that when in a show. As always, adrenaline will carry me through tonight and tomorrow and Thursday night too.

In the meantime, I'm busy editing five So True essays and my memoir before getting it printed for the first time, exciting. And people are cheering me up with lovely notes about past work. This from a former student:
Just finished All My Loving. What a lovely, fun read! It took me back to my own Beatlemania days and to the experience of being fourteen. The way one's emotional life can be based almost completely on fantasy (maybe not just at fourteen). Many thanks!
"Lovely fun read" sounds great to me, thank you! And this from an old friend in Ottawa about my very first book, a compilation of essays from CBC radio and Facts and Arguments in the Globe, hence the title:
I recently picked up my signed copy of Back Page Stories which you gave me years ago. Now that spring has arrived and I wake up earlier and earlier, I wanted you to know that re-reading one short piece a day is as much a springtime ritual as opening the back door and listening to the peepers and chickadees before sunrise. Your writing is still very moving, given that we all have similar heart-warming experiences in our lives, and your social commentary is as relevant today as it was then. I've now discovered your blog and a few more good reads, I'm sure.  
I hope so too - that more good reads are in store, as soon as I stop whining about my lungs. Spring is definitely here, and I want to roll in the grass like a happy dog. Soon.