A fine site

Synagogues in the South,Part 2

When I travelled with my aunt and uncle in Europe, I noticed they always searched out synagogues. I found this rather strange as neither one was an observant religious shul- goer. He, a World Federalist, she, a Voice of Women( VOW) member, had humanistic leanings, rather than specific Jewish ones. Yet, culturally, they seemed to be concerned with yiddishkeit and ancestral roots. Interesting, as he was the son of a British ha’ sun( cantor) , and her mother, a community leader in raising money for Jewish causes, even selling bricks to build the old Mount Sinai Hospital on Yorkville in Toronto. Besides just historical, their fascination had to do with discovering Jewish migration , and as I am now passed their ages when I accompanied them so many years ago, barely out of my teens, I find myself emulating their search, comprehending their motivation and wanting to piece together my own Identity as a Jew.

We are in Charleston and my American cousin suggests we make our way to Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim( KKBE) , the oldest synagogue, as well as the founding Reform Jewish Congregation in the United States. He tells me his son Josh was Bar mitzvahed in this unique landmark. So although we are only in Charleston for a day and a half, we decide the synagogue is first on our list of “ what to see”.

Fortunately our hotel, the Dewberry, is close to Calhoun, and remarkably the Synagogue on Hasell Street is less than two blocks walking. The outside of the building is in deed impressive with its huge menorahs and its colonnade of massive white pillars. There is a large marble tablet above the doors that proclaims the Sh’ma( Deuteronomy 6:4)and we ring to be let in. Larry opens the door for us. He is about to dash off, as he is a member, not a tour guide, running some errands. Although he obviously has business to attend to, he kindly locates a key to the sanctuary so we can spend a few minutes there.

He provides us with a pamphlet that answers some of our queries, stating the first reference to a Jew in the English settlement of Charleston occurred in 1695. By 1749, a sufficient number of Jews attracted by freedoms of religion who had come to South Carolina, previously gathering to pray in one another’s homes, organized Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim and within fifteen years, the building is erected. Most likely survivors of the Spanish Inquisition, this Sephardic Orthodox Congregation in 1824 petitioned to change the liturgy to a briefer Hebrew version.

The more progressive element of the congregation who had wanted but were denied an English service (also in 1824) eventually persuaded the rest of their group to install an organ: this was the first time a synagogue had introduced instrumental music into worship. In 1973, KKBE joined the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, now the Union for Reform Judaism.

The design and construction of the present synagogue emulates the form of a Greek temple and is consistent with other religious architecture in Charleston circa 1830, coinciding with the beginning of the Reform Judaism movement that had its roots in Germany. In 1790, President George Washington had congratulated the congregants and wrote,

…May the same temporal and eternal blessing which you implore for me, rest upon your Congregation…

According to Larry’s pamphlet, the great Charleston fire of 1838 destroyed the first cupolated Georgian synagogue building , but was replaced in 1840 on the original site of the first. The second great Charleston fire occurred in 1861. The synagogue was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1980.

Standing in the grand, airy sanctuary we note the white cupola above our heads. Two tiered ,the original separating women, with that impressive organ and beautiful bima, the feeling of the sanctuary is light- filled and awe- inspiring. The ark is crafted from Santo Domingo mahogany. Above it are carved these words,” Know Before Whom Thou Standest.” Two Corinthian columns stand at each side of the ark, continuing the underlying Greek theme. Beautiful glass windows represent symbols from the Bible and date from 1886.

In the Barbara Pearlstine social hall , Larry points out several works of art by a well known Charleston artist William Halsey, son of a congregant. The mural depicts the city’s destroying fire along with two menorahs, one with six and one with seven branches, to represent the synagogue’s original orthodox status and now the present day reform one. A second Halsey mural portrays the revolutionary patriot and legislator Francis Salvador who hailed from England, arriving in South Carolina in 1773. Salvador was the well educated son of an aristocratic Sephardic family, the Marrano name of “Salvador “was taken in response to the Inquisition which either tortured and murdered Jews or forced their conversion, although many practiced in hiding.

A diorama also illustrates Salvador’s scalping and demise on horseback by Cherokee Indians. More than twenty members of the congregation fought in the American Revolution. Larry is obviously very proud of these artworks that proclaim the early congregants’ contribution to the country :Francis Salvador as the first identified Jew to be elected to an American legislative body and the first to die for the cause of American liberty. Another wall steel sculpture, again by a synagogue member, William Hirsch, interprets the prophets of consolation and admonition.

We journey on to Savannah,Georgia and we are privileged to spend more than an hour at Congregation Mickve Israel dating from 1773. Here the chief docent, Jules, relates the origins of the synagogue. He narrates the story that dates back to the Inquisition in Portugal of Dr. Samuel Nunez in 1733, who ministering to the king, hides his Jewish background. When it is revealed he is still practicing his Jewish faith and traditions in private, Nunez arranges for a day at the shore to be the means of escape to London. He, his family and friends are welcomed by the Bevis Marks Congregation in England .Later, forty- one Jews , both Sephardic and Ashkenazi from German shetls , arrive by ship, the William and Sarah, to the Georgian colony. These Jewish settlers brought with them a safer Torah, one of the oldest Torah scrolls in existence in America, as well as a circumcision kit.

In 1741, the War of Jenkins Ear causes the congregants to worry that the Spanish might reclaim Britain’s outpost here. Fortunately the former Portuguese-conversion Jews regain their security and freedoms in Savannah when the Spanish are unsuccessful in their takeover.

We sit in the sanctuary as Jules narrates the historical background. Our eyes search out the original Gothic chairs, in deed, the Gothic revival architecture layout is reminiscent of stately churches, its ceilings pointed and arching many, many feet above our heads. The supporting columns are also in the Corinthian style, melding with the pointed arches of the Gothic style. The stained glass windows as well feature symbols associated with Judaism such as the spread fingers of the Kohenim, olives, menorahs, an ark, a lion, a crown with entwined grapevines as backdrop: no human bodies as dictated in the Ten Commandments. At the very back, two more windows coalesce in the Art Nouveau style contributing to the softened light created by the other windows.

Jules takes us to the ark and opens its doors. The congregation is very proud of their Torahs, our docent highlights The Slany Torah, one of 1564 Czech Memorial Torahs confiscated and saved in Prague during the Nazi occupation, 1939-1945. Before World War II, there were about 350 synagogues in the Czech Republic. On Kristallnacht, November 9, 1938, the Nazis destroyed 50 synagogues along the Sudetenland border region.

Creating a storehouse of goods confiscated during World War II in Prague, the Nazis collected artifacts. Although believed that Hitler was intending a museum to the extinct race of Jews, Leo Pavlat in a journal article,1. says the museum’s collection had been in place from 1906 and in 1939, all ready holding 760 items representative of Prague and Bohemia.

Yet the narrative goes that in 1942, several prominent Prague Jews persuaded the Nazis to allow artifacts from abandoned and destroyed synagogues to be stored in Prague, where a museum would be opened. Of the more than 100,000 artifacts , there were 1,800 Torah scrolls, labeled ,indexed, and given a provenance. According to the narrative, all of the Jews who participated in this project would be deported to Terezin or Auschwitz, with only two surviving. One Torah collected during the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia is now on permanent loan at Congregation Mike Israel and used weekly at services. The Torah is inscribed with its provenance, “This Scroll came from Slany and was written in 1890.” It came to Savannah in 1968.

A condition for custodianship of a Czech Torah is that it must be maintained in perfect condition, used regularly and returned if a synagogue is re-established in that town. In 1458, Jews were officially expelled from Slany , more Jews removed during WWII, and unfortunately in the present day population of about 15,000, no Jew remains.

Jules turns on a tape, and we listen to Hebrew chanting. I’m caught off guard and feel tears collect in my eyes. Later my husband contributes that he thinks it is the synagogue that unites Jews, perhaps more than Israel, for in these places, we all sing the same songs, have studied the same ancient prayers, stand before the ark, familiar and welcomed by our traditions, uniting us as Jews. He is moved as well. I concur that we both feel we are a continuing strand that has unwound across continents, yet part of a tapestry that persists in holding us together- no matter where on earth we might find a welcoming synagogue: a living legacy that rekindles our proud sense of being Jewish.

Upstairs in the museum, there are the two deerskin Torahs described by Jules in that journey by the intrepid Dr. Nunez. Here too are reproductions of letters to the congregation by every American president, beginning with George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe on to Roosevelt, Obama, etc.2.

In 1997, a recipe for charoset, a Passover mixture of fruits and nuts essential to the reading of the Haggadah was found from the congregation, dating to 1794. 3.

We have a plane to catch but notice more people are arriving, drawn to this synagogue, as if to rekindle and nourish their Jewish souls, a symbolic coming home and coming together of Jews spread across the diaspora.

1. The Jewish Museum in Prague during the Second World War European Judaism: A Journal for the New Europe, Vol. 41, No. 1 (Spring 2008), pp. 124-130.

2. George Washington to Savannah, Georgia, Hebrew Congregation, May, 1790, George Washington Papers at The Library of Congress. Accessed November 22, 2011 in Wikipedia.

3. Nathan, Joan (April 16, 1997). “Retracing Jewish Steps, Through Haroseth”. The New York Times.



Please excuse the three versions of my most recent blog. Apparently, according to Howard, the first and second are in tact, the third ( last sent when the others did not appear on his iPad) with many repetitions.

The damn publishing process here scrambles my paragraphs and frustrates me. So sorry, but if you read repetitions, go to another.

Bloggingboomer, ready to scream.

To the Mountains, Part one

With the craziness of climate change, we were fortunate to be invited to my cousins’ place in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Their summer retreat is located at the zenith, the tippy top of one of the mountains in North Carolina and truly you feel as if you are perched at the crest of the world. With several foggy overlapping layers of clouds, mountain and sky, you might be in Shanghai-la, gods overlooking the world below. It was on the surveying porch where we had breakfasts and dinners, constantly held in awe of the transforming view. Here too, my cousin Jon might snooze from time to time, rendered so restful that he sank into the gauzy vistas of beauty.

We drove along the tips of those mountains, shifting our perspective, attempting to seek out our viewing spot from our initial encounter with them at Jon and Elaine’s place, incredulous to ride on to the peaks where only an hour before we had observed them, wonderstruck. The cascading falls en route, refreshing, crashing, beautiful.

From here we travelled to other charming towns such as Brevard that claims Andy Griffin’s Mayberry cop and Asheville known for its quaint shops, burgeoning food and artist scenes. Best of all was a trip to one of largest estates in America the 150,000 square feet, Biltmore property, erected by the Vanderbilt Family in the late 1880’s, requiring the labor of well over 1,000 workers and 60 stonemasons!

The Vanderbilt family, comparable to J. P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, Andrew W. Mellon, and John D. Rockefeller, monopoly holders were to be described by Thomas Carlyle in his 1843 book, Past and Present as “ robber barons”, unscrupulous, ruthless and unethical businessmen. Cornelius Vanderbilt in the time of no regulations rose from operator of one small ferry in New York Harbor to dominate vital industries. In the realms of railroads, steel, and petroleum, consumers and workers were exploited by these powerful men who emulated their European counterparts of kings and tyrants.Yet, much of their legacy paved the new world with beauty, mimicking privilege, taste, and class of another world. Yet, later, an attempt necessary to bolster the estate’s financial situation during the Great Depression was required; Cornelia Vanderbilt and her husband opened Biltmore to the public in March 1930 at the request of the City of Asheville, which hoped the attraction would revitalize the area with tourism.

Notable guests to the estate over the years included authors Edith Wharton, Henry James, Presidents William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and Barack Obama. Films too have been shot here such as Peter Sellers’ Being There, Robin Williams’Patch Adams, Ritchie Rich, Forrest Gump and the Hannibal movies.

With inns, restaurants, a winery, equestrian station, gardens, shops and lavish forests festooned with lambs, goats, horses and cows, the Biltmore Estate is in deed a mansion worthy of a prince. Gardens designed by Frederick Ohlmstead( of Central Park fame) and architect Robert Morris Hunt, along with the Sargent Singer portraits enshrine the family. Drawing on French Renaissance chateaus that Vanderbilt and Hunt had visited in early 1889, such as Château de Blois, Chenonceau and Chambord in France( we’ve been to these chateaus with the kids ) and Waddesdon Manor in England, Biltmore incorporated steeply pitched roofs, turrets and sculptural ornamentation, embellishing this lavish palace with celebrated art works and tapestries from Europe’s 15-19 th centuries. I also noticed Albrecht Durer engravings.

The 250 rooms in the house include 35 bedrooms for family and guests, 43 bathrooms, 65 fireplaces, three kitchens and 19th-century novelties such as electric elevators, forced-air heating, centrally controlled clocks, fire alarms, and a call-bell system.

Fortunate for our visit was a Chihuly glass installation in the estate’s six tiered gardens. Strangely organic, Chihuly’s diverse array of multicoloured balls, squiggles, stems and glassworks pieces fit perfectly into the various gardens, enhancing the grounds. Whimsical, part manmade, part plant, each installation melds with a setting of bright flowers, shadowy nooks and groves, sunny exposed spaces, or greenhouses that suggest an elision of human and nature.. To the mountains

With the craziness of climate change, we were fortunate to be invited to my cousins’ place in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Their summer retreat is located at the zenith, the tippy top of one of the mountains in North Carolina and truly you feel as if you are perched at the crest of the world. With several foggy overlapping layers of clouds, mountain and sky, you might be in Shanghai-la, gods overlooking the world below. It was on the surveying porch where we had breakfasts and dinners, constantly held in awe of the transforming view. Here too, my cousin Jon might snooze from time to time, rendered so restful that he sank into the gauzy vistas of beauty.

We drove along the tips of those mountains, shifting our perspective, attempting to seek out our viewing spot from our initial encounter with them at Jon and Elaine’s place, incredulous to ride on to the peaks where only an hour before we had observed them, wonderstruck. The cascading falls en route, refreshing, crashing, beautiful.

From here we travelled to other charming towns such as Brevard that claims Andy Griffin’s Mayberry cop and Asheville known for its quaint shops, burgeoning food and artist scenes. Best of all was a trip to one of largest estates in America the 150,000 square feet, Biltmore property, erected by the Vanderbilt Family in the late 1880’s, requiring the labor of well over 1,000 workers and 60 stonemasons!

The Vanderbilt family, comparable to J. P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, Andrew W. Mellon, and John D. Rockefeller, monopoly holders were to be described by Thomas Carlyle in his 1843 book, Past and Present as “ robber barons”, unscrupulous, ruthless and unethical businessmen. Cornelius Vanderbilt in the time of no regulations rose from operator of one small ferry in New York Harbor to dominate vital industries. In the realms of railroads, steel, and petroleum, consumers and workers were exploited by these powerful men who emulated their European counterparts of kings and tyrants.Yet, much of their legacy paved the new world with beauty, mimicking privilege, taste, and class of another world. Yet, later, an attempt necessary to bolster the estate’s financial situation during the Great Depression was required. Cornelia Vanderbilt and her husband opened Biltmore to the public in March 1930 at the request of the City of Asheville, which hoped the attraction would revitalize the area with tourism.

Notable guests to the estate over the years included authors Edith Wharton, Henry James, Presidents William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and Barack Obama. Films too have been shot here such as Peter Sellers’ Being There, Robin Williams’Patch Adams, Ritchie Rich, Forrest Gump and the Hannibal movies.

With inns, restaurants, a winery, equestrian station, gardens, shops and lavish forests festooned with lambs, goats, horses and cows, the Biltmore Estate is in deed a mansion worthy of a prince. Gardens designed by Frederick Ohlmstead( of Central Park fame) and architect Robert Morris Hunt, along with the Sargent Singer portraits enshrine the family. Drawing on French Renaissance chateaus that Vanderbilt and Hunt had visited in early 1889, such as Château de Blois, Chenonceau and Chambord in France( we’ve been to these chateaus with the kids ) and Waddesdon Manor in England, Biltmore incorporated steeply pitched roofs, turrets and sculptural ornamentation, embellishing this lavish palace with celebrated art works and tapestries from Europe’s 15-19 th centuries. I also noticed Albrecht Durer engravings.

The 250 rooms in the house include 35 bedrooms for family and guests, 43 bathrooms, 65 fireplaces, three kitchens and 19th-century novelties such as electric elevators, forced-air heating, centrally controlled clocks, fire alarms, and a call-bell system.

Fortunate for our visit was a Chihuly glass installation in the estate’s six tiered gardens. Strangely organic, Chihuly’s diverse array of multicoloured balls, squiggles, stems and glassworks pieces fit perfectly into the various gardens, enhancing the grounds. Whimsical, part manmade, part plant, each installation melds with a setting of bright flowers, shadowy nooks and groves, sunny exposed spaces, or greenhouses that suggest an elision of human and nature. The Chihuly installation soon ends, returning the gardens to an alternate state, no doubt, also magnificent in colour, style and elegance.

Sadly we left the warm chaos of our cousins, their children and grandchildren preparing for the the mountain Community’s Spoon competition, which- no surprise- involves spoons. I am sad to report that the Christmas family with their overly long arms took the Golden Spoon😟 this year. As well, the family’s other grandkids from New York had come to North Carolina for summer camp so we met them in a happy tangle of sprawled bodies, lazy meals, retreats to tablets and easy banter.

On to beautiful lCharleston and then Savannah. I’ll be including a piece on these cities’ synagogues in next week’s posts so no need to describe here the arrival of Jews fleeing the Spanish Inquisition in the 17th Century to the southern United States.

However, outside of Charleston, we did spend half a day at Middleton Place House whose namesakes played prominent roles in the colonial and antebellum history of South Carolina. John Williams, an early South Carolina planter, likely began building Middleton Place in the late 1730s. His son-in-law Henry Middleton (1717–1784), served as President of the First Continental Congress, and Middleton’s son, Arthur Middleton (1742–1787), was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. So the grand three – building residence with approximately 500 surrounding acres is steeped in stories. The house possesses interesting artifacts in the library, bedrooms and dining rooms. The reassembled four sets of silver candlesticks, a child’s Noah’s ark, a curved shaving bowl and a discarded robe extended a presence of the early occupants.

At Eliza’s slave house,( eventually a freed person’s house) considered lavish for its raised foundation, wood floors, divided room and windows , we listen to early slave history. Our well informed guide tells us that the Middletons began business in sugar cane, but their second year’s production was wiped out. Wise enough to draw on the expertise of slaves from West Africa, likely Ghana, their product turned to rice that was shipped worldwide.The guide is unflinching in his description of treatment exacted on the slaves captured in Africa, explaining that perhaps 10-14 million persons perished during this time, underlining, too, the terrible boat conditions that recall for me the film Amistad.

Sadly the formal gardens are not in bloom. Henry Middleton ( 1880’s) purchased 253 different species, including 52 types of flower seeds, 54 sorts of bulbs, 71 hardy herbaceous plants, 41 varieties of greenhouse plants and 35 kinds of vegetable seeds from England. The estate reports some of the country’s oldest oak trees. There is a heavy downpour so we only briefly tour the stables, coopers, pottery makers and seamstresses. It is the words of the guide on the slaves’ lives that remain with us.

Savannah must be beautiful in better weather. It is breathless in these dog days of August. We manage the elegant synagogue and a trip to Jones street, voted “ the most beautiful in America “. We’re remembering “ in the gardens of good and evil”, while strolling among the grand houses framed by low hanging Spanish moss, moving slowly through picturesque garden squares that frame statues, both majestically spouting water or solidly recalling heroic battles. It’s a slow amble, enjoyable- coolish in the heat.

We’ve thoroughly enjoyed our ten days, gaining new information about the South , and renewing our bonds with our hosts, my dear cousins whose kind invitation initiated this ramble.

The Sex Ed Debate

Ontario’s Education Minister, Lisa Thompson, now presently unavailable, announced that the province will revert to a previous version of its sex education curriculum when students return to school in the fall. The older curriculum will remain in effect until the government completes parental consultations for feedback. The decision follows promises made by Premier Doug Ford during his leadership campaign earlier this year.However, consultation for the one under discussion resulted from in progress discussions that lasted years, and included 4,000 parents( one from each elementary school in Ontario), 2400 educators , 700 students from grades7-12, and170 key organizations , according to Nancy Veals in today’s letters in the Toronto Star. Having written teacher guidelines myself, I decided to look at the Health and Physical Education Guideline, revised for the Ontario Curriculum, grades 1-8. Thoughtful, constructive information , attention to context, the multi- faceted development of students are all addressed in the document.

I came to understand this methodology when I worked as a Program Officer at OCT, developing both the standards and numerous Additional Qualifications courses for Ontario high school teachers. The process is very serious, the researcher combing through multiple documents – from requested to unsolicited briefs and papers, interviewing and holding interactive consulting sessions, actively listening to concerns, then working through oral and written reports and transcripts, comparing and contrasting with similar curricula, consulting more , reviewing more with colleagues, testing and requesting, omitting and adding information in order to attempt to get it right and reflect the needs and aspirations of our communities. The result is somewhat formulaic but not one taken in haste, nor without deep thoughtful considerations, sensitivity and allowance for teacher pedagogy and implementation that meets the needs of students.

With the arrival of Doug Ford’s government, his promise to do away with the sex ed has been fulfilled. And every newspaper reflects the weighing in of diverse view points. Even an article by professor Debora Soh from York university stressed the role parents play in communicating trends, values, issues of a sexual nature. On July 17 she wrote in The Globe,” sex education has been shown to be effective, leading young people to delay becoming sexually active and increasing the likelihood that they will engage in safer sex practices when they do.”

To the queries, lacuna, confusion regarding the scrum, I suggest they all cast their minds back to their own foggy years of pre adolescence and those wonderful teenage years: when teenagers either ignore, distrust or adamantly do the exact opposite of what their parents wish them to. And if we are really honest here, how many parents or guardians are even having “ the talk”, but when they do, projecting their own righteous values on their kids. “ We take the approach that the best teachers are the parents, not the special interest group,” remarked Ford.

Parents are busier. Or so they think, and so self consumed with matters of importance these days barely even joining their offspring for a meal, or rarely sitting quietly without a tablet at a meal in a restaurant, so where and when does the Premier imagine these conversations will actually take place?

These important interchanges regarding sexting, abuse, sexuality are exactly necessary when you want an educated and sensitive adult to diffuse the embarrassment, shame and diversities of becoming, particularly if the parent finds the topics awkward to approach.That is not to remove the onus on parents to have these discussions, but the reality is that they may not be occurring or maybe even happening too late. To say parents are always the best teachers is disingenuous, for parents most often communicate bias. “ Soh underlines, ‘It brings us to the question of who gets to dictate how a child is raised – should it be the responsibility of the parent or the state? Sexual education cannot be blindly outsourced to the education system. As uncomfortable as it may be, parents must be savvy about the issues their kids are contending with in 2018’.”

I absolutely concur, and admit that I decided to stay home in my children’s early years because I did not want a nanny or “ other” to ground them in values that might be inconsistent with my own. I wanted those kidlets shaped by my ideas, ideals and rules. But that is not to say I did not anticipate that eventually they would become aware of multiple perspectives, learn to weigh, judge and think for themselves too, becoming their own personal critics, arbiters, holding viewpoints arrived at after consideration.But yes, I hoped and strove to underpin this with universal standards of care, responsibility, commitment, cooperation, kindness, compassion and caring. But even by kindergarten and the early years, kids have imbibed with their mother’s milk the lay of their parents, the accepted behaviour, the boundaries set or to be breached in their homes, on the street or at the playground of the daycare.

And yet to the issue of bias, a friend retold the situation wherein a kindergarten teacher, her colleague and a student teacher were in involved in an instructional session regarding the presentation of the curriculum guideline material. Following a frank and helpful session, the student teacher firmly stated, “ That’s not what I was taught in co-op”, her instruction all ready immovable and set, her mind unwilling to be open. So it rests with teachers, to be willing to listen and find the appropriate ways to sensitively instruct their students, as in remembering Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences: that we all learn differently and concrete, theoretical, visual, oral and aesthetic understanding, particularly of personal lessons such as sexuality must be taught in a manner that makes sense to the student and the context. Sex Ed is a huge topic as it now extends way beyond sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy and developing bodies. In all situations, knowledge, reflection and wise instruction are the tools that have to be given to prepare our children for our brave, new world.

Even back almost 60 years I can remember being sent to the drugstore to buy a box of Kotex for my mother and innocently querying to the pharmacist, “Whatever that is?”I also recall a booklet handed out by Disney entitled “Personally Yours” with diagrams of our inner organs, certainly a mystery to my grade 3 or 4 self. We were certainly privy to tales of bad girls, not “going all the way,” and fear of pregnancy back then- days before the pill. To locate a paperback edition of Peyton Place or glimpse a copy of Playboy incited shivers of excitement. Sex Ed from that era of official documents was likely a paragraph, a few lines, and of course, did not even envision a world of cyberbullying, sexting, suicide, pedophilia, consent, and more, but today the rise of social media requires savvy regarding the plethora of issues that are at the toddlers’ fingertips who nonchalantly encounter tablets along with their plush toys: all ready fodder as customers, at the disposal of sellers, mindbenders and manipulators.

At the AGO, my 6 year old grandson on entering the washroom, noted a transgender sign. Without judgment or reaction, he merely observed it.I could see the symbol had been normalized, no big deal, to him. Whether his parents had presented the topic or school instruction had prompted his knowledge, it was obviously not an issue, only noted, and I marvelled and was assured by his reaction, hoping most kindergarteners were like him.

Yet in discussion with a friend this week, several thoughts shared by her friends who teach primary became clear. The elementary school teachers had been teaching values , actually the standards of care, which must always be present in whatever transpires in and out of the schoolyard, for example, during recess: that no one touches your body unless they request permission first- as in respect , responsibility. An essential baseline upon which to move outwards towards more prickly concerns.

On Friday, again I read, that new teachers are not being prepared for these topics- because the curriculum is in limbo. The Star writes,” Typically, when there is a new curriculum, there are some new resources…for school boards to support our teachers…the curriculum we were using in 2014 was the 1998 curriculum…[ which] wasn’t changed until 2015”.

Not controversial to my mind, I read the 2015 Sex Ed booklet which states, according to grade,

Grade 3: Identify the characteristics of healthy relationships, including those with friends, siblings and parents. Describe how visible differences, such as skin colour, and invisible differences, including gender identity and sexual orientation, make each person unique. Identify ways of showing respect for differences in others….

Grade 4: Describe the physical changes that occur at puberty, as well as the emotional and social impacts. Demonstrate an understanding of personal hygienic practices associated with the onset of puberty. Identify risks associated with communications technology and describe how to use them safely. Describe various types of bullying and abuse and identify appropriate ways of responding.

Do we roar against the learning of fractions or writing a coherent paragraph? By allowing our children access to public schools, we deign that we give over to the community appropriate access to the development of what it means to be a healthy, contributing member of society, and we do give away some control.

Yet there is always room for parent dissent and I certainly recall Gloria’s parents in Grade 13 arguing against Timothy Findley’s Not Wanted on the Voyage and so she was given another book for study, and another student’s sensitivity to animals that permitted her to forgo the watching of Out of Africa ( although at present I do not recall the harming of any animals in that film). The point is that making soup for thousands cannot meet the appetites of all, and we make provisions for those who wish to omit the peppery parts. Yet to toss it out would be a waste because the cooks have laboured hard and long to achieve the best results possible, knowing that not every single person will herald its new arrival on the menu.

My concerns leap towards a Trump world wherein women’s rights, access to abortion, new social realities and even the “ fake press” are objects for derisive scorn. We prepare for the onslaught against our selves and our babes through education, through expanding our knowledge, only returning to the past to examine and understand the mistakes of the past history, not ready to repeat them, refusing to glean information and improvement from them.

I believe this is called wisdom in learning.


Something about Mary

We kind of felt that my mother was not allowed friends. Certainly there was Mrs. Feld next door.should she visit for a cup of tea, my father barely acknowledged her existence, his dark brooding eyes flowing over her. And I too should I arrive home from school and find Mrs Feld there, was disappointed not to be able to command my mother’s full attention.When my mother had once been overwhelmed by her life and retreated for one solitary weekend at her parents, it was Mrs. Feld who resurrected our mother whose therapy consisted of cleaning, and if still down, she instructed my mother,” Clean everything again.”

Mary did not really come into the picture until my father passed away, Mary the neighbour across the road having observed my mother’s fidelity and never ending support of her husband. And so Mary thought, this woman could use some long suffering support too.My sister and I had our own lives so we didn’t pay much attention to hearing about the wondrous Mary except to suppress yawns-at the mention of Mary’s name -more than we would like, her compassion and kindness, according to mom, clearly canceling the small offerings we doled out. And should there be a small family celebration, my mother’s request that Mary be included on the guest list made us boil, but as ever dour and unsmiling, Mary would accept our invitations, only given to appease our mother.

Mother and Mary would make small trips together, Mary the driver, to Niagara on the Lake and longer flights to California where Toby, my mother’s sister lived and like two Thelmas and Louise I imagined the women kerchiefed heading down the A1Ahighway towards Lachlan, a lesser Las Vegas, Toby, a hot shot on the penny slots. I never enquired about hotel accommodations or dinners, but these trips must have been successful for they were repeated several times. And when my mother grew old, it was, in deed, Mary who would trek to her apartment midtown on the weekly Tuesday evening when the two, with Mary physically propping my mother, would be greeted at their local fish and chip place on Laird where apparently Mary was well known. All mushy peas aside, “ the girls” forfeited the fries for salad.And later on the phone, my mother would reiterate the wonders of Mary.

Even towards the last days of her life, my mother enjoyed Mary’s visits, she taking several buses from Finch and Yonge to ease my mother’s entrance to a world without her best friend. It had become a mantra,” if you only have one friend like Mary..”: which of course we mocked.

When my mother died, I felt I must maintain the friendship to assuage my mother’s ghost. Although I had never known the woman and wondered at my mother’s ravings about the laughter and good times shared, I’d never experienced the other side of Mary’s unsmiling serious face. But I felt in gratitude for all of what Mary had done, perhaps in place of what I might have, so I felt I should get to know Mary. In deed I often wondered at her choice of Mary’s Marilyn Monroe purse, slight hints that Mary a war bride and former figure skater might be more than the cool exterior I had observed.

And yes, I began to know a more complex person who had emigrated from the UK, a person who seemed to always to be at the centre of unusual events, a risk taker and quite lovely person.

Just last week there was the tale about the 5am arousal in North York in which the screams of a rooster on her front lawn drove her from her bed to explore the commotion. From Mary’s description this was no ordinary bird and I began to visualize a peacock of sorts, lush green feathers trailing behind its tiny dark feet, an immense ruff of royal red , a thickly textured body, a presence worthy of a king. Quiet Mary after calling the city , commandeered three construction workers nearby her house to give chase and eventually grab the bird. One of the pursuants in awe of the magnificent bird remarked that he recognized the rooster from his home in Turkey. A Turkey rooster?

Another long unravelling story dwelled on an illegal immigrant with wife and crying baby who had been hired by Mary to reinforce her basement. Obviously compassionate to the tales this man was spinning, she sweetened his salary, but the work began to slow down as he complained of other jobs, unkind bosses, requiring better tools. And so Mary “ helped him out”, drawn in by his woeful stories, cribless infant, hungry spouse, instability in his new country. But even Mary began to realize that Tom was not being truthful. First when she discovered the tools they had bought together had been returned for cash. And soon the $5.00 put through her mail slot from time to time also stopped appearing.

Our determined Mary was not deterred and set out to confront him face to face. She knew his mother in law had worked down the street apparently as a cleaning lady and Mary was intent on tracking him down. As she described it to me, although warned by a friendly officer not to go to his apartment, she went with a friend to an abandoned address , some place deep downtown, and persuaded a suspicious land lady to allow her into his place, where she sat and waited. My sense of the living spot was decrepit a dank hole between two leaning walls, no evidence, no surprise, of wife or child, a place like a garage, thickly encrusted in dirt and decay. The cleaning lady mother in law appeared and explained Tom did not live there anymore, and invited Mary to leave.

Upset on being duped, lied too, and still intent on being repaid, she continued her quest. Legally she was told even should he be found, which was unlikely, there had been no written contract, he likely had no money, a professional liar, and with no listed address, the case was fruitless. She had not been coerced, only a kind person taken advantage of by an unscrupulous workman.

Last I saw Mary, she did not mention Tom who had been her festering topic for months. Yet I thought of her as the avenging angel even putting herself in peril, Marilyn purse tightly tucked over her arm as she tracked him to his covert subterranean lodging.She had been kind, fair, drawn in ,moved by his stories. But the intrepid Mary had not been intimidated by police warnings, or even venturing into the lion’s den. Foolish as it might have been.

I guess our lunches revealed the Mary my mother knew: the witty, trusting, woman Mary who made my mother’s life so much better, a true friend I’ve grown to know and respect.

Insides outsides

Sandra Martin in The Globe today( Saturday) writes about her turning 70 trip to the Galapagos and segues into boomer thoughts on aging.Perhaps because of two events in the last week, I too ( maybe too often lately) also ruminated on the disconnect between my insides and outsides.But yes, I too marvelled at the blue footed boobies, the ancient lumbering tortoises and the need to preserve the fantastically coloured crabs. Even if it meant not flushing toilet paper!

Martin writes,”Going to the Galapagos was a chance to meditate not on mortality, but longevity , since I’m not the only one getting older these days.” She continues to state that “[f]or the first time, there are more Canadians over 65 than under 14…Modern medicine maybe not have vanquished death, but it has certainly pushed it to the sidelines.” Yet always mindful of my mother’s attitudes towards doctors and hospitals, like COD liver oil, the remedies must be accomplished quickly, distastefully but nonetheless endured so I make my annual visit to my physician, my attempt to get in and out as quickly as possible, avoiding as many tests as possible. Unlike many who arrive with a lengthy list of aches and pains, I surmise that decrepitude is the price for living longer- and anyway should some bodily distraction resist self- healing, I’ll make a separate appointment for a more detailed examination of putting said part under a microscope.

The doctor enquires, “ How are the eyes?””Dry- I’m taking Drops”. “ How are the bowels?” “Better in California, but we’ve all ready discussed it .” “ When was your last period.?” I look quizzical, laughing, wondering .He embarrassed demures,” I have to ask.” “Too long ago to remember…how about 55?…”

My mind wanders to my mother with whom I wish I could now more fully empathize who would reiterate at 90 ,”It sure ain’t the golden age.” Not quite at that stage, I sometimes think there is a disconnect with my mind, my registering of sensation, thoughts in my interior, and the reflection in the mirror. As I say to my husband even when we’re in our finery, well, at least cleaned up for our Saturday night date ritual, “ Old is old”. Where the stomach although not sagging or huge, still protrudes. Where even the devices of glasses and hearing aids do not bring the world into precise focus or sound. Where feet occasionally trip or an afternoon nap is soooo sweet. The doctor enquirers,”How is your energy level?” Do I tell him I fancy a snooze around 3 or pause when climbing the three flights to my painting class? No. I respond, “ Not like Howard’s” who rises at 5 to exercise and then can count 20,000 steps more in a day, nonstop activity. So I think I am a bonus to this doctor at the beginning of his day, the picture of health that still bends and straightens, pretty much as I have for years. Besides, he has others- truly ill patients to follow. No doubt some younger, perkier, most likely still have monthly flow.

At my Pilates studio, there was a celebration of our instructor’s new venture as she rebranded. On a perfect afternoon in a truly lovely affair, her clients gathered to toast her. As I looked around, I noted most were of my vintage, well heeled, about my age, more or less. And my husband added upon observing the crowd,” all with straight, upright postures and good backs.” She has worked hard to support her clientele, her knowledge obvious upon viewing us as a cohesive group. And on the inside hidden from the well polished exteriors the fears and foibles of aging, of life, of avoidance or repair of age-related affirmities, of change. It at that moment, while imbibing and snacking , chatting and relaxing, the beautiful surface of healthy bodies has gathered to assert the possibilities of health, exercise, good aging.

For me, turning 70 was the line in the sand, viewing myself standing on the other side, “ the waiting room” as coined by my daughter-in-law’s grandparents. Although they joked about the approach of that new dimension of personal evolution, that twilight zone that awaits us all, reaching that age is sobering. And although those morbid thoughts are not my constant companion, they are inescapable upon gazing into the mirror or surveying the wonderful photos from the Pilates event. I used to joke with my students how amazing Georgia O’Keefe’s face was as each line, crevice and ditch represented signs and symbols that reflected the wisdom of events in a life, possibly well lived, or able to record the pain but also joys that accrue in every day encounters. Still as I scan the faces of Millennials or those younger such as the muscle bound fellow overlapping my seat at the Jays game Friday, the secret is : not one of us escapes and you too will get old and lose that robust beauty, that gleam of the solidity of step and body you are presently experiencing.It is the secret that even if we know, we tend to forget, erase, ignore as we leap two flights of steps or reach for the highest shelf with no clawing pain in our shoulders.

However, to combat the decline of the physical is the inner life, because the interior of a person, an oldster, a boomer is so rich: contemplating the joy of a grandson racing through the Bata Museum collecting clues; the appreciation of the table bouquet of fuchsia and orange blooms this week at the Law Society; cuddling against my husband’s warm body when I cannot sleep; watching birds wolf down the seeds at the feeder and a squirrel mount pole to get his fair share; the cool of the pool on these inexplicably humid days; the joys of sensation;the still( for how long?) deep discussions and thoughts on books like Waking Lion and the quick sarcastic interchanges by email with my irreverent friend in La Jolla whose sparkling wit makes me laugh, the satisfaction of painting that that has improved just a bit and serves as a retreat into mindfulness, and less occupation with jarring or sad thoughts. Being able to live, more or less, without pain with three herniated disks. These are my bowl full of gratitude while I persist, my accumulated wealth, the thoughts I collect and bank in my head.

I think my mother knew that one has little control in life, that it happens to you, that fate and luck play a role and one can only alter so much, try as we may, that we must work with what we have. So we strut and fret our hour on this stage, ranting silently at technology that changes our words, doing what we can to clear the chaos. And like my wise mother, an ordinary but extraordinary person building a house on sand to be swept away but hoping some fragment or particle , some idea will have taken root in her children: of her, of her ideals, her way of doing things, her desire for a better world lived out in an unassuming, virtuous thoughtful way, we push forward against the world, events these days so horrorful of immigrant children, trade sanctions, stupid people in power,

For always roaming with a hungry heart

Much have I seen and known…

I am a part of all that I have met;

Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’

Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades

For ever and forever when I move.

How dull it is to pause, to make an end,

To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!

And although I never figured that poetry gleaned and memorized in university would stay with me and persist so strongly in my head, it has -and expresses sentiments more succinctly, more sweetly (these lines pilfered from Tennyson in Ulysses),

We are not now that strength which in old days

Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are…

Lip Service and Children

My father used to scold me,” Don’t be so sensitive Pat”. And so I was, and am, now accepting my emotional responses are who I am.

But this week has been a strange and terrible one, one that actually caused a change in policy decreed first ,but later denied by Trump. Well at least it was reversed. The one about tearing children from their parents, recalling images of the holocaust, the gas chambers… where the separation ended in tragedy and death.

Recently I read an article by motherless Rwandan refugee Clementine Wawariya and although now living in the States, she has a problem with the words we use such as genocide. She writes,” I hated the word immediately. I did not understand the point of it then. I resent and revile it now.. it is tidy and efficient. It holds no true emotion. It is impersonal when it needs to be intimate: cold and sterile when it needs to be gruesome. It’s hollow, disingenuous, the worst kind of lie.The word genocide cannot tell you, cannot make you feel, the way I felt in Rwanda. The way I felt in Burundi….it’s not like the holocaust…the killing fields in Cambodia…ethnic cleansing in Bosnia…There’s no catchall term…You cannot line up atrocities like a matching set. You cannot bear witness with a single word.”

One might say we should celebrate the power of the people to protest, who caused the President to reverse his ruling, but ironically, I suppose, the entire horror show makes me feel helpless.As all of those victims of holocaust, genocide and autocratic societies must have, the words cool containers for the lives destroyed . In wondering what these victims could do, they must have experienced that knowledge that they were helpless, their fates determined by others or one other, and they played no role in choosing their own fate, changing the outcome of heedless power.

The images of children, the detention centres, the callousness and ease with which the proclamation came down takes one ‘s breath away. It’s more useless talk about a kinder society and instead of living out those values, the words are given lip service. Just yesterday I was told a story of school bullying where in spite of parental attempts to diffuse the situation and even direct appeals to a principal and the perpetrators’ parents, the victim was continually shadowed with whispers of ‘ loser’ from October to June, until that school year ended. How did she manage?, I asked . The mother reliving that agony related, “ therapy.” In spite of a year of torture, the mother quietly asserted she did not think much of the school. And again I thought, everyone has made such a big deal about bullying and when the beast is identified, it is ignored, the jeers and guffaws, silent looks, threatening calls and vicious silent attacks that erode children’s confidence and never ever leave them.

I taught at Northern Secondary and one year we had a principal Jim MacCarron. He was a big guy, over 6 feet tall and almost that wide. It was the years of burgeoning gangs, and I was told as well, that at the south doors, if you wanted, you could get any drug you wanted, but no one stalked or bugged you. We had kids from all over at that school, close to the size of a small city- someone said 2100- maybe, some came to play football, the so- called gifted hung out there, learning disabled and hard of hearing adolescents, regular kids, all co- existing in a dilapidated school , truly much like a community of diversity. Anyway, big Jim got word of a race riot that was building on the grounds. He did not wait. He waded right into the thick of it, right dead between the thick bodies of gangs ready to fight, and guess what?It dispersed, the rats drew back, and the scene fraught for explosion disappeared. I’m not saying Big Jim was perfect, but on that day, he demonstrated to the school, he was a person who took action.

Today it feels like the talk is just talk and while it is great that issues are out in the open, it seems to be more of the same, little change and improvement. All that is booming is technology that has created its own set of problems .

And how scary is it that my four year old grandson must be instructed how to play dead should a gunman enter his classroom, so I worry there is more talk than role models who lead by example.

And the despicable Corey Lewandowski aid of repulsive Trump mocked a 10-year-old girl with Down Syndrome who had been separated from her mother as she illegally crossed the southern border. He, in his stupidly and display of callousness, brazenly and embarrassingly cried out, “Wah- Wah.Wah.” What a world. You can put a child’s picture on a Gerber package, but obviously it holds no impact on adults with no values, morals or compassion. There are no words for that low level piece of trash, representative and extending the American government. Mrs. Trump’s Jacket from Zara said it all.

The values we once strove to uphold are mocked: honesty, compassion, goodness have been trampled upon and the leader of the free world deplores sharing, support, only intent on self- proclamation, self- serving politics. Who cares if human rights are ignored or dictators who have their own families murdered are lauded and exulted as being smart or good guys?. How is it possible that our own little Fords with scant knowledge and little apology for their ignorance have been elected here? Crass and repugnant. And even our own Justin Trudeau has promoted a pipe line that will destroy aboriginal lands, pollute the environment when two- faced he has pronounced he is for the reverse. Where have the people of honour gone?

Perhaps these are just some of the reasons I deplore politics. It’s so easy to say the right things, to stroke the consciences of the world, but double deal. And of course in Trump’s case, he just lies, not bothering to even give mouth service to what we had once been taught was for the good of others and the promotion of a just and humane society. The beast has been let out of the cage and the world has been darkened . Yeats wrote,

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

Our good friends in La Jolla say they are embarrassed to be Americans with Trump at the helm. And yet people still support him, do his biddings. And the little weasel Jeff Sessions quotes from the Bible for rationale of separation of parents and children . With an arrogant smirk. And as in the crusades, the mindless find words to back up their idiotic stance, fundamentalists well versed in twisting whatever is available to toughen their stand, even though separation of state and religion is the rule. From homosexuality, abortion, child marriage, child abuse, slavery, terrorism, some advocate chants a verse , believing he has legitimized his horrendous argument. How hideous is all of this.

And yes, people are standing up. Even Stephen Colbert who nightly shines a light on the evils of Trump in the Whitehouse encouraged his viewers to call and protest the degradation of children to their representatives. And perhaps the photo ops of the distraught children helped so the policy was reversed. Well, at least that. And as brash as Robert De Niro twice affirmed at The Tonies, “F**k Trump.”

My mother used to lament that she hoped that she would leave the world in a better place for her children than she had found it. I too have that wish for my grandchildren, but I fear it will not be so.

Apologies to Paul Simon

Don’t know why the Pul Simon concert made me so teary-eyed and even two days later I was wallowing a bit in nostalgia.

We dashed from our 7:30 arrival from San Diego to the concert Tuesday night. For mom and pops days our son had bought us tickets for the show. In spite of trepidation of a late arrival, we missed only ½ of Paul Simon’s opening of America. The audience was all ready engaged, attentively listening, as we fumbled into the wrong seats, stirring the ire of those all ready comfortably reposed at the ACC

We had great seats. The crowd was large and because of the venue, ( although Massey hall would have been more intimate), we had a sense of the man, the singer- song writer, even his soft grin, but no real clear penetrating look into his eyes.

This music is not harsh, or requires boisterous playing. Rather thoughtful strumming, intelligent and quirky. It rocked me back, suggesting lullabies for the 70’s grownups as it does not jar, rather caresses. To refer to Simon’s tunes in this way is not disrespectful, rather the music of our life, the soulful notes that surprise when you least expect them, evoking a time of love, of friendship, of meaningful transitions. As my son, Jordan stated,”It’s about growing up” .

My first remembrance of Paul Simon is the coupling of the dark haired boy with the wildhaired Art Garfunkel in Carnal Knowledge, a breakthrough movie when I was a boomer , young and impressionable.Not sure as I write this: why the movie stopped time for me and focused me, maybe something about the carelessness of love; I cannot say for sure . Critics in 2004 had written,” Ah, the sweet smell of ’70s American cinema when anything was possible” and “[Carnal Knowledge], misunderstood by critics and viewers, Nichols’ satire of male chauvinism is by turns witty, provocative, funny, and depressing…” Roger Ebert weighed in, commenting,”…within that universe, men and woman fail to find sexual and personal happiness because they can’t break through their patterns of treating each other as objects.”

Garfunkel once said of Paul Simon,

“He was really a great joker… was kind of like Lenny Bruce – tearing hypocrisy off of the American cliché. And it brought out my funny side. I’m not bad myself, I have a good ear for the absurd. So we kept each other going. We became each others’ pals.”

And the music says all that, a bit absurd, but not bitingly so. Tales of incongruity, sudden flashes of insight and the repetitive refrains. We heard the songs in the 70’s as a witness to a developing America on relationships, setting out, observing the incongruities of love, friendship, politics, almost erasing the singers who quietly sat back, looked out over their country, contemplated and played with melodies and words.

With the writing of Bridge Over Troubled Waters, in 1969, a tv show “Songs of America” mixed live footage with political rallies and the American landscape, depicting Bridge as a response to the heavily politicized turmoil of the preceding decade. It was the time of Vietnam and Woodstock, MLK and RFK, Cesar Chavez and the Poor People’s March.These political images were controversial, especially coming from the gentle folksingers Simon & Garfunkel.The show was a commercial failure, beaten in the ratings by a Peggy Fleming ice-skating special. Yet instead of commentary for many of us, the songs sparked internal personal imagery associated with the significant moments of growing up.

Kept for the end of our June 12, 2018 concert, Kodachrome stimulated the excitement of a kid’s first camera, and how wondrous it was to be able to frame and shoot pictures, making the selection, feeling empowered, even in a small way . My own first camera was a little black box of a Brownie with a leather handle. After taking pictures, I took the film to the drugstore, waited a week or two for the processing and then in black and white, back then, I sorted through the pictures attached in a little blue book : my pictures, of friends arms looped around one another at funny angles, blurred images of my cousins, often causing me to wonder why I had selected those particular shots in the first place. But we, were crazy in delight to commandeer technology that put us in charge, even if the results were less than had been imagined.

The song says,

They give us those nice bright colors

They give us the greens of summers

Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day

I got a Nikon camera

I love to take a photograph

So mama don’t take my Kodachrome away.

He repeats the last line, much as an annoying kid would, begging and badgering for a new roll of film, a classic moment as the mother doles out change from her worn wallet, thinking that somehow this is developing a talent, or getting the kid out of her hair.

And the kid, cherishing that camera, feeling pretty fierce, strides away with his new toy, a petulant adolescent thinking everything force-fed in school was a waste of time,

When I think back

On all the crap I learned in high school

It’s a wonder

I can think at all

And though my lack of education

Hasn’t hurt me none

I can read the writing on the wall

Then the antidote to homework, annoying sweaty hours staring at the blackboard, learning useless information about English kings and incomprehensible math equations and more useless school stuff is proclaimed in Simon’s Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard.Real life, the kid believes, happens by just hanging out at the park, usually after dinner, playing ball, being carefree at the mall or hanging with friends, or with bestie Julio in the schoolyard. Yup, it’s aimless, unprogrammed , open ended and freeing.

Still mothers, to be ignored, hang from windows, screaming , “ Do your homework. You’re going to land in jail”. But the kid just wants to hang out on cloudless nights on the basket ball court, or meet friends at the park.Simon chants,

Well I’m on my way

I don’t know where I’m going

I’m on my way

I’m taking my time

But I don’t know where

Goodbye to Rosie, the queen of Corona

Just hanging out.

Even the choruses, soothes, like humming, repetitive sounds melodically bangs around in your head; it’s a way to avoid teachers, moms and all else of that annoying stuff that gets in the way of just being. The flow of words is easy, good background to the kid’s thoughts and just kicking up some dirt.

From hanging with the friends, Simon moves into other relationships of first love or infatuation, all the messiness of adolescence that sweeps you off your feet.I remember the music of Scarborough Fair through a slow twirl of fuzziness as if unwinding a gauzy scarf or viewing sepia photographs of a beloved, yet there’s a formal English country mood, of formal politeness, established in the repetition and rhythm of “Parsley sage rosemary and thyme”, even a shyness of enquiringly whether your friend will be going where you are headed. Maybe you linger at the bus stop or bike by her house, hoping to catch a glance and run into her by accident. Scarborough Fair was not part of the song list that night, but the pervasive hope of expectant tentative young love was present in his oeuvre.

But then, from wishful dreaming, you grow up and get serious and you encounter that first( or second ) real love that turns into disaster. So you deal with the irony of lost love, ending those romances that somehow did not persevere from the initial heart- thrumping glance that infatuated, tickled your heart and made you experience something you had not ever known before. So 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover provides an exit strategy from that fall from innocence,

Get on track, Jack Just slip out the back, Jack, make a new plan, Stan

Don’t need to be coy, Roy, just listen to me

Hop on the bus, Gus, don’t need to discuss much

Just drop off the key, Lee, and get yourself free.

In shaking off the ball and chain, there is freedom, joy even in the rhyme as Everyman Paul Simon plays with lyrics and demonstrates copious fun with words. Being cocky, self assured, you dump that person and stride off, cockily. It’s all part of growing up.

From impetuous first love to seductive affairs, Paul Simon explains in The Graduate , the very perplexing entanglement of an older lover in Here’s to You Mrs. Robinson, her allure as an older woman. We put precise pictures to words as we envisage a young and very awkward Dustin Hoffman and the black shocking stocking of Anne Bancroft’s seduction, but more so, the youthful Hoffman dashing across many miles , banging at church windows to his wedding, abandoning the mother for the daughter. Oh my! Shoop Premium writes, “Throughout the film, we are reminded of the mess the older generation has made of the world, from the artificiality of their vision—‘one word: plastics’-to the emptiness of their marriages. Mrs. Robinson epitomizes it all. Worn out and a drunk, possessing everything but feeling almost nothing,”her life riddled with secrets.

When the love interest is special and unique, as was Elaine in The Graduate, the beloved seems to sparkle as if s/he has twinkling diamonds on the soles of her feet, barely touching the ground.S/he is the next door neighbour, the tomboy, the one who hung with the guys. And all of a sudden and with a flash of a smile, the bounce of a ponytail, you were smitten, the caterpillar incredulously transformed into the butterfly as the object of your affections unexpected, an epiphany. Simon proclaims,

People say she’s crazy

She got diamonds on the soles of her shoes

Well that’s one way to lose these

Walking blues

Diamonds on the soles of her shoes

She was physically forgotten

Then she slipped into my pocket

With my car keys

She said you’ve taken me for granted

Because I please you

Wearing these diamonds

And we think of the music of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, the charges of music appropriation. Yet the music reflects the moments of life, sudden bursts of insight and even now these lyrics trigger the music, never to be forgotten. And reflect on Picasso and how his use of African masks enlivened his work, too, making something new.

Oh, little darling of mine, I just can’t believe it’s so

Though it seems strange to say, I never been laid so low

Such a mysterious way and the course of a lifetime runs

Over and over again.

Boy in the Bubble moves beyond just personal perspective. Using the freeze frame of the camera, we move slowly even scene stopping to reflect and ponder meaning. One website chat presented numerous interpretations of the song, ranging from the literal in terms of a boy with an autoimmune disease unable to live in society to insights on South African society to bomb blasts in Nevada. Like a good piece of Abstract Expressionism art, the artist gives you the canvas and the viewer or listener creates their own interpretation,

These are the days of miracle and wonder

This is the long distance call

The way the camera follows us in slo-mo

The way we look to us all( boy in the bubble)

Then that societal critique and awareness, that frozen moment as Simon looks through his lens, empathizing with “the other” in Call Me Al.The words say it all,

A man walks down the street

It’s a street in a strange world

Maybe it’s the Third World

Maybe it’s his first time around

He doesn’t speak the language

He holds no currency

He is a foreign man

He is surrounded by the sound

The sound

Cattle in the marketplace

Juxtaposing sobering thoughts, the memories of Elvis, trekking to Graceland, the Elvis story- because growing up, the hip shake of the master was seen as provoking young people to sin, and his love story with the kohl-eyed Priscilla and her inflated beehive hairdo were in the news that made us gawk and gyrate with abandon. And of course from the newspaper enlarged photos, we knew he was a soldier too.

So too the lilting clear sounds and lyrics in Rene and Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After the War underscore the days, reminding us of all the forbidden fruits we have been told not to covet,

They dance by the light of the moon

To The Penguins

The Moonglows

The Orioles

and The Five Satins

The deep forbidden music

They’d been longing for

Homeward Bound returns us to the performer, Paul Simon, suitcase in hand, fresh from one night stands, he longs for home, a place of quiet and calm,

I wish I was,

Homeward bound,

Home where my thought’s escaping,

Home where my music’s playing,

Home where my love lies waiting

Silently for me.

That concept of where is home? and how to get there? has been threaded through books and songs forever. In Grade 13, I studied Robert Frost’s poem,The Death of the Hired Man, for our provincial exams,” Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in”: likely the only line of poetry from Grade 13 that had made meaning for me and actually stuck. At the arrival towards our own home, I would always repeat this line until my children would murmur,” Yes mom, we know…home is the place…”

The final Sounds of Silence at the concert’s end was particularly brutal. Of course silence can connote alienation, distance, withdrawal or death and the ultimate conclusion of the journey .For Paul Simon at 76, his journey continues, providing the boomers with more than sounds of silence, echoing through the unforgettable songs bits and pieces of their growing up that resound with the happiness and awareness of lives well lived in periods of turmoil , confrontation, challenges but also excess, evolution and experience.

Guess I’m still Feelin Groovy😘

The Perfection of Pasadena

Last March in La Jolla, I met a woman from Edinburgh who raved about the Huntington Gardens in Pasadena.Always interested in exploring new venues, I pushed for more details. Years ago, we had risen at 4:30, boarded a van and in those wee hours had trundled to our seats for the New Years Day Rose Parade. When the crowd dispersed after the splendiferous floats, we looked for our pickup on the emptied streets, taking in storefronts, lanes, less than ordinary streets. But my new acquaintance’s expressions of awe about Pasadena had impressed and so I decided we should go.

From the renovated Roaring Twenties boutique hotel still in the state of renovation to a Thomas Keller inspired meal to the supreme museums , Norton Simon and Huntington, this was a dream visit to Pasadena that overturned our initial notions of a rather dreary city from many years ago.

Truthfully, driving from San Diego towards LA is a pain, and almost makes me regret the decision, thinking the speedy little train that runs along the idyllic coast would have improved my mood, but then navigating from train to hotel, to museums would have been a chore so we have no choice but to be stuck in traffic, moving very very slowly. Yet I had checked that Norton Simon only opened at noon so we had actually planned for a later start.

Because my background is art history, I often complain that people do not really look at the paintings, reading the descriptions at the side, and besides my training provides me a way to look at a work and explain it to my husband, pretty close to the audio narration. However, we decide to take advantage of the audio guide as a way to investigate the collection’s highlights. Although explanations appear to last roughly 3-5 minutes, I with a Masters in Art History and years of study , learn something new!about every piece before which I stood. Apparently the entire guide takes about 4 hours, we stayed for 21/2.

True to my subverting nature, I begin the tour at the end, rather than the beginning, my eye caught by 19th Century Masters, intrigued and pulled towards familiar works from textbooks. Bernard’s wooden cupboard decorated with Breton women, then abstract shapes in Vuillard’s little piece of women lead towards Van Gogh’s colourful renditions of trees, his mother, reminding me of his “ unique” colour systems, heavily impasto strokes and wild genius. Nearby are Gauguin’s painting of Tahitian locals in missionary garb, looking directly at us. Degas’ attempts to get right the legs of his dancers along with the his wax cast sculpture that have the power to freeze me on the spot, remembering the discussion of the adolescent girls as young prostitutes pushed by their poverty into the arms of patrons. I observe the tipped head of the pubescent dancer much like a young race horse contemplated for its fine lines.

A thundering Manet of a rag picker recalls for me the genius man who initiates modern art, he forgoing a realistic background, erasing its depth in a silvery backdrop, the words of his friend Baudelaire in his head, influences of Velasquez in his heart. Reading the brochure later, I’m saddened to see I’ve missed the Goyas and Ingres, those timeless prints and paintings forever etched in my head from university art study.

Because the guide is so good, we give ourselves over to it, proceeding slowly on the hard floors, sitting when we can. At the very end of the hall, past Giacometti’s stretched soul, colourful and monotone Picasso’s, an enormous Sam Francis beckons. Maybe it’s his use of globs of blue and blacks, open wide spaces that float across the canvas.They attract me beyond the light- filled precision of Northern Renaissance masters or the exuberant physicality of the High Renaissance, or even the clever transformations of Braque and Picasso that eventually lead me on to these abstractions by painters like Frankenthaler, Klein , Pollock and the more lyrical Francis. For me, it is the craft of application of paint that suggests the abstract artist’s knowing along side his realist comrades of the underpinnings of shape, form, colour, line, perspective but choosing to go directly to your soul and heart, eschewing the usual human or landscape representations that evoke your pity, joy, intelligence, the predecessors commandeering the old tricks of the trade: such as figure placement in triangles, the Golden Rectangle, meaningful eye glances, etc. With a focus on the media that artists use, the most brilliant artists go directly for your gut , your emotions, wringing from you angst or sublime happiness, a wicked dab of blue hitting a glob of red just in the right way so the white that conjoins them leaves you a space to catch your breath.

There are stupendous Rembrandts here at three points in his career. The guide again providing more for reflection too: that the portrait of the boy is unlikely his son Titus, ( wrong age ); that the canvas may have been cut. ; that the fuzzy thing on the boy’s shoulder could be an homage to Rembrandt’s recently departed monkey. The colour modelling and self- probing expression of the faces on his portraits as well demonstrate even to the ingenue how extraordinary a master Rembrandt was/ is.

There is so much here, but the guide, truly deepens the experience.The sculpture garden based on Monet’s at Giverny’s in France although not an exact replica does replicate the water lilies gently floating there. Glimpsing the oversized powerful Maillol sculptures of women makes you pause and gasp. And you have never truly looked at a Henry Moore until you realize how his shapes based on bones and natural forms , for example, are echoed in Nature until you observe them here. Set among lavender, hermercallis, germander, bay figs, silk floss trees, tulip tree and lemon- scented gum groves( to only name a few), the marriage of form and setting is unspeakably sublime. Especially when the sun touches both hard and soft surfaces, illuminating deeply while obscuring them. And have I almost forgotten Rodin’s Burghers of Calais at the entrance, their intensity framing your approach as they, heavily hewn from rock, intent on their path move away from the building.You in.

The Huntington is no less an excursion into the fantastic. At the Library Exhibition Hall, you are confronted with the Gutenberg Bible, a milestone in world history, the 15th Century oeuvre that initiated the spread of literacy. Nearby are Shakespeare’s plays, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and a note from Abraham Lincoln along with Susan B. Anthony’s legal defence for voting illegally. It is overwhelming and simultaneously humbling to stand before these benchmarks. I enquire if these are perhaps facsimiles , for years prior, having dragged my family to Chantilly to view Les Riches Heures de Duc du Berry , I was disturbed to learn the originals were kept under tight lock and key, away from the eyes of hungry tourists. But these at the Huntington are the real deal!

The American Gallery reminds me of the Isabella Stewart in Boston with the marriage of furniture and paintings. Here we find quilts, tables, spinning wheels and early portraits. Having just finished Cernow’s Hamilton, I am fascinated with three separate paintings of George Washington. Much as I would have expected, tall, unassuming, quietly intelligent and thoughtful. The Mary Cassatt as well displays a believable mother-child relationship , the push and pull evident in the faces of the pair.The European Gallery offers us free audio guides, but although descriptive, they are not as insightful as the ones at Norton Simon’s.

I too could pick out the contrasts of the famous Pinkie by Thomas Lawrence – although I did not know she died shortly after the painting of this portrait of tuberculosis. The Blue Boy is a stopping point, for he is beautiful, an icon, most recognizable as a symbol of childhood, well! a wealthy doted upon one, albeit the incredible brushwork on his gleaming outfit perfectly suggesting both rich fabric and artistic talent by Thomas Gainsborough, the favourite accomplished portraitist in the 18th Century. Sir Joshua Reynolds’s Sarah Siddons as the Tragic Muse is well explained by the guide as well , with a focus on the atypical colour choice of her brownish dress to highlight the whiteness of her skin and the Greek figures in the background, selected for their symbolism , erased, redrawn. Momentarily we stop at the 15 foot high stained glass designed by Edward Burne-Jones, not fully appreciative of William Morris and the Pre– Raphaelite resurrection here. With a collection of 400 paintings, 300 sculptures, 2500 objects of decorative art, 20,000 prints and drawings, this one single gallery housing European masters is a home for concentrated study, not a mere day ramble.

Before we head back to San Diego, we want to meander in the gardens. Wisely we have brought our readers so as to find a shady nook and rest among the beauty of this immense 207 acre estate.Although the Rose Garden wonderfully overwhelms in scent and fragrance, not to mention size, colour, variety and elegance of bloom, today we can only wander the perimeter as the pathways are blocked off. And although the Chinese Gardens are exactly and beautifully recalled as we remember them in Shanghai, it is the Japanese Gardens where we rest and read after pursuing the paths that treat us to small bridges overlooking iridescent fish and bonsai gardens. These 12 acres were renovated in 2011-12 with a new tea house by a Kyoto- based architect and craftsman. Situated on the slopes of a canyon, Japanese red pine, junipers, cycads, willows, wisteria and sweet olive trees bend and frame the restful scene. Fruit trees such as apricot, cherry and flowering camellias, azaleas, lilies, iris and lotus all coalesce in a storybook setting. Not surprisingly, we have been directed to this particular garden, time and again by previous besotted visitors.To augment the experience here, there is the historic five- roomed Japanese House that recreates the realm of an upperclass dwelling in the 19-20 th Century. Much of the structure crafted from Japanese woods that included persimmon, red pine and zelkova were also built in Japan and shipped to California in 1904. Complementing the construction are American- sourced woods.

There are subtropical, Australian, and desert gardens as well as a special botanical garden. But we must return to San Diego, our feet beginning to tire after more than five hours exploring gardens and galleries.

We planned to stop at Vaca in Costa Mesa adjacent to the Segerstrom auditorium. Their Paella Valenciana, a combination of chicken, scallops, chorizo, prawns, bomba rice, saffron aioli is exquisite and worth a visit. The previously night Bacchus Kitchen in Pasadena was likewise an anticipated fresh food delight, exactly as chef Thomas Keller might have expected in his pursuit of fresh ,local, simple foods where the delight resides in the produce itself. I order the crispy duck breast on chervil chive barley, orange- scented olives, sautéed green radishes, in rosemary oil. My husband chooses the New Zealand lamb that he proclaims is the best he has ever experienced, somehow not “ lamby.”. Handcut fries with homemade ketchup resemble no fry, even cooked in duck fat, that we have ever eaten, these so light, crispy and delicious. The absolute queen of fries, we agree.

And finally our boutique hotel Dusitd2 Hotel Constance, a renovated posh hotel from the roaring twenties its elegance renewed , its Art Nouveau spirals and curves charming: in ceiling decoration and hallways, bar banquettes and courtyard ( no wonder a movie company is pulling up as we depart for the Huntington). Refurbished with future plans for a gardentop swimming pool, self parking and a Cuban bakery to further enhance this luxurious stopover.

Fortunately the drive from Costa Mesa to San Diego is swift so we are back home at a reasonable hour, reflecting on the perfection of Pasadena.

Kusama and The Happening

A happening is a performance, event, or situation meant to be considered art, usually as performance art. The term was first used by Allan Kaprow during the 1950’s to describe a range of art-related event or multiple events.( Wikipedia)

Not having booked for the Kusama event in the city, I joined the long lines that snaked around the corner of the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario) in Toronto. Finally on my third try, I managed a ticket: interested in discovering the hype that was drawing thousands in persisting for hours in a line for daily rush tickets. I had read about Kusama, most articles focusing on her pumpkins, depression and withdrawal from society. So originally I did not have a sense of what Kusama’s art was about.

Whether the not usual attendees, particularly young folk, were just interested in joining lines or actually had a sense of Kusama ‘s installations, I do not know but about 70% of my fellow participants looked to be between 20-40, young, hip, a number with baby strollers, intent on garnering same day entrance.

Kusama’s six rooms are a mix of Alice in Wonderland and the Happenings of the 60’s, where one, (at least a Baby Boomer!), almost expects Alan Ginsberg to be reciting poetry outside the doors or a sardonic sage Andy Warhol stuck in a clutter of bell- bottomed followers lolling outside the space that becomes your own for 20-30 seconds. For the set up of Kusama’s show, for this “ happening” , the viewer follows a path and patiently waits for their own personal entry into each of the six rooms.

Beginning with the weakest room, Kosama declares that she had used her fear of sex to create an environment of soft red and white stuffed phalluses. This room is entitled Phalli’s Room and it is like standing in a garden of drooping, sad little red and white cacti, rendered harmless by their cuddly shape and decorated dotted surfaces. Yawn. Interestingly, these misshapen penises lose their identification as sexual warriors ready to attack. In stead they might decorate a mirror in a teenager’s room or be thrown by toddlers at one another amidst their other stuffed toys. Kusama appears to have overcome her fear through subjugating and transforming the texture and shape of the phalluses, rendering them impotent. I recall the work of the Surrealists such as Magritte, de Chirico, Dali who also played this game, trivializing nightmares, fantasies and neuroses through shape, size and context in their art.

The next rooms combine light and mirrors to provide that sense of infinity with which Kosama is associated. In “Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity” , her arrangements of refracted lights change from green to pink to red and you might just be caught in a kaleidoscope of fascinating glittering shapes. The end of eternity for me was fantastic, generating awe. As if on a ledge overlooking the scene ( my husband said one took on the persona of an alien from outer space), you are privy to all the fantastic shimmering lights of the world, dazzling, radiant, a subdued and changing colour spectrum . It reminded me of continual fireworks that rather than bursting above, continue to gleam from beneath your feet, engulfing and surrounding you as if you DO stand at the very edge of the world.

In stead of the lights I associate with the cast of a city emerging atop a river or lake generating an implosion or inner explosion , the scene feels calm, magical, wondrous and overpowering as Alice might have as she shape shifted. If this is the end of the world and eternity, it is a last mesmerizing grasp of beauty, somehow satisfying and ironically reassuring because of glittering golds and navy blues intermingled with the soft tingle of a radiant colour pallet, regally reminiscent of the Hiroshima Memorials to the victims of war. With dangling rectangular lights emerging from the backdrop of smaller illuminating gold and orange lights, momentarily the box within which you stand for your 20 seconds goes dark : no doubt to signal the absolute end, yet you’ve seen the demise of eternity in its magnificent glory of refracted light and steadfastly believe it will return- which it does. Or perhaps you are sated and ready to end your life with this final burst of beauty. So ironically again, you do not accept the darkness as the absolute end, only a pause in the beauty that has warmed and engulfed you.

In the following box ,” Love Forever,” you become a voyeur and through a window observe more of those fascinating lights now arranged in colourful hexagons, approximating the dizzying effect of love. From a darker beaming floor, a performer might commandeer your attention in Las Vegas to the streaming visual shower of neon sparkles on the ceiling as you can fix your gaze at your sweetheart through the two windows at either side of the box, peering as a voyeur might at your heart’s desire. In truth, it faithfully approximates that flash of magic one experiences when they catch sudden sight of their beloved. Hot pinks, lush reds , happy greens flood over the lights that continually change until all the colours converge and dazzle, creating both a confusion of depth, space and flatness, an illuminated walkway towards your beloved glimpsed and observable in the peeking windows. Being with my hubby of almost 45 years , this was my favourite. He is enclosed in the window for my eyes only, and I his in “Love Forever” in the midst of gorgeous lights that radiate into our own eternity.

Similarly,” The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away” is as well a panorama of a non ending sea of lights, most concentrated at a horizontally plane, some greens and blue, a city scale at midnight when every street light, shop light, house light is turned on, dancing against the velvety black of a night sky, but many small bright iridescent accents also shout out too in a created sky. This recalled for me the Yad Vashem Children’s Garden in Israel of the rising and descending spiral of individual candles/ lights against the darkness, both a cry out to an enduring presence but terrible disappearance of tiny flickering souls.

You have followed Kosama’s little path into this incredible place of beauty where the opposition of loss and presence combine, signalling the yin and yang of life: forever and nowhere; destruction and beauty; light and absence. And with these juxtapositions, you enter your own interaction with the mysterious, incomprehensible ebb and flow of what it means to be human- and the loss of that.

To ensure no iPhone pictures, an attendant accompanies you into “All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins”, the final box. And as the pink phalluses, this is a static composition full of interesting immobile shapes transforming a memory of homegrown gourds into a tactile form. So as we began our journey with soft art creations reminiscent of Claes Oldenberg and Jim Dine( think of the former’s huge hamburger) and her artist friends in the 60’s so we come full circle back from our lightfilled experiences.

We return to Alice’s world in a place of polka dotted stickers, chairs and tables covered with those dots applied by the participants. It is an exhibit of the visitors- making as are the best kind of artscapes wherein it is is personalized and made meaningful by the viewers’ own minds and bodies: the artist providing you the props, the means to internalize and come to grips with the elements proffered, participants organizing and making meaning through memory or suggestion -as most will by recalling an explosion of fireworks, a sudden burst or closing off of light.

The gallery has given you a set path through which you follow and enter into the rooms, but no one controls your response to what you see or feel. The arrangement of horizontals, mirrors, rectangles guides your reaction because we are programmed to think of clustered horizontal arrangements as sky or lake, the directionality of these surfaces imprinted by your own experiences of sky, land’s end, etc. or chaos wherein there is no pattern, organization or structure whatsoever . But Kusama’s intimations are merely beacons we need not accept in our personal realms, yet we do gravitate to the signposts in our experience as guiding our perceptions. That she approximates love as a kaleidoscope of colours to suggest emotions may be a common feature of love, that we cogitate that the end of eternity may be a cessation of all lights crashing from the ablaze of lights stimulates rational overlays from books, stories, our own acceptance of what we have experienced empirically. So she plays with our senses as notions of reality, subverting as she has done the phallic symbol from fear to friendly.

Although Kusama created many of these boxes in the 60’s, they are brilliantly refreshed, rendered new by the iPhone. Every person I noted entering was taking a selfie to extend and remember and record the experience, much as the infinite mirrors expanded the images bouncing from the originals. The viewer could now take the scene away, making it their own on their own mirror/ camera, they as the true subject of the exhibit, the happening, the light creations as backdrop to themselves.

Perhaps it is a sign of the times and obsession with selfies, that the younger audiences do not really come to see the art. Note how many of Van Gogh’s irises are mere decoration for a ridiculously grinning self portrait. These “new” happenings are self centred, the gaze turned inward, not out towards the works or even the world: light the most appropriate means to be used to satisfy this passion of the instantaneous, certainly a present day symbol. In the twist of this art as once a communal happening to a contemporary inner personal moment for self-aggrandizement, Kusama affords a dying yet endless vision, an evanescent one such as that caught momentarily on the iPad, that lasts a second, capturing the viewers’ fascination of themselves at a particular event, eyes turned towards superficial self, not a piercing glaze of insight.

At least Alice went down the hole in search of the white rabbit, meeting and confronting the Queen of Hearts, the Mad Hatter, but here the spectator is both Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dumber, searching not for another, but their own elusive Cheshire Cat smile. Yet pursuing the white rabbit does suggest a chase of the impossible or a dream, the white rabbit so curious, so strange that Alice cannot help following. Yet too, our sense of this exhibition is a happening that exists on multiple levels, the physical and the spiritual, enduring and singular; Kosama achieves this brilliantly.

The wait in long lumbering lines well worth the journey, a mocking Timothy Leary winking behind a light in eternity.

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