Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Calculating

...and December flits by like an Anna's hummingbird: here for the blink of an eye, then vanished out of sight, leaving nothing but a sound rather like a clicking abacus.

This is the first Christmas in some years where I have felt Christmassy for a sustained period. It's probably because we're Christmassing our new dwelling, marking it with the holidays, much as a cat rubbing around my ankles.

Elder daughter has returned to be with us for twenty days. It's the eighteenth day. Already.

It's also the seventh day of Christmas, as we tremble with trepidation on the threshold of one far too interesting year into the, as yet, blank face of 2020.

I wish you and yours all the possible joy of it, and that much joy may be possible, all evidence to the contrary. Perhaps it's better if we pass through the evidence, and create some better evidence. Whaddaya say? Who's with me? (What's that clicking noise?)

Sunday, 1 December 2019

Ying-tong merrily on high

As November drifts out the back door, and Christmas barges in the front - wasn't Advent supposed to be a time of fasting and reflection? - we find our social life is picking up, which is something that never happened in Hades.

As a result, I was in the kitchen, having hauled out a simple recipe for an appetizer to take to a neighbours' do. The trouble is, there's no such thing as a "simple recipe"; they all seem to require a deal of chopping, so I fired up a CD I'd borrowed from the library - yes, I am a dinosaur - and eased the cutting time by listening to a blast from the recent past: a collection of the corniest and slyest from A Prairie Home Companion's latter years, interspersed with such choral offerings as "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" (Monty Python - yes, yes), "Be Prepared" (Tom Lehrer - yep, yep), and then, I positively paused in my chopping in bafflement. A tenor began with what sounded like an Eastern European lullaby, before the choir careened off into a frantic gabbling of nonsense, interrupted periodically, by horse whinnies, raspberries, and explosions.

As the track faded away, and I stood slack-jawed, I could just make out Garrison Keillor explaining to the audience that this had been "The Ying Tong Song" from the Goon Show.

Okay, that explained a lot.
Vocal Essence on A Prairie Home Companion - March 2012
I was aware of The Goon Show, mainly because I knew the Beatles were fans, and thus rather excited that their producer George Martin, and their film director Richard Lester had had dealings with Harry Secombe, Peter Sellers, and Spike Milligan. I'd had a listen to the Goons from time to time, but found their break-neck speed bewildering.

The song is damn catchy, though. I'm including the lyrics below, because they will be of no use to you whatever, but so you can sing along if you want, although I don't recommend it.

In fact, I suggest you skip this video altogether.

Why? Because this song is an insidious ear-worm, that's why.

I walked out this morning, and caught myself singing: "Ying-tong-ying-tong-ying-tong-ying-tong-ying-tong-iddle-I-po..."
Bloody hell.

This is not a song you want to be singing to yourself on a public street. You get some hard stares.

Apparently, Spike Milligan had a war buddy, jazz musician Harry Edgington, and Harry Secombe had trouble pronouncing "Edgington", so Milligan would yell "Ying-Ton!"

I guess you had to be there.

I also gather, from the comment-field for this video, that "The Ying-Tong Song" has been used more than once at funerals, because of its sombre beginning that quickly veers into that crazy, demented chorus.

Imagine those poor mourners, finding themselves, days afterward, murmuring: "Ying-tong-ying-tong-ying-tong-ying-tong-ying-tong-iddle-I-po..."

Diabolical.


Tenor: There's a song that I recall
My mother sang to me.
Spriggs (off): Oh! (a sigh)
Tenor: She sang it as she tucked me in
When I was ninety-three.

(harp plays a rising chord...)

Spriggs: I diddle, I. Who was that bum?

Bluebottle + Spriggs:
Ying tong ying tong
Ying tong ying tong
Ying tong iddle I po,
Ying tong ying tong
Ying tong ying tong (bluebottle drops behind)
Ying tong iddle I po
Spriggs: Keep lad up. Keep.
Bluebottle: Keep up lad up.


Both: Ying tong ying tong
Ying tong ying tong
Ying tong iddle I po
Spriggs: lad
Both: Ying tong ying tong
Ying tong iddle I po (lad)
Iddle I po (lad)

Ying tong ying tong
Ying tong (Spriggs: iddle) (Bluebottle: ying tong)
Ying tong iddle I po
Ying tong ying tong iddle

Bluebottle (spoken):
Ying tong iddle I po!
(short raspberry, Secombe)

Both: Oh!
Ying tong ying tong
Ying tong ying tong
Ying tong iddle I po
Ying tong ying tong
Ying tong iddle I po
Iddle I po!

(trumpet bit)

Bluebottle:
Ying. Ying tongy tongy.
Ying tong iddle I po.
Ying tong iddle I po.
(Secombe under this: What a lovely lovely boy!)
(or Secombe under this: What a lovely melody devine!)
Ying ying ying tongy tongy.
(Milligan: Get out the rifle, sir.)
(or Milligan: Get off the record.)
Yeeeng.
Ying tong ying tong d'gy-n'o.
Ying tong d'ga.
(Secombe: Get away.)
D'g d'g d'ga.
Ying tong iddle I po.

Seagoon:Hear that crazy rhythm
Driving me insane.
Strike your partner on the bonce (bonk?).
(thump)
Eccles: Ooh. I felt no pain.
(Seagoon screeches)

Seagoon, Bluebottle and Eccles:
Ying tong ying tong
Ying tong ying tong
Ying...

(harp chord rises)

Soprano: Take me back to Vienna....

(Raspberry section, probably Milligan)

Bloodnok: Ohhhhh!
Eccles: Oh!

(harp chord)

Soprano: Take me back to Vienna, where the....

(crash!)

Seagoon, Spriggs and Bluebottle (far off):
Ying tong ying tong
Ying tong ying tong
Ying tong iddle I po


And so on, and so on....

Saturday, 30 November 2019

Bone idle

This time last year, I was locked out of my blog, and making almost daily descents down Linden Avenue, from Fernwood, through Rockland, then down into Fairfield.

Almost exactly a year ago, I glanced to my left, and was halted by this sight.

Someone having trouble letting go of Hallowe'en? A social commentary on texting? The ghost of Christmas Future?

Bye-bye November. Advent begins in earnest tomorrow.

Friday, 29 November 2019

What message is being sent?

I had completely forgotten this INSX video from 1984.  It baffled me then, and does now - not because of the headphones and sock feet.  The band was filmed in an ancient Buddhist temple in Tokyo, Japan, and they couldn't make any noise, so mimed in time with music played in their ears.

I am a bit puzzled about the geisha and her handlers, but then, I am no expert on the Willow World.


I also don't know why this video is only available at Daily Motion.  In these days of cultural appropriation, is it considered inappropriate?

Thursday, 28 November 2019

Facebook follies by fellas

I've had the odd inadvertent adventure in social media.  Some very odd.

Recently, I posted a quick comment on the "Old Victoria" page, a Facebook group I've seriously contemplated leaving more than once, as it's often a hotbed for political grumblings - largely directed at our current mayor - and the usual wearying men (it's always men, somehow) who troll the comments of others.

Some guy had begun the morning with a memory question, which he jokingly called a way to unmask "imposters".  (There had been a recent reminder from the group administrators that only those with some actual connection to Victoria could be members.)

Well, you can imagine.  Someone ignited at the word "imposters" and let fly.  Others flew to the bewildered poster's defense, and he was posting parting shots.

I decided to post my own, remembering a distant brief period when there were local bumper stickers, emblazoned with such devices as:  Pave the Gorge and Ski Mount Tolmie - unremarkable unless you live in Victoria, and know that the Gorge is a waterway, and Mount Tolmie is more like a very steep hill in the centre of the suburbs.

I added that this was a "playful" test for imposters, and that I knew that the original poster of the "imposter" had meant to tease, not torment.  Having grown up in British Columbia, I know when BC guys are leg-pulling.

Eventually, I had something like 75 likes and 85 comments - more than I've received on anything I've put online, even though this was mostly people chatting to one another and not to me.  I didn't mind.

It was a cross-section of everything that is right, and, as it turned out, almost everything that is wrong with the group -- and perhaps with social media in general.

One youngish fella - meaning to be funny, I suspect - said that only people over the age of 100 would get the jokes.  While I was replying mildly that I was in my twenties in the era of the bumper stickers and still managed to "get" them, a guy I'd known in junior high leapt to my defense (I think), saying, "Whoaa...hold on there!"

Some other guy remarked that you needed to be over 100 to be considered a "true" Victorian, and for some reason, Youngish Fella flew off the handle, telling him that he didn't know what he was talking about, being from Nanaimo, and to *&%$ off.

I stayed out of this particular fray, but an administrator deleted the comment.  Youngish Fella reappeared and accused Nanaimo Guy of being a dip@#&%.

The administrators reminded the group about "coarse language", and here's where things got truly silly.  Several men (they're always men, aren't they?) started going on about Freedom Of Expression, and one even posted a gif of Rodney King.

Rodney King, so far as I can recall, was beaten to a pulp by the L.A. police for being black, right?  Not for dropping f-bombs in a private Facebook group.

*Sigh*  For the most part, I have found the historical aspects of "Old Victoria" a gentle pleasure.  I'd hate to be driven away by the foolishness of fatuous fellas.

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Hazards of living in Victoria

I'm headed for the pharmacy, when a motorized wheelchair wheelchair whizzes by, on my left.

I can't help myself.

"Oooh!" I gasp, softly - I think.

The gentleman glides to a stop, and waits for me to catch up.

"Did I startle you?"
"Yes, a little."
"Well, they say I should used my horn."
"But that would startle me even more!  You can't win!"
"That's right!"
"You could call out, 'Good Morning'" I suggest.
"Or, 'Coming up on your left!'"
"Even better!"

We both wish each other good day, and he zips off.

Imagine this happening in Hades.  I can't.

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Sounds good to me

 Look.  According to my FitBit, I've walked 21,000 paces today.  (Younger daughter had a song competition, among other things.)  I'm wiped, and running out of day.

The spring before last, I had the pleasure of hearing Lucy Wainwright Roche, a daughter of Louden Wainwright III and Suzzy Roche [of The Roches], in concert with her half-brother Rufus Wainwright.

Spotify sent me this gem, where LWR sings with another three-barrelled name, Mary Chapin Carpenter, another firm favourite of mine.

Have a listen.  I'm dragging myself off to bed, where I hope to lie comfortably in my own quiet line.


Monday, 25 November 2019

Siding with the angels

The more I look at the news, the more I miss Mr. Rogers.

I don't think he was a saint - he certainly didn't think so - but I think he was on the side of the angels, and it's remarkable how much what he said is close in message and meaning to the Dalai Lama - someone else who would deny sainthood, but is on the side of the light. Both men were/are highly disciplined spiritually, and in an almost indefinable way, available and elusive at the same time.

Take this past weekend - and you may.  It was a bit of a minefield with younger daughter, whose anxieties, for a multitude of possible reasons, have been particularly acute.

It seemed the right time to saunter down to the cinema, enduring the half-hour of commercials and promotions (because we're not good at finding our seats in the dark), to see A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood, with America's 21st century version of Jimmy Stewart, Tom Hanks.

This is a story "inspired by real events", so we've been warned it's largely made up, and this is emphasized by the introduction, which moves the plot from an imagined Mr Rogers' Neighborhood episode in Pittsburgh to New York by means of the miniature cityscapes of the sort that began each show.  You can tell that the toy cars are being moved by unseen human hands.  Seeing as Fred Rogers himself was always very clear about the difference between reality and make-believe, this is very appropriate.

I won't go into the story, which is based upon (okay, inspired by) a magazine article written by a journalist who is renamed for the movie.  It's a tale that pretty well anyone in the audience will recognize, and see the parallels of, in their own lives.  The Resident Fan Boy thought of his late parents and almost wept; I thought of my complicated relationship with my father, and my shortcomings as a mother, and didn't weep.  Heaven knows what younger daughter thought about, but she reported that she liked the movie.
It is well-written, well-acted, and believable, even if not literally true.  There is a remarkable moment in a coffee shop, where Fred Rogers, ever solicitous, ever elusive, asks the troubled journalist to perform one of Rogers' favourite spiritual exercises:  thinking, for ten seconds (it seems longer), of the person or persons who "have loved us into being."  The astonishing thing was the palpable silence that fell upon the audience at our cinema-showing.  It was quite a bit like the Silence that descends upon the Quakers at a Friends' meeting for worship.

There were a few musical surprises for me in the film; songs I've loved.  Only one of them reminded me of the 1990s in which the story is set.  It's a song by Tracy Chapman entitled "The Promise".  It's really not got much to do with Mr Rogers - yet it does, rather like the film has surprisingly little to do with Mr Rogers, yet is all about him.

Sunday, 24 November 2019

Clouds in my coffee

I never wanted to become one of those people who take pictures of their food.

However, sometimes, I become painfully aware of the transiency of life, and of lattés, in particular.

It's also a kind of Rorschach test. For example, what do you see here?
How about if I stir the coffee? (I admit it's a different coffee on a different day.)
I see a profile silhouette in the first, and a bird on a perch in the second. Not being a trained professional, I can't tell you if I'm deranged or not, although taking pictures of one's beverages is probably not a good sign...

Saturday, 23 November 2019

Did I dream this?

In one of the more surreal videos from the eighties, here's Breeding Ground in Toronto from about 1986. Molly Johnson was guest-singing with them, and this was, I think, my first exposure to her.

Friday, 22 November 2019

He's got a funny feeling that he's won

As depressing as the news is, whether here in Canada, or over the border, or overseas, a bit of clever political satire can brighten things up. This is why I rather adore Randy Rainbow and his pink cat-eyed glasses. This week, he's gone after the impeachment hearings in the States, using one of my favourite songs from Rodger and Hammerstein's Oklahoma.

For you infants - or philistines - who don't know your musical theatre, here's an excerpt from Trevor Nunn's 1999 London production - which starred a relatively unknown Hugh Jackman as Curly - here featuring Vicki Simon as "Ado Annie", whose English accent occasionally slips through. She's singing to Josefina Gabrielle as a barefooted and over-alled Laurey.


I notice that later productions change the last verse, which originally ran:
I'm jist a girl who cain't say no,
Kissin's my favourite food.
With or without the mistletoe,
I'm in a holiday mood.
Other girls are coy and hard to catch,
But other girls ain't havin' any fun.
Every time I lose a wrestling match,
I have a funny feeling that I won.
Although I can feel the undertow,
I never make a complaint,
'Til it's too late for restraint,
Then when I wanna, I cain't,
I cain't say no.

Thursday, 21 November 2019

You'll have to excuse me

Word came down that John Mann has died. This was not unexpected; he was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's not long after the Resident Fan Boy, younger daughter and I saw him perform with the Art of Time's interpretation of Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in 2013, almost exactly six years ago. The lead singer for the group "Spirit of the West", he was only 57.

The CBC and other media have been posting tributes all day. I've posted SOTW videos in this blog before, but not this one, which seem to perfectly capture my antagonism for certain places and people:

All packed up, the people gone.
All tucked in, the TV on.
Tonight, a bedroom for myself.
I'm gonna keep my mental health.

I could burn this country down
With the end of a cigarette.
Why do you put up with me?
Why do I put up with this when

I'm not happy to be here.
I'm not happy to meet you.
I couldn't care about your relatives.
No I couldn't give a damn.

I need five free minutes for myself.

All strung out, the reasons gone.
All bent in, and leaned upon/
I give myself a talking to,
Before I turn my tongue on you.

Given time, I've wasted it all.
Smashed my clock against your wall.
Talk is not what makes me tick.
The second hand's the first to stick when

I'm not happy to be here.


The video is filmed at various spots very familiar to Vancouverites. John Mann gave his last official concert in Vancouver in April 2016, but the following video was recorded almost exactly two years ago, on November 19th, 2107 at the legendary Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver. It features some of Canada's best known singers and musicians (listed at the end), and you can see John Mann leading the cavorting in a white shirt in this performance of what is Spirit of the West's most famous song.

I've seen it before, but watching it tonight, I found myself in tears at the end.


You'll have to excuse me, I'm not at my best
I've been gone for a month, I've been drunk since I left
These so-called vacations will soon be my death
I'm so sick from the drink I need home for a rest

We arrived in December and London was cold
We stayed in the bars along Charing Cross Road
We never saw nothing but brass taps and oak
Kept a shine on the bar with the sleeves of our coats


You'll have to excuse me, I'm not at my best
I've been gone for a week
I've been drunk since I left
And these so-called vacations
Will soon be my death
I'm so sick from the drink
I need home for a rest

TAKE ME HOME!!!

Euston Station the train journey North
In the buffet car we lurched back and forth
Past old crooked dykes through Yorkshire's green fields
We were flung into dance as the train jigged and reeled

By the light of the moon, she'd drift through the streets
A rare old perfume, so seductive and sweet
She'd tease us and flirt, as the pubs all closed down
Then walk us on home and deny us a round

The gas heater's empty, it's damp as a tomb
The spirits we drank now ghosts in the room
I'm knackered again, come on sleep take me soon
And don't lift up my head 'till the twelve bells at noon

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Different folks

I've never paid that much attention to the Transgender Day of Remembrance, even though it's been observed for twenty years now.

It has my attention this year.

Last week, I learned that a close family member, Iphis (not his real name - duh) has informed his family and friends that he is transitioning from female to male. I got the news from Demeter, who had called Iphis's mum on an unrelated matter. After a night's thought, I texted elder daughter, a champion of LGBTQ rights, to let her know (Iphis being one of her favourite relatives), and to bounce around some ideas.

Elder daughter seamlessly switched Iphis's pronouns to he/his/him. After some deliberation, she texted him, and received an immediate message saying he was out to family and friends, who were being supportive. I took this as my cue to send a brief text, merely addressing him by his chosen name. Another immediate response, even briefer: "Hey!" I sent him our love and told him we were likely to slip up occasionally while we were learning. "That's okay. Luv u."

Iphis is fifteen.

It will be hard, for all of us. How do I refer to the Iphis I knew in the past, as "her" or "him"? Elder daughter says I will have to ask.

Iphis' mother is heartbroken, in mourning for the daughter that's suddenly gone. I don't blame her.

And then there's the terror. I have a daughter who is autistic, and if you think of autism as a different way of being, rather than a disability - which I do, on my good days - there are a lot of parallels. Who will judge them? Who might hurt them?

After all, today is the Transgender Day of Remembrance -- for those who have died for being different.

Please don't let me be reading Iphis's name at some future ceremony...

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Back in the dark ages

As I continue to build my playlists at Spotify, I must say that I can find almost any song or artist that comes to mind.

There are a few exceptions, though, and so far, they've all been Canadian.

Here is a song I rather liked in the late eighties, although I was a little squeamish contemplating the concept of human flesh under human skin. It's an example of Canadian goth music, I guess, although I suspect people who are into goth music are likely to debate this. Not with me, please.

National Velvet were from Toronto, and flourished between 1985 and 1995.

Monday, 18 November 2019

Lust for locker (oh, get your mind out of the gutter)

I was rather relieved to discover that the storage locker that comes with our condo unit is somewhat roomier that that in our former apartment building.

This didn't mean that I didn't make every attempt to cull stuff before this last move, which may well be our final one. I went through folders, shredding and recycling old bills, university essays, and letters, keeping a few representative samples for posterity (who, no doubt, will trash them without a thought). I carried bags of books to donate to the library, and rid ourselves of toys, knickknacks, and clothes.

I then started a long series of trips with my trusty collapsible red wagon laden with boxes, bags, Christmas decorations, and filing cabinets, fortunately, downhill. Once there, I carefully piled the items in the living room, in the reverse order of how they were to be placed in the storage locker.

My comings and goings did not go unnoticed by my apartment neighbours, who usually kept their comments to admiring ones about the collapsible red wagon - surely one of my wisest purchases, and thus a rare thing.

I was about to maneuver my wagon into the elevator after returning from a trundle-and-drop, when a man tried to emerge, spotted me, and realized he was on the wrong floor. I told him I'd wait.

He said he'd seen me on several occasions and asked if we were moving. This was several weeks before we were to give notice to the building manager, so I replied, "No, we're just cleaning out the storage locker."

My, how his eyes gleamed!

"Are you clearing it out? Because we could use two."

Golly, I thought. Two storage lockers, old man? You need to let stuff go.

Naturally, I didn't say this out loud. I assured him we still need it. And so will whoever comes after us.

Two storage lockers. Geez. And I'd been ashamed of the stuff in our one locker, much of which simply should not have made the trip from Hades.

Even our larger locker is too damn full, but letting go, I've learned, has to be done in stages.

Sunday, 17 November 2019

Moka House mutts

Making my way down Chester Street under my favourite arch of ancient maples, I paused uncertainly on the cross-street, where cars were being equally hesitant about a bumbling garbage truck.

A couple ambling up the sidewalk hailed me and, since they were wearing sunglasses and I'm face-blind, it took a few stomach-sinking seconds to place them, and realize it was one of my bête noires, a lady of sickly sweetness, and her no doubt blameless husband. I made awkward social conversation, being naturally socially awkward, and, knowing they were probably bound for Moka House as well, excused myself clumsily to avoid walking with them (possibly to their relief).

I was warmly dressed, so sat outside on the patio - bête noire et son époux had taken my favourite seat inside anyway.

I found myself amid the Moka house mutts (not all mutts, I should hastily add), whose owners find ways of setting them up, before dashing inside to grab their drinks.

One blonde beauty chilled on the steps, paws dangling. I think his/her name is Chris or Tris, and she was still damp from an ocean dip. A young man named Owen grinned at me from his high chair, thinking my smiles were meant for him. (Well, they could have been.)
Then Watson, the morning fixture, with his head-phone-wearing, laptop-bearing owner, arrived. They had lost their favourite spot too, but Owen's mother? grandmother? - she looks like she's recovering from a facelift - and Tris/Chris's owner told Watson's owner that they were leaving soon. Watson's human squatted to chat with young Owen and compare headgear, while Watson snuffled for scraps on the patio.

Once the table was surrendered, and Owen was sailing away on the back of a bike, Watson's bed was laid out, as it has been for most mornings for the past two years, at least. The minute Watson's human had vanished into the coffeehouse, Watson leapt to his feet as quickly as an elderly dog can, and resumed nuzzling the ground. He was briskly ordered back into bed, and angled his greying muzzle and paws with patient dignity.

Two other patient dogs were waiting together for the return of their coffee-carrying owners. My heart lurched. One closely resembled the late Accent Snob.

I averted my eyes, and at a neighbouring table, a pooch perched on a patio chair, gazing over the table at his owner, engrossed in her laptop. He stared and stared; one eye brilliant blue, the other a sort of hazel.

A family group gathered on the long, street-level bench that fronts the patio. A little girl gave a familiar and brief pat to the dog by her mother's knees. His eyes followed her up the steps as she darted into the café. Occasionally, he was distracted by passing dogs, sniffing in their wake, but his eyes always returned to the door. A teenager descended, plopped himself down, and cuddled the dog, burying his face in his neck. Eventually little sister returned and the dogs stood expectantly, more than ready to go.

As was I.

Saturday, 16 November 2019

The road not taken

Walking home from the drug store, I decide to incorporate my route to my former home with my present home, descending into Fairfield via tree-lined and still leafy Vancouver Street.

I'm somewhere behind the cathedral, when I hear an exchange taking place behind me, between a child and a man: high voice/deep voice, high voice/deep voice:
"Guess what?"
"What?"
"Guess what?"
"What?"

This continues as they overtake me, a young dad and his colt-legged daughter, clad in a hoodie and leggings, dragging a long stick along the pavement.

Pang.

Two decades ago, elder daughter was seven, and would have come down this hill with her dad countless times, and much in this vein.

I'm rather relieved when this current-day pair lope past the turning which leads to our old house.

That might break my heart.

Friday, 15 November 2019

In syncopated time (write of passage number fifty-one)

I finally got in to see One Man, Two Guvnors. I've wanted to see it for years; the original "live-streaming" was in 2011, when James Corden looked about fifteen.

The play was vastly entertaining. It's a reworking of an eighteenth century Italian commedia dell'arte, set in 1963 Brighton. Aside from James Corden (who eventually won a Tony for his role, when the play transferred from the National Theatre in London to Broadway), there were a number of faces familiar to anyone who watches British drama. Lots of slapstick, some audience participation (including one ringer), and musical interludes provided by the cast, and a skiffle band that mutated into Beatlesque foursome (with XTC overtones) after the interval.

I was very glad I went.

Waiting for the bus, I encountered a lovely lady struggling with the new bus app on her phone, which informed her that the next #11 wouldn't depart for another hour or so. I checked the posted schedule, and texted the stop number, assuring her that we only had a ten-minute wait.

Evidently this wasn't enough. She asked a young man seated next to her for help in deciphering the app. He asked me if I were sure that I had checked the Saturday schedule. Patiently, I told him that not only was I looking at the Saturday schedule, I had texted the stop number. The bus driver in the "Not in Service" bus chose this time to take pity on us and allow us on, where the discussion continued, Victoria-style, about how technology has transformed university course-work, reading, and life.

The app-challenged lady turned to the young man, whom she recognized from some sort of tour he'd given up at the university (also very Victoria): "You won't remember this; you're far too young, but there was this duo called Simon and Garfunkel..."
"Oh yeah," he said. "They're great."
"Well, when I see everyone on their phones, I remember they sang this song, 'Dangling Conversation' - have you ever heard that one?"
I nodded. "With actual syncopated time," I said.
"But there was this line, I always think of: 'You read your Emily Dickinson; and I, my Robert Frost...' She paused, thinking. "...and I don't remember it exactly..."
"'And we mark our place with bookmarkers, to measure what we've lost,'" I supplied, grimacing apologetically.

I was getting weary from the effort of tuning in to the not-so-dangling conversation across the aisle, which was veering off in another direction anyway. I leaned toward my window, watching my old neighbourhood darkening in the fading autumn light.

Thursday, 14 November 2019

Colder chests

As I continue to build my Spotify account, I stumble across moments. A few days ago, I mentioned here a song I'd almost forgotten about that reminds me of my young motherhood days. Yesterday, I suddenly remembered a song from my earlier days in Ottawa.

I used to volunteer at the library at the elementary school where my daughters attended. When elder daughter was there, the librarian was a twenty-something who actually introduced me to Launchcast.

This song, recommended to my Launchcast account about fifteen years ago, reaches into me like a hook, and I can clearly see the study in our house on Springfield Road, feeling the aloneness and the grey cold outside.

Older chests reveal themselves
Like a crack in a wall
Starting small, and grow in time
And we always seem to need the help
Of someone else
To mend that shelf
Too many books
Read me your favourite line
Papa went to other lands
And he found someone who understands
The ticking, and the western man's need to cry
He came back the other day, you know
Some things in life may change
And some things
They stay the same
Like time, there's always time
On my mind
So pass me by, I'll be fine
Just give me time
Older gents sit on the fence
With their cap in hand
Looking grand
They watch their city change
Children scream, or so it seems,
Louder than before
Out of doors, and into stores with bigger names
Mama tried to wash their faces
But these kids they lost their graces
And daddy lost at the races too many times
She broke down the other day, yeah you know
Some things in life may change
But some things they stay the same

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Peeping Thomasinas

I was standing in my bedroom with my coat on, waiting for younger daughter to emerge from her own bedroom and gazing out the window, when I saw a woman peering around the corner into my room.

My bedroom is tucked in almost behind the pathway leading to our building's front door. This is usually not a problem; one would have to know that the window is there, and make the effort to lean around the partition -- which is what made this apparition disturbing.

I wasn't frightened, just a bit annoyed, even more so, when her companion, standing out on the sidewalk that follows the street, pointed me out, and the woman's fingers appeared as she gripped the wall to lean sideways to peer again.

I turned and stalked from the room. (I should have tugged the blind down.) I wondered what on earth was going on. Two units in our building are on the market. Were the women there for a viewing, and if so, where was their realtor, who would normally let them in? Were they visitors flummoxed by the entry-phone? Someone should tell them that looking into private windows is rather creepy.

I decided to leave by the side entrance in order to avoid them. No luck. As I rounded the corner into the small side parking lot, I nearly ran into the Peeping Thomasina, who was being followed, at a slight distance, by her companion, who smiled faintly at me as I passed. I returned a stony sidelong glance.

Younger daughter and I strode up the sidewalk en route to her voice lesson, as I suddenly wondered if the women had been able to slip into the building as younger daughter, trailing me by a few steps, exited.

"I was wondering if those two women in the parking lot...."
"What two women?"
"They passed us as we left."
"I didn't see them."

Great. Spooky as well as creepy.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Helden

Recent incidents in Canada - such as the one I was describing yesterday, for example - have made me perhaps a little perverse about Remembrance Day.

Now, don't get me wrong: I'm a family researcher, so I'm more than aware of war's impact on families, with no rosy, gauzy perceptions of it.

War kills people. It tears families apart. It wounds psyches. It cripples bodies.

So, I headed off on Remembrance Day afternoon, with the Resident Fan Boy and younger daughter in tow, to see JoJo Rabbit. It was on my want-to-see list, and all I knew about it was that it's about a small boy living somewhere in Nazi Germany, who has an invisible friend - Adolf Hitler.

Not the real Adolf Hitler, obviously. This trailer actually gives you a fairly good idea of the movie -- except it gets darker, of course.

Young JoJo is ten, so eligible for the junior division of the Hitler Youth, the Deutsches Jungvolk. Unable to remember a Germany without Hitler, JoJo's room is plastered with posters, the common sight of bodies strung up in the town square elicits a small boy's "yuck", and he thinks the summer of 1944 will be the best one ever.

As he charges off with his mates to "Komm, gib mir deine Hand" (the Beatles' original recording, which I have on CD and digitally), I understood just how surreal and frantic this film was going to be. I'm usually fatally put off by anachronisms, however in the current political climate - and climate crisis - this seems perfectly appropriate to a satiric nightmare, which is hilarious and terrifying by turns. It is, after all, a strange and diabolical time, seen entirely from the viewpoint of a ten-year-old boy, who has no idea of what his protective mother is really up to.

As events wheel into early 1945, things get bleak pretty fast.

Younger daughter was a bit traumatized by how JoJo Rabbit comes by his nickname, but delighted by the closing song - David Bowie's German rendition of "Heroes". (Yes, that works too.)

The impressive cast includes Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johansson, Rebel Wilson, and Stephen Merchant, playing the role he was born to play. The two young leads are marvellous.

And the dream-pal Hitler? Played by the Maori/Jewish screenwriter Taika Waititi, as a middle finger flipped in the direction of those crazy Nazis - who, undoubtedly won't take the hint.

Monday, 11 November 2019

A poppy lapse

Is it my imagination, or have people gotten very silly about poppies in the last decade?
Over the past decade in particular, it seems we have some sort of poppy kerfuffle every Remembrance Day.

One year it was the Battle of the White Poppies versus the Red Poppies. Wearers of the white poppies thought red poppies glorified war, and red-poppy-wearers thought white poppy proponents were either presumptuous or unpatriotic.

Another year, we had the using-flags-to-anchor-your-poppy controversy, in which legionnaires declared that poppies were "sacred" and it was improper to fix them with anything other than the flimsy pins they come with.

This year, it's - heaven help us - Don Cherry. For those of you who are not Canadian and/or do not view hockey as the best thing created, Don Cherry is a long-time hockey-coach-cum-commentator, renowned for his unbelievably high collars, eye-watering suits, and loud, unvarnished pronouncements. This past weekend, he apparently thought the Saturday night hockey game was the ideal platform for airing his view that "you people" who "come here, whatever it is" "should pay a buck for a poppy". Apparently Cherry spotted some poppy-less people, who he believed to be immigrants. Let's see, how? They were darker-skinned than he is? They were dressed differently than he is? (No, forget that second one; we're all dressed differently than he is.)

Anyway, he's apparently offended by non-poppy-wearing newcomers, given that they're now living in the land of "milk and honey", courtesy of the sacrifice of Canadian soldiers.

Let's leave aside the horrors that many new Canadians have escaped, and the sacrifices they themselves have made. If the wearing of the poppy is mandatory, as Cherry believes - as I write this, he's just defiantly said that all Canadians should wear a poppy - doesn't that negate the very freedoms for which so many died?

I wear a red poppy, secured with a decorative pin. That's my choice. My fellow Canadians, darn it, have the right to wear a red poppy, a white poppy, a poppy with a pin, a poppy secured with flag pin, or no poppy at all.

That's their choice, Mr. Cherry. You have no right to bully them into doing things your way.

Now, I gather that Don Cherry has finally been fired. I'm not sure that this will solve anything.

I do worry that his comments will give courage to others, who will make life in this land of milk and honey less sweet for those who have committed the sin of daring not to be born here.

Sunday, 10 November 2019

For Remembrance Day, Remembrance Sunday, and Veterans Day

This was one of the first "new" songs I heard on my Spotify account. The song is five years old, and the war experience it describes is very American, so I'll keep the American spelling.



I see you've found a box of my things -
Infantries, tanks and smoldering airplane wings.
These old pictures are cool. Tell me some stories.
Was it like the old war movies?

Sit down son. Let me fill you in.
Where to begin? Let's start with the end.
This black and white photo don't capture the skin
From the flash of a gun to a soldier who's done
Trust me, grandson,
The war was in color.
From shipyard to sea, from factory to sky
From rivet to rifle, from boot camp to battle cry
I wore the mask up high on a daylight run
That held my face in its clammy hand,
Crawled over coconut logs and corpses in the coral sand.

Where to begin? Let's start with the end.
This black and white photo don't capture the skin
From the shock of a shell or the memory of smell
If red is for Hell,
The war was in color.
I held the canvas bag over the railing,
The dead released, with the ship still sailing,
Out of our hands and into the swallowing sea,
I felt the crossfire stitching up soldiers
Into a blanket of dead, and as the night grows colder,
In a window back home, a Blue Star is traded for Gold.
Where to begin? Let's start with the end.
This black and white photo don't capture the skin
When metal is churned, and bodies are burned
Victory earned;
The War was in color.
Now I lay in my grave at age 21,
Long before you were born,
Before I bore a son,
What good did it do?
Well hopefully for you,
A world without war,
A life full of color.
Where to begin? Let's start with the end.
This black and white photo never captured my skin
Once it was torn from an enemy thorn,
Straight through the core.
The war was in color.

Saturday, 9 November 2019

The demise of an accent snob

The rain has held off, so the streets near our house were hissing with fallen leaves.  In some places, they had been ground to a fine powder by passing feet.

One late afternoon, I made my way in the fading golden light, past two small boys bagging glossy horse chestnuts with their dad.  I pushed on until I had the Strait of Juan de Fuca in view.  There was a mist below the setting sun (or a fire?). Across the strait, long puffy clumps of cloud were draped over the Olympic Mountains, which rose above a calm stretch of silver.  I felt tension in my face, and realized that I was grinning.

I turned and there were dozens of dogs, trotting, cavorting, and sniffing up and down the Dallas Road path, and I remembered how I'd dreamt of living here again -- and walking the Accent Snob by the sea. The feeling of longing and loss washed over me like a wave.

Some weeks ago, my cell phone rang as I walked younger daughter up Fort Street to the Dutch Bakery.

"It's today," elder daughter choked, standing in a veterinary examination in Hades. "I didn't think it would be today."

I did, I thought to myself, as younger daughter and I maneuvered a crosswalk.  I wasn't going to tell elder daughter that.  Apparently, the vet, on being told that the Accent Snob was having a good day, responded, "Oh, dear..."

Elder daughter needed to do the paperwork, so I told her that I was available when she needed me, and we rung off.  Younger daughter and I took our seats in the café, and I told her that the Accent Snob had come to the end of his eighteen-year-old life. 

The Accent Snob was still alive at that point, but I wasn't going to tell younger daughter that.

Younger daughter's eyes filled with tears, and she took out her compact mirror, repairing the damage, and weeping quietly.

Text from elder daughter:  "They've sedated him."  I waited, knowing it was only a manner of minutes.

When my phone rang again, elder daughter was on the floor beside our old roué, still wanting to scratch his ears.

With younger daughter crying quietly across the table, and elder daughter sobbing in my ear, there was no time for my own tears.  I told elder daughter how brave she'd been, and how well she had cared for the old boy in his two final years.

The next day, we engaged in that very twenty-first-century form of grieving - posting photos of the Accent Snob online, and receiving condolence messages, mostly referring to the Rainbow Bridge.  Elder daughter texted me that she'd made the mistake of Googling the term.  Curious, I did the same - even though I've been aware of the expression for years.

It turns out that it's from a "poem" (really a mini-essay set out like a poem) that's been around for about twenty to twenty-five years.  It's a bit on the precious side - be my guest and look it up - but in these days, when people refer to their animals as "furry children", it seems to strike a chord.

I am on record as being against comparing pets to children.  The Accent Snob was a dog, not my child.  We loved him dearly, but we put his food on the floor and took him outside to pee.

And anyway, aren't dogs colour-blind?  Maybe the Rainbow Bridge is a spectrum of smells, leading to a land beyond pain, fear, and skateboards, where the Accent Snob always has someone to play Tug-of-War with him, and he can eat all the pizza he likes.

Friday, 8 November 2019

Adventures on café walls

Still setting up my Spotify.  In my bid to get more recent music recommended to me, I've been entering some of the stuff I've "Shazam"ed while in coffee shops and restaurants.

This is five years old, but golly, I like it:

Thursday, 7 November 2019

A muster of pea-hens

While trundling things down the hill on Linden Avenue, I sometimes see strange sights, like the day I looked ahead and saw the sidewalk taken up with large fowl.

By the time I came abreast of the brood, they were toddling through a neighbouring garden, under the wary - and, no doubt, frustrated - eye of the household cat.

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Memories coming around like comets

Since the demise of Launchcast about ten years ago, I have longed for something similar, and tried three or four different platforms, including Spotify.  None of them quite took.

However, elder daughter has been honing her Spotify for some time now, and this week,  I decided to give it another try.

My hope is, like Launchcast, it will lead me to new (to me) music, but of course, this involves programming it with stuff I already know.  A pleasant side-effect is the stumbling on to songs I'd forgotten, such as this Mary Chapin Carpenter composition, which was a favourite when my little girls were little girls.


Another side effect is the pleasant at-home feeling that familiar music gives this new (to me) home.

As for new (to me) music, I've already made half-a-dozen or so promising discoveries, which I may share here - should I find myself short of time, which is likely.

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Begone, dull care

My Facebook feed featured an article from the Ottawa Citizen (actually by Sharon Kirkey of the National Post) about a therapy designed to blunt unpleasant memories - in this case, betrayals and painful break-ups. 

Of course, this was the focus of the rather surreal 2004 film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but fifteen years have passed, and I guess we're oozing into reality.

The issues remain the same.  How far can it be taken?  (Probably too far.) How ethical is it, and most important, what damage is possible, if we modify memory, even if painful and traumatic?

Of course, we all modify our own memories constantly - could we trust someone else with the task?

I didn't have that many break-ups and betrayals.  The one romantic break-up I experienced was gently done -- although I was devastated at the time.  After all, "A heart without a hurt is hollow," as the song from The Fantasticks goes.

That said, it's not like I haven't been wounded.  What would really tempt me is the possibility of dulling memories of people I dislike - usually those who have hurt me.  It troubles me - early and often - that I can't shake the replaying of past slights, outrages, and injuries.

And frankly, I would not miss these people or my memories of them.

It's beguiling.

However, I'm reminded of a quote that appeared, years ago, in the Victoria Hospice volunteer sign-in book, attributed to Kahlil Gibran (but did he say or write it, really?):  "I have learned silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind, yet, strange, I was ungrateful to those teachers."

And yet, Persephone, have you learned anything?  

No, don't mess with my memories; they may be the only things I have left -- if I'm lucky.




Monday, 4 November 2019

My way out

Younger daughter flatly refused to go with us to a Sinatra-themed Victoria Symphony Pops concert.

Well, she's a Taurus, like myself, so we knew she wouldn't be budged. 

This was a pity, because I've never been much of a Sinatra fan myself.  Oh, I know he's a legend, and yes, yes, I recognize his talent and influence.  However, his appeal has always escaped me.

And I loathe "My Way".

We'd bought season tickets weeks ago, so the Resident Fan Boy and I set off in the pleasant semi-sunny autumn afternoon, squeezing in amongst throngs of white heads, as special buses dropped off seniors for the matinee.

The singer featured was a fella named Tony DeSare, one of those guys with terrifyingly impressive CVs -  he's worked with Postmodern Jukebox, and performed on A Prairie Home Companion, so he certainly had my attention.

And he was good. He's an accomplished crooner, of course, but also a mean jazz pianist, trading riffs with the three-piece band he's brought, all backed by the Victoria Symphony.  He composes his own music, playing a pleasant ballad that Paul McCartney himself complimented.  When he boogied through a Sinatra arrangement of a Ray Charles song, I could see a third chair violinist practically dancing as she bowed her instrument.  (It was one of those damned "numbers announced from the stage", so I don't know which song - not one I recognized, so likely not that famous.)

And then he ended the first half with "My Way".  No escape.  We were front row centre.

When we attended a Michael Feinstein concert with the National Arts Centre Orchestra a few years ago, he flatly refused to sing "My Way".  In Ottawa.  Paul Anka's birthplace.  I was so grateful.

Faced with the prospect of listening to "Strangers in the Night" and "It Was a Very Good Year", we fled.  The Resident Fan Boy had a book to pick up at Munro's, and we stopped at Murchie's, where he treated me to something called Frenzy Cake, something like Black Forest, only with raaaaspberries.  Yup, just what I need - a new confection.  Gawd, it was good.

Waiting for the bus, I told the Resident Fan Boy that "My Way" is the top song choice for funerals.  The Resident Fan Boy was aghast, being the son of an Anglican clergyman, and accustomed to hymns at such services.  I also told me that "Time to Say Goodbye", surely one of the most manipulative dirges written, is high up the list.

He asked me what I'd like played at my funeral.

"Well, given how much The Wizard of Oz has meant to our daughters," I replied, "'Ding Dong the Witch is Dead' would work."

We both bent over double in hilarity:  "She's gone where the goblins go, below, below, below!" we warbled, ignoring the stares of our fellow waiters, who were, no doubt, praying we wouldn't board their bus.

Sunday, 3 November 2019

Whimsical wallabies

Walking down into the Village one bright morning - with the switch to Standard Time, we're getting a few back - I happen to glance down and spot two painted rocks, tucked in by the sidewalk at the edge of someone's lawn.  I've included my shoe-tips for scale.

This makes me wonder:  does anybody wear Wallabees anymore?

Saturday, 2 November 2019

Let yourself go

Two days in and I'm already cheating.

I do love this.

(The Laurel and Hardy clip is from Bonnie Scotland [1935]; "The Jean Genie" is, of course, off David Bowie's 1973 album Aladdin Sane.)

Friday, 1 November 2019

Often I stop with his words on my mind

On All Saints' Day, the trees are raining leaves like heaven raining souls.

I'm striding up Cook Street, wearing my packsack, so my hands are free, and the leaves are swooping in my direction.  I catch two, and make wishes for my daughters.

When I did this in Ottawa, there were also wishes for myself, but they mostly involved returning to Victoria, and here I am, so I make carefully generic wishes for my girls.  Best not to get too specific with wishes made for others.

I've been watching films about Oscar Wilde lately, and both featured a quote from Lady Windermere's Fan (1892, Act Three):  "In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it."

This morning, I feel a brief November chill in my heart, but only time will tell.

Speaking of leaves and souls:

Fèy o, sove lavi mwen Nan mizè mwen ye wo
Fèy o, sove lavi mwen Nan mizè mwen ye wo
Pitit mwen malad Mwen kouri kay gangan, Simido
Pitit mwen malad Mwen kouri kay gangan
Si w bon gangan, sove lavi mwen
Nan mizè mwen ye wo Oh!

Willie works as the garden man;
He plants trees, he burns leaves,
He makes money for himself.
Often I stop with his words on my mind.
Do spacemen pass dead souls on their way to the moon?

(The lyrics of "Feuilles-oh" are in a Haitian Creole, and translate something like this:
Leaves, heal me from my pain Oh!
My child is sick I’m rushing to the voodoo priest’s, Simido
If he is a good healer, he will heal my pain)

Thursday, 31 October 2019

In case we need to find our way back

Clockwise from upper left:  younger daughter's "That Seventies Show" jack o' lantern (after an episode entitled "Too Old to Trick or Treat, Too Young to Die"); Demeter's jack o' lantern (simple, to spare her arthritic hand); the Resident Fan Boy's Classic Who jack o' lantern (no, not a cyberman); mine, from the Art-Deco-inspired "Star Thrower" stencil from the kit.
As the year in our new - well, new to us - home starts the slow turn from autumn to autumn, we pound in the holidays like little pegs to guide us around again. We've had the first Thanksgiving, and now we're having the first Hallowe'en.

Nothing's guaranteed; we might not pass this way again. Still, we leave the signposts.

Monday, 30 September 2019

And as things fell apart, nobody paid much attention

I re-visited this video this summer. It was always one of my favourites, not least because it includes the late great Kirsty MacColl on harmonies.

Nowadays and especially after last week's demonstrations, it's depressing how pertinent the video remains, although I imagine some of the figures have changed - probably in the wrong direction.

Monday, 1 July 2019

Gifts from the Maple Leaf Fairy

The Resident Fan Boy has resumed his custom of draping our dwelling with a flag for Canada Day. He had stopped during Stephen Harper's Reign of Middle Management. I awoke this morning and it was like the Maple Leaf Fairy had left a blessing for the homes of good little Canadians.

So how is one a good little Canadian? Well, there's this much-shared video, which has much that Canadians might recognize, although some things have changed in the three brief years since this was first produced. Note the outdated references to the Raptors, Donald Trump, and Stephen Harper himself.



I was wondering why some of the actors looked familiar, and realized I'd seen them in the YouTube series Convos with My Two-Year-Old, which operates on the strange conceit of a father recreating actual chats with his toddler daughter -- who is played by a grown man.

Sunday, 30 June 2019

June will change her tune in restless walks

Out at 9 am to walk down the long hill via Linden Avenue. I'll miss going by this route on a regular basis.

I'm brought to a standstill by these. I don't know what they are; Demeter would. They are buzzing with bees and fluttering with butterflies - none of which hang around for a photograph.

Never mind, I know that they're there, and, perhaps foolishly, they give me hope for the planet.

Please don't tell me differently.

Saturday, 29 June 2019

Might have been the paint fumes (Write of passage number fifty)

The RFB and younger daughter elect to walk Demeter home after dinner at a Japanese restaurant to celebrate our wedding anniversary.

I'm exhausted after a long day of running errands, so I trot in the opposite direction to the bus stop, where an express bus is loading passengers. The express bus doesn't drop me off as close to our apartment as other buses do, but it's a Friday evening and I have no offhand idea about when the other buses might be coming, so I join the queue, and find myself an aisle seat, which is fine, because my destination is a few stops east.

"How are you this evening?" says a man sitting directly across the aisle, about two feet away. He is deeply tanned with grizzled stubble and dark brown eyes.

"Very well indeed," I respond automatically. It's Victoria, and this is a short ride.

"That's good! Where are you from?"

I'm a wee bit startled. "Pardon?"

"Where are you from? Are you anglaise?"

I'm even more nonplussed: a) because no one has asked if I'm English for years; and b) his accent sounds neither French nor Québecois to me.

"Well, I'm from here."

"Here?"

"Yes, I grew up here."

He launches into a description of his plans for the evening. He tells me he wants beer; he wants to bathe in beer.

"Well," I tell him, "fancy ladies use to wash themselves in beer."

"Ah, I paint all day," he says. (His clothes attest to this.) "I want the beer for my head; it will make me right."

I chuckle and rise. "Well, have a lovely evening!"

"Goodnight! I love you!" he calls after me as I step down on to the pavement.

Friday, 28 June 2019

The case against clairvoyance

The Resident Fan Boy and I are trembling on the brink of another major wedding anniversary -- but not this year. Next year.

I post a wedding photo on Facebook each June, in part to preserve photos on the internet, so I decided that this year, not being a major anniversary, but a sizeable one - they get bigger annually - I should skip the usual ones of bride and groom, and go for a shot of the guests.

I chose "before-and-after" shots of the moment that I, having been made to turn my back, threw my bouquet. In the first, the single ladies, all either born in the same year as me, or just a couple of years before or after, are standing in wait. In the second, Double Leo Sister is spiking the bouquet like a volleyball into the arms of a woman due to be married in a month.

And now, years later, I find myself gazing at the young women in their pretty summer dresses, remembering that, of the crowd, only one woman remains single. (She's school principal and a proud aunt.) Another died a dozen years ago. Of the others, about half divorced their eventual husbands; three married twice.

I look in the background, and see my aunt, and others who were middle-aged and older at the time -- all gone now; and a young man with his cup of coffee - years before losing a son to suicide.

Prescience would be such a burden, particularly at weddings.

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Fear of watching

I've been trying to finish watching the second season of The Handmaid's Tale.

It's been on the PVR for months. I think I got something like two thirds of the way through.

The trouble is, I need three things in order to be able to watch The Handmaid's Tale:
1) I need to be alone because the Resident Fan Boy won't watch it, and younger daughter shouldn't watch it.
2) Because I have to be alone to watch The Handmaid's Tale, I need to be in a relatively sunny mood.
3) It has to be during the day, because no matter how cheerful I'm feeling, I'm not going to watch ritualized rape, tortures and executions at night.

Of course, now the third season's begun, and I'm really getting behind.

The thing about The Handmaid's Tale, it's well-written, well-acted, and way too damn plausible. Margaret Atwood always said there wasn't anything in the story that hadn't happened, or isn't happening to women.

While I'm trying to get my nerve up, I thought this 2017 parody, with the cast of Saturday Night plus guest host Chris Pine, might be bearable:



Well, I guess it is. It's still way too damn real.

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Mapped out

About three years ago, I was trudging through a parking lot in the bleak landscape that is Hades in early May. Directly ahead of me, trundling down Loyer Street, was the Google Car with its tent-pole multi-directional camera perched on top.

It took some weeks, but the next time Street View was updated, there I was, looking a bit like a bear, carrying my cloth shopping bags filled with cake mix for younger daughter's approaching birthday. I screen-saved it, of course. It wasn't the most flattering view of me, but it's a memory, now long gone from Google Maps.

This morning, I walked past our future condo, and noticed the Sold sign from last week had disappeared. I guess it's pretty well ours now, although we can't go in until August. While I was thinking how glad I was that I'd taken a picture of the sign, a white car with a tent-pole multi-directional camera sailed by.

I checked the time. 9:48 on the morning of 26 June 2019. Persephone walking by her future condo on her way to Moka House.
I'll check Google Maps in a few weeks.

Unless it was an Apple Maps car. Or a Bing car. Or....

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

So swishy

With weekly excursions to Pic-a-Flic, I've been seeing a lot of films that I always meant to see. Last night, it was The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou - a strange film, even for Wes Anderson. I had decided on it, because I showed Moonrise Kingdom to the Resident Fan Boy last week, and he had loved it.

Life Aquatic almost lost me in the first half, but things picked up. The film ends with a tribute to the march that finishes the 1984 flick The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, which, frankly, is the only memorable thing about Buckaroo Banzai.

Anyway, at the close of The Life Aquatic, Bill Murray hoists a young boy on his shoulders as the credits roll. As he struts determinedly toward his cartoonish boat, he is joined, one by one, by the other cast members. The gentleman in the beige jacket joining the group at just past the two-minute-mark is none other than Bud Cort, the star of one of my all-time favourites Harold and Maude (1971)

I loved the song they were strutting to, but didn't recognize it. All through the film, a crew-member sings various David Bowie classics in Portuguese, sometimes to a bossa nova rhythm. However, this finale was accompanied by the original recording of Bowie himself singing "Queen Bitch", which is from one of his earlier albums Hunky Dory. Apparently, Bowie wrote "Queen Bitch" after going to see the Velvet Underground in New York on his first trip to the United States, not realizing that Lou Reed had left the band.

This made me realize why I was responding to the song - it's very much like the Underground's "Sweet Jane".


I'm up on the eleventh floor and I'm watching the cruisers below
He's down on the street and he's trying hard to pull sister Flo
Oh, my heart's in the basement, my weekend's at an all-time low
'Cause she's hoping to score, so I can't see her letting him go
Walk out of her heart, walk out of her mind, oh not her

She's so swishy in her satin and tat
In her frock coat and bipperty-bopperty hat
Oh God, I could do better than that

She's an old-time ambassador of sweet-talking, night-walking games
And she's known in the darkest clubs for pushing ahead of the dames
If she says she can do it, then she can do it, she don't make false claims
But she's a queen and such are queens that your laughter is sucked in their brains
Now she's leading him on, and she'll lay him right down
Yes, she's leading him on, and she'll lay him right down
But it could have been me, yes, it could have been me
Why didn't I say, why didn't I say, no, no, no

So I lay down a while and I gaze at my hotel wall
Oh, the cot is so cold it don't feel like no bed at all
Yeah, I lay down a while and I look at my hotel wall
And he's down on the street, so I throw both his bags down the hall
And I'm phoning a cab 'cause my stomach feels small
There's a taste in my mouth and it's no taste at all

Bud Cort, incidentally, has a connection with the sort of arts scene that Bowie was witnessing on that trip. He was in a play, and living with someone whose name escapes me, who was either with Andy Warhol or the Velvet Underground (or both).

Monday, 24 June 2019

Moon moments

With our lives and living quarters on the brink of change, I find myself thinking of what I'll remember and miss about the apartment that has been our home for nearly two years.

Chief will be the view from windows and balcony, where we have a front row seat to the schoolyard, far more entertaining and less intimidating than we'd feared, and sightings of many of the celestial events on offer.

Six months ago, I had a cold and clear encounter with the eclipse of this year's Wolf Moon. First, the bottom was nibbled away and the orb seem to slowly vanish into its own cloud, leaving a pewter marble, with a hint of an orange glow,  hanging above the schoolyard.

As the earth's shadow finally engulfed it, the stars became clearer. There were two bright stars above it seeming to point to this globe that I could almost pluck out of the sky, and after a few minutes, I noticed the constellation of Orion twinkling to the right through the bare branches of the tree next door. Below, a group of men chatted as they passed around a telescope, and a woman strode down the sidewalk, not looking up at all.

I ventured out every twenty minutes or so, watching the dark disc rise higher and higher, and remembering another blood moon, maybe about ten years ago in Hades, when the dark red moon glowed between our house and our neighbours', and people trudged by. I wanted to shout at them: "Did you see it? Can you see it?" The Resident Fan Boy remembered another one in Victoria, when he couldn't convince four-year-old elder daughter to come see it. I was able to persuade younger daughter to come out on the balcony to see this one.

Six months later, a recent treat has been the Strawberry Moon, rising at the same time as an unusually close Jupiter, who glittered through the thick summer leaves, if you knew where to look.  Across the street, a rather grungy fellow had enthroned himself on someone's discarded armchair - it's also the season for our neighbours getting rid of unwanted furniture.  Not particularly wanted either, he grumbled to himself under the moon, and ignored the huge planet over his shoulder in the southeast.

Sunday, 23 June 2019

Twenty-first century shopping

I was in quest of an appropriate gift for the daughter of Friend Who Sings and Gardens.  Having finished medical school, the daughter is off to my birthplace of Edmonton to do her internship.  This meant finding something that might help her through the winter, yet not take up space in her suitcase.

I decided on a Mountain Equipment Co-op gift card, since she might find something warm, or, barring that, something to ward off the summer mosquitoes.

The membership number on our MEC card had worn off twice over the course of seventeen Hadean winters, where Mountain Equipment Co-op is practically a matter of survival, either first or second-hand.  I was perfectly prepared to take out a new membership - even though you don't need one to purchase a gift card - but the cheerful young man at the till was game for some detective work.

I seemed to remember it was under the Resident Fan Boy's name, and the till-man found his name -- on the wrong street in Hades.  (The RFB has a rather popular name.)  After assuring him we'd lived nowhere else but in Hades and Victoria - at least since becoming MEC members, we tried my name.  No luck.  Did I remember my Ottawa phone number? 

Oh gawd.

I could remember the last four digits, then deliberately tried not actually thinking about it, to see if the full sequence came unbidden from the outer edges of my brain.

It did.  And there it was, on his database.  The RFB, for reasons known only to himself, had added some initials -- possibly due to that other guy in Hades bearing his name.

The cheerful young man scrawled the membership number across our ancient card in indelible ink, just as they had in Hades a dozen years ago.  It will probably wear off again.

Then I purchased a $25 gift card.

"She can get a nice pair of socks," he said.

Damn.

Saturday, 22 June 2019

Writing a letter to myself

In the early days of the new summer, I find myself remembering this delightfully offbeat and aestival video from 1988, all shot in primary colours with people wandering and scampering in the fields in their socks.


Just write a letter and mail it to yourself
Read it out loud but to no one else
Pick your pocket a measure of time
And never leave these memories behind
 
You'll sing 'til tomorrow
And the days that will follow
But it's never the same
When you feel you're insane
On the bed where you lay
There's a plan that was made
But it's never the same
When your hopes go astray
 
Just write a memo, and hang it on your wall
A small reminder of why you're here at all
So look around, and groove to the sound
Let's see those feet rise up from the ground

Now the princess washes dishes
She's done more harm than any good
I am a witness of hugs and kisses
Loneliness is never understood
 
So paint a picture of things that aren't real
Remember shame when it's time to kneel
And don't forget the things that you say
Could all come back to you some other day

Friday, 21 June 2019

Reverse sunset

On the eve of the longest day of the year, and it's pretty long in Victoria - we're farther north than you'd think - we looked east out our window, and were startled by what appeared to be a sunset in the east, glowing pink and mauve.
Click on this if you'd like it to be bigger.

Thursday, 20 June 2019

Racism and yelling and bullying, oh my

I was in the middle of my art lesson when the phone rang.

It was elder daughter, shaken, upset, and full of guilt.  She was on her lunch break, hurrying back from tending to the Accent Snob, who caught his paw in her apartment elevator as a fun conclusion to last weekend.  She's been soaking his paws in epsom salts.  He finds it very relaxing.  I'm not sure she does.

Heading back to her office, she walked smack into a situation.  Several people were waiting for the light to change at the crosswalk.  Out of the blue, a "scary and crazy" man started yelling about "Trudeau's immigrants", how they were living off taxpayers, and stealing jobs.  You know, the usual original ideas that obviously come from deep thinking.

Elder daughter felt helpless, wanting to stand up to him, but not daring to.

"What did the people he was yelling at do?" I asked, absent-mindedly adding a few strokes to my painting.

"Nothing; they kinda ignored him."

"Sounds like they had the right idea; you say he was scary and crazy."

Sitting with my paints in Victoria, I "walked" her back to work, listening as her ragged breathing slowed.

My fellow students discussed the issue after the call ended.  Best not to challenge a larger, nuttier fellow spouting epithets, they agreed.

Coincidentally, I'd sent elder daughter the following clip from John Mulaney, one of her favourite comedians.  It's about racism and bullying too, except with humour, something non-inclusive people often lack.
Elder daughter had already heard it, of course.

I like to think she appreciated the gesture.

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

A cold and friendless time

Nineteen years ago, when the move to Hades was looming, and the Resident Fan Boy was transferring, I'd take younger daughter to a gym class at the Y, while elder daughter was in school.  It was a fairly unstructured class, more of a playtime.  I'd hover while younger daughter climbed, and half-listen to a tape of Disney classic songs that played at each session.

There was one song, though, that, even if I couldn't quite hear the lyrics, always brought me to the edge of tears.  I'd swallow them back, and attend to the task at hand.


I'd never seen Pete's Dragon; it was one of those kids' films that post-dated my childhood, and predated my motherhood. (I did see the 2016 remake with younger daughter, and remember next to nothing of it.)

Listening to it today,  I'm just as glad I couldn't make out all the lyrics.  Mind you, back then, I probably wouldn't have realized how apt they were - although I think a part of me knew.  It's that desperate promise every mother longs to keep: that she'll always support you, guide you, never leave you.  Sometimes, she can manage it for the first fleeting years, but children can't be shielded forever.

I'll never let you go.

We have to, eventually.  It's the point of the exercise.

Monday, 17 June 2019

Looking back across the canyon

Our favourite server at John's Place, near City Hall tells us it's her last week.  Her belly is billowing beautifully.

"Do you have an idea of who's coming?" I ask her.

Her face glows.  "It's a little girl!  I'm due in two weeks; I can't wait to get this over with.  I've had it with being pregnant!"

"Oh, I dunno," I say.  "When I was expecting, I used to tell people: 'Right now, it's all being done for me!'"

"That's a good point!"

I hasten to add: "But when the baby is out, you'll be doing the work, but you'll feel okay!"

There is a deep canyon that runs between certain women.  On one side, there are the women who've given birth, and on the other, those who have yet to make the perilous journey across the chasm.

Telling them the truth won't help.