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Archive for the month “October, 2019”

Modern Love

Modern Love is a refreshing look at romance, its variations and manifestations. Eight stories highlight some of the definitions associated with love:

Storge – empathy bond.

Philia – friend bond.

Eros – romantic love.

Agape – unconditional “God” love

In the Amazon Prime production, the narrator involves the viewer immediately and unlike Game of Thrones, Fleabag, When They See Us, Outlanders. and other popular shows, the mood is light, no violence. And yes, there is, of course,- turmoil for sure but the everyday situations that regular folks experience: from yearning for a dead parent, searching for romance, hoping for a baby or finding love even at an advanced age are all gleaned through upper middle class families. Well known actors such as Anne Hathaway, Tina Fey, Dev Patel, Jane Seymour and Andy Garcia all contribute to the scenarios that focus on love. Without being cloying, the eight episodes are sweet but I felt, truthful.

Anyone who has lived their life has experienced the pitfalls, the highs and lows of love. When Anne Hathaway cannot bestir herself from her bed, pulling the covers over her head, we recognize the opposition in her behaviour even if we have not been diagnosed with a specific condition that can confound a life. Recalling a breakup from a relationship of two years,I reimagine myself, down and struggling, even compulsively finishing a sweater with one arm ridiculously too long and hanging, to deliver to my former love. With Hathaway, she participates, as well, but in extremes from full blown dancing in delight in the street( even if it’s in her head to illustrate her glee),beguiling as a sexy, confident Rita Hayworth, in gaudy sequins, kicking up her heels at the thought of a new boyfriend to being imprisoned in her apartment. We empathize with the thrill of meeting someone special but equally know how it feels to be unable to continue that dance of enthusiasm. Whatever the reason.

Likewise when a young woman yearns to be free in New York but falls under the watchful eye of Guzman, the doorman, a former friend of her parents, she bristles. Yet his vigilant eye and constant being there become a true comfort when she finds herself in a difficult situation. Sturdy, reliable, alert, appearing to her as judgmental, he oversees her safety, his presence enduring and trusting: one upon which she begins to rely.

Similarly Jane Seymour’s speech of contradictions in “young”versus “old” love also rings true. Observing her and her running buddy Kenji snuggle together in a warm cosy bed reinforces that even old love need not pass away. Beyond retirement, the two run, albeit slowly, in marathons, she spying him as a possible quest for a love relationship. He explains sweetly that he will never forget “ his Betty” gone six years, and she comprehends the depth, the commitment that ensues even after death: this she accepts. But as with people who have learned from their former selves, she knows how to build on compromises and gain from sympathetic support of another.

The desire to be together, make a life, enjoy the unexpected adventures or simple togetherness of, for example, meandering through the zoo are all reinforced in this series, a series that feels honest about the emotions that underline love. But even , in contrast, we view boredom that has set in on Tina Fey and Robert Slattery’s marriage and brought them to a therapist. Their routines appear mindless, their reason for staying together perhaps has run its course. She particularly experiences the angst and aloneness, her bitchiness a consequence of tedious or no real communication. It’s a relationship that appears to sit and recline in an old chair, not dance or bounce. She wants more, or to end it . All eight scenarios feature a different stage of life and what is intrinsic at each.

When Tobin explodes at the surrogate in one of final pieces in Modern Love, we understand his frustrations of harbouring a very messy house guest, even if she embodies the qualities he once yearned for in a frivolous youth. Being free, traveling wherever, rambling unbound with no restrictions comes head to head with grownup responsibilities. Yet each, the surrogate and Tobin, in this moment, demonstrate admirable qualities that bespeak what love can come to mean. Able to empathize and see from the other’s perspective, they also compromise, acknowledging but putting aside differences for the sake of preserving respect for someone else, present and future.

The final presentation in the series fills in a few gaps, gives us views of all the personages glimpsed throughout. True, no big surprises stop the viewer and make us wonder, scratching our heads. Even the lacuna, the final linkups slide away: our psyches sated, our desert ending an enjoyable meal by accomplished actors. The narratives based on stories from The New York Times are touching and realistic. They leave one hopeful, and unlike the self-centred actions with which we are confronted every day, we remember that there is love all around us, transformed by space, time and people.

The Guardian and most other reviewers report that the series is ho hum, not adding to the discourse of relationships, betrayals, mating, romance., etc. Yet maybe that is the point: that love does not change. That over time, what defines those relationships persists. And although the other reviewers found it saccharine, perhaps I am opting for the idealism that seems lost in a world of Trump, Trudeau and Brexit. When snarled in traffic, gazing on sky high condos, reading of the latest shooting or unending bullying, I’m happy to view something that lifts my spirt, knowing that the more life changes, the more some things stay the same.

Yorkville Reminisces

My mother and I used to do lunch on Saturdays. Years back the Colonnade on Bloor was our preferred choice once we informed my father of our intention. Saturday was her hair day, so properly coiffed and lacquered, she would put herself together and we would pretend to be ladies, perusing the fancy shops we could not really afford. However, she always managed the cash for lunch. There was that handtooled red wallet my father had made for her in polio rehab in which she set aside any coins for petty extravaganzas once the weekly demands had been met.

She always looked put together, nice, and we established a being together time, away from my sister and father. Although the weekdays were flurries of cleaning, drudgery, ironing, minding our store, TeleSound, ensuring a home, Saturday was the respite, the small flight into fantasy. Even into her 90’s, our Saturdays were ours alone, although by then it was a BLT at Tim’s close by, she by then wearing loose trousers, hair no longer coiffed. Still she looked not fancy, but fine.

But the Colonnade on Bloor Street of our younger days even back then had continued to morph- even years back and we eventually segued to The Coffee Mill, home to émigré Hungarians a few streets north. Here, we continued our tête-à-tête, she with her open faced olive and egg sandwich on rye, me with my Coffee Mill salad bowl. And in the summer, there was nothing more delicious and cooling than their mocha frosted mixture of crushed ice, ice cream and coffee, set out on small tables outside in a tiny shady courtyard, long before the Frappaccino appeared at Starbucks: which could never ever hold a candle to the Coffee Mills’. After lunch, we would wander through Yorkville, checking out the irreverent designs in charming boutiques by up and coming designers, discussing the merits or extravagances of fabric, design, cost. We parked nearby, the cost a quarter that later zoomed to a dollar. Not overdressed but properly turned out, we believed we fit into the scene. The love of finery, the flirt of slightly risqué design, the stroll into a unique neighbourhood, the dreams of possibilities illuminating our minor adventures.

Many years later when I shopped for a Vera Wang gown in New York for my son’s wedding,I was stopped and asked for directions. My mind quickly flitted back to those days with my mother, nicely turned out, elegantly but not overly attired in fresh, stylish clothes. And this from a pair who waited for sales, and awaited the visits to Buffalo for Susan Van Huesen shirts at $ 2.98 or insisted we turn our Honest Ed’s bags that contained underwear inside out should a classmate spy us and giggle.

The Coffee Mill was often the lazy Friday meeting place for my college friends as we wandered from university class to coffee klatch, close enough to campus, secluded enough to gossip about boyfriends, classmates, assignments, posh enough to pretend we were regulars there, too, in our hippy- styled jeans and ironed hair. Aware of The Riverboat, The Penny Farthing, real coffeehouses that opened their doors late at night, the dense grey musk of cigarettes practically obscuring those lolling or hanging out the front doors, the appearance of folksingers, Joni Mitchell,Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot, Ian and Sylvia , Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee and others, yet juxtaposed to up and coming boutiques such as Potpourris or Peach Beserk.

From louche adolescent to pigtailed student to chic young mom, I had to introduce both husband and children in strollers to the goulash and weinershitzel at The Coffee Mill- also Saturday mornings, extending their worlds as my mother had done mine to the Colonnade, once imagining and moving beyond the limitations of our home, glancing, judging, gauging those on those streets and how I might dress the part and appear a local.

Now, I see that like all else Yorkville is succumbing in recent days and even my treasured Coffee Mill has long since vanished . Where has Over the Rainbow, the first real jeans emporium , relocated? And Hazelton Lanes through numerous reiterations has been renamed , some shops like Andrews, but few others, enduring change after change, renovation after renovation.Watching these mainly Saturday haunts for me have now disappeared and transformed is much like throwing out an old teddy bear, for so many delightful shared experiences, trysts, meetings occurred years back in these locations as I learned the value of trending style, forbidden hookups, and an tantalizing ambiance that prompted and shaped my self concept of who I might want to be.

Other points of reference on Bloor Street like David’s, the shoe store, a mainstay for umpteen years is gone: not that I ever could afford one of their fanciful offerings, but oh! so wonderful to window shop and imagine manoeuvring on sky high heels by famous designers. Or the old Colonnade, and the sweet memory of actually purchasing the dress I had coveted, so slim then I, and finally on sale, for my bridal shower before I married- more than 40 years ago. And our wedding rings from the expensive Kres and Bernard, now gone, those rings gold filigreed , his thick, mine thin. His now encased by his knuckles because he refuses to remove it. Mine still slipping on and off with ease, the filigree well worn away.

Viewing the rich and famous on those downtown streets had added to a tutelage of a life quite different from my own, an evolving one from behind my parents’ store, one where money meant little, a bit flashy but one that taught with some imagination, a sexy walk , pretty smile, a sarcastic quip, or eye roll could catapult you into another world and you need not think of yourself as the awkward misfit with too curly hair at the edge of your own borough.

The allure of Yorkville never left me: as escape and desire. Even when I worked at OCT, into my 50’s, my lunches were spent ambling through these trendy streets, watching smart people, observing the latest or most interesting fashion developments, checking out the people in their expensive Escada suits, planning for the eventuality of sales on overpriced clothes, thinking, rambling, daydreaming during that precious hour before returning to work. No longer pretending but transforming through my mother’s weekend lessons.

Like these unique shops vanished, the iconoclast shops and misty cafes now sweet memories, my youth that unhooked me from one place and helped me develop into the person I would become. No runaway, just a minor rebel with an eye towards fashion, fun and freedom, stretching boundaries, exploring new neighbourhoods , my mother my mentor, wise enough to know how to move beyond…

Ritualized Behaviour

It’s true that we ritualize our behaviour, even from the time we were babies ourselves: sleep at certain times, eat regularly, out for fresh air, go to school. It’s how the world works. If we all followed our own clocks and predilections, there would be chaos.

But being retired actually allows one to put their own markers in place, when we want them. It is strange after so many years to direct our own paths, and often it is difficult. When I left my job almost 10 years ago, I felt at odds, unhappy not having the whir, the buzz, the time constraints against which to set my clock.

But the most dramatic rule of thumb is that life changes, no matter our attempts to hold back the tide. In many cases, our minds and bodies, at least mine, have altered although we certainly cheer on the clarity of Hazel McCallion, or Tony Bennett’s voice or all others whose genetics have allowed them to ignore the boundaries that Shakespeare delineated in the seven stages of life: sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste…

These days when I meet with my friends, our first topic of conversation is our health, most complaining about eyesight or backs or stamina. A few of us, me especially, admitting to quickie naps. It is a strange time of life, as your gaze reaches far back to times without tiny computers, the world run on technology, slower music, no dating apps, actually no aps whatever. You wonder how those even older than you manage the transitions. On Colbert a few nights ago, Hilary Clinton and Chelsea were promoting their book on gutsy women, Chelsea commenting on her mother’s long hand approach, Colbert even providing evidence of Hillary’s foolscap, arrows and the thinking that occurs on paper when pen touches paper. The audience along with Chelsea chortled. Imagine writing long hand. What a dinosaur, so quaint and old fashioned.

And me, reminiscing with the checkout clerk at Mastermind yesterday, recalling when Hostess chips cost a nickel and movies were a quarter.

But our old bones are also in tune with the seasons and the chill of cold , the rustle of yellow leaves send us searching for winter coats or turning up the heat. For me, I’m ready to return to San Diego where the skies stretch bright blue and maybe a light sweater is the only outer garment required. It is the lotus land of the older folk. Many of course opt for Florida warmth, closer by far but California is rooted in my youth with adolescent grunion hunting, days sunning on Hermosa beach, the shackles of parental demands absent, bands of roving teenagers out all night waiting at mountain top for sunrise. So how could those memories not draw me back to free and frivolous youthful conceptions?

Here, the fracas of everyday living with climate protest and a noisy rude debate among our so-called leaders, sounding like rabid ducks, squawking over and at one another. Arrogance, authority, so much so that I turned the channel, hoping for a minority government and the emergence of someone who is truthful, humble, kind and willing to make real changes to the climate to avoid the horror that not doing so will incur for the future.

Moving from global concerns to the smaller sweeter ones, I was heartened by my grandson’s visit as he wrestled with a small construction problem in the form of tiny erasers, concertedly working at it for more than an hour, eventually using Mr. Google only for backup, and staying the course to diagram the solution. And previously he shared his excitement about a library visit and I remembered how I too loved the school librarian at West Prep who always took the time to direct me to Ramona or B is for Betsy books. I recall her still, soft welcoming eyes and lovely smile.

So before working with the eraser puzzle, he read his new book, cover to cover, enjoying the quiet of turning pages, following a tale. When I asked if he wanted to tell me the story, he said no. I respected that, for the diversion was his alone, a happy, even enchanted one that he had shared with the characters in his little book. There was something sated, satisfied with being able to devote oneself to beginning and ending a book, like a delicious meal , or a twirl on a carousel: that fills you with the feeling of gladness, fullness.

So here the future and the combination of the old ways, holding a book in your hand; and the present day one, of grabbing an IPad and finding immediate responses to your queries that can illuminate your questions. But truly , this kid as all grandchildren are- is special. And all of us pray, especially during our holy days for a sustainable world for these “kinder” wherein some of the rituals will persist while others will interrupt, tear through, and provide epiphanies to make a better, kinder, more just world.

Maybe it’s the holidays that make me nostalgic, even teary, for the warm embrace of our parents who hoped for a world improved.So strange to be replacing our own parents in that quest.

Delayed weekly blog

Years ago I taught Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure. This play’s themes focus on corruption, betrayal, sex, religion,  women’s roles and  morality.  For some reason at present, the following quote came to mind, “Condemn the fault and not the actor of it?” Act II, Scene II.

Here the  moral question asks whether or not we should condemn a misdoing but forgive the person who commits it, placing humanity, forgiveness and justice at the forefront. Just as Heather Mallick  in The Saturday Star reaches back to Hieronymous Bosch’s paintings, especially The Last Judgment, she correlates the picture’s images to Trump’s stay in The White House , the lust, depravity: more than seven deadly more sins. Always blaming others, never admitting collusion, gluttony, guilt, self- interest, Trump and his brethren, shout it’s not me, it’s climate change, it’s taxes, it’s a misconstrued ideal. It’s not my fault. Mallick  describes the famous painting, intertwining Kushner, Mar-a- Lago, Jeffrey Epstein, Paul Manafort, Ivanka and others,

” Lust is Bosch’s tower of naked men pierced with branches and lances…its pure Abu Ghraib…gluttony is a bird with a fish fins and human legs eating what might be a rat- turtle…devils will eat anything…the scene is packed with weaponry, as  is the United States…it is a landscape of constant activity…Everyone in Bosch has a job- to do harm and to suffer harm , eternally.”

It is a hideous work but as was Bosch’s intent: to teach a lesson and repent.

So too Angelo and Isabella in Shakespeare’s drama, Measure for Measure, hide personal flaws and deeds  behind the abstract, projecting blame beyond themselves: on the deed, the actions. Isabella is often viewed as naïve, innocent, pristinely on the throes of religious seclusion, but some critics have found her manipulative and cagey. Herein of course is Shakespeare’s language, his brilliance at making his audiences weigh in, become involved, playing and jostling at his character’s inner monologues, grappling with  words that pique us, stay in our heads. Make us think.

Eventually, however, instead of relying on equivocation, on the one hand, but on the other, one must take a stand, deciding for themselves, finding a path through to acceptable and just behaviour.Hamlet quips, “To be/ or not to be…” How existential for the days, and yet, even now, most refuse responsibility for their commitment to deeds that impact on lives of others.

One tires of hearing about the ongoing garbage Trump heaps upon the moral, political and intellectual climate- so much, that even the momentary laughter we share at Stephen Colbert’s impersonations and reading of the tweets grows slightly stale. Bill Maher’s serious outrage underscores the depth of depravity. And we shake our own limp wrists in outrage, bobbing our heads in agreement at extreme behaviour that terribly has been so normalized. What a strange,  perverted world in which admittance but no prosecution of pussy- grabbing” exists  side by side with  “ Me Too” tales of unwanted sexual attacks, slack gun regulations and doublespeak bipartisan demurring. Wherein courting dictators and locking up children harks  back to the dark days of the holocaust. So too, did these treacherous henchmen not also proclaim, it was the job, not me, I’m blameless.

And yet, news last week’s of possible impeachment gave cause for some celebration, yet knowing how all other exploits have slid off Trump’s Teflon  greasy skin, one wonders. For even with the charge, the Congress loaded with Republicans may again swear party loyalty and once again Trump will overcome. The idea of loyalty, solidarity, support not pricking the individual consciences of the people sworn into government. So as Shakespeare queried, the deed? Or the doer of the deed. Is there a difference? Certainly Yates queried in his poem, Among Schoolchildren, “How can we know the dancer from the dance.”

So much is talk, false allegiance. The march by students on Climate Change is heartening. And having read Greta Thunberg’s words that are articulate, clear, passionate and true, I believe in the sentiments abounding towards changing global emissions. She says, “ “My message to all the politicians around the world is the same. Just listen and act on the current best available science.”

But it takes people, ( the sinners, actually) not just the words to move towards a sustainable world and arrest global warming. And like  Marc Maron ‘s critique that now we carry bags, those small politically correct notions will not change the world.Big moves, concerted moves by leaders in concert.

The words of scientists that disclaim the antivaxers’ “ beliefs” are obviously not enough. My daughters’ three children all succumbed to cases of whooping cough, even though they were vaccinated, but the children of religious dissenters were not. And more horrifying yet was hearing the case of twins, again vaccinated who died of measles in three days. Heartbreak.

So again, what must be accountableare  people, not the notions, the abstractions, the so- called beliefs that impact on the lives of the innocent, future generations that will not be sent to Gilead or roam in the land of Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys .

Maybe it’s my advanced age that saddens at the activities of governments who talk, talk, talk or like Andrew Scheer did not even bother to provide lip service to the wondrous gathering of students who want to shake the world. Perhaps he was more honest by not even standing side by side with his political opponents, not even pretending as our present day leader does. But truly how does a leader foresee a future when he’s not even present to witness a protest of his future voters.

On Colbert, Bernie Sanders dismissed Trump as a rich kid, but so was John F.Kennedy, and yes, he engaged in Rat Pack movie star subterfuge and naughty  trysts with movie stars but he also made many of us want to reach for the stars and go to the moon as well as help venture into Africa in the Peace Corps.He sang  out, “ Ich bin ein Berliner. proclaiming he was interested in solidarity. In the commencement speech at American University in 1963 he  said,

“What kind of peace do I mean? What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables men(!) and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children–not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women–not merely peace in our time but peace for all time.”

Truly we all grow up and old in different times. I consider myself fortunate to have had Kennedy’s optimism, his dream and his illusion of Camelot as a backdrop to my formative years. So too the sometimes arrogant  Pierre Elliot Trudeau, the intellectual, was also someone who gave us legacies such as  the 1982 patriation of the Canadian constitution, and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He was seen as advancing civil rights and liberties( as in the government has no right in your bedroom) that become a cornerstone of Canadian values. At least we baby boomers had aspirations towards a better world, stars in our eyes, hopes for the future.

For the kids today, growing up in these times, I suppose they must look to their families to set goals, not the nation. With overriding technology, with no clear heroes, except the goop movie stars sell, with corruption in government here and abroad, they are tiny sailboats tossed about by Hurricane This and That and set adrift on the tides of Facebook and Rogers( and not Mr. Rogers either),the breakdown and stupidity of the Internet, more gun shootings – and the promise of global decay. Of which the present day politicians are unwilling to delay.

It’s worse than sad. It makes me despair, pondering why? How did Camelot turn into Bosch’s depravity and self interest?

We need dreams, practical promises, a life for our children and grandchildren and great grandchildren.At the beginning of Rosh Hashana, let’s imagine a better world where people take responsibility.

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