For those non-essential workers now isolating at home:
Yes, we binge. We eat*. We read.
We create, but only if the instinct to do so calls. Ignore the rush demands of others. Age has taught me one lesson: to truly absorb change, most of us need time. Few of us have that time or take it. Now maybe you do.
Help. Don’t know how? Start with your own circles. One of mine dropped some tulips off for me on my doorstop and it made my whole week. Here are a few places that need your help. Please consider them all:
Tonight, check out a virtual celebration of one of Ontario’s most vibrant community theatres. Wavestage is celebrating 25 years and those of us who love and support this talented troupe of performers will be toasting their success at a special gala. Okay, so we were meant to throw our wild applause with roses at the stage and hug these performers in person at the stage entrance. I’ve witnessed years of spectacular magic from Wavestage, some of which you, readers, have heard about here, and here.
Instead, we can tune in at 7 pm to watch over a dozen revival performances and give them giant virtual hugs.
Artists are bleeding now in every sector across every artistic discipline. Instead of being overwhelmed, pick one a week to lend a hand. Take a cue from some of this country’s most celebrated performers pitching in to do their part. Along with Canadian Opera Company, Shaw Festival, Soulpepper, Young People’s Theatre, Canadian Stage and Luminato, the National Ballet of Canada shop is donating personal protective equipment such as gloves and masks while their wardrobe staff is sewing caps and masks from home for our front-line healthcare workers in hospitals to help keep them safe.
Got kids who love playing detective? Consider signing up for a customized narrative experience with a week’s worth of short daily phone calls from The Ministry of Mundane Mysteries, presented by Outside the March Theatre Company. Designed for the whole family (kids under 12 can pair up with a parent for no charge) 100% of the funds collected will go directly to employ actors from the community who have recently lost income due to the CO-VID crisis. For more info, read here.
If you cannot help others, help yourself. Spend some time dreaming of your favourite places. Maybe this madness will result in all of us being experts at cherishing. Here’s one of my cherished spots in Algonquin Park, Ontario. Where are your favourites?
No virus can rob us of dreaming. Last time I checked, dreams come free of charge.
Coming soon in this space: a beautiful romance for you to stream.
Something has shifted. The earth has struck back. Exacting breathlessness, it has asserted its demand to breathe. From animal to human the virus jumps, as if to demonstrate the indivisibility of life and death on a small planet. The technology perfected for the rich to globalize their advantages has also created the perfect mechanism for globalizing the panic that sends portfolios into a free fall. Do things differently at the other end of this scourge, some mystic voice murmurs, do them more equitably, more ecologically, with greater respect for the environment, or you will be smitten again. Next time the internet will collapse. The passage from real world to virtual world to no world will then be complete. It is not easy to resist such thoughts, and perhaps they should not be resisted, for that would be to learn nothing.
So, perhaps we have lost anticipation in this pandemic. Perhaps we have lost the everyday juice we drink to map out wants and desires? I’m ready, aren’t I?
Prior to any lockdowns,visiting my mother in longterm care in the past few months had given me some facility in grasping the moment at hand. There is nothing else there on offer. There is no tomorrow with dementia. There is only now. Mom and I share a peanut butter cup I scooped up at the volunteer-run tuck shop downstairs, and together watch an old black and white film. We agree there are few better combos than peanut butter and chocolate. I stroke her hair—still fine, now bone-straight grey— tucked back in a borrowed hairband instead of her signature blonde backcomb. She responds well to this touch, beams a silent thank-you to me. In the end, she doesn’t speak much. Smiles. Listens. Responds with one or two-word answers. Hugging is its own language; indeed my first language, my most fluent language even as I have learned over time to converse with those with lukewarm settings who do not share my mother tongue. When the attendants come to manoeuver her walker to dinner, I help her to stand, and then wrap my arms around her. It is all. It has to be enough.
If there are no longer anticipatory twinges, I can cope. With Mom, there are no days of the week either. There is just now. I’m used to this. I am ready.
Except now I cannot hold her.
All human touch is now governed (by necessity) by pandemic rules. Like all of us, Mom and all her peers in long term care can no longer have visitors. The exhausted workers there have unimaginable limits on their time but have worked out a schedule where they will assist residents to come to the window. All we have is a ten-minute window to wave at Mom. Is this part of ambiguous loss? We have lost so much already.
Yes, I can walk with a friend. Our voices carry across the mandatory divides. Yes, I can organize neighbourhood driveway hangouts. We smile and offer solace— and try to discern if any neighbour needs help with anything—and while it is all a strange and new kind of togetherness, we find our usual jocularity. Yes, I can accept a series of invitations to see faces in boxes on my screen for work, for fitness, for family meetings. I started up a new Facebook group: Bakers in a Dangerous Time, and other new creative collaborations with neighbours and friends because Let’s Make Up a Story is my password and it’s better than the one we’re living with now.
I am grumpy about technology hugs even as I adapt as human beings have done since we stood up. Who says I want to become facile at Zoom? I am not ready.
Being inside my home for hours and hours doesn’t scare me.
Housekeeping does not daunt me either. Once I ran a household and grew some kids up and out. Now I am tucking bedsheet corners in, with my guy who, in a previous life, was surely a royal housekeeper, if sarongs were allowed as a uniform. Or a jester. We are rich in quips, if nothing else, and cookbooks I refused to throw out in House Purges 1 through 11. His setting is always set to Hug. High up there, alongside his laundry pile of neatly folded clothes, is a deep sense of reward in the work we’ve put into this, this life now threatened by an invisible enemy. This is the payoff. We get to stick this out together and he is learning (finally) what I do all day, just as I am listening to his frequent work calls now on our walks together. Somedays, we are short with one another, and long on many others. We are sad and then we laugh. We know how to do this. There is never a bad time to keep learning.
Our kids are away from us, one in another city, and the other, in another continent. All of our plans to be together are no longer possible in the near future, in the imminent future, in the…what is the future?
I miss my dad even as I know he would have suffered surely in this terrible chaos. I miss my lucid mom who would have laughed along with me at the two red cardinals dancing around my yard. I miss my father-in-law who never ran out of soap. Our days fold into one another and some days are this: Husband and Wife sitting on the couch and saying: we miss our people. Every day. Sadness is a new houseguest… and now this? Dreams now are wild and fanciful and I have lost sense of weekdays and weekends…they have just slipped into a March puddle. Stars on my calendar to mark spectacular achievements have been removed. My watch broke. The little latch fell off although it is still running. I looked at the thing and screamed: you motherfucker, that is a poor joke.
I’m not ready. We are not ready.
The playgrounds and dog parks have yellow tape around them. Every day, small deaths.
I’m not ready.
It’s easy to reject some mindsets: my stress is the only stress. I have it worse than you.
Instead, it’s an easy yes to any and all of the initiatives to form communities of compassion (my film nerd heart bleeds for artists); to applaud the heroic essential workers who are keeping us alive, keeping us fed, keeping us in our cocoons of civility. I marvel at the daily communication briefs delivered by government officials with a calm I can barely muster in my relative safety. In a previous chapter in a television newsroom, I learned how fast news cycles work. This Big Germ now is supersonic speed and yet, there they are, doing their jobs with persistent professionalism. Don’t listen to the news, say, well-meaning friends. Who needs it? I’ve given up on it. It’s all bad news. I don’t listen to it, I can find it all on Twitter, on SNL, on Colbert, by myself. Really? Journalism, like healthcare, has never been more crucial. Learn which ones to trust and never stop following their reasoned threads, even if it’s in smaller, tolerable doses.
While working as a producer in that newsroom, I was a longtime member of the company’s pay equity committee where we examined each sector of our operation and how responsibility and stress were measured. That experience has never left me and afforded me precious insight into systems I never see from the quiet of my writing perch. There, mostly invisible from all the clamor, I try to make sense of it all, occasionally pacing, always pondering.
Like you, Anxiety sits at our breakfast table. Will our daughters be okay? Will they get sick? Parenting adult children is another setting on the dial.
Can we pay our bills? The echo rings around the world.
Make batches of salad dressings that will make salad prep simple. These are all simple. Keep them in your fridge and give them a shake.
Simple vinegar-based dressing:
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon minced shallot-If you have none, use a dash of onion powder.
Salt and pepper to taste
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Combine the vinegar, shallot, salt, and pepper with a whisk then drizzle the oil into the mixture.
Simple non-vinegar dressing:
1 lemon (about ¼ cup of the juice)
2 TBS honey
4 TBS olive oil
¼ cup grated parmesan
Combine lemon juice, honey, and grated parm in a small bowl. Stir in olive oil and serve.
Simple ranch dressing:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup buttermilk. Use regular milk if you prefer.
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried chives
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste approximately 1-3 teaspoons, adjust to taste
Whisk milk and mayo together until smooth. Add the spices and whisk until combined. Add the lemon and whisk again before serving.
Make batches of your own Garp trail mix from your pantry. These can replace whole meals or help hungry little ones whining in your household. Note: all of us are children when hungry. Use whatever you have in your hold. Favorites here are dried fruit, sunflower seeds, toasted nuts, and chocolate chips. Use your dried cereal here too. Anything works. Be creative. Make up little packets and store them away.
Make soups and double the batch. These can be very simple. If you have some boxes or cans of broth and some veggies, you’re good to go. Here is the basic recipe:
1 lb vegetables, cut up in equal-sized bites
1 onion or a few cloves garlic, chopped
a few TB of olive oil or unsalted butter
Salt and pepper
4 to 6 cups broth or stock
Heat oil. Saute onion or garlic until soft. Add veggies and brown for a few minutes then season. Season with S & P. Add broth, cover pot, and lower the heat to a simmer for about 30 minutes until veggies are soft. Puree if you want a smooth soup or leave chunky. It’s up to you. Add in whatever herbs and spices you like.
Make easy cookies and freeze. In my food memoir are several easy recipes. For those of you have my book, email with any questions. Here’s one for today that amps up every family’s favourite with one easy trick.
Melt 1 stick unsalted butter in a large pot over medium-low heat.
Leave the butter on the heat until it foams and begins to turn brown. The divine smell is your first clue. No, you can’t lap it up right there. You need to keep your eye on this butter and keep stirring until it turns a nutty colour.
Turn off the heat and count out 40 marshmallows and don’t eat them while counting either.
Throw them into the butter and return the pan to heat, keeping it on low until it is one lovely, gooey mess
Remove from heat and stir in ¼ tsp coarse sea salt and 6 cups Rice Crispies.
With a rubber spatula, spread the crispies into the prepared baking pan and pat down, evening out the top. Cut into squares.
Outside the kitchen:
Stay fit by turning on some old school disco and dancing for 20 minutes. None of us feels like dancing. Which is exactly when to do it.
Read a story about JLo’s body and marvel at how trivial some of our thoughts can be at any given moment in history.
Look up some favourite photos on your computer and print out ten. Tape them on entryways to rooms. And while you’re at it, delete all the mediocre photos on your computer. Who needs them?
Write down a description of your most memorable holiday and what made it special for you. Here’s betting that brainwork will linger in your dreams tonight.
Take an online course. Yale is offering its most popular course online for free. Register here.
For cooped up kids:
If you are able to get outside, go for a walk and play our family favourite game of Dalmations. Decide on one object you are likely to see en route. Maybe count houses with red doors. Think of how many of that object you will find. See if you’re right and who is closest to their estimate. The winner gets a break that day from one family chore. The losers have to do twenty jumping jacks right there.
When screen time no longer sustains, build something. Have a whole day of building with family members. Decide you are new on Planet Earth and have to create. Use your Lego or any building things you have. Conjure up food that uses no electricity. Hint: sandwiches. Share some of your results and send me a photo!
Do a family funny census. Find out who snores, who can french braid hair, who can rub their tummy and scratch their head at the same time, who likes ginger, who like milk chocolate or who likes dark chocolate. The list of your own census possibilities is endless but the key here is humour, not competition. Send me some of your fun results!
Research something new. Learn five new songs about spring. Make up a list of all the things you can improve on in spring because spring is the season of hope and new things blooming and growing.
2019, you were a dagger. My heart bleeds from your cuts. Though I saw your approach, I was not yet ready.
Are we ever?
My dad lived a long and happy life and left us July 23rd.
My father-in-law was a few years younger but long too was his journey, one that ended five days before Christmas.
It will be days, months, years before I can adjust fully to life without them. We never get over loss; we just add it to the tapestry.
Tilted, however, I am not. These men made my life rich. I am whom I loved; and who loved me. If I stand tall tomorrow, it is their postures I inhabit.
Standing may be possible but my gaze shifted in 2019. Apologies if you were ignored this year or if you were given short shrift or the side-eye, or a sharp tongue. Some of my grace notes slipped. My gym routines faltered; with them most of my projects. Abandoned too was a team I was proud to belong with whom I served up meals to the hungry on very cold winter days. The only service I could muster was in my own kitchen where using my hands remained soothing. My sticky date pudding has never been better.
As always, solace, for me, is found in storytelling. I find answers in art; answers that are missing in people. The older I get, the less I can solve. Life remains ever mysterious. Arrogance is becoming less tolerable. I’m with Iris Dement. For fans of TV’s The Leftovers, maybe this resonates.
If you were somebody who made me laugh this year, you are dearer than ever. Suddenly, I was binging sitcoms formerly dismissed. What got me through? Schitt’s Creek. Younger. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. My mother, now a resident in long term care, loves the Hallmark channel. No doubt the bright palettes and simplistic storylines suit her, but I too found myself amused by the sheer audacity of all that cheesiness. Hell, I’d rather be amused right now than gutted. As ever, baking shows, both the British original and all the iterations that followed, make me silly happy. Bakers just want to give love. Period.
On the big screen, I found new things moved me. Here is my list of films that impressed me somehow this year. This is a highly subjective list, as all lists are. I like all kinds of films and what moves me, surprises me, makes me laugh, cry, or ponder the mystery of life…well, it may not be yours. Have at it.
Little Women: Gorgeous, inventive, and worth your time and I mean you, men of the earth. This is not just a women’s picture. Banish the ghetto of chick flicks forever.
Apollo 11: A total kick for space nerds and everybody else too. Spectacular footage and audio (both never before captured onscreen) in a fantastic documentary. Best doc of the year.
Booksmart: Kudos to Olivia Wilde. Her directorial debut is a home run. I was right back in high school. Some things are indeed timeless, no matter how fresh, how current. Movies that make me laugh get high marks. Good comedies are rare.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood : Nice just never gets old. I liked the 2018 documentary on Mister Rogers better (Won’t You Be My Neighbour?) but this one is also worthy.
The Farewell: Give the Oscar now to Awkwafina. This movie will elicit tears but don’t miss it. Directed by Lulu Wang, the real-life partner of director Barry Jenkins. This is a film with legs. If it wins awards, look for a shift, however slight, to myopia in film financing. There is a world of storytellers outside the frame. Find them. Give them money. Let them fly.
Raise Hell: The Life & Times of Molly Ivins: If ever a film makes you want to stand and cheer, it’s this one from yet another hugely talented female director, Janice Engel. An utterly engrossing portrait of the famous brilliant Texan journalist.
The Two Popes: Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles won international acclaim for City of Gods and here he is again with another wonderful film, based on a play, about two Popes attempting to find common ground. Sir Antony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce, two of the industry’s finest, are both spectacular here. Many years ago when I was a television journalist, I interviewed Hopkins for a beautiful little film called Remains of the Day. He was gracious and thoughtful—a little Pope-like; miles away from his Hannibal Lector sneer. I have loved watching all his films ever since.
The Grizzlies: This is a gorgeous Canadian film that deserves lots of eyeballs. While the script delivers a few clunkers, I fell hard for the cast; one of the strongest on-screen this year. The story surrounds a newly minted teacher who moves to a small Artic community and attempts to introduce lacrosse to his students. Both immensely watchable and heartwrenching, this is a film sneaking by most (if not all) of the sports film tropes right to the finish line.
Several films screened at TIFF last year were released in 2019. Of the titles I loved, these gems are now available in general release or on one of the streaming networks. Girl, Wild Rose, Maiden, Everybody Knows, What You Gonna Do When The World’s On Fire, The Wild Pear Tree. See my TIFF 2018 wrap for reviews of these titles. Try to see them all!
Two TIFF films I loved this year and certainly should be on the list have yet to be released: The Sound of Metal (look for it soon on Amazon)and Rocks (2020). Look for more on both here. Both were also on my Best of TIFF list this year.
NEW ADD: The Lighthouse. Two men go mad inside a lighthouse. That’s the pitch but if you’re looking for a masterpiece of cinematography, sound, production design, and performance, this is your film. Robert Eggers and his brother Max dived deep in their research to write this film, shot in Nova Scotia, and then director Robert pushed two movie stars (Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattison) to the brink to pull off what is quite the stunner. What I loved most? This is not arty show-offy kind of filmmaking. Nothing is there that doesn’t drive the narrative vision. There are hints of poetry and folklore. Film nerds will go nuts with the influences spotted here and there, not to mention the camera work. As for the mermaids in this film? Let’s just say they are not made in Disney.
Elusive as ever, joy was still ours to be had in Toronto yesterday. It took a sporting match to make that happen and one other key ingredient in that mass celebration on parade through the downtown core: accessibility. Over and over again, fans were to be heard gushing over “our team.” It was the story of our neighbourhood streets and that neighbourhood is global. Everyone owned a piece of the Raptor’s championship. We felt close to it, felt it was ours. Millions of fans had access to refracted glory.
I was a point guard in Scarborough growing up. All the children of immigrants- Vietnamese, Asians, Black, Brown, we all played religiously so it is really special to now be with my fellow Canadians and be celebrating together. Everyone in Canada knows each other. We are one big family.
Omer Aziz, author
I played basketball too —badly—for a brief inglorious spell in high school and don’t pretend any grasp of the sport’s mechanics. Nor did I watch it much until these championships lit up and I began to peer closely at this group of talented athletes. Such power! Such poise! And for this hockey fan, such spectacular restraint under the most intense stress. I was won over by the manner in how this Raptors winning team played the sport, rather than the sport itself. So yes, I too sped downtown last Thursday night and high-fived in the wee hours with my daughter (who played basketball for years) and my other half, a fan since the origin of the Raptors. That’s him in the grainy photo, playing in the streets of Kensington Market. They were both there yesterday here in Toronto, making their way through those happy throngs. We were all there in spirit. Communal moments are as rare as perfect sleeps in this digital era.
Our collective glory held the day until some thieves tried to steal it with a gunshot scattering through a sea of peaceful humans. For those injured, a horrific moment. For those in the stampede, a panic sure to cause future sleepless nights. But these criminals were apprehended by quick thinking cops. Most of the crowd were not affected; thousands and thousands of fans dancing down the streets still turned their faces to the sun.
Fleeting as it is, joy can not be stolen. It was ours. We would do well to mark it. Bring our joy globes out to marvel and remember. There will be shadows again, but that moment is now embedded in our collective history. Age affords us this wisdom or why else are all the old folks grinning their wrinkled smiles to themselves? Someday that will be me, remembering the boys with their cigars and champagne splashing out in a spray over all of us. For the briefest moment, turning us all into bubbles.
Scientists somewhere right now must be conducting lab tests on middle-of-the night phone calls, and the human body’s capacity to absorb shock.
Perhaps in a future call, a publisher will be on the other end, telling me my manuscript was clever and the surest one they’ve seen all year. That will erase my theory that all such calls make a mockery of the dark: are they not always bad news?
It was a small voice on the phone in the dim hours:
Mom, I was in an accident. On my bike. I’m at the hospital. I will be okay.
And so to the hospital we raced, arriving to find no one in her assigned room. At the nursing station, I could hardly get the words out.
My kid, there, in that room. Where is she?
She’s been taken for tests.
What kind of tests? What is happening?
You’ll have to wait to speak to her doctors.
But can’t you tell me anything?
I’m sorry. She’s over 18. I assure you someone will be here soon to talk to you.
No news?, I spluttered. For me? But but but but...
Eventually, I learned my eldest daughter had been hit by a car while riding her bike at twilight and had lacerated her liver. She would recover fully (quickly really), and finish her final year of university the following June. Six weeks following the accident; I published my food memoir; packed my youngest off to McGill and shoved aside the blink-of-an-eye gulp that followed to assist my siblings in moving my parents from my childhood home into a retirement facility.
It was a year like any other as a mother. Thrills and spills.
I didn’t know any of that in the hospital that moment in that darkened hallway in the early hours of a new summer day; a moment that hung suspended like all the others in my memory mobile, shifting in the wind. Faced with stonewalling from a medical team who have seen the shape of these overnight shifts before, I joined my mothering sisters around the globe, back and forth through time’s tapestry.
Twenty-one years of mothering resulted in a cosmic explosion. From deep within me came a rumble.
Then a roar; a roar so stentorious all the troubled patients in that ER that night thought it was their time to exit as the heavens had finally opened; a roar the filmmaker in me would now direct my imaginary effects crew to have the ground split into fiery chasms; a roar Kate’s father still remembers as he stood there, equally shaken and, unlike me, stoic; a roar that was not Shakespearean—anyone could grasp its supremacy; a roar uniting mothers of the earth to their wildest instincts; a roar fusing all the elation (and lactation) and sensations of a journey with no end. Because there is nothing that will come between me and my babies.
Not even you, Nurse, there in front of me merely doing your job. Nurse, who doesn’t flinch when I roar from the depths of my being,
I AM HER MOTHER!!!
That furious roar was not my proudest moment but it was my purest. It will come again.
These two glories are proof.
Happy Mother’s Day. Thank you, Mom, for your instincts. Mine have never been foolproof, but, for the most part, they’re ready. To back away when necessary and to advance when needed. You gave that to me. Among all your gifts, today I am thankful for that one most.
Drop yourself anywhere in Paris and your immediate view is a film set lit avecplaisir for even the weariest heart. Each step forward, backward, and around a fabled corner and still the same miraculous mise en scène. How can we not stop and embrace right there in the middle of the street? Are we not directed to by this very stage? How can we not revisit those leaner frames we inhabited once? We were here decades ago when I ignored parental protests and scampered about these very streets with my Sorbonne student-boyfriend and considered (with great sobriety) never returning home. Paris does that to you.
The pastry shops do that to you. The chocolatiers are no mere extras either but take their proud place centre stage. There are hundreds and hundreds of food artisans in Paris and patience will get you a taste test in the middle of a charming square while your traveling companion (crazed wife) drags you from neighbourhood to neighbourhood for sinful samples. (Check back later this week in this space for my favourites)
Dining in this city is notorious for a few things: snippy service (I experienced nothing but gracious welcomes), beaucoup wine (who needs water?) and status as a UNESCO world intangible heritage. In 2010, the UN cultural organization singled out French gastronomy worthy of the same kind of protection as historically significant sites or natural wonders. Certainly, the foie gras ravioli I experienced at the historic Le Comptoir de la Gastronomie in Les Halles (‘tasting’ is too boring. Here we “experience” the food) was worthy of some kind of protection from overeager dining companions. As was the grilled duck and asparagus cooked for us another evening by our host; dear friends whose idea of hospitality was champagne and strawberries as evening starters to set the mood at sparkling and fluffy warm croissants with coffee and melon from their local market waiting for our sleepy morning kitchen entrances. I’m in, merci beaucoup and Ooh La La and that’s all the French I can remember until you pour me another glass.
Paris in spring means Paris and people. All of them wearing les baskets that are not the runners you are wearing right now to walk the dog.
Every kind of tourist is here along with us but the city holds these players with grace. We joined a few in a pastry class as we learned how to fold the dough encased in blocks of butter. Huge blocks of butter. Did I say yet that I love this city?
We mingled among them as we oogled the Impressionist Masters and wondered how we could go back in time (okay this was just me wondering) and warn these models in painters studios that someday their bodies would be out of fashion and tell them that’s just one way the world has lost its way.
We walked by them splayed out on lawns with their wine glasses the night we came to see the Eiffel Tower do its hourly dazzle. (Paris by night. Yup. It’s all true).
We joined them in the procession into Notre Dame, and formed a hushed collective as we stared up into the glorious soaring space. No one is tacky here: we are all immediately humbled, whatever our belief systems, for this iconic cathedral has always been a living monument, one revitalized by writer Victor Hugo.
The greatest products of architecture are less the works of individuals than of society; rather the offspring of a nation’s effort, than the inspired flash of a man in genius…
Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
That any of it would ever be gone wasn’t even a whisper. That I tried my hardest to ignore the rules about photography but failed when I saw this Joan of Arc statue…well I’m glad I did today as I look at those stunning images of flames and mourn along with the rest of the world as this spectacular mise en scène is blackened with smoke.
Paris, like my home town, has other smudges. On our first day of many walkabouts (my calves are as tight as my beltlines) we were stopped and searched and not permitted to walk along her most glamorous avenue thanks to recent rioting by the “Yellow Vest” protestors: their outcry continues as it highlights problems France has wrestled with for many years. That their protests involve violence is sure to affect Parisians and tourists alike. Parisians are not tilted by any of it. Today at least, there is solidarity and support over a landmark known around the world.
We flew to Paris en route to London. Along the way, we met up with these two, who are currently students in all things Euro, and proceeded to explore that ancient city for days on end. Check back in this space for my Best of London when I’ve recovered.
PS: Je t’aime, Mark. Je t’aime, Kazumi. Je t’aime Connor (and of course, Buddy!) Forget the boulevards, the Arc, the museums and the Art Fair. Forget the tower. Forget the artisanal wonders. You guys are the best in the city.
Mine snuck in without any sort of invitation and began to knock about, trying a little sneeze here, a little ahem, ahem, there. Me? I just too busy boasting about my Shiny Health Record; a badge worn along to every gym outing, every downward dog. Every time I drowned myself in lemon water instead of wine and turned down the baguette with Brie.
I didn’t notice the Winter Beast moving right in and taking up residency. She announced herself soon enough; brought along a drum kit and began to bang on it incessantly and screech: I’m here, bitch. Get ready to dance with me. It’s your turn now.
I never got a diagnosis. Was it influenza? Who knows? Who cares? A fever took hold of me as something large and unwieldy parked on my chest; everybody told me to rest. That was great Comedy, that there. Back in the day I was growing babies in my womb, I got the same advice: rest. Laughed then too. Sistahs: you know of what I speak. WHO CAN REST?
My mind raced every night. If I had read something before turning off the light, the words would form drunken cheerleading routines I couldn’t follow. If I watched any kind of video, it was hardly cinematic glory playing out but scrambled signals in one never-ending loop.
Winter twinkles and we are rosy-cheeked children in awe of pretty icicles. Winter roars and we fall down, some of us, just for a while, but when we fall, it’s not snow angels we make.
We are shivering robins, all of us, no matter how shiny our shields. Vitamins Schmitamins. Broccoli Schmoccoli. Flu Schmoo.
A week goes by and the wretch moves out but I’m no fool to think she’s beat. Arrogance is for two-year-olds who learn the potty early. The rest of us need to be fully aware of our vulnerabilities. Many are sick in ways they cannot bear, and unlike me, are fighting invading beasts today, yesterday, and all their tomorrows.
Three things saved me in this lost week of winter:
1.Old musicals. Oliver (1968). Is there anything better? As we head into Oscar weekend (look for my rant tomorrow), it pays to scroll back to past winners like this classic, adapted of course from Charles Dickens. You won’t find a better cast.
Shut up and drink your gin, snarls Fagin, Close enough, as I stirred lemon into my lemon ginger tea. In my stupor, I imagined swimming in vats of it, humming along with Oliver Twist and his Where is love? Check out myFever remedy.
Pathetic, meet Anne.
2. A fellow baker friend who knows my worst stories is going through my cookbook as a 2019 project. She kept sending me pictures of her process and the results. I would stare at the pictures and think of those days in my kitchen, baking one chocolate cake after another to determine the most delicious. It was the happiest moment of my days, those emails from that dear friend.
That, and the Friendly Greek* saying this:
3. I can’t even hug you, as if he was just of reach of a sunny field to play. This was enough to radiate warmth as I shivered in my covers, as mad as any old hag, muttering to the Winter Beast,
CONSIDER YOURSELF AT HOME? NOT.
* He missed his birthday amidst all this silly drama. Kitchen, get ready. I feel a chocolate cake coming on…