Monday, February 27, 2017

So True and Oscars: good!

I gather it went well, our tenth So True. This is what two audience members have emailed so far:
You asked me to report back to you if I saw anything negative. Well, here's the thing:
I saw that each reader was wonderful and each one very different from the other. And they told their stories simply yet with deep feeling and took us the audience with them. So my negative comment is: Stop doing things so well! Couldn't you have had at least one piker in the bunch?! 
Terry had been telling me how wonderful these So True readings were and she was right.
What a treat yesterday!  Not  knowing what to expect from the reading, I felt a little nervous bringing along my husband and two friends. My apprehension  was quickly dissipated after the very first reading. The laughter and applause from my little group were loud and enthusiastic. Afterwards, they said they were looking forward to attend again. They were impressed with the quality of the writing and the diversity of subject matter. All of us also found the venue to be nicely intimate and friendly considering the sizable attendance.
What a nice way to spend  a Sunday afternoon. Congratulations.

Here we are, in all our glory, yesterday's team, me as usual struggling to smile:
Wayson drove me home; we had dinner and then watched the Oscars, at least, till about 10.45, when he went home and I went to bed. I thought Jimmy Kimmel was great, relaxed and sharp; all I wanted was anti-Trump zingers and I thought he provided some good ones, especially getting a standing ovation for Meryl Streep, that "overrated actress;" as Kimmel said, she's been phoning it in for decades. There was the usual stupid stuff, but, at least as far as I watched, enough serious stuff, and plenty of winners and presenters of colour, that it actually felt relevant.

What they need to do, first, is GET PEOPLE TO STOP HUGGING. The ceremony would be an hour shorter if they told winners to get the @#$#@ out of their seats and onto the stage without slobbering all over each other first.

And second, they need to instruct actresses to wear burlap sacks, so we can focus on their work and not on their dresses. Men wearing black suits and women dressed up as wedding cakes and large pouffy flowers, it's just not fair. But otherwise, it felt more meaningful this year than other years. And the best thing was going to bed at 10.45. Because I really didn't care who won.

Hot sun today. I'm sitting at my desk with my chest in the sun, still hoping to dry out the lungs. Getting there.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

So True this afternoon

Sunday, snow falling gently, a few puffs. My lungs only a little sore. We're getting there, spring and I. Just a bit slow.

Thursday, I was invited by my friend George Hume to a Beatles event at the venerable Arts and Letters Club, to which the Group of Seven belonged - it's surreal, stepping from the neon madness of Yonge Street into this hallowed sanctuary of art with its vaulted cathedral ceiling and storied pedigree. After drinks - accompanied by every Beatle song played on the piano - and a delicious dinner - I had two big glasses of wine! Health and excess return! - Piers Hemmingsen spoke about the Beatles in Canada and the legendary rock photographer John Rowlands showed his work; he started his career at the age of 17, photographing the Beatles at Maple Leaf Gardens, though he met Brenda Lee when he was 13 and she 15. Lots of fun. Thank you, George!

On Friday night, Eli came for a sleepover. For his Christmas present, I had given him a ticket to Paw Patrol Live at the Sony Centre, which we went to Saturday morning. Paw Patrol is a dreadful TV show that he and a zillion children love - the place was packed. What horrified me were the stacks of merch, as they call it, for sale - toys, clothes, useless plastic stuff. Parents who'd already paid good money for the tickets were lining up to buy this @#$#. I was proud of Eli - every child around us was clutching something, some of them multiple things, and he said plaintively, several times, "Glamma, I'd like a toy too." And I said, "I know you would, Eli," and that was that. And though the kids around us waved their sparkly new things and their capes and t-shirts and stuffed animals, he didn't bring it up again. I was proud of him.
Actors encased in animal bodies - it was actually quite clever with singing and dancing. As for plot or writing ... feh.

We met Chase and Skye after. Eli didn't want to, and signalled that to me in his subtle way, with the forbidden middle finger. Cheeky. Then we went to Riverdale Farm. So we know he's 20 paws or 11 hands tall.
When we have sleepovers, in the morning when he wakes, he comes into my room and gets into bed with me for a bit, and we talk. So at 7 a.m., there was a bright, chatty, very young man in my bed. Glamma, he said. I looked out my window and saw the hawk! He was chasing a pigeon. And the long story went on. His curtains were closed, so it was all imagination. A writer. I knew it.

This afternoon - speaking of born writers - our tenth So True. The writers are coming here first for a last reading, edit and rehearsal, and then off to our show. Show biz and writing, together at last.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

women's English conversation circle

I spent my morning talking to Nurun, Foyzun, Yung, Fahmidi, Seema, Touria and others, at the first Regent Park English Conversation Group - nine women, six from Bangladesh, one each from Casablanca, Eritrea and Hong Kong. One brought two small children and her mother with her, her mum who speaks no English at all. The point of the group is to give immigrant women a chance to chat in English with native English speakers, that's all, and every so often, to give them a gentle grammar correction and/or to try to help with things they might need to know. Margot, who came to help me, suggested to them that they watch children's television shows with described audio, which I think is a great idea.

We were getting to know each other not just through language but as women - talking about our children and grandchildren, our work, our lives. We laughed about winter, how desolate they find it, and they talked about how hard it was to leave family behind, though many of them, it seems, now have most family here with them. They were almost all in hijab, two in full niqab face veils which they removed in the room because we are women only, and have immense dignity and humour. One said she has already started digging her garden and will soon plant coriander and mustard seeds. I am going to learn a lot. They asked where I lived and were interested in how much my house is now worth. Very savvy.

If this works, I hope to create a template we can send across the city and the country, so that other English speakers can link with community centres and do the same thing. All it takes is a few of us who speak slowly and clearly and want to make a difference. I'm proud this idea of mine is taking shape! It's a good to feel that one's creative efforts might provide a pinprick of light during these dark days of our planet.

Believe it or not, my lungs still hurt and my energy is still low. Hard to comprehend. I went to the Y and could do very little. It makes me realize how much energy it takes to live life - I've let things go around here, have barely kept up with watering the plants, just don't have the energy. But I'm still alive, the house is running, the lungs are improving slowly. Several people at the Y told me the only cure for the winter sicknesses - Jamaica, Barbados, Cuba. Get into the hot sun. If only.

One interesting thing for me is - wine. I've hardly had a drink for more than two weeks - wine just tastes terrible and that's all I drink. I thought maybe that's because I drink such cheap wine, and yesterday I opened a good bottle. Better, definitely, but still, only one glass when I usually drink 2 or 3. I'm not complaining. It does amaze me, though, that a habit I've had for decades can be broken in two weeks. Mind you, when my lungs and tastebuds return, I'm pretty sure my wine habit will too. Maybe not quite as much, though, which would be good.

Drinking a little glass right now. Another mild lovely day, though misty. The weather is a gift. Making new friends from far far away is too.

Monday, February 20, 2017

So True: Sunday Feb. 26

It's our tenth, so a "Special Hits" show, with our favourite regulars returning with their best stories, reworked and re-rehearsed. Hope to see you there.

Women's English Conversation Circle

Seinfeld and my two Beatles

Gorgeous record-breaking weather, heaven - sun, mild winds, snow almost gone - it's beautiful out there, not like Toronto in February at all. This may be - undoubtedly is - global warming, but it's hard to complain. We needed this. Especially my dear daughter needed this on a long weekend with her two boys - she can just push them outside, without a giant bundle of clothing. They were over yesterday for a visit, and I was reminded, again, how much energy they take. I'm recovering still, quite feeble with sore lungs, and wasn't my perky Glamma self. But it was joy to see them, even as they destroyed my house. We went to the nearby playground and sat in the sun for an hour while they bounced.

The night before, Seinfeld with my tall son. Many laughs - the man is very skilled at his job. A bit of it was fairly ordinary comic riffing - on doughnut holes, for example - but some was genuinely brilliant existential stuff - one long bit about how human beings are never satisfied, always wanting to be somewhere else, how we'd all ended up in the audience and how quickly we'd want to leave. He was funny and dark about his 17-year marriage, but, as Sam said, "He's a New Yorker, Jewish and a comedian, of course he's dark about marriage." "I married at 45, married late. I had issues. They were great issues. I enjoyed my issues."
"You unmarried guys are just playing Whiffleball," he said. "I'm in Afghanistan with serious weapons."

Afterward I quickly took a cab home, just as Seinfeld had predicted, but my son met all the friends he'd connected with on his phone who were there too, and they went to C'est What and had a grand night of it, playing Whiffleball. As they so often do.

This week the English conversation group I'm hoping to get going at the CRC in Regent Park starts, and on Sunday, it's our tenth So True. On Thursday, a Beatles event at the Arts and Letters Club, and on Saturday morning, I'm seeing Paw Patrol Live with Eli. Paw Patrol Live! My thrilling life resumes. In the meantime, my friend Stella, who is my writer's group, came over last night, and we read each other pages of work. I was nearly ready to give up - MY BEGINNING IS STILL NOT WORKING. But it will. But it will. But it will. Sigh.

Sheer joy: apparently yesterday, Ringo was recording and asked Paul to come play drums on one track, and then Paul offered to sing harmony on another. Oh my beloved boys.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Stuart McLean, a minority view

Stuart McLean. A born storyteller, a man who loved and did honour to his country and its people. About ten years ago, I was in Florida visiting my snowbird mother and aunt. So dull, nothing to do in the evenings, when I saw an ad in the local paper - Stuart McLean and his show would be performing nearby a few days hence. Off we went to a huge auditorium in Bradenton packed with pale-faced elderly Canadians, overjoyed to be assembled in all their Canadian-ness on a mild January night. It was a lovely show, warm, hilarious, with music by Dan Hill. Mum and Auntie Do were thrilled. It could not have been a better event for them.

I loved that Stuart McLean was doing what he was doing with stories. But though I respected him hugely, I have to say that I did not, could not listen to his show the Vinyl Café. In fact, I leapt for the radio to turn it off when it started. It was the voice - that singsong delivery, the almost preachery cadence, what felt to me like a forced folksiness - I couldn't take it. I've listened with the greatest admiration to the outpouring of love and grief, as everyone in the country, it seems, remembers him fondly. He meant a great deal to a great many people. So it pains me to say that though there's no question he was a lovely man and a great, great asset to this country, I could not listen to his show on the radio. In person, as I found out in Florida, no problem at all, and of course his work with Peter Gzowski was fabulous. The cricket - the best radio ever.

I was at a writers' party once, lots of artsy folks, wonderful music, lots going on including dancing. Stuart was there alone, his lanky body folded into a chair. At one point he was watching the dancing and so was I, and the music was so fabulous, I threw caution to the winds and went over to him. "Do you want to dance?" I asked. He looked at me with absolute horror. "Oh my God no!" he said.

I guess he was a man who did his dancing with words. Millions will miss you, Stuart. Thank you for keeping storytelling front and centre on the radio and on stage in this country, and that one too. Bravo.

May all storytellers be so lauded by their listeners.

PS I Googled Stuart to find out about his family life and found to my amazement that he was married for years and then divorced, and has two biological sons and an adopted son from his wife's first marriage. Isn't it bizarre that there doesn't seem to be a single photo of Stuart with his sons - or even with one of them? None of the three has been interviewed, at least so far, for a single article about their father. What happened?

the miraculous pneumonia diet

Today the sun is shining, and tomorrow will be a balmy 11 degrees. Life returns. I went to a class at the Y! Just a bit of one, mostly to see my friends and thank them for the Get Well card they sent, signed, with personal get well messages, by a whole bunch of people including some I don't even know. How sweet is that? They're the nicest people in the world. It was very good to be back. When did I, who hated gym class at school and didn't do a single sport, turn into a gym rat? When I started making friends there. The only reason.

But I knew if I actually exerted myself I'd get sick again; my lungs still hurt. So I just dabbled and went home. Am now not in bed but in my office, swaddled in blankets but upright. How did this happen? My friend Terry wrote to ask. I'm older than you are, she said, I'm sure I don't eat as well and am not as fit, yet I don't get sick nearly as often. Why is that? Very, very good question, Terry, I'd like to know the answer too. I will ask my doctor next time I see her. Right now, I'm grateful just to be sitting in a chair. Thank you, lord.

Incidentally, I found out on the scales at the Y that over the past week and a bit, I lost about four pounds. Try the amazing pneumonia diet! It removes your appetite and stops you drinking wine, hence miraculous weight loss. I tried a wee glass of merlot last night, but it still tastes terrible. Hope I get over that soon. Enough with the detox.

Last weekend, I missed a play I'd bought a ticket for at Canadian Stage - no one wanted my seat and I couldn't go. But I can't miss tomorrow night's event. I gave my son two tickets to Seinfeld for Christmas - and he's taking me!

No mention, notice, of the giant orange blowhole or his press conference yesterday, terrifying in its insanity. No, I will not bring it up.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

the best analysis of El Trumpo yet

To the Editor:
Fevered media speculation about Donald Trump’s psychological motivations and psychiatric diagnosis has recently encouraged mental health professionals to disregard the usual ethical constraints against diagnosing public figures at a distance. They have sponsored several petitions and a Feb. 14 letter to The New York Times suggesting that Mr. Trump is incapable, on psychiatric grounds, of serving as president.
Most amateur diagnosticians have mislabeled President Trump with the diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder. I wrote the criteria that define this disorder, and Mr. Trump doesn’t meet them. He may be a world-class narcissist, but this doesn’t make him mentally ill, because he does not suffer from the distress and impairment required to diagnose mental disorder.
Mr. Trump causes severe distress rather than experiencing it and has been richly rewarded, rather than punished, for his grandiosity, self-absorption and lack of empathy. It is a stigmatizing insult to the mentally ill (who are mostly well behaved and well meaning) to be lumped with Mr. Trump (who is neither).
Bad behavior is rarely a sign of mental illness, and the mentally ill behave badly only rarely. Psychiatric name-calling is a misguided way of countering Mr. Trump’s attack on democracy. He can, and should, be appropriately denounced for his ignorance, incompetence, impulsivity and pursuit of dictatorial powers.
His psychological motivations are too obvious to be interesting, and analyzing them will not halt his headlong power grab. The antidote to a dystopic Trumpean dark age is political, not psychological.
Coronado, Calif.
The writer, professor emeritus of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University Medical College, was chairman of the task force that wrote the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV (D.S.M.-IV).

absorbing Yuval Harari and Dani Shapiro

Normally I'd be heading to the Y for my usual Wednesday class. Today, however, not so much. Still in bed, though better. Just checked "pneumonia timeline" with Dr. Google - I've been sick for 11 days, for God's sake! But I'm getting there, that's the best I can do.

So I get to lie here and read about the scandals, the latest unbelievable, mind-blowing excesses by El T. and his team of scamsters, liars and crooks. Apparently the right-wing press are spinning the Flynn debacle by saying the problem is leaks coming from the White House. Yes, that's the problem, leaks targeting those innocents. I watched a replay of John Oliver's Sunday show last night. Beyond brilliant. Watching comedians these days is like watching hungry lions feasting on a fat gazelle. Meat, red meat keeps presenting itself, and they are taking full advantage.

I finished a beautiful book yesterday - "Still Writing: the perils and pleasures of a writing life," by Dani Shapiro, which I got out of the library just before I got sick, along with her memoir "Devotion." I didn't know her work at all but had read somewhere she was worth checking out. Wow! She's wonderful. Her book about writing is inspirational, vivid, funny and extremely moving. Then I started the memoir and saw there's a photograph of her at the back. For a moment, I hated her - how could she be a great writer, apparently happily married with a child, and also very pretty? Is that fair?!

"To write is to have an on-going dialogue with your own pain," she writes. "The mess is holy. What we inherit – and how we come to understand what we inherit – is all we have to work with. There is beauty in what is. Every day, when I sit down to work, I travel to that place. Not because I’m a masochist. Not because I live in the past. But because my words are my pickaxe, and with them I chip away at the rough surface of whatever it is I still need to know."

Been there. Done that.

Monday night, when I got in from Ryerson, I wanted to go straight to bed but CBC's "Ideas" was on the radio in the kitchen, and I got so hooked, I had to sit down and listen till the end. Israeli historian and author Yuval Harari was being interviewed about his new book "Homo Deus." I urge you to listen to this brilliant man and his theses, which made me look up "algorithms," a word I'd often heard but never really bothered to understand. There's nothing better than radio like that - like Eleanor Wachtel's "Writers and Company" too, where you sit in your kitchen and meet the most brilliant minds in the world.

Especially needed for those of us who aren't going anywhere, just yet.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Sam's soup

Still in bed, but tonight I will get up and dressed and go to teach my class - because the show must go on. It'll be fine - I know as soon as I'm there, all my instincts will kick in. I look forward to rejoining the human race. And then I'll go immediately back to bed for another day or two.

This is a long slow nasty bug, mon dieu, the worst I've had in years. Nothing to do but get through it.

Silver lining department: my son. He came over to take care of me - also, yes, to watch my large flat-screen cable TV, he loves that, but he also loves his mama. He shopped, brought me tea, helped me change my sheets - and most of all, yesterday, he made French onion soup. It required a huge number of onions slowly, very slowly sautéing in my biggest pan while garlic roasted in the toaster oven - the house smelled like a French restaurant. And then - how does he do it? It took a long time and involved some Port I had in my liquor cabinet, probably from my uncle who died in 1997. Finally, hours later, he brought me a steaming bowl with Swiss cheese melted on top.

One of the best things I've ever tasted. Sublime - layers of rich flavour and soft, sweet onions, sheer love in a bowl. He also made enough to share with Carol my tenant, with John our handyman, two jars for his sister across town, and some for him too. And still, a few more bowls for me in the fridge. I just had some. Strength flows in my veins.

He told me about a time awhile ago when he went to the House on Parliament, a restaurant a block from here where he knows the manager, and had such a great time that after his meal, he went straight to a local place known for its wood oven pizza, ordered two large pizzas, and brought them back to the HOP as a treat for the staff. My son makes very, very good soup and is a kind man. He makes me proud. Not to mention that he's responsible for my 15 seconds of fame: 140 of his friends and mine have now liked his video on FB of me dancing in the kitchen, and apparently there are the same number on Instagram. Not bad for an old bird whose lungs are also like Swiss cheese.

Unfortunately, I awoke thinking not about soup but about Trump. And what I thought was, Meryl had it right. All the articles, the analyses, the frantic exposés on TV and FB - not needed. All we need to know is that he's a man who makes fun of the handicapped. He made fun of John McCain for being a POW. He is a cruel, heedless man without a single redeeming characteristic, and he has hired men just like him to run the most powerful country on earth.

Terror flows in my veins. Time for a nap.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

relapse and fame

Because I am a stupid person, yesterday I did exactly what everyone who knows me told me not to do: I pushed myself way too hard on my first day of feeling better, and today I feel much worse. So. Lesson learned. Don't say you can't teach an old dog etc. This old dog is mighty sorry and back in bed. Which because there's a snowstorm today is a very good place to be.

Should not have stayed up to watch SNL, but it's so much fun with Sam. But in any case, only lasted half an hour. Finally, it's not funny any more. The whole thing - we are laughing because we have to laugh and because brilliant comics are on the job, but these horrible people and situations they're satirizing are so not funny that it hurts.

I had a brief moment of sheer joy yesterday evening - Randy Bachman's Vinyl Tap on CBC radio was about, be still my beating heart, the Two Pauls: McCartney and Simon. Does it get better than that? He played greatest hits from them both - yes, more from Simon, and incomprehensibly he ended with the dirge-like Mull of Kintyre, but before that, I had a great time, could not stop dancing with headphones on. Which is what my son saw when he walked into the house - his mother dancing, in silence, with headphones, in the kitchen. So he filmed it and my reaction when I realized he was there filming - yes, there was an expletive - and posted it (with my permission) on FB.

So far, 100 people have liked it. I am in my schlubbiest old clothes and slippers, with pneumonia, for my great moment of internet fame.

Oh, and congratulations to my colleague, writer Glenn Dixon, one of the head honchos of the Creative Non-fiction Collective of which I'm a member. His new memoir "Juliet's Answer," besides getting great reviews, was featured on the FRONT PAGE of the Star today as a tie-in to Valentine's Day. Most writers can only dream of such attention. Way to go, Glenn! See you at this year's conference in Vancouver at the beginning of May.

May. What means this word? She said, looking out the window at the falling snow.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

FB forever

Melania's diary, and Piers Morgan makes a tiny bit of sense

Slow recovery continues. I went to the Y! Could not wait to immerse my body in steam, get clean, wash my hair. It was heaven - the hot tub, the steam room, the sauna. I am now scrubbed and drained.
And speaking of drains, John came back and we have hot water in the kitchen! Such a snazzy new high-neck faucet.

I have to say, I am proud of the fact that I kept going through sick. I organized my class, edited their pieces, edited two massive sections for the student writing a book, continued work on my own memoir. My computer never left me; what a friend it is to the invalid. And I didn't even remember I had Netflix.

Sam and I watched Bill Maher last night. Piers Morgan was on, representing El Trumpo and the right wing, but actually - a few of the things he said made sense. He said people are getting hysterically negative, angry and fraught about absolutely everything, which will not help, and I think that's right. I know there is more than enough to be angry and fraught about, for sure, but for example, I was sorry to read that Betsy DeVos had been prevented from visiting her first public school. That's now her job, she knows she is very unpopular, let her get on with it and let's start to shriek if - when - she does something horrible. But we can't protest everything all the time. If this goes on, America will be so damaged and divided, it will be as if another Civil War has taken place and left a rift that can never be repaired. Maybe that has already happened.

However - we can still laugh. We must laugh. And here, to give you a great Saturday laugh, is Melania's diary from the inauguration, thanks to Paul Rudnick at the New Yorker.

Sam is coming straight from work later to watch "Saturday Night Live". We can't wait.

Friday, February 10, 2017

I accidentally bought a giant pig

Getting better, thank you. Coughing up bits of my lungs, but otherwise, life is returning. Praise the lord and pass the antibiotics.

There's a snowstorm, and John my handyman friend is here because the kitchen sink - of course - started leaking all over the floor. Everything AND the kitchen sink goes wrong here. My first excursion out of the house in days, except for the trip to the doctor, was to Home Hardware in John's van, to look at faucets. Now that's exciting.

So I have nothing to say except I'm out of bed, and this is a time of utter hideousness and political gloom. Each apocalyptic NYT article more heartfelt than the last, but terrifying. I may have to stop reading and go to bed. Oh wait. Been there, done that.

So here is something to truly cheer you up. This photo is worth its weight in gold.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

mmmm medicine

Bliss. Bliss bliss bliss. Back in bed, my son downstairs making tea, and in my sore belly, two yellow antibiotic pills. The nurse practitioner - god bless those women - said yes, it's pneumonia. I feel so much better already - a diagnosis, medicine, a very tall young man at my beck and call. Well, he's not terribly beck-and-call'ish, but he tries. He says he'll make me macaroni and cheese. As a kid, when I was getting better from being sick, my mama made her homemade macaroni and cheese and it was the best thing ever.

On the not so blissful side, there's a rumour that Sarah Palin will be the U.S. Ambassador to Canada. The thrills continue. The laughs roll in.
Dear Mr. Trump: Rather than appoint Sarah Palin as ambassador to Canada, please bomb us. Signed, all intelligent life in Canada. 

a little white whine

As I dragged myself from bed this morning - expecting at last to be better, and definitely not better - I thought, maybe this isn't flu. Maybe it's bronchitis or pneumonia, to which I'm susceptible. Because this is five days of feeling like shit. Enough is enough. So - I have to get dressed and across town, which will be a major achievement, to see my doctor this afternoon. Yay.

If you'll permit me a little whine ... you know that I love my single life, never having to check in with anyone, my own boss, my own timetable and decisions. All of it, pure freedom, me and Mary Tyler Moore, happy busy singletons in the big city, tossing our hats into the air. But there's a price, and that price is right now. What I wouldn't give to hear a kind voice say, "You know, sweetheart, you've been sick for days, maybe it's more than the flu..." As my friend Chris writes in his blog, it's hard to be sick when you're single. And I'm lucky - my son is coming today to make soup, my daughter would come in a flash, my neighbours are wonderfully supportive - Gretchen just emailed a file of her playing a piano piece for me! I mean, does it get nicer than that? Jean-Marc delivered the NYT, Ruth just sent an e-card, Carol my tenant has been patiently making tea and getting groceries. I am surrounded with loving support and have NOTHING to complain about. I am not complaining.

I'm just saying that this morning, hearing a voice say, "Sweetheart, you still don't look so good. Why don't you call the doctor?" would have been nice.

And I know, even in longterm marriages, there's no guarantee your partner would be caring or cognizant or thoughtful. Or even THERE. I just feel like whining, so you know I'm not always perky. I am not always perky. Anyway, no problem, I said the words to myself, with slightly less affection, maybe, but with the same result: doctor's appointment.

On the plus side, in our world of wonder, there are comedians. Marvellous comedians saving the day - thank god for them. I watched Sam Bee last night, with a stunning piece about Trump's foray into Scotland; you can imagine what the Scottish have to say about him and what delicious words they use to say it. I saw a picture on FB of Alec Baldwin's latest incarnation of Trump and laughed out loud.
The world is insane, but luckily there are brilliant, generous men and women who catch the insanity in their ideas and words and reflect it back to us with humour, so that we can laugh.

So that we can bear it.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Here comes the sun

I try to imagine what it must be like for people who don't have the privileged life I do, as a self-employed person with flexible hours. When they're sick, like this, what happens? They must do their best to get to work, aching bones and all, or else they lose pay. And then they get sicker. I'm in bed for the third day in a row, still not well though marginally better each day, but this bug is a tank, a giant tanker that smashed into my body and head, taking away energy, appetite, sleep. How lucky that I do not have to get up and do anything. I can work from bed. My mortgage is paid.

But I want it to be over; the house, my life, everything is falling apart. This is enough. I'm speaking sternly to my body, but the Thing is taking its bloody time to depart. I'm even not interested in food or wine, that's how bad it is. That's how you know Kaplan is REALLY sick, if she doesn't care one bit about meals or drink, except lemon-honey tea for the cough.

And in the meantime, the news is so dire, so mind-blowingly horrendous, that I wonder if perhaps we should all just stay in bed for the next four years, or at least until he and his people go away forever. How will this end - in nuclear war? In global economic meltdown? In the kind of authoritarian dystopia painted by George Orwell and Margaret Atwood? Terrifying. Definitely not helping this small person get over the flu.

BUT - there's Elizabeth Warren, battling like Joan of Arc. There's Bernie, there are great American thinkers and journalists rising to the occasion - Robert Reich, Bill Moyers, Dan Rather, bravo, gentlemen. I just watched two of my favourite men on earth, John Oliver and Stephen Colbert, together, on the case. Oliver's show returns Sunday night, be still my beating heart. These superb human beings are the voice of sanity in a time of sheer criminal lunacy. When you think of what needs to be done in the world, and the time, energy and money wasted hurtling backwards into hell because of that hideous human being, it hurts, it hurts, it hurts.

I am actually sitting up as I type this, in my ratty bathrobe, swaddled in blankets and shawls, but in my office where the sun is struggling to shine through the clouds. And where there's even a trace of sun, there's hope. There's life.


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

So True changed back again!

I have just heard from an abjectly apologetic Ralph who runs the Social Capital, the second floor of the Black Swan where we hold our So True reading series. Last week he was told by the bar owners on the ground floor that a band would be playing on Sunday Feb. 26, the afternoon of our show, so we would have to change to the following week. So we did, not without hassle - all the readers shifted and confirmed, and I had a new poster made.

And now Ralph has been informed that the band has changed its mind and will perform on the Sunday in March. Our original Sunday Feb. 26 date is now open again. I'm waiting to hear from all our readers, but it looks as if we're going back to that original date. Ralph is very very sorry, and I am very very sorry. The only people not sorry are the band and the bar downstairs which hires them, thoughtless and mean-spirited, the Donald Trumps of the Danforth.

Back to the original date, as far as I know: Sunday Feb. 26, doors open at 4, show at 4.30. The stories are breathtaking. If you can actually get there and we can actually perform.

I'm better, almost human, but definitely not perky. Still in bed, coughing and working. Oh the miracles of modern technology - I've spent the whole day editing the essays students sent last night and then a long edit of a former student who's writing a book with me - oh, and also reducing my inbox from 78 to 29, mostly by deleting stuff "I might get to someday", though sometimes by moving an article into another file where it will fester forever, like the black bananas my mother refused to throw out. Or at least until the next time I'm stuck in bed for days and have time to get to all that online reading.

It's a hideous day, bleak, sleet, and I'm in my command central, propped up on pillows - Colette, anyone? - with phone, iPhone, computer, daytimer, books, papers ... and a very numb bottom. Coughing and working. Usually I teach on Tuesday afternoons. Thank you god for cancelling my U of T class this term.

My daughter who yesterday was sicker than I is so much better today that she took her toddler to the drop-in and both her kids to Eli's after-school hockey, in the sleet. I salute her. Magnificent. That's the difference between 35 and 66.

P.S. Just read about Betsy De Vos, just elected to be an Education Secretary who hates public education, with Scott Pruitt, openly supported by Big Oil, nominated to be head of the EPA who hates the EPA, coming next. It's so profoundly depressing and terrifying, on this dark day, to feel our neighbours hurtling backwards to the Dark Ages. Who's next? What if the foul Kevin what's his name, our version of Trumpo, becomes head of the Conservatives here and stirs up the same vicious racism and xenophobia to get elected? What is happening to our world?

I may be sick but I need a little glass of wine. Or a lot of chocolate. Or both.

PPS. Keep up, will you? As the Trump turns ... Now there's this. Never too dark for a little sunshine.
Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft file opposition to Trump's travel ban

Monday, February 6, 2017

memory of Cruel Tears

My class is happening right now - those who are there are conducting it themselves, and others have already sent me their essays. What a terrific bunch! And I am in bed, where I have spent the whole day, mostly unmoving with my eyes closed. I can't eat. This is the worst bug in years; Anna has it too, and we both got the flu shot!

But as I lie here aching from head to foot, I am deeply deeply grateful, because this brings back a particularly painful memory. In 1977 or 78 I was part of a cross-Canada tour of the musical Cruel Tears, a country-western version of Othello. Yes. We spent months getting from Vancouver to Toronto via many communities big and small. In Toronto, finally, it was winter. We were appearing at the Bathurst St. Theatre, the drafty old church, and one day, I got sick. Really really sick, like this sick, aching, head throbbing, stomach heaving. Only there were shows to do, and no understudies, no option to say no thank you, I'll just stay in bed. It was a musical; I had to sing and dance with high energy, while I thought I was going to die. Several of us were sick; they put a mattress backstage so we could lie down, and I'd lie there, shivering, until it was time to go out on stage and sparkle.

One big reason I am glad that's not what I do any more.Thank you to my students, who have taken over for tonight, so Teach can recover. That can't happen soon enough.

sick as a dog

I don't know why they say "sick as a dog" - do dogs get sicker than other creatures? But that's what I am. It's a big bad flu that has my body and head aching, even my eyeballs hurt, my stomach queasy though I'm hungry. I had hoped to be well enough to teach my course tonight, though I wrote to the students last night to warn them that I was ill and suggest, if I couldn't make it, they meet anyway.

They're so fabulous - that's just what they're going to do, read their stories to each other and then email them to me for further comment. What a relief I don't have to drag myself out into the cold - the first time in 23 years of teaching that I won't make it to a scheduled class. Carol is now going to go to Daniel and Daniel to try to find some bland foods I can digest, and dear Jean-Marc has just brought me the NYT and suggested I avoid the articles about El Trumpo. But, I said, that means there'll be nothing in the paper at all!

My daughter is even sicker, and she has two little kids - so much worse, poor soul. There must have been some hideous bug at the AGO! The worst was last night - I took a Tylenol Cold Nighttime AND one of my precious emergency sleeping pills, and it was as if I'd drunk two cups of coffee, my whole system speeding all through the night. In the morning I brought a cup of tea to bed and spilled it all over the comforter.

Oh, my friend the well-known writer wrote back nice things about the piece I sent her about 1967, the Summer of Love, but had no idea about where to place it. When my brain and body return, I'll get back on the case.

I always say that periodically, we all need to crash. Here's to crashing. Involuntary, yes, but necessary.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

"Canada, Leading the Free World" and SNL

People are fighting him around the world. It's heartening. I'm in bed with snow falling, the light outside grey and bleak, there are lunatics in the White House, but good people everywhere are uniting in combat.

And if one thing could cheer me up today, it's this. Never have I been more proud to be Canadian. Conservative leadership candidates, I hope you, unlike El Trumpo, know how to read.

Canada, Leading the Free World

Canadians, who are proudly multicultural, welcome Syrian and other refugees.
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And for another treat, for the nine people on earth who've not seen it yet, please watch Melissa McCarthy as Sean Spicer on SNL. And the world shall be saved by comedians.