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Words and such

Never really a history buff, I have nonetheless been surprised and fascinated by The films Dunkirk and The Darkest Hour. In Dunkirk, the filmmaker makes the overall specific by all of the protagonists appearing so similar, one might mistake one for the other, features and speeches almost interchangeable. Rather than distancing the viewer, the opposite is true and so one’s interest, compassion, involvement occurs. I don’t think I’ve ever viewed this phenomenon so expertly executed so that the hero is the collective not the individual with battles, successes, triumphs and defeats rendered universal.Truly it is beautifully accomplished.

In The Darkest Hour, the audience glimpses the bumbling, unsympathetic and bawling Churchill, the filmmaker portraying Winston’s spirit and mind set as unrealistic and refusing to grasp the fatality of Hitler’s onslaught on Britain, on the screen. And like Dunkirk where the an overall combat of the historical event is out for our scrutiny, here it is Winston’s elegant words- caught in the taping typewriter by Miss Layton, his secretary . As he fashions alliteration, hyperbole and metaphor, the prime minister digs deep and knits together phrase and sentence that cause parliament to rise and cheer. That such a toadish carbuncle of a man is the author of such joyous, indefatigable paragraphs underlines his prowess, not just to spout but to cogitate, form and craft masterpieces.Politician Hugh Dalton, offered this particular line, repeated in the film, “if this long island story of ours is to end at last, let it end only when each one of us lies choking in his own blood upon the ground.” How wonderfully tactile, elegant, inspiring but concrete, evoking a Shakespearean appeal to fight on till the end! Churchill, in his memoir, claims this was followed by a standing ovation. Apparently not, according to the critics. As in Dunkirk, there is an underpinning, a gritty humanity displayed, honouring the ordinary common person’s willingness to stand up for values that are worth dying for.Ironically, with changing times, one cannot help but wonder if today’s young, those not enlisted in military activities, feel likewise. In a post post- modern era, although certain strong sweeps of right and wrong( good and bad) may be apparent, dying on the battlefield for just causes may not be one of them. I’m not sure if the fervent reaction to sacrifice is still maintained, should the government attempt conscription. Well, maybe in the Middle East…

And although the scene in which Winston descends to the underground and listens to the subway riders who vow never to give in and fight on against Hitler cannot be validated, documentation reveals that Churchill did in fact, disappear for periods of time. In The Darkest Hour, the citizens of London are particularized, holding babies, given names, made individuals; and so , apparently, support the prime minister’s resolve not to cave to “ peace talks”with Mussolini. That Britain survived is somewhat a miracle as Belgium,Denmark and Holland had fallen and France was on the verge and the channel only a few miles across to theNazi’s victory.

But throughout the film, slow moving panning of the UK’s people’s, walking, headed toward their daily obligations, under umbrellas, clothes in monotones, observed by Winston from his car’s window, creates almost a painting like panoply of people, going about their daily work amidst the terror of war, solid, moving forward, individuals yet presented as groups distinguishable yet unidentifiable.

In substantiating the mounting evidence of war in Europe that should have resulted in defeat for England, but thankfully did not, I read too in Hamilton by Ron Chernow of America’s battle against the mother country and that also somehow in spite of the overwhelming number of Britain’s troops in Philadelphia, Washington, etc on both land and sea, the fledgling colonies survived.

Alexander Hamilton also was a master polemicist with a “slashing style” who turned out wonderfully astute and well phrased letters, dictums, tomes on battle and political manoeuvres.As an adolescent,Hamilton’s take on Alexander Pope’s poetry and his later responses to war skirmishes evolved into wonderful oratories that eventually drew George Washington to hire him as aide de camp. An autodidact ,Hamilton was pronounced illegitimate, and forbidden Anglican schooling in Nevis because his parents had not been married. Self- taught and receptive to studying the lessons of the Greeks and Romans, especially in regard to warfare, and mentored by other intelligent men, he eventually attended Kings College( now Columbia) although unlikely he graduated because of his military involvement after Paul Revere and the Boston Tea Party cemented the surge towards revolution.

Hamilton, age 19, anonymously published his first political essay in 1774 in defense of the Boston Tea Party, giving a speech that turned him into a hero of the cause.In 1775, his anonymous essay “The Farmer Refuted” described how the colonists could win. Hamilton, bright, out spoken and apparently self- confident to speak out, drew attention to himself as a military leader, both in deed and word, often barely escaping the cannonball in the field.

Still, it was his command of language, his mesmerizing, and what we might consider today, his overblown and flowery words that drew attention. Interestingly, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s focus transforms the words, the language of the story from then into the hip hop beat of today, bringing the story of the unique individual forward into contemporary time.

When everything crumbles and passes away, words remain, the best caught and written down, or repeated in oral storytelling passed from generation. The most beautifully constructed monuments or feats disappear. I think of Shelley’s poem Ozymandias ,

I met a traveller from an antique land,

Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,

Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,

And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,

The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;

And on the pedestal, these words appear:

My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;

Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

The Pyramids succumb, the bridges rust, railways are covered in grass ,” but words spoken remain… not as mere relics, but with all their pristine vital force”, noted Churchill himself on15 May 1938, in News of the World.

Interestingly that at present, debating circles continue, students still required to present and craft speeches, the focus on the power of language to provoke, incite, soothe and instruct. I was fascinated yesterday as a friend a semi retired professor from UCSD described his essay exam question to be hand written! In three hours: to my mind worthy of a thesis. His topic examined contrasting imperatives from the great Greek philosophers and the Bible. In the same way, Hamilton, in his attitudes towards heroic battles during the American Revolution, reached back to the wisdom of the Greeks, appropriating their strategies in 1776.

Contemplating survival then, and even now , I wished my own education had examined some of those old prophets still applicable today. As once admonished, those who forget history are doomed to repeat it- with all the battles, shortcomings and consequences. I am not suggesting being foolishly stuck in the past to doggedly repeat it, but the long view of consideration: juxtaposing and making workable the past in contemporary times, reviewing, discussing, dialoguing to note where the historical might be applicable. Without the past, the contextual background, we continue to spin in circles, unable to step outsides of ourselves and reflect beyond our own noses. Horrorfully,Trump does not, would not, cannot, is incapable of stepping back, surveying past battles with a wise eye. Terribly with the peril of China, Russia, North Korea, in tender precarious tipping positions, we are all held captive, holding our breath: the Churchills and Hamiltons, names to be ignored in these times of blunder, arrogance and ignorance.


The State of the Union and other stories

Years ago Jerry Lewis used to host the Muscular Dystrophy Telethonon labour day weekend. Stars, celebrities ,sports people, big contributors would make their pleas to the audience, and we would be tied to our screens for hours on end. For some reason that weekend was almost always a rainy one so there was little to do but watch.

My father was taciturn and not given to outbursts , his strong opinions easily read in his handsome face. Yet inevitably ,he reacted to the telethon almost spitting out his contempt, for he despised the segments, the heart wrenching vignettes of children twisted and wasted by the disease. Not particularly sensitive, yet he was infuriated by the use of children to tug at viewers’ heart strings. He felt it was cheap and ignoble to use the frailty of others to raise money- no matter the cause; the end, in this case, not ever justifying the means. And sadly after so many years, still no cure.

I recalled my father’s revulsion at the exploitation of children watching The State of the Union last night as the stories of unfortunates, from welders to policemen to the parents of servicemen were commandeered for Trump’s political edification of self. Now more than ever is the age of individuals and their narratives, a way to open out the inner workings of persons who are different or special. People/ viewers/ readers are more tuned into first person revelations, considering experience almost as valuable as fact for research or decision- making: at least there is an acceptance, particularly in journals that these accounts can provide validity and credibility.

And truthfully The State of the Union, made for a good “ show” , a way to connect with the hearts and minds of an audience, for this person called president. Mindful of my father’s reaction and my own sensibilities to difficult passages in a life, I felt it embarrassing and demeaning to watch someone paraded out for reasons that did not know involve the person themselves. During this scripted for television affront, a small baby, the child of a drug addict presumably, conveniently named “Hope” was abruptly woken from her sleep, her cover pulled down to expose her as artifact, to thunderous clapping. She screamed, rudely brought out from the security of her mother’s chest ( who did look uncomfortable) used for unsanctimonious purposes: votes, popularity, the edification of the demigod.

In Hebrew school or history classes where the horrors of the past were included in the curriculum, we could turn our eyes away from the human skeletons, the naked starving children running from the hideous intrusion of napalm, the huddled, the dead laid out prone and butchered in fields and in the streets, the starved, the slaughtered…; however, we were being educated into the evils of the world, that never again would or should we have to confront the terrors and stupidity of the past, the wars; and the photos were burned into our consciousness. These to which I refer were photos and movies, and often ,too, in forums survivors of holocaust and genocide, although objectified in the former, did speak for themselves in the later, the stories from their own lips, relating the atrocities of their own lives. They sat with their audiences or if they stood before them, they, the subject or focus of their own stories, not a sideshow for the gratification of another- but last night, the false self congratulatory moves of a person who cares more for gilt than race, colour, infirmity or need, yet attempting to pose as empathetic, a caring human,( in between clapping for himself), using the pain of others for himself.

Of course, these “ special guests” last night were not forced to appear, to stand, to wave, to have their stories shared. Note, however: they did not tell the tales in their own way, in their own time, they allowed Trump’s speechwriters to frame their pain, their endurance, their American triumphs for his purposes. Most held back tears as they waved or involuntarily, a tear escaping from a tightly clenched smile. And perhaps most ironically with my mind returning to the scenes of the devastated in WWII, was it to watch the young North Korean man, his eyes overflowing, brandish his wooden crutches. And I pondered that these crutches are like a red flag, a provocation to another crazy dictator, igniting another reason to let flourish nuclear genocide on the world, causing the death, destruction, the need for more crutches for more amputees among fields of the tortured and dead. Such a circus, such a ridiculous game, such a cruel terrible provocation by a stupid stupid man- who will be locked safe in his golden cage as the bombs fall and destroy, lauding the need for smaller weapons of destruction. A utopian dream, he falsely dismisses.

Not surprising that most events today are showcases, the CNNs of catastrophe of the week- from the Las Vegas shooting to Hurricane Harvey: opportunities for hyperbole and the manipulation of human tragedy for money and political obfuscation. The human stories are in deed human, but just as Facebook makes every personal detail public so too the boundaries are crossed, putting out there to the millions who gawk and could care less the private stories of people who have suffered. Unlike Metoo, where the voices of all sing together, in protest to end human tragedies, what we witnessed last night, was used to fan the flames of an egomaniac who cannot be trusted to keep the world safe. These narratives were mere chess positions appropriated for the biggest and most terrible show on earth.

I believe in stories. I believe in people telling their own truths. I believe in the multiplicity and authenticity of voices that can rock the world, not their usage for a showmanship’s ulterior motives: one of destruction that although inspiring the façade of hope, momentarily and superficially, is beneath the surface, a tottering rotten platform for manipulation.

Another Golden Globe Rant and Ramble

These are such confusing times.Our grandchildren growing up must feel themselves on trembling ground. I cannot get the image out of my head of my own grandson going to bed the night of the U.S. presidential election, excited at the prospect of the first woman president only to awaken to his dismayed father who had to break the news: that the abusive host of the tv show, The Apprentice, the loudmouth insensitive lout, the one his brother cutely dubbed Donald Trunk had won. Incredulous, C.J. wondered why.

Similarly persons one has learned to trust, those granted authority and power are now brought to their knees for their abuse of power and people. Not just trusted doctors or CEOs, but the gods of movies who have inspired and defined what is altruistic, good and human on screen have been revealed as willing to subvert and ignore the values they have espoused in the best of drama and media. That talk of the casting couch was not a hidden secret or that factory foremen took advantage of their immigrant workers was just accepted and acknowledged as part of the work world: people seemed to know, but perhaps believed it a small part of the dirty gossip that was perpetuated to entice an audience in show biz , but even should it be likely true in other industries and institutions, it was the price of a job, the ticket to success or security. We always knew of bosses who took advantage, who spoke down and worse from their own tenuously elevated vantage points, but most of us workaday mortals in our ordinary places, even should we criticize, felt embarrassed to speak out, challenge and confront, except to one another, shaking our heads in mortification and helplessness. And do not forget, those scorned who were sufficiently brave to speak out, the Hester Prynnes ridiculed, ostracized, branded liars or paid off.

Yet truly there has always been right and wrong behaviours. We tell our children, don’t hit, don’t hurt, don’t bully, care and support your sister, your brother. Only when miscreants are called out into the public domaine, do they protest, grabbing at some excuse or absurd rationalization to excuse odious actions. As long as they could maintain their behaviour unaccosted, they persisted, even bragging at the outrages committed. And some even as lately as Jian Ghomeshi or Albert Schultz protest at the unfairness, at being misinterpreted or misunderstood, that their partners were willing, complicit, actively participating in the deeds.

But lately there has been a barrage of perpetrators whose accusers have bravely come forward. And been heard! And even taken seriously. Yet, in many’s disbelief, the head of state, Trump, has been shown with his own words to describe his own unconscionable immoral behaviour. Strange incomprehensible times for those growing up seeking role models, and learning what is acceptable or appropriate in society when such activities go unpunished.

Discussing the Metoo campaign, Howard and I wondered why now, how had the tipping point occurred so that women were no longer silenced, willing to grin and bear it. In deed at a New Year’s Eve party here in San Diego, one older man queried without any sympathy or empathy, why did they( those women) wait so long , some seventeen years to come forward; other men in the group shaking their bald heads in agreement. Brie Simpson, editor of The Jewish Journal dismissed those weak unfeeling comments in her December editorial. In fact, she wrote, every woman she knows has had a confrontation . I absolutely agree. If you were a woman, you were free game, a moving target under someone’s telescope, especially if you were cute, sexy, smiling, attractive or not, naïve…

We talked more about women in positions of power willing to speak out now, exposing more regular everyday relationships in which they were unwilling to accept disparagement or worse –and in spite of Margaret Wente’s column in which she differentiated diverse treatments by salacious men, as if a wink, a squeeze, a grope, a pinch, a hug, a kiss, could be tallied more or less against forceable sex, ignoring any unwanted touch is an invasion.

We considered our present day society where a person might be willing to walk away from a job, go hungry and just hang out, rather than tie themselves to indignities. In the old world, you worked, you worked hard, no matter what. You had responsibilities that had to be seen to, children to feed and because you believed yourself lesser than the boss, you just took it.Often you were an immigrant person, relieved to have escaped the perils of your country; congruently, if you were a woman, you had been schooled on being subservient, knowing your place, being sweetly accommodating accepting the crumbs off a man’s plate, not causing a scene. Today there is pushback, equality between men and women, races, genders, etc. so people reflect,” I have choices”( even if you do not). There is a feeling that you deserve more.As truthfully, we all are due respect. And no one should be put in that position, between a rock and a hard place in order to survive any relationship, in or out of the work place. As well, the understanding that the personal, the “I” is as worthy a voice as the omniscient “one, “or the impersonal “they.”And stories do possess truth, often conveying more than objective facts, speaking to a truer reality, one lived by an individual whose voice quakes, cries, shouts, and wants to impart authenticity.

As always I return to the postmodern death of the paternal , the concept of nation, the rise of the individual, the interest in self versus the group and/ or the country. I do not say the post modern is a bad thing, and in deed instead of blindly following, questioning the rule or reign of dictatorships and monarchies it is a very good thing to think independently. But here is the rub: we talk of co- operation, but how often are our colleagues too busy to help us out. We talk of multiple intelligences, but give standardized tests or underfund programs or access for the disabled.We do put ourselves first, thinking we are special. So the women’s night at the Golden Globes was a spectacular moment for women to stand together.

And as always, it is not an either- or split, us or them. The solution is a balance of consideration of personal needs along side the needs of our community, for we do not live in this world by ourselves. Metoo. What we propose for our family, should be the same values we espouse for our neighbours. Far from joining arms and swaying to Kumbaya, I am suggesting that tired old Golden Rule of do unto others ,choosing respect and responsibility over pride, money and the sweet surge of power should not guide our behaviour, and should have been the mantras of the men, men who definitely knew better, but wanted to take advantage of vulnerable, tentative situations, in order to satisfy a base need or desire. But as in all things, what is clearest and simplest morphs into something twisted and complicated as we listen to the cries of the accused, refusing to accept the indictments of those they have victimized.

The Golden Globes was, I hope , a line in the sand, Howard noting how radiant the women were, shining in their stunning black dresses, a true feeling of solidarity in speeches and close clasping, with even women leaders of agriculture and unions accompanying the stars. And Oprah was the star, incredibly beautiful in presence and her speech washing away all others, including Elizabeth Moss’s reading Margaret Atwood’s words by Offred, no longer willing to be in the margins of pages. Oprah was a show stopper, the focused moment befitting her work, her image, her story, her journey.

However, Oprah, readying a campaign for the presidency and all ready supported by her fellow Americans is an entertainer- unlike but as unqualified as the man in power now. Unlike Ronald Reagan, also a media personality, she has not been a governor, and her work – in Africa, with the poor, in many causes does not sanction her as a viable candidate. Does anyone recall her call out to the base instincts of “ a car for you..” or providing Jenny Mc Carthy a platform for her incredibly unscientific views on medical issues I too was awed by Oprah, her brilliant delivery and presence , but The Rock also is contemplating being on the ticket. Neither, of course ,has cut their teeth in political circles. And I say this with respect that glittering Oprah in her grass roots ways has improved the lives of thousands, but I want someone who has been educated and knows the halls of power intimately. But I am a Canadian, with our own showy prime minister, dawdling over our physical assisted dying law, doing photo ops with the rich and newly released from captivity, so although in comparison Trudeau appears to shine, he, unlike his father, has not moved the country forward .

As Gary Mason in the The Globe wrote in The Globe, along with a string of others, Where does governmental experience, actual participation in the realm, the know how of politics occur? Why do we go to college if not to prepare for our future professionals.Where is the role of experience, preparation, research, investigation , etc.? And yet in this confusing world of fake news, such a man as unqualified was elected – no question, Oprah might have been a wiser choice. In this new world, should we not at least, some of us laud the age old values: attempting to build a renewed world that melds some from column A , some from Column B. Where is the wisdom that comes from living, honouring and acknowledging the mistakes of the past: to avoid redoing them in the future?

And we cannot forget or dismiss those like Governor Tom Wolf in Pennsylvania who has stood with women to vote against ridiculous repressive abortion laws, or Governor Jerry Brown of California who openly decries the building the Mexican wall and environmental destruction and Elizabeth Warren…There are , I have to believe good people who have dedicated their lives to working in politics, fighting the good fight, upholding the values I want my grandchildren to emulate.

It is perplexing even for oldsters such as myself, but what of future generations of children, what will they say of these times? Stranger and stranger “, quipped Alice.

Summer Roundup

As a child, I believed summer stretched forever, an unending beach that unwound along the endless shore. And even though I now spend part of my year in San Diego, summer here at home always beckons with the feel of promise, a break from routine. 


 But this summer has been unusual and has vanished in a flash, but as I reflect on it, I have to admit there have been some really wonderful moments. In spite of Howard’s fall, our travels in overcast rainy Europe were fun, particularly wandering through Copenhagen’s Fredericksberg park and watching the baby elephants nuzzle their moms; and as tourists feeling welcome in that city as we sought out differing varieties of cinnamon buns at local cafes. But even as a girl traveller I was drawn to Copenhagen time again, maybe the magic of the Tivoli drawing me in.

And recently, our time in Berlin was something very special too, the echoes of the clang of the war incongruous with the present day ascendancy of an incredible aesthetic, particularly in its magnificent eclectic buildings. There is a buzz here, particularly the art scene, exemplified in the outdoor East Gallery marking where one section of The Wall demarcated the city. Even hobbling and waiting in line, Howard responded to the Pergamon, museum of antiquities, remarking with awe at the turquoise tiles of the Gates of Ishtar with its dragons, serpents and strange creatures assembled piece by piece in the museum by wise architects -way before IKEA numbered their pieces, and the Marketplace at Miletus from 2 AD reconstructed by the Germans after an earthquake in the 1900’s.

We wandered and read and tried to imagine Berlin divided into quadrants. We walked and walked, each morning there at a tiny bakery where the fraus upbraided Howard. Their kuchen fresh from the oven, fragrant with heat and spice, a perfect way to begin the day after our nights spent at the fabulous boutique Hotel Am Steinplatz , an art nouveau designed hotel where Brigitte Bardot and Nabokov slept- but not together.

Berlin hustles and throbs, the people aloof and mainly unhelpful. Yet a supper at Nobelhart and Schmutzig, greeted at the locked door by a man with a messy man bun askew at the top of his head was memorable for its rose blush on venison, tiny new potatoes dusted with lavender and fennel ice cream. Along the long bar, we were seated beside a hotelier from Hawaii whose lover lived in Norway. The restaurant reminded us of Allo, Canada’s number one restaurant, but focused on locally grown ingredients allowed to shine in themselves, not entwined with myriad others- quite spectacular, except perhaps for the frozen, grated pinecones! They described their cooking art a “performance” and their chefs “actors,”and it was true that we were served with great confidence as our offerings were meticulously described.

Berlin overwhelms as you never can see it all, museums, intriguing spaces, that contrast of old and new that is difficult to assess and evaluate. As a Jew, I wish for an enduring rebuke to the past, but as a human touched by the evolving growth of an incomparable city, I applaud the beauty of advancement, that beat of art and architecture that pervades this perplexing city.

And in the raggedly beautiful Dubrovnik overrun by cruise ships, reminded me of Italy’s Cinqueterre with orange tiled roofs amid overgrown shrubbery. It too was an amazement, the quiet of tainted Lokrum where one cannot stay at night or die!, so the legend warns, reached by the gently rocking ferry. And later home watching Games of Thrones and recognizing the throne from which the wicked Geoffrey and manipulative Cerses committed their disastrous crimes, and the comment by a salesperson in the old city on the origin of the tee- shirts: “They’re crap”, he gleefully offered,”but the tourists love’em”. Huge smile.

And in spite of the torn thigh muscle for Howard , a milestone birthday where the stunning grandchildren all in sparkling white, assembled to pull off a surprise that even the all knowing Howard had not uncovered. An evening in the Cave Springs Winery, really a soirée of a tiny familial group prancing and dancing to the guitars of father, son and teacher as they strung and sang. Children well behaved, twirling, whirling and delightful to be caught by the artful photographer in a night not to be forgotten. Perfected scenes frozen forever we will want to return to and wonder at : four month old Georgia’s twinkling smile ; the mischievous antics of the boys; Aaron’s wild fling of a dance in a secluded corner; Carter’s impeccable rendition of Hallejuah on the recorder; or Remy finally breaking into smile at the black eyed susan; an overtired Rhett by the end of the evening, running around the table, signalling it was time for festivities to end . And Howard, who in spite of insisting on no celebration, had celebrated, the rock star of his own event. And me, quietly appreciating the ephemeral bliss of family when every carefully planned element falls into place, even the weather gods calling off the storms in the nick of time. Just wondrous.

There were quieter times too as we went to Stratford to catch a play.

We are aware but unaware of time, only marvelling in the photos of how we have changed: stomachs less taut, wrinkles more, faces softened by the years. One protagonist in Wagamese’s Ragged Company book reflects on how we cannot stop time, but how it is in us, as we change, but hold our memories of what has passed in ourselves and in photos as well. There is no evidence of time, no tangible proof. We cannot grab a handful of it, or take a picture of it as it moves: slowly, when I was a schoolgirl contemplating my days away from school; quickly as an adult when years appear to disintegrate and I ponder what events occurred just three or five short years ago. Yet I know poets have lamented, contemplated and considered on the passage of time, the incongruities as they explored times past, present and future, attempting to capture all in thoughtful, meandering words , a response to the unending march that eventually consumes us all.

This summer, the terrorist attacks, the idiocy of a Trump response to Charlottesville and the threat of North Korea elicit my thoughts of years long gone, of how my mother hoped for a better world for her children and the future. But even today, the 21st century, we are insecure in a world threatened by bombs, antisemitism and discrimination. Yet my friend Anne rebuked by her brother for her narrow view of the world submits there is beauty and good in the world too and she chooses to focus on that rather than the wider circle of the awfulness we read of, and experience vicariously every day in the news media.

Perhaps that is why my small candles in the light wash over me today as I seek to share them in my blog.


Displacement and City Issues

I’ve been home barely a week but fitting back seems more difficult this year. And although I am older, it has felt different. Which surprises me because the two past years have followed almost exactly the same patterns: from location to classes and exercise- with the exception of extending my friendship circles and adding a book group, this year has repeated the last two in San Diego. 

Coming home, I feel that my house space expand from one floor to three and I feel almost lost. Of course the weather and skies that fill me with gratitude and warmth in San Diego are grey, overcast and shivery here so instead of popping out on my morning walk, I now unlock my car door and re- establish the daily routines- of exercise and such . Today 10 cm of snow so sidewalks are slick, glazed with ice. Even the robins have found shelter today.

The cynicism and revulsion I experienced nightly as I watched Lester Holt and Scott Pelly discourse on Trump are personalized now . When I go to review scholarship applications at Artbarn and have to navigate behind barriers— barriers for Metrolinx that will be in place for four years – yes, at least four years-while the neighbourhood is destroyed, I am shocked by the chaos created by the goal to improve road and thoroughfare access. Several stores are all ready vacant as their businesses are ruined, and unavailable to customers. Where is the vibrant shopping community that featured Miele appliances and upbeat clothes and Chinese dining and colourful flowers?

Trying to gain entry to any store along Eglinton is a quest behind and through barriers as work slowly proceeds – progenitors of this action oblivious and uncaring that the incomes of the owners have been jeopardized or totally lost. Not to mention the stagnation of traffic. Where a month of inaction due to disruption would be a cause for outcry, four years is a death sentence. I wondering if our council people fought hard, but obviously they lost the battle.

I ponder the similar mess on St. Clair which at the end did NOT improve traffic flow. I wonder how those small shops endured, as many did. Is it any wonder that Gap can remain rooted while a mom and pop grocery cannot. Was there no other way to work with the neighbourhood or parcel out construction in the name of saving the neighbourhood activity? Like Trump on climate, the baby is throw out with the bath water. It is the 21 st Century with strategies that recall the Middle Ages.

I wonder if this construction and ruin is merely a Machiavellian ploy so that more condos can replace the shops that once drew people to this area. Eglinton and Avenue and Eglinton and Yonge with its schools and boutiques and streets upon which to walk are being eaten up by condos in the area , no single owner establishment able to pay rent-.Is this work intrusion into the area a lingering payback to the old old days when this borough was separate and garbage was collected at back doors? Is some bureaucrat , silent guffawing at dismantling this part of town? Or more likely, developers ,salivating, winking and planning for their takeover.

 And on my walks over the last few years whether south on Yonge or north on Avenue, I have observed the encroachment of those condos. I surmise that as businesses dwindle on Eglinton, they will be replaced by condos that like the construction blocking Artbarn, first disrupts , making access difficult or impossible and even dangerous , and results in the understandable necessity of the evacuation by the owners- relinquishing the space, parks, close subway access , community centre, the well located walk ways to the slobbering condo corporations.

Lying through their teeth that there will be more accessible and living space to replace single house lodging, the condos will offer at unbelievably inflated prices what my father used to call “ chicken coops”. And will only be available to those who can afford the exorbitant prices in what was once prime real estate- in part due to the great little shops. Just today I was told of the thinness of walls in new condos just north of St.Clair at Bathurst, but a wise first time owner, not wanting to share secrets with the condo next door, turned it over for a cool 300,000 over what she had paid. Who could blame her? So I imagine that our city planners and government deciders are destroying first, businesses, driving out and eliminating the diversity of the area-, levelling the ground for those damn condos whose construction merits will vary greatly.. It infuriates and raises my blood pressure.

So much makes me angry.I notice in the butcher shop near Artbarn, the rearrangement of cabinets, wisely away from the door that opens onto construction, and instead of the feel good welcome, I intuit something else here and I wonder if shoppers have in deed begun to go elsewhere. I had intended to head towards the vegetable store on the other side of Avenue Road, even my aunt deceased almost twenty years used to purchase her greens here, but I am unsure if there is a path that is not blocked by machines and construction workers. All is turmoil as I ironically note that in the middle of the street a worker’s car is parked ( where shoppers, should any persist, of course would be towed) and there under the loom of giant machines even for home owners two blocks away experience the shaking of the once stable bedrock of homes.

True California is LALA Land and I am a visitor there but also a part time resident, also annoyed by the noise and disruption of new screens outside my door. But there I can wander out- into the sunny shade, ramble a bit and see the reason and the order for the intrusion. Here I cannot.

Spring must be on its way here as I watch a plump robin on my fence. But sadly too I note the two toned squirrels digging for the bulbs planted in the burnished fall in my garden, digging deeply, as the ground is now partially cleared of snow. Will the raccoons lumber by too soon, nocturnal animals so out of sync, that they do not differentiate between day and night. Suddenly Hunger Games flashes into my head, the mottled fur of the squirrel recalling the outrageous costumes of inhabitants against the rubble and hunger of the destroyed cities. Doesn’t it begin by dismantling roadways?

It takes a while to re-orient oneself back home without being able to plug back into professional work. Gradually we reinvent ourselves, loosening the rituals of the day to renew our interests that once organized our lives.. This is the good and bad of retirement, but as in few matters, we are never fully in control of our lives, conforming to the predilections, spaces and times of others. And so I gradually re- engage myself, accommodating my days to my activities.

I write to express my pleasure and displeasure at myself in my world. But this morning, it is the grey skies and my disrupted neighbourhood that prompts my litany of complaints. How sad the world has become.

Truth or Consequences 

There is no ultimate truth. 
Maybe facts, thoughts, observations, feelings, conjecture, research, beliefs and wishes. Even  what has been scientifically proven is sometimes revised,  as we learn more, dig deeper, examine situations from multiple perspectives and consider the origins or the genesis of  ” the truth”.  The shifting ground upon we stand is never completely stable; however, the sense of a truth can be upheld , and with examination by specialists who have studied and contemplated  previous iterations, pondered recent revelations, and set themselves upon a scholarly path, we can accept, for example, that germs cause disease; that ice bergs melting is indicative of weather disruption, that children respond better to kindness than violence, that guns kill. There can be a consensus backed up by experimentation. But age and experience also teach lessons: many to ensure that we look with fresh eyes;  others, as Atticus explained to Gem, that until you walk in someone else’s shoes, you will not know their pain. Understanding our world is in deed a process, and as Mr. Crack, a former art colleague piped, ” You catch more flies with honey,  than vinegar”, remembering not to throw out the baby with the bath water, so we sort through and consciously consider what science and experience is teaching us, separating the wheat from the chaff.
And this week I thought I’ld move away from writing about Trump, but really with Trump’s continual attacks on the Press, this time about the Press’s hiding terrorist attacks, so I cannot hold back. Even Scott Pelly in the nightly news referred to these statements in a rather jocular, incredulous, ironic , irreverent tone, barely keeping himself from rolling his eyes as if to say, “ Hey folks, just more of the same”..And by the way, please do not forget Kellyann’s noting the “ Bowling Green. Massacres”. D’ uh. And then too, Trump’s support of Putin by insulting American forces use the same techniques as the Russians ( well, maybe- ), and so are not lily white either. To my above paragraph, I shudder to acknowledge that words and reflection do not exist in the realm of this presidency by him, nor his minions. Does saying it make it so?

Worst of all for me, I hate how he addresses his audiences, recalling Father Knows Best, in his patronizing way, ” Don’t worry folks… I have the solution ,” blah, blah , blah, as if he, simple minded that he is, has the answers and can fix all of the problems in the world.
I have always lauded the importance of form and content coalescing as in say, the work of the Bauhaus, but when neither possesses substance, all falls down. But so unfortunately,the entire world is the captive audience upon which the careless tirades come to rest.

 Jewish people use the Yiddish word “ bubamisces” which means something like fairytales, some that veer pretty close to tall tales or lies, narratives or stories people make up to smooth and sooth:  like the tooth fairy to assuage the pain of a tooth that refuses to twist from a sore gum. Everyone knows they are stretching beyond the realm of truth, but with a wink, the bubamisces are accepted with a smile, all knowing it is an untruth. In this case, Trump believes in them, concocted in the moment to disprove any allegation or suggestion with which he disagrees.

One, of course ,cannot accept Trump’s untruths, his alternative facts such as climate change , voter registration, immigration as the cause and result of terrorism as truths or facts. That he consciously makes up these statements to counteract or reply to his critics is tantamount to the little boy with his hand in the cookie jar, swearing that he didn’t steal the cookies. I’m wondering if anyone still believes him, his supporters even championing his cabinet, one swamp resembling another, whether it is the good ole boys who ruined your life or the bankers on Wall Street. But I imagine they do still support him as he is showing himself as a man of action, carrying out his promises made during the election. And for those who would call for his impeachment, waiting in the wings is the more diplomatic, smoother but just as bad Mike Pence.

The upshot is that people listening to their president realize that words DO matter, that you cannot insult the” so- called lawyer” who stands in the way of the Immigration ban and not have people react. His little condescensions of “ sad” or” bad” at the end of his twitter posts, just embarrassing final strokes of a scattered mind without a filter. Not long ago, we understood that as we speak so we think and so changing our language from firemen to firefighters, airline hostesses to flight intendants to contain all genders does reroute our synapses onto a new path : that includes and speaks to a more open approach, being gender inclusive in a variety of professions. Trump’s broken down bits and shout outs are once again reminiscent of the adolescent who communicates with his buddies in the gym lockers at high school.

Like Alice , we are feeling that things are getting curiouser and curiouser. Yet Trump is actualizing the platform he ran on. That  there has been such an outcry against Betsy De Voss is gratifying but it was assured that Pence would break the vote for another incompetent billionaire into power. That so many are so upset as verified by the number of people calling, writing and calling their congress people demonstrates en mass, that education matters and someone who has never attended a public school ( and neither have her children) has no experience to make important decisions regarding the future of the nation.  Yet, what experience did Trump have, either, that put him in his role? If it worked for him, why not her? Even some of the Republicans cannot support these alarming trends .  

A few weeks ago, a participant on Meet the Press voiced the opinion that Trump has normalized racism, sexism, and all the “isms” we have countered in the last years. And to allow and accept these slurs to be part of daily life is unacceptable. I thought this so strongly during the debates when Trump’s comments on blood or Rosie O’ Donnell or his fellow debaters were so out of line. Every parent hearing their child make these comments would have immediately given him a time out, sent him to his room , or insist he apologize. But no moderator turned off his mike, and even those interrupting his barrage of offensive outpouring were talked over. To make it acceptable, to normalize his insults is to stand by and accept them. I recall back in Grade 13 when we studied Murder in the Cathedral, one of the predominant themes concerned those who did not speak, but bore witness, had to share the guilt of the crimes being committed.

Victory against his ban on immigration provided cheers and a reinforcement that no one branch of government can hold sway over the others. We can only hope that more restrictions put on his orders will demonstrate to this megalomaniac that he can be checked. Yet I am quite sure, other evil types in the White House will be searching the loopholes and detours around the unconscionable manoeuvres he believes he is so able to pull. A early cartoon by Dr.Seuss about the time of World War II attacked the careless abandon  of  children from other parts of the world ( how they were to survive ) ,a slogan printed on a tee shirt of a character, reading America First.
Who said, Love thy neighbour?

Again, I shudder to think that the values of care, cooperation, compassion are not being lauded, as Barrack and Michelle Obama did, in the 21st Century. That selfishness, self- interest, close- mindedness are the virtues being shouted from the roof tops. Although laughable that Trump and Kellyann had to defend poor little Ivanka’s brand, that they do not know and respect the office of president sufficiently to keep separate the private and professional sides of the Trump family, is mind- blowing.
Business above all as we take care of our own. We fiddle as Rome burns. We couldn’t care less!

I was about to write, Let’s hope next week’s blog will focus on something more uplifting than Trump’s idiotic pursuits, but with the court’s rulings, there are ripples of better thinking- and words that should underline meaning.

Fixated on Food

I know it’s that time of year and we are glad for some relief from everyday reality, trying to obliterate from our minds the news of Cannes and Berlin, the confusing horror of Aleppo and the election of Trump. So we all need some holiday spirit(s) to blur the grittiness and sorrows of these perplexing days. Although most people are looking forward to family gatherings, shiny decorations and window displays, it seems I’ve been deep into chocolate treats.  

Besides, Lindt chocolates have had an amazing sale, and I have overindulged in boxes and bears and balls. However I must admit that I had been scarfing up those delicious balls for sometime now. For my Toronto grandsons who like to be surprised with a tasty confection, I have explored chocolate dipped marshmallows, sprinkle- enhanced iced pretzels, macaroons the colour of candy floss, decorated cookies on sticks or even a reliable chocolate chip cookie or two, only rarely falling back on commercial offerings such as sun chips! in a pinch.

With the renovation of Pusateris nearby and being diverted to the Bayview Mall, I have been lured into Lindt’s chocolate dream factory .The purveyors of this delicious nibble are smart cookies. They ensnare you with one freebie, and once you sample, you are hooked , whether swallowing their freebie whole or savouring and sucking it slowly as the two parts divide into a tasteful duo in your appreciative mouth. The balls come in a variety of flavours from cacao to orange to strachetella, all with that same structure that like a truffle, encases that delightful secret: a centre core of smooth and rich delectable chocolate. One ball is rarely enough as the slow ooze, my preferred method, seduces you to maintain and prolong the delectable sensation that has your tastebuds begging for more.

Maybe it’s not such a great sale as the woman ahead of me spends $35 on those amazing balls in shiny wrappings. My bill this time is only $13.But like the siren call, these babies tantalize and hypnotize with their chant of chocolate so you might actually imagine yourself as a pasha on an island far, far away, fed off the exotic riches of the land and you are queen of all things good, deserving of the treats that have been so elegantly
crafted for your royal palate. But chocolate, good chocolate is so damn sinful. 

For many years I’ve been purchasing a chocolate Lindt Santa advent calendar for my grandkids. Hidden behind each day of the month of December, a variety of shapes and sizes will appear, from mini balls wrapped in glittering foil to minuscule scrumptious bears with red ribbons at the neck ( if you are lucky) to tiny perfect gold- wrapped chocolate bars. I rationalize that the calendar reinforces their math intelligence because the child must search for the right number before poking out his edible prize. To my grandson newly arrived from a Philadelphia, he proclaims, “ I like this game.’? The regulars insist on opening several , even beyond the inscribed date, ecstatic should they wind up with one of those tiny perfect bears, the little balls abandoned besides the rarer more detailed confection.

Although no longer children who openly drool, for some reason to binge during holidays , we have given ourselves permission to devour deserts, rewarding ourselves for surviving our workday endeavours. At my husband’s festive lunch party this past week, his assistant provided him with not  one but two homecooked apple pies, huge slices of apples in a nicely browned beige crust.He was so eager to taste his gift, he rushed home and immediately cut cleaved the pie in eights, scarfing up nearly a quarter of it. His weary work junior lamented that an hour of two of quiet would be her exquisite treat; my husband was pleased that he could offer her a spa certificate, not exactly eatable but truly delicious.

 In the final week before holidays, my mind has veered into baking my formidable chocolate chip cookies which I rationalize are healthy because they have oatmeal. However in these hectic days, I also find myself purchasing cupcakes at our favourite cupcake store Bakes and Goods. They use Belgium chocolate and also offer a proper, not overwhelming ratio of creamy buttery icing to lusciously light cake in numerous flavours such as cookies and cream or caramel drizzle or kiwi. Then there are the brownies from Pusateris that are really large and chewy and chocolately… But do not forget the superlative chocolate ring from Harbord bakery. And please,  I beg you not to be misled with the poppyseed that pretends to be chocolate but requires closer inspection or the time to discern the actual name of the item tenderly enclosed in clear plastic wrap. In deed, I think the chocolate ring serves as good breakfast eating because it doesn’t resemble a cake but has a sensible circle open in the middle. Wherein a health- minded soul could heap with berries, although strawberries with real whipped cream might be an enchanting way to commence the day. 
In deed, my breakfast on my birthday this week will be a platter full of dripping chocolate croissants from Douce France who actually import their dough from France and bake it here, recalling for our family a summer in Beaulieu sur Mer : where we trundled off to the local café to kickstart our vacation rambles in the south of France when our kids were little. Memories of Patachou now defunct, where my first grandson learned to love their impeccable chicken pot pie. My daughter correctly raves about Pain Perdu’s almond croissants too that mingle crunchy, sweet, flakey and soft. One whiff and we are back barefoot on the coastal beaches.True, all proper in this season of indulgence.

I remember my exquisite childhood birthday cakes, my mother used to bus down to St. Clair for at Patisserie Francaise years ago. For a special lunch, she would make party sandwiches on their pink and green bread, exciting the artist in me. Sadly, however, she insisted on using my birthday supper as an occasion to invite and cook for her relatives, some wrinkled and bespeckled ancient great aunts and uncles with weird sounding names like Meneel. I hated the intrusion of people I hardly knew who only arrived to devour my mother’s hard spent hours of cooking for them- or so it seemed to me. Worse yet, no one brought me a gift or even a bouquet of flowers for my mother. And when her gentle Auntie Bayla quietly asked for a second slice of my coveted treasure, I carved it so thinly that it would not stand upright and the airiness of the cake practically sent it heavenward without much volume to attach it to any party plate.I too shocked myself by the absurd spareness I had achieved

I think back to my bad eating habits, Hostess potato chips and a coke every day after school while I watched American Bandstand supine on the couch . My mother who was whisper thin encouraged us, my sister and me, and besides, the pharmacy next door to our store was a ready source of all things sweet and fattening. Every week in our home, there was a chocolate from Margo’s bakery, small size 90 cents, large $1.10. If not available, SaraLee stood in for a dinner closer for chocolate obsessed eaters.

But back to present day and my chocolate gene that has been satisfied way too often in the last few weeks as I have not ignored a nod, smirk or an invite from a shop or counter that displays and lures with the riches of the season. Macaroons, cupcakes, truffles, Buche Noel ( from Dufflet for my birthday) and now has expanded its variety from hazelnut and caramel to vanilla mousse. So delicious.I do not care a fig that it is a Christmas cake with all of its symbolism. But Dufflet as well must have realized the intrinsic worth of this piece because I’ve noticed miniature versions tempting shoppers before the grand date of the 25th. You can eat with your eyes, I’ve often , told my kids. But here, eyes and mouth grow large and gobble- slowly.

Sadly even as we indulge, the bad news will be there after the holidays and reverie has quietened down.We will have to contemplate not only extra pounds, clothes that do.not close around our midsections but an unstable world. At least the sweetness of moments of indulgence will endure and hold at bay unsavoury and unswallowable thoughts.

Stupid People

As I get older, I seem to get more crochetty. But perhaps there are more things that cause my blood to boil and more media distribution to relate tales of stupidity.

My daughter lives in a picturesque town outside of Philadelphia. Besides bird sanctuaries, downy paths to traverse and solid old stone houses, there is a caring community that will jump with home cooked meals should there be a birth or death. However, some of these kind folk hold religious beliefs that are in conflict with modern medical knowledge.

My two grandkids. ages 3 and 20 months came home ill from daycare – which everyone knows is the worst place to catch germs. However, with breathing issues and explosive coughing that lead to vomiting, the 20 month old wound up at the doctor’s. Shortly after, her little brother began to scream about his ears.which wound up being the site of infection. In the posts on FaceTime both adorable munchkins appeared lethargic and very sad, their pathetic little heads propped together on one pillow. Almost well, they were about to return to school when the doctor called: to inform. my daughter that both had pertussis or whooping cough. And so the children were quarantined for another week.

How ironic that unvaccinated children are allowed to wander the community, infecting while the victims of this stupidity are locked in. Now, I have no problem that kids who have been ill must refrain from spreading the germs, but to allow the perpetrators of the sickness to move freely in a society like so many Vika mosquitoes is unconscionable. And it makes me furious at the parents who refuse to vaccinate, ignorantly calling on some outmoded reason to validate their dopey contentions. Worse yet is a government that permits these violations to occur.

Not surprisingly I saw many Trump signs along the forested roads and charming alleys in Pennsylvania. And now with the election of this man, I again cannot but wonder at the stupidity of people who have voted for the man who now threatens the security of our children. Not just in the US, but in Canada and world wide.

Watching Meet the Press last Sunday, I heard Vice President- elect Pence, compared by John Oliver to a Salem witch hunter, downplay the telephone call Trump took from the Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen, referring to it as one of fifty calls of courtesy that week.. Beyond that rationale , perhaps worse yet was the dialogue with Chuck Todd , an apparent jeering, an outright patronizing and indignant quality to Pence’s words whose born again Catholic views prevail in his outmoded attitude towards women’s rights, especially abortion. On the same show Kellyanne Conway as well presented with that smug arrogance of the victor, unable to concede gracefully. Although Todd reminded her of the split in the nation, Conway ignored an opportunity to show humility but continued to berate the Press who did not take Trump’s pursuit of the country!s highest office seriously, she scolded. When Todd asked about putting the country first, suggesting Trump divest himself of his businesses while in office, Conway took the opportunity to again lecture and absurdly crow,” You know Chuck, he put the country ahead of everything else [by] running…”!! Taking a shot at the media, Conway was nicely told by Todd that” …that every knee- jerk push back is going to blame the media”!In deed pundits are suggesting that Trump used the media, rather than the other way around. John Doyle in the Star writes that Trump’s “ bombast and off- the – cuff blustering and rudeness is what gave CNN and other outlets staggering high ratings..” To the shame of the profession, focusing on this outrageous man was great for business and ratings so they overloaded the network, gave him airtime so his “tell it as it is” mantra instead of attacking his bigotry and lack of knowledge that just became de rigeur and was accepted in the homes of too many brainwashed Americans. So says Doyle in Monday’s Star,”He played the TV news outlets like fools.”

So not so stupid there.

But read Sara Kendzior in the Globe today ( Monday, December 5) about the fears of a Uzbekistan refugee whose only crime in his country was to teach about environmental problems. ( of course, we now know according to Trump that are none) or Dov Marmur on the rise of Anti- Semitic outbreaks across America. Marmur underlines that these attacks are” the consequences of xenophobia, misogyny and racism”( Toronto Star).

There is that old poem by Martin Niemollera prominent Protestant pastor eventually incarcerated by Hitler’s goons , that proclaims,

“ First they came for Socialists..Trade unionists…Jews…

Then they came for me- and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Although Trump’s vitriolic words have been downplayed as not meaning what he has said, we do in fact follow the words we choose to put out in the public arena , transforming them into action. Consider how years ago the language of inclusion was put in place, for example, firemen was broadened to include “firefighters” so both men and women might participate in the profession. . As we speak so we behave.

These stupid people who believed Trump was a panacea to “ make America great” should have realized the only thing Trump wants to make great is himself. Where a big mouth is the main quality for election, one can only despair. What do Trump’s voters think, if in deed they think at all, of Trump’s rumination to put a Goldman Sachs banker in his cabinet. And with Trump’s boast to bring back refineries and restore the use of coal, do they worry their children may again return to working in the mines: images of Charles Dickens come to mind.

These are troubling times when a person of Trump’s demeanour, but more importantly values are not only permitted but encouraged.

I realize protests do little good and the horse has all ready left the barn. Perhaps what we can do is to continue to talk and debate in multiple forums so the old ideas of diversity, equality, opportunity, and kindness will not die within the next four years. Although we live in a free society , with Trump’s lambast at the Hamilton cast ignored and the ongoing( thank you Lorne Michaels) critique on SNL and the memory of Barack Obama’s election , that civility and clear thinking can eventually be restored, people must persist in finding positive role models for their children, ignoring the elephant in the room.

So last night Saturday Night Live does what Saturday Night Live often does best, to  poke fun at the political and the powerful with satire: here suggesting the President-elect has a penchant for firing off tweets with the impulse control of a toddler. And President-elect Trump, in turn, does what President-elect Trump does, almost immediately, tweeting out an attack on Saturday Night Live: “Just tried watching Saturday Night Live – unwatchable! Totally biased, not funny and the Baldwin impersonation just can’t get any worse. Sad”

Sad indeed. No sense of irony. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Things in Wrong Places

This week my daughter staying here with her two babies looked up at a tall tall tree two houses over and observed a hawk. Yes, a hawk in midtown Toronto at Avenue and Lawrence. She knows because she does these amazing nature walks in the country where she lives in a picturesque town outside of Philadelphia. What was a predatory bird doing in North Toronto?

That got me thinking about things that don’t belong.

The Republican National Convention brought to mind that old Jim Carrey movie, the Truman Show, or what I remember of it. Watching the beautifully scripted and choreographed sons of Donald Trump, I felt as if I were watching a play composed in a studio. Young men who over the years on Celebrity Apprentice who barely uttered more than mono-syllabic grunts of approval to their mega boss were poised and well spoken. My mouth hung open. And daughter Ivanka , the cherry on the ice cream in her perfect pink turning left and right to capture the crowd’s attention, all lauded their ignoramus of a father as wise, hardworking and ever so compassionate as a president hopeful.And maybe he will be! I noticed Trump’s demeanour had been improved and even his down to earth too loud ramble began to sound reasonable: That is the scary bit as the dictator weaves his web with lies and slurs and vague unsubstantiated promises that He can and damn it, will “fix “ America ( to the hoards chanting, “USA…USA…USA…” )and make it right, always capitalizing on fear, he pontificates, Give me the power- and the people on the floor of the convention, the overwhelming number of middle and lower class white Americans in their silly shiny hats and gaping mouths ( like mesmerized me?) cheer and shout approval. Papa will take care of the dragons of government and keep out all the bad people. He will protect you and build walls.

And later on Sunday’s Meet the Press, the same toned down Trump explains that the purpose of the EU was “ to beat America” and by the way, keep all those war- ravaged Syrians in camps at home. So much for the land of the free and the brave. And forget NATO.

My mind like many others imagined the moustachioed dictator who promised similar security for Germany, keeping or exterminating or locking away those rodent- faced Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, Catholics and mentally- impaired. The beer halls were full of nodding, applauding folk who burdened down by war treaties like Versailles and restrictions after WW1 were tired of their economic restraints and their humbling by other European countries. Chanting, marching, goose- stepping – remember Regensberg? Nuremberg?to progress with the funny outcast fellow who bellowed and promised pie in the sky, better times, make Germany great again, they desperately wanted to believe.

Amidst Trump’s crowd, one black, one Latino and a few in skullcaps( well, he did say Israel was the only friend in the Middle East) . And my heart sang Shame, shame, shame on you Americans, falling for the lies of the rich businessman. He has exposed himself in debates, in interviews, on talk shows- wherever- as less than a performer and the gall to think he possesses the knowledges to repair America. It truly boggles the mind that he is a possible White House hopeful.Today, July 25, 2016, his rating was 48% to Hillary’s 46. Has the world gone totally mad or are we just watching a egregious TV show where the old guy( with the comb- over ) gets the pretty model like Sophia Vergara?

Sesame Street used to sing, “ One of these things is not like the other, one of these things does not belong…” I know my thinking unusually does not reflect the majority, but none of our friends in San Diego support Trump, and the only person anywhere who said they did was an customs guard we has encountered at the aero port. We were joking about Rob Ford( before his cancer) at the border crossing , and this seemingly gentle , pleasant man volunteered with great pride his choice for the next president of the United States.Gad Zooks! Even Republican hopefuls repulsive Ted Cruz and John Kasich rejected him, one openly lambasting him; the other refusing to attend the Convention.

To jump back to actual fictional, Black is the New Orange, has also reached an incredibly depressing level of life, this time in prison as the privatization of Litchfeld.The humanity of the prisoners is revealed as personages you might chat with at the grocery store or the library appearing devoid of their crimes, heinous or not: contextually stories even make one sympathize with their reasons for being jailed.They hang out, complain about the food, tend gardens, do nails, confide their desires for love, companionship and better lives. Fraud, swindling and even murders are comprehended as the endgame due to incredible circumstances. The women, all races, colours, sexual orientation are almost mundane as girlfriends.

However,overcrowding and the imposition of psychotic guards have distorted circumstances to such an unbearable degree that inmates ( in the last episode) have rioted, peaceful tactics and sitins having been abandoned. Brute force trumps any reason. Again, it is the rule of the ignorant, the bullies to have the inmates taught “ manual education” as opposed to opportunities for true learning, forcing them to actually build more institutional cages, even destroying the small patch of land where a handful of tomatoes and fresh vegetables were grown. To the outside world, their re- education boasts a valuable skill; more lies, repositioning truth for profit.

I am not taking aim at business nor on the basis of one NETFLIX ‘s show decrying or believing that that like Chicken Little that the sky is falling. But as I survey the world With Brexit and Trump and his idiotic talk ( last night’s joke regarding Hillary’s lost emails), daily gun rampages everywhere, the world does seem to be coming apart. Yeats would intone, “things fall apart/ the centre cannot hold…”,ironically in 2016, way past Orwellian predictions of a brave new world. This cannot be what brave looks like, I fear.

 Ban guns, listen and hear the voices of the oppressed, don’t forget the past, and do not vote Trump.

Poetry Collectives and Such

Last week I received a glorified chain letter, but with a difference. It was entitled poetry collective.Annoyed, I reflected I would not participate but I did not delete it from my machine. A few days later, coming across it again, I thought it might be a neat idea to receive a poem or two.

Now- I am not a poetry person, rather my solace is fiction and prose and narratives. Yet in my head are stored bits and pieces of poetry that rise to the surface occasionally. “Such as home is the place…”, the haunting Robert Frost poem that emerges whenever my plane lands in Toronto; or the mantra I uttered to my kids for years as we pulled into the drive way. I giggle to recall one of my courting love notes to my husband when we were seriously dating, an. e. e.cumming’s line about” I like my body when it’s with your body…”

It is a nuisance to engage in writing chain letters, but angered by my day’s events yesterday and looking for an outlet, I pounded on my computer. What poem, I ruminated , shall I send out into the world? Oppressive weather, lost earrings, changed appointment dates? A return to the slings and arrows of life in Toronto prompted William Butler Yeats’ The Second Coming. Heavy, dark and forbidding. And how perfect for angst of Easter, but truly in tune with my mindset, I remembered from my university years “ …turning and turning, the centre cannot hold”.

Was I ready to explode too?

Yup, I was feeling torn apart, angry, twisting with frustration. So I clicked on the first name in the list and sent off the poem, a bit embarrassed not to be sharing rosebuds but gloom and doom that “ the centre will not hold”. I felt heavy, my imagination clothing me in the cloak of a grim reaper, my scythe ready to slice through the encroaching darkness.

But quickly, a response returned to express :the receiver loved the poem. I thought I recognized her name and to be of my vintage so I imagined she too might have been  introduced to Yeats back at university 40 years ago. Perhaps  her awareness of stodgy intellectual love- driven Yeats was accompanied by thoughts of U of T’s grassy quadrangle, and being young and wistful and dreaming of a happy future, maybe even in a  classroom.

The next step, however was to blind copy 20 people with the request to also send out poems. I chuckled to include my list of friends from Vienna to Los Angeles, contemplating a worldwide circuit that might travel around the world spreading poetry. So maybe this wasn’t such a bad idea and my mood began to lighten, especially when I was forwarded this,”It’s a green speckle time/ my favourite time of the year/ when all the trees begin to bud/ and summertime is near”. Joyously, some qother participant, had decided to play along with his best shot, his of a burst of spring.

Alas, my damn computer refused to co- operate and I had wasted almost an hour tracking down correct configurations of email addresses. Anger rising again, I reduced the size of my list, anticipating I would bcc in smaller bits, but again, my damn computer would only send one bcc at a time. So I sent 5, thinking, maybe I’ll do this later, but almost immediately two of my respondents emailed with thanks, but no thanks, I don’t do chain letters.

 I completely understood but the idea of poetry circling the globe like children of many colours dancing was morphing into a fleeting wisp of a thought.

Just back from three months in San Diego, the incomplete chain letter fell to the back of the closet in my mind.The crashing ice storm, the appointments put off, the reassemble of one’s life back home forced itself into my head space.

Where waking up to the blue cerulean sky had awakened a positive spirit in San Diego,the grey of Toronto had reminded me of more cold bitter days until we limp in to spring -in maybe two more months or more.The enjoyable colours of birds of paradise springing wildly by the walkways en route to yoga class were replaced by rustling squirrels and one very confused robin caught in an icy downpour here.The desirability of walking out to meet the day in shirtsleeves had returned to the grumble of dashing into the car buried to the chin in multilayered beneath my winter coat and turned my smile upside down.

Double humbug. I’ld even stopped the uplifting morning meditations and felt myself the tight brown shell of a small nut. And now even poetry would not go out into the world to shake some snow from tree limbs.

I should be happy: warm, secure in my lovely house, finally reuniting with my gracious grandsons here at home. But I am yearning for the sun- not sweating by a beach, but striding out in the fresh air, feeling alive and grateful for the day.

I’m not a supporter of things American and the name Donald Trump or Ted Cruz raises my ire and makes me rage with anger that so many people can be so stupid to support these crazies. I soothe myself that our fellow Justin Trudeau although not his father’s prodigy of brilliance is,at least, demonstrating the right moves towards diversity and environment,espousing a better world. But I must wonder at opportunities in the US, and why in 3 months, five of my writing articles were accepted in a variety of publications while here in Canada, no one is interested.

And why in California, people are welcoming and smile at you, often strangers initiating conversations with no ulterior motives, and why, too, does the service industry really try to satisfy -even should you sound or look weird?I love Canada and even when my husband was offered opportunities to move or study in the states, he refused. Whenever I can, I laud our healthcare, our innovations, our society, the Eldoas.

But maybe as the tail of winter is wending through my mind and I am experiencing shadows not sunlight, I feel down, yearning for the pink buildings of La Jolla and the outside cafes for leisurely lunches with my friend Peggy. Like frog and toad, I know spring will come again, but right now as the gloomy brown day envelops my yard and the perplexed robin stands perplexed on the soggy lawn, I yearn for the purple bougenvilla at  the side of our condo.

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)       THE SECOND COMING
    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.
    Surely some revelation is at hand;

    Surely the Second Coming is at hand.

    The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out

    When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi

    Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;

    A shape with lion body and the head of a man,

    A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,

    Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it

    Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
    The darkness drops again but now I know

    That twenty centuries of stony sleep

    Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,

    And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

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