Life

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Tall Buildings Shake

Tall buildings shake
Voices escape singing sad sad songs
Tuned to chords strung down your cheeks
Bitter melodies turning your orbit around
                                                                                             Jesus, Etc. by Wilco – Jay Bennett, Jeff Tweedy

Catastrophic events – like tall buildings shaking on 9/11, like losing a loved one – turn your orbit around with their “bitter melodies”, don’t they? I mean, one moment you’re here, doing this, then BAM! You find yourself over there doing a much less enjoyable thing.

Critics of the album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, on which the song “Jesus, Etc.” is found, thought the reference here was to the attacks, but no. Although released on the band’s website just one week following 9/11, recording sessions were completed in early 2001. But Wilco’s label Reprise Records “refused to released the album as they felt unhappy about the end result” according to Wiki. The band eventually signed with Nonesuch Records and the album is “widely regarded as one of the greatest albums of the 2000s”, again according to Wiki.

Which goes to show. Not only were Bennett and Tweedy prophetic, they were also discerning with their art, confident they had created something worthy.

Try it. If you haven’t already, listen to this song once – Norah Jones has an excellent version too if you don’t care for Tweedy’s voice – and tell me you don’t go around the rest of the day with “Tall buildings shake” repeating sweetly in your head.

Of course, if you were alive and old enough to be aware on 9/11, you no doubt have powerful memories of exactly where you were, what you were doing, and what your mindset was at the time. I was working with my late husband Hugh that morning in the office of our roof truss manufacturing plant. Mom called.

“I’m watching Regis and Kelly,” she said. “A small plane just flew right into the World Trade Center. It’s just awful Rita. I’m scared.”

That’s what the world first thought. “A small plane.” A horrific accident. As my mom had a tendency toward hyperbole, I said reassuring words to her, hung up and went back to work. My mom did not tend to scare easily though, so I did bring up the news – I believe on MSN – on my giant old computer monitor. And there was the grainy image of one tower burning. It was not long before word came – I believe through news on an office radio – that a second plane had hit the other tower, eliminating all possibility of a “horrific accident”. And sure enough, when I refreshed my newsfeed, that grainy image showed both towers burning.

The crunching of numbers, the designing of roof structures, lost all urgency. Hugh notified the plant manager what was happening and they no doubt discussed what needed to be built that day, or not. The entire office (about eight of us) powered down our computers and headed to the Oar House to watch in stunned silence as the towers fell, the Pentagon was hit, and UA93 plunged into that field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania after heroes onboard overtook the hijackers.

I don’t know about you, but I still find myself gobsmacked by the calmness displayed by many of the flight attendants and some passengers. According to The 9/11 Commission Report, on American 11, the first plane to crash (into the North Tower), attendants Betty Ong and Amy Sweeney “calmly and professionally relayed information about the events taking place aboard the airplane to authorities on the ground.”

On UA175, which hit the other tower, Brian Sweeney (I believe no relation to Amy Sweeney), 38, called his wife Julie from the back of the plane and left this voice message: “I’m on an airplane that’s been hijacked. If things don’t go well, and it’s not looking good, I just want you to know I absolutely love you, I want you to do good, go have good times – same to my parents and everybody – and I just totally love you, and I’ll see you when you get there. Bye babe. I hope I call you.”

The first time I heard the log of this call was when it was released on a news show on TV several years after 9/11 and after Hugh died, suddenly and unexpectedly, in the fall of 2004. He’d had no opportunity to say good-bye.

I sat in our darkened living room alone that evening and let out a huge sigh of relief. Ahhh. I heard, “I just totally love you” and “I want you to do good, go have good times” and I thought, Yes! That’s what Hugh would have said! I love you. Go. Have good times. Give ‘er.

9/11 marked an end of a collective innocence. A time when we were all blissfully unaware that four planes could be simultaneously hijacked and cause such terror, such loss of life and material destruction in just over one hour.

And 2004 marked an end of a personal innocence. A time when I was blissfully unaware that a mother could die suddenly in January and a husband in November.

 

As the 20-year conflict in Afghanistan winds down, the Watson Institute at Brown University estimates that 801,000 people have been killed by direct war violence in Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, and Pakistan.

Recommendations:
9/11– amazing 2002 documentary Jules and Gedeon Naudet
Turning Point: 9/11 and the War on Terror– five-part series streaming now on Netflix

Website photo: Chicago Board of Trade, one of my favourite tall buildings

Tall Buildings Shake 2021-09-20T15:59:58-04:00

Sometimes Groupthink Stinks

How much of human behaviour is shaped by the people we hang with? Our tribe. Recently, I’ve heard it referred to as “finding your five” – the five people you can go to, count on, divulge your deepest darkest fears to. In essence, be vulnerable with.

We need our tribe, our people. And sometimes groupthink is incredible and positive, but other times . . . groupthink stinks.

Case in point. I started reading Quit Like a Woman the other night, a book by Holly Whitaker, recommended – and sent to me – by my west coast daughter. Whitaker tries to pinpoint her descent into alcoholism, but as she writes about her college years she realizes, “drinking was still not something that I did but something that we did.”

I love a glass of Pinot Grigio, or a frosty rye and ginger ale with the right amount of cubes, but thinking, historically, about my drinking? It’s something that can dredge up tidal waves of shame. I drank too much. Blackouts are, thankfully, limited to the digits of one hand, but hangovers? A much higher number I’d rather not get into, because, well, I know not what it is.

All of this, and guess what? The one-time leader of my tribe, my father, suffered a long and painful drowning death by alcohol, setting a mighty fine example of what NOT to do.

My people, my five, were doing it and we had a blast! It was a simple equation:

tribe of five (or more) + copious amounts of alcohol = FUN

What started in high school carried on into work life, family life. Drinking would lead to hijinks which would lead to hilarity which would lead to lots to laugh about late the next morning over the “hair of the dog that bit you”. Ha ha.

And how dumb were we in the 60s, 70s, even into the 80s? Did anyone reflect on the effect of diet or noxious substances and fumes on health? Raised on processed foods, I ate Alpha-Bits for breakfast every day. (I do recall reading once that even cardboard with milk poured on it has some nutritional benefits.) Smoking? It’s cool, sure do it everywhere. While some of our rock stars were tragically dying, many survived hard drugs and booze in varying amounts and combinations, only to come-to in the late 80s, early 90s, going whoa. Lost a few brain cells there.

And now here we find ourselves: the processed food generation high on whatever life, health and brain cells remain passing the literal torch of a climate-changed planet blinking on red alert to a generation more connected than ever by the internet yet divided by extreme weather, pandemic, politics, racial inequities, economics, supremely high housing prices, origin-of-country shame and ultimately? What to do about all of it!

My husband B and my daughter’s fiancé, optimists both, say you gotta stay positive. And I add, sober. Find a sober, open-minded, positive tribe of five (or more) to hang with.

I saw just such a representative tribe a couple of weeks ago. The kids were different ages, shapes and sizes, but they shared a special bond: the sheer joy of running, jumping, and splashing down off of a pier into cool, clear lake water on a hot, summer evening. “1-2-3! GO!” Comradery at it’s finest.

I was strolling the Bayfield, Ontario pier, sated from a scrumptious pasta dinner, dressed in a favourite sundress. My daughter and her fiancé, both from BC, were with me. They’d surprised me on my birthday a couple of days prior by just showing up on my doorstep! Because of Covid-19, I hadn’t seen them in almost two years. The video my other daughter captured of the moment proves that a person can make a perfect round “O” with their mouth when genuinely surprised.

The shrieks from the pier-jumpers transported me to my childhood. My tribe then, some friends but mostly siblings and cousins, were swimmers, lovers of water in summer: hoses, pools, rivers, gravel pits, lakes, oceans. Ah. It was a simple equation:

tribe of five (or more) + copious amounts of water = FUN

Keep it clean, cool and positive my friends.

Website photo: My grandkids – tribe of three + copious amounts of water = FUN

Sometimes Groupthink Stinks 2021-08-16T12:31:53-04:00

The Climate Emergency

“Deadly heatwaves, floods, storms, wildfires, droughts, crop failures…This is not ‘the new normal’. We’re at the very beginning of a climate and ecological emergency, and extreme weather events will only become more and more frequent.” @GretaThunberg Twitter July 15, 2021

Thunberg was no doubt responding to the tragic news out of Germany, where at least 120 people are dead, hundreds missing, in floods caused by record rains. From another tweet: “A weather service says about 2 months of rain fell in 1-2 days.” @ajplus

Say what?! Two months of rain in one to two days.

And we’re all well aware of the late June heatwave in the Pacific northwest. In Portland, Oregon record-smashing temperatures started at 44.4 C (112 F), then kept climbing, 45.6 C (114 F) the next day, then 46.7 C (116 F). Same in Lytton, B.C., where the mercury-melting started where Portland left off, 46.7 C (116 F), then climbed to 47.5 C (117.5 F) the next day, then 49 C (120.2 F). A couple of days later, on June 30th, that devastating fire began (it’s still ongoing, along with 300 other fires raging in the province) and, enabled by such hot, dry conditions, it quickly devoured the entire town. 

Two of my kids live in B.C., in the Vancouver area. It’s considered a temperate climate, cool and rainy, with average June temperatures not generally rising much above 20 C (68 F). During the heatwave they rose into the high 30’s C, even into the low 40’s C (above 100 F). Most people don’t have A/C; my kids checked into a hotel for the weekend. My daughter told me people were sitting with their pets in their cars periodically, with the A/C going, to keep cool.

Henry Fountain, a climate change reporter for the New York Times, said the other day on The Daily podcast, “What you’ve got to understand about this heatwave is that it was really off the charts. It was extraordinary.”

Consequently, a scientific group called World Weather Attribution, immediately fired up their computers to crunch numbers in the week following, working overtime to provide fresh data for people to understand. Due to the amount of CO2 we’ve pumped into the atmosphere, the Earth has warmed a little more than 1 degree C (2 F) since 1880. So scientists ran models, based on the world as it is and also simulating the world as it would be minus the CO2. Unfortunately, the results were clear: there is absolutely no doubt climate change played a key role.

If this isn’t devastating enough, here’s a recent headline from Global News“‘Nightmare scenario’: Amazon rainforest now releasing more CO2 than it absorbs”. While most of these emissions are due to human-caused fires to clear land for agriculture, hotter temperatures and droughts have contributed.

I want to sit, cry. Throw my hands up. What can one little human do in the face of all of this? Then, my daughter out west sent Greta Thunberg’s speech from the World Summit 2021, which only served to deepen my climate change depression. She’s such a well-spoken young woman, so passionate about this cause, but regardless of the attention she’s garnered? She observes that the only action being taken by world leaders is “in role playing, playing politics, playing with words and playing with our future.”

Seeking purpose and solace, I googled “what can I do about climate change?” and this came up: “Top 10 things you can do about climate change” on davidsuzuki.org:

  1. Urge government to take bold, ambitious climate action now. I signed the petition.
  2. Use energy wisely and save money too! Small household changes range from installing a heat pump to getting an energy audit.
  3. Get charged up with renewables, like solar, wind, hydro, and biofuels.
  4. Eat for a climate-stable planet: buy organic, eat less meat, waste less food, grow your own. (We’re trying to grow our own this year. So far, critters have eaten the corn and basil, tomato plants holding firm.)
  5. Start a climate conversation with peers, family members and loved ones.
  6. Green your commute.
  7. Consume less, waste less, enjoy life more.
  8. Invest in renewables and divest from fossil fuels.
  9. Mobilize for local climate action. “What our cities do individually and in unison to address climate change can set the agenda for communities and governments everywhere.” C40 Cities. From their website: “Around the world, C40 Cities connects 97 of the world’s greatest cities to take bold climate action, leading the way towards a healthier and more sustainable future.” Founded in London, UK in 2005, some North American notable C40 cities are, in Canada, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver and, in the US, Austin, Chicago and Portland. 
  10. Get politically active and vote.

I’m also buoyed by decisive action being taken this week by the European Union. From the New York Times: “In what may be a seminal moment in the global effort to fight climate change, Europe on Wednesday challenged the rest of the world by laying out an ambitious blueprint to pivot away from fossil fuels over the next nine years, a plan that also has the potential to set off global trade disputes.”

I say let’s take the challenge and “pivot” (have you noticed how popular that word is lately?) away from fossil fuels. Bring on the disputes! Let’s save the planet! NOW.

The Climate Emergency 2021-07-16T10:47:06-04:00

The Other London

A couple of Sundays ago, while relaxing, watching the Junos, stoked to hear Feist sing with Tragically Hip’s band, my daughter texted this: Brutal news someone ran over 5 pedestrians on purpose in Hyde Park

She then quickly texted Hyde Park and Gainsborough and 2 confirmed dead so far

This kind of news is so very shocking it’s disorienting. I mean, I know the corner of Hyde Park and Gainsborough well, it’s not far from my daughter’s house. But my brain deflected, trying to place the horror safely elsewhere, in some other, more violent place, like say Hyde Park, London, England.

Vehicular manslaughter doesn’t happen here. Mass murder either. (Turns out it’s the first in London’s history.) But now: it does and it has. Our beautiful Forest City, marred forever by this unspeakable violence. 

I’m reminded of the terror unleashed on my mother’s beautiful home province of Nova Scotia last spring when 22 were killed and three injured. At the time, I sent a note to a cousin who still lives there and she was so angry, not wanting her beloved – and friendly! – birthplace to have garnered international attention for such reasons. I feel the same way about London, Ontario, Canada. This is NOT who we are!

In the days that have painfully unfolded since that tragic Sunday night, police have labelled it a hate crime and added terrorism allegations to murder charges. Three generations of a family were brutally wiped out: Syed Afzaal, 46, his wife, Madiha Salman, 44, their 15-year-old daughter, Yumna and Syed’s mother, Talat, 74. Nine-year-old Fayez was recently released from hospital, and, aside from injuries he must recover from, it is beyond heart-wrenching to imagine the enormity of his grief. I would expect he’ll also suffer from PTSD: one minute he was safe, enjoying a walk with his beautiful family on a lovely, uncharacteristically warm spring evening, and the next?!

And as we know, an event like this does not happen in a vacuum; many others are impacted, like witnesses and first responders. The entire city feels traumatized. The London cabbie who was told by the killer, “Call police, I killed somebody,” is “shaken” and “terrified” according to the company’s president. He was enjoying a quick break in the Cherryhill mall parking lot a few kilometres from the site of the attack. After the killer’s directive, the cabbie realized that the front of the man’s truck was severely damaged and covered in blood. When the suspect was taken into custody? He was laughing.

Laughing . . . Thankfully, most of us will never know this depth of madness, anger, hatred, psychological breakdown. This, from a Time magazine article on killing from a few years ago, by Jeffrey Kluger: “Evil isn’t easy. Say what you will about history’s monsters, they had to overcome a lot of powerful neural wiring to commit the crimes they did. The human brain is coded for compassion, for guilt, for a kind of empathetic pain that causes the person inflicting harm to feel a degree of suffering that is in many ways as intense as what the victim is experiencing.” In other words, something has to seriously malfunction (beyond war/soldiering, which is, obviously, another discussion).

The outpouring of compassion for this London family has been comforting, reassuring and tremendous. A mountain of flowers at the crash site, along with a sign “Love for all, hatred for none”. Thousands of people attended a vigil at the mosque, ironically near the parking lot where the killer was apprehended. Colourful chalk hearts, most drawn by children, adorn the sidewalks from the crash site to the mosque (approx. 7 km), as well as various places throughout the city; my north London neighbourhood is decorated with them. A gofundme account set up for Fayez nears $1 million. We are wired for compassion.

“Othering” though, the kind that has been spouted in recent years by some politicians, on social media and in some mainstream media outlets, contributes greatly to this kind of descent into madness. My husband reminded me the other day, that at one point in human history “the science” – and we’ve all been warned to follow “the science” on the pandemic! – was behind the belief in the superiority of the European race.

From Smithsonian magazine: “The American sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois once wrote, ‘The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line.’ His words were borne out, in part, by science. It was the century when the scientifically backed enterprise of eugenics – improving the genetic quality of white, European race by removing people deemed inferior – gained massive popularity, with advocates on both sides of the Atlantic. It would take the Holocaust to show the world the logical endpoint of such horrific ideology, discrediting much race-based science and forcing eugenics’ most hardline adherents into the shadows.”

The way to pull as many as possible from the shadows? Knowledge. “One of the big pieces is tackling the ignorance that is the foundation for hate,” says Nawaz Tahir, chair of the Muslim advocacy group Hikma and spokesperson for the London Muslim Mosque, “by developing community and anti-racism programming that helps us to attack that ignorance.”

The killer of the Afzaal family apparently had a couple of Muslim friends, which makes his crime confusing. Although anonymity can be a factor, right? Look at how people viciously attack on social media, due to its faceless nature.

According to the London Free Press, Syed Afzaal “is being remembered by the nursing homes where he worked as a caring physiotherapist who made a major impact”. His wife Madiha, “had recently completed her post-graduate work in civil and environmental engineering at Western University.” According to CBC news, their daughter Yumna, “graduated from the London Islamic School, where she had painted a floor-to-ceiling mural before she left. It features an image of the Earth floating in space beside the words, ‘Learn. Lead. Inspire.’” She had wanted to leave a legacy for the school. Community-minded people, living their lives in an inspirational way.

My grandkids don’t say the word “hate”, it’s such a bad word; they call it the “h” word. And the “h” word has no place here, in London, Ontario, Canada, nor anywhere.

The Other London 2021-06-17T12:38:36-04:00

The Past, Chirping

The past is always chirping me. On my case, nagging, nagging, 24/7. 

During a recent meditation (when I should’ve been focused on breaths, in, out, counting to 10): Jetanne, my oldest appears, at four-years-old (she’s 38 for cripesakes!), descends our grand oak staircase, soft little blue duffle bag slung over her shoulder, packed, by herself, to go out for a day on the boat. I’m in the kitchen packing the cooler, her dad is out hooking up the boat. Morning sun streams through the front windows, the skylights. It’s a golden scene.

Completely irretrievable, though, as all memories are. People, places altered and/or gone. Golden ghosts.

From the Oxford dictionary: nostalgia noun “a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations”

Are you prone to nostalgia? Some people, it seems, just aren’t. Like my husband B, for instance, who prides himself on being a stoic noun “a person who can endure pain or hardship without showing their feelings or complaining” (also from Oxford). 

When B is sick, or has a toothache say, he takes care of himself, is quiet. It’s amazing. And living with him keeps me well aware of my non-stoicism, because when I rant and rave over anything – being cut-off while driving, the neighbour’s ugly and incomplete stone wall that infringes on the driveway (which, btw, B encouraged said neighbour to build!), the craziness of politicians (which includes the craziness of the latest Ontario lockdowns) – he just stares at me, goes, “unh-huh”. He tends to not get worked up.

Speaking of toothaches, Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Naht Hahn has this important thing to say:

“When we have a toothache, we know that not having a toothache is a wonderful thing. But when we do not have a toothache, we are still not happy. A non-toothache is very pleasant. There are so many things that are enjoyable, but when we don’t practice mindfulness, we don’t appreciate them.”

Do you practice mindfulness? Are you currently in a state of “a non-toothache”? Take a moment to enjoy. Ah. And while most of us are anxious for a state of non-lockdown/mask/Zoom, a state of open patios, one must admit. Non-toothache is pretty pleasant. 

Have you noticed this? Meditation can trigger nostalgia, but music? Oh, man. Music can be killer, huh? I’m on week seven of a 12-week course called The Artist’s Way “A Course in Discovering and Recovering your Creative Self” by Julia Cameron. It’s an old book, from the 90s, that I picked up at the Goodwill Bookstore in my neighbourhood prior to the latest lockdown. (As Steph Posada kindly pointed out on Twitter “Friendly reminder that you’re allowed to buy overpriced novels at Shoppers Drugmart but can’t buy $3 novels at Dollarama. Make it make sense @fordnation #ontario #ontariolockdown”)

One of the tasks this week? “Give yourself time out to listen to one side of an album, just for joy.” (Listen to music, Cameron said. It will be fun, Cameron said.) While we do have albums and a turntable, I decided to just do Spotify, through headphones, while making soup. Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd.

To fully appreciate my attachment to this album, join me on a sticky trip down Memory Lane. I was turning 16 and my very best gf – we didn’t call them gfs back then – bought me Billion Dollar Babiesby Alice Cooper. I must point out that this gf lived in TO, The Big Smoke – we didn’t call Toronto either of those things back then – and we’d listen to CHUM FM late into the night on her little clock radio, me on the floor on her twin mattress, her up on the box spring. It was in that location this I first heard “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen. You must understand, we had little money, no albums of our own, no turntable of our own. We waited all night to hear that song – she knew I’d love it – and when it came on? Like mana from heaven. “Oh mama mia, mama mia, mama mia, let me go! Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me, for me, for meee!!” It was well and beyond any of my imaginings. We hung on every word, every note. Minds blown.

Getting back to the birthday present album, nothing against Alice Cooper aka Vincent Furnier, we just weren’t committed to it. We packed it up, got someone to drive us to the mall and quickly exchanged it for Dark Side of the Moon. No regrets on this exchange.

I listened to Dark Side of the Moon so many times, I wore it out. I know every single note, the order of songs, every word. Of course, as I had no turntable of my own, I’d play it on the parents’ hi-fi – short for high fidelity, what we called the big old wooden console in the living room that held the turntable – when they were out, or on my brother’s (if he was out) impressive turntable in the basement, floating away on his water bed.

Okay, so time-travelling back into my older bod and current kitchen, chopping celery and chicken and onions for soup – mise en place as B has taught me – tears came from both onions and the loss of innocence. That sweet teenage time when you’re discovering a self beyond parents and family, as well as your own taste in music, music with the potency to bind young minds together as surely as Levi’s jeans bound our fashion sense.

That’s the golden side. The dark side? Of the moon? Lol. Of me? And perhaps some (most) of my teenage friends? Hormones were raging. Which made us pretty darn cranky a lot of the time. The entire adult world was aligned against us. We had no money, no freedom!

We had way more freedom than the teenagers of the last year, huh? I never had to live through a pandemic as a child, a teenager, a young adult.

I’ve said it before: nostalgia is a persnickety drug. Don’t OD on it.

The present’s where it’s at, man. And? Like that one-hit-wonder song by Timbuk3 (perhaps it’s a nostalgia trigger for teenagers from the ‘80s?) “the future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades.” Covid-19 contraction numbers are down in our area, the age for vaccinations now includes all adults. The great outdoors with summer weather beckons.

Grab your shades, your sunscreen. See ya on the bright side!

The Past, Chirping 2021-05-18T14:36:21-04:00

Reflecting on the Universe

So quiet. Nothing happens. The Universe is ambivalent. This we know. A great mirror reflecting back what we give. I give you silence. Ok. I give you sorrow. Ok. I give you love. Yes. The Universe says yes to love because the Universe is love. 

“I am love,” it says. “You are love too.” The Great Creator. It’s all about the love.

The love for oneself. That’s where it all begins. “What do you need, my person? Here we are, together, for these glorious, sometimes challenging days. What do you need?”

Love is the best starting point. Then? Awareness. I’ve heard they are the same. When you are aware, you love. When you love, you are aware. Try to be in this state at all times. Can you be?

Apparently the mind is so fleeting – a small child – it is coming and going at all times. Increments of awareness. Flitting in, out, here, there. One time I am on love and awareness and the next I’m wondering what people will think of me if I flub that new routine “Sweet Melody” by Little Mix. I like it, it’s fun, but is the release/contract of the ribs with a pulsing plie? Or do you just hold the plie? I must look it up.

This is my life now and I love this life. Brain/mind engaged in the patterns of some vapid but fun pop song, body/muscles ripped to shreds in the best of all possible ways by the performing of it.

It was Meatless Monday the other night, so my husband B made us risotto. My goodness, it’s so lovely, melting in the mouth, like what? Joy! Tangy joy! So much lemon. Creaminess, then the crunch/explosion of the peas. The sight of it even, so mellow-yellow, so pretty.

Nothing happens unless you make it so. You sleep, the world sleeps with you. You wake up and you see love, joy everywhere you look. In the unbelievably green blades of Grass – how can green BE that green?! Impossible! But no. There it is, shimmering right before your dazzled eyes. The blue of a Blue Jay. A pair of them, hopping happily in a somewhat bare tree promising seeds. Ah, but they’re not just blue – they are faded denim and indigo and sky blue and blue-black and a purple even. A complex blue, as blue would be too boring. Too nothing.

What about the head of a male Mallard Duck?! Have you studied this? How does He get to have such a remarkable and glorious crown, one that rivals that of the queen of England? It’s green, sure, but what kind of green is that? It’s an ungraspable green, shimmering and swaying in the sunlight, saying look, look, look at me. I’m here. King of the pond. I am. I am worthy.

“I am proud of what I make,” the Universe says. “Beauty abounds.”

It’s a search for truth and beauty Nature is on, I feel. How can I help Her in this search?

Have I always been aligned with Nature? The Great Creator? I get crabby when She does not do what I want. She’s been cold lately, stingy with Her warmth. Why? I don’t understand. It’s late April. I sat in the sun – it felt warm on my face – with my coffee the other day, then showered, put on capri jeans, a sleeveless top, bright blue, new, from GT. Flung windows open. Then She, She gave me the cold shoulder. Her skies darkened. Although it was 17 degrees Celsius, it felt like seven. I ran around, closing windows, putting on a sweater, socks, cursing Her. Why you gotta be so mean? Mother?

“I’m not ready yet,” She says. “Don’t fret. Warmer, brighter days will come. This is what’s on the menu today. Find truth and beauty in this.”

It’s harder. One must dig in, dig deeper. I wanted this, She gave me that. So? That’s just judgment. Maybe She wanted that. Can’t you be satisfied? Look at what you have! Health. A beautiful home . . . no wait! Two beautiful homes. Clothes in the closet. A man to love, who loves you. Money. Safety. Kindness. You are blessed. You are truth and beauty, so there! All is well, all is good. Stay calm. Go in peace and kindness and love and joy.

Observe with all senses. Not just your eyes.

With your heart.

Reflecting on the Universe 2021-04-22T11:41:41-04:00

Beige Days Indeed

“We don’t like beige,” my artist and designer friend often insisted, before the word “pandemic” became vogue. 

“Beige. I think I’ll paint the ceiling beige,” my late husband used to joke, raising his voice a few octaves, mimicking what a bored wife might think, staring up during another romp on the “workbench”. (I never liked when guys called it that. Embarrassing and degrading.)

Synonyms for beige: boring, dull, uninspiring, blech, blah.

We don’t like beige! Ceilings, walls, or days! (That kinda rhymes.)

Yet here we are: locked down again, under stay-at-home orders for cripessakes, as yet another beige day melds unremarkably into the next.

Well, we could colour it up with some emotion, like this Globe and Mail headline: “First-wave lockdowns were marked by fear. Second wave, by frustration. And now: anger”

We’re certainly seeing red in Ontario due to vaccine distribution, with the provincial and federal governments doing a whole lotta finger-pointing over who’s to blame. On a recent CBC “Front Burner” podcast, Dr. Naheed Dosani, a palliative care physician who cares for homeless and vulnerably housed individuals, recommended that vaccinating the sick and bringing vaccines to factory and communal work settings (in the absence of paid sick days) would certainly be a step in the right direction. Perhaps last month’s 600-person outbreak and subsequent shutdown at Amazon in Brampton could have been avoided?

And here’s a question: What ever happened to rapid testing? Just googled it, found a CBC article from April 6thby Nick Boisvert which says, “It’s unclear how many of the province’s 11 million rapid tests have been used so far.” Hmmm.

“To my knowledge, we’re hardly using them at all,” Dr. Camille Lemieux, chief of family medicine at University Health Network, says in the piece. “We’re in a scenario right now where, if there ever was a time to use them, it is now.”

While rapid Covid-19 tests are less accurate and more susceptible to false positives, Boisvert writes, “experts say rapid tests ultimately offer distinct advantages that could alter the trajectory of the pandemic if they are deployed widely and strategically. Crucially, the tests can be used to catch people who are either asymptomatic or displaying only mild symptoms.”

Since we’re struggling to deploy vaccines “widely and strategically”? It’s a pretty good bet that rapid testing will stay on the back burner, huh? Like our lives.

Chatting with my daughter over Easter weekend, as my iPhone dished up colourful family memories of us in places like Costa Rica and Disney World, she lamented, “We still want adventure in our lives!” We do! A trip to the grocery store? So beige! (At least it was the last time I went. My husband B, thankfully, does the grocery shopping. A hyper-organized, spread sheet fanatic, he’s much more adept at writing out the list in order of Sobeys’ layout.) 

Chatting over Zoom (Zoom fatigue anyone? Everyone?) with gfs a while ago, one of them, a single gal, who was not complaining, merely observing, said, “I’m just starting to wonder. Is this what the rest of my life looks like? Work from home. Meetings and work outs over Zoom. Social-distanced visits with neighbours in the hall way.”

Is that all there is? Like that old song by Peggy Lee. “Is that all there is, is that all there is? If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep dancing.”

Maybe dancing is the cure, the fix, the colour? If so, I’m lucky. I have dance in my life, in the form of instructing Jazzercise, three days a week “live” when things are sorta open and one day a week over Zoom when they’re not. It’s a balm, a salve. Not beige at all, especially when I wear hot pink.

On a “Ten Percent Happier” podcast, guest Dr. Lisa Feldman-Barrett, author of How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain, suggested a couple of things you might find cheesy and/or hokey, but work if you’re willing. Practice gratitude. I started doing this years ago on my grief journey, listing three things I am grateful for as I lay me down to sleep. So powerful. Also this: practice awe. Say what? I haven’t tried this one yet, but apparently if you practice feeling “awe”, for say five minutes a day, over little things – like a cardinal, the root in the ground that tripped you, a stunning exploding tulip – you will experience more awe in your life. Like a child.

Please, share what you’re doing at your house to colour these bland-blech-blah beige days. Indeed, a meditation session here or there, a hot bath with Epsom salts, or a bike ride through the park, while all wonderful activities, completely miss the mark when it comes to expressing those adventurous desires burning in our hearts.

Wesbsite photo: My grandkids, dancing beige into bright pink last summer.

Beige Days Indeed 2021-04-08T17:00:04-04:00

Too Many People

The news we hear is full of grief for that future,
but the real news inside here
is there’s no news at all.
Rumi

What troubles you these days? As daylight hours lengthen, mercury rises and purple crocuses burst like joy through softening earth, there shouldn’t be much. 

I mean, here we are celebrating . . . honouring . . . observing that an entire year (I know, feels like five) has passed since coronavirus first rolled into to town. Problem is, now IT and all of IT’s “variant” buddies seem supremely jazzed to pandemic-party on, much like that contaminator friend we all recall from parties of old, foisting too much whisky and rye on everyone and singing “Bye bye Miss American pie” off-key and way too loud.

At least the US is kicking a** at shots in arms. Canada is . . . I dunno? Just kicking its own a**? Although, in recent good news, our PM says we’re set to receive one million Pfizer doses/week until early May. Hopefully there’s a cohesive plan to administer them.

And while we can all boast about surviving a pandemic, so far, one doesn’t spend a full year (that feels like five) becoming the best doomscroller on the planet then just STOP. I mean, there’s still bad stuff going on “out there”, yes? Political grievances. Racial disparity. Job and financial woes.

As a gf and I went on about this the other day, her husband simply shrugged, said, “Too many people.” Hmmm. Then he said, “You have Stingray music? It’s 999. The spa channel.” Hmmm again. I checked, though, and I see it’s 406 on Rogers and 950 on Hay Communications, so maybe he doesn’t have all the answers? 

I have Alexa, so I don’t need to know the channel. She’s so obedient. Aware of my doomscrolling-induced anxiety, I’ve often said throughout the past year, “Alexa, play that spa music.” And she says, “There’s a station for spa music on Amazon music.” And the soft, sweet sounds play. Ah. Then, when I tire of her, or need to focus, or am leaving the room, I say, “Alexa, stop.” If I were a non-emotional artificially intelligent disc like Alexa, my husband B could say to me, when he saw me doomscrolling, “Rita, stop.” It would be so easy. But I’m an emotional non-artificially intelligent human, so I cannot.

Getting back to “too many people”, when my mom was born in 1929? There were approximately two billion people on the planet. She grew up in Sydney, Cape Breton where her playground consisted of the coal bins that surrounded the houses then. “We would play inside them in the summer,” she wrote, making me cringe at how dirty that would be, to skin, clothes. “And jump off them in winter. We would play kick-the-can, hoister sale, skip, ball, glass alleys and marbles, you name it, plus sit on top of them, dream into the future. Those were great times for us kids, but I imagine our parents detested these surroundings.”

“Those were great times for us kids . . .” I recall Mom sharing childhood stories and lamenting, later in life, for all of us inheriting her beautiful blue planet, that there were “too many people”. “I was lucky,” she’d say. Despite growing up during a depression, to her, childhood was idyllic.

My own childhood, when there were three billion people on the planet? Idyllic too. I had loving parents who gave me freedom to roam, explore, make mistakes, mostly involving stitches. I had a bike with a banana seat, Brownies, dance lessons and dinner at 5 pm sharp. What more could I want?

You ask my kids about their childhood, when world population was five billion? They’ll say idyllic. They grew up in the country with lots of cousins around, chores to do. Freedom to roam, explore, make mistakes, mostly involving police officers. (Maybe that’s why my oldest daughter married one?)

Perhaps all of us raised in loving homes recall an idyllic childhood? At what age does idyll devolve into the song of the witches: “Double, double toil and trouble”?

There’s no denying it. There are eight billion people on the planet now, a population that has quadrupled in less than 100 years. So many people, of different shapes, sizes, colours, beliefs, speaking so many different languages. And they’re moving around the globe, filling in the open spaces, trying to find resources, room to roam, explore, make mistakes.

Last summer I read this great book, Biased, by a Black woman, Jennifer L. Eberhardt, PhD. The thing I found fascinating was that Eberhardt was part way through her elementary school education when she moved from a Black community and school to a white community and school. As expected she was nervous, but do you know what became problematic for her? Because our brains work in a way that distinguishes the faces of “our people” and she’d only been exposed to Black people? She could not tell her new white friends apart. Try as she might, the hair, the faces, blended and, while memorizing the clothes they were wearing helped for a day? They’d inevitably wear something different the next day and she’d mess up the names.

It made me recall how I’d stare into my niece’s eyes when she was small, how I felt this strong, loving connection with her, and I’d think, She just naturally loves me. And why not? We’re the same. Pale skin, freckles, blue-green eyes, blond hair.

But were I Black, Brown or Red, staring with love into her face when she was a small child? Her brain would have mapped it all out, all the nooks and crannies and crinkles, smiling eyes, generous smile. And she would love me, know me, remember my name, regardless of skin colour.

There are too many people, all bumping into one another, wondering (or fearful) of others’ motives. Tolerance, kindness and curiosity will come in handy. As will regard for our dwindling resources and the health of our shared home.

Oh, and keep in mind, like Rumi wrote centuries ago, “the real news inside here is there’s no news at all.” Put down the phone often. And enjoy the soothing sounds of spa music often, on whatever channel or device you find it.

Website photo: Cool water colour figures by artist Hilary Slater, who also happens to be my sister-in-law and art teacher.

Too Many People 2021-03-15T17:48:01-04:00

The Crazy Train

Let’s face it, politics can be pretty darn boring. I know, having seen it first hand at the local level. I used to attend council meetings in the wee village of Thorndale so I could write about the latest goings-on for the Village News. Say that real fast? Village Snooze. Ha ha.

But then, along came “The Former Guy”, as President Biden has christened him. He sure spruced up snooze-fest politics, huh? Maybe you liked it, so you lapped it up? Reality TV! Maybe you couldn’t stand it, so you lapped it up? Why? My husband B says, “I could not go down that rabbit hole like you do.” I explain: “I just keep trying to understand how people could like it, vote for it, even think of him as a legitimate leader. Plus, that crazy train’s gotta crash sometime.”

No crash . . . yet! Though a recent ruling by the Supreme Court on The Former Guy’s taxes may mean, as many hilariously call it: “Orange is the new orange”! So, perhaps a slamming of bars as opposed to derailment? Like the chants he loves to promote at rallies: “Lock him up!”

I’ve learned a lot in my time down the rabbit hole. Mostly? Anyone paying attention saw this crazy train (which many conservatives willingly boarded) careening down the tracks decades ago:

*Perhaps former US Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, was the original train operator? You’ve no doubt heard these phrases: “the radical left, the Marxists, the anarchists”. Yes, formerguyspeak, but Gingrich started it. He realized in the late 70s that to regain power from the Democrats, Republicans had to stop being so even-tempered, so much like them. Historian Julian Zelizer says of Gingrich, “He believed that the more confrontational, the more outlandish you were, the more the media would cover you and the more the media would replicate what you said about your opponent – whether it was true or not true.”

*Get Me Roger Stone on Netflix helps make sense of the crazy train’s path. Stone is a character, a “self-proclaimed dirty trickster”. In his early 20s, he worked on Richard Nixon’s campaign; in fact, he sports a large tattoo of Nixon’s face on his back. Watching this documentary, you see how his influence on The Former Guy led to such things as birtherism, the attack on Hillary Clinton’s emails. Wikipedia says, “He has described his modus operandi as ‘attack, attack, attack – never defend’ and ‘admit nothing, deny everything, launch counterattack’.” Sound familiar?

*Conservatives, drawn to controversy (as my sleuthing uncovered), pushed hard for the repeal of the fairness doctrine in the US, a policy requiring “honest, equitable, and balanced” news. They succeeded in 1987. This often gets the blame for the rise of partisan news sources, but keep in mind that it applied to broadcast licenses, not cable. AM talk radio grew from 7% in 1987 to 28% by 1995.

*Then along came Rush Limbaugh, a guy born for radio and eager to steer the conservative train. Limbaugh, who just died of lung cancer on February 17th, worked his first radio gig at just 16 and was fired from a job as a Rock and Roll DJ – a coveted goal of his – in his early 20s for . . . controversy. He landed at KFBK in Sacramento, California in ’84 and, as Daniel Henninger wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “Ronald Reagan tore down this wall (the fairness doctrine) in 1987 . . . and Rush Limbaugh was the first man to proclaim himself liberated from the East Germany of liberal media domination.” For decades he spewed bile over the airwaves to tens of millions of American listeners. His personal quest? Fame. Money. He succeeded: he’s a household name and a 2016 radio contract was for $400 million over eight years. Memorable quotes: “Feminism was established to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream.” “You know who deserves a posthumous Medal of Honor? James Earl Ray (Martin Luther King Jr. assassin).” “Obama and Oprah are only successful because they’re Black.” Experts have observed that after decades of Limbaugh listening? When The Former Guy speaks in his weird broken rambling way? It’s a language Limbaugh listeners understand. 

*Roger Ailes, who died in 2017, helped steer Republican political careers of men like Nixon, Reagan and Bush Sr. He’s credited with the “Orchestra Pit Theory” of politics: “If you have two guys on a stage and one guy says, ‘I have a solution to the Middle East problem,’ and the other guy falls in the orchestra pit, who do you think is going to be on the evening news?” When asked by broadcast journalist Judy Woodruff: “. . . the notion of the candidate saying, ‘I want to run for President because I want to do something for this country,’ is crazy?” Ailes replied: “Suicide.”

*Of course, conservative TV news outlets like Fox News (Ailes was CEO until 2016 when he resigned over sexual harassment allegations), Newsmax and OAN, significantly fuel The Former Guy’s train. They have nary a bad word to say about him. Heavy on opinion, light on fact. And now heavy on a lawsuit; voting machine company Smartmatic filed a $2.7 Billion defamation suit against Fox, Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell over what they call their ‘disinformation campaign’. Experts indicate they have a strong case, so might these so-called ‘news’ outlets be more committed to ‘news’ in the future?

*And what about social media? It’s had a major stake in the spreading of misinformation and conspiracy theories, yes? Add to that the algorithms that deliver you content based on prior behaviour? Voila! You get the current reality (or unreality) silos we exist in. Sure, many of us are on there for cute pet pics and just to keep in touch with friends, near and far. But many people, with extra time on their hands throughout the pandemic, got sucked into the outlandish (and historic, it seems) ideas of QAnon. From Wikipedia: “a secret cabal of Satan-worshipping, cannibalistic pedophiles is running a global child sex-trafficking ring and plotted against . . .” The Former Guy. Jews were accused of such activity in Nazi Germany. Wow.

Want entertainment with your politics? DANGER! Look no further than the January 6th insurrection at the US Capitol. Common sense screams: “The Former Guy has blood on his hands!” Yet six of the seven Republicans who voted to convict are facing serious blowback. Of Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey, Chairman of the Washington County GOP Dave Ball said this: “We did not send him there to vote his conscience. We did not send him there to do the right thing or whatever he said he’s doing.”

Have a conscience? Prefer to do the right thing? Think truth, science matter? Then you’re either a piss-poor conservative or a boring liberal. While they may have their flaws – God help us, we all do – I’m pretty happy (and frankly, bored most of the time) watching Biden and Trudeau quietly go about the work of governing without continuously and theatrically falling into orchestra pits.

The Crazy Train 2021-02-23T15:19:13-05:00

Movember Part 2

Email subscribers: Apologies for just tossing Part 1 of some funny fiction on you, without warning. Here’s Part 2. I thought we could all use a laugh right about now. It’s set pre-covid, when we were young and naive, maskless and vulnerable. Enjoy! Please comment!

Joe got to Cicerro’s early. Sat in the seat opposite the door so he could see Rose coming, watch her walk in. Chatted with Frank, the wiry and flamboyant head waiter.

“New woman?” Frank asked, raising his eyebrows, nodding to the empty chair.

“Yeah,” Joe said, with an odd catch in his voice. “Really new. Just met.”

So, they chatted about the menu, the specials, what the new woman he just met might like. 

Rose was late, rushing in around quarter after, all apologies and flushed face. And Frank must have been busy, because his usual thing was to take a lady’s coat, hang it in his special closet at the front, pull out the chair. Anyway, as Rose sat quickly, Joe noticed that she seemed to have her hair styled in a way that covered her face more than he recalled, and she was doing this thing he hadn’t noticed before, talking from behind her right hand, index finger curled around the top of her mouth. It made her hard to hear. And truth be told, Joe’s hearing wasn’t all that great, probably on account of all of the rock concerts he enjoyed in his youth. She said something and he said what?

“Shirt. Love that shirt.” He looked down, not recalling which one he had on. It was the deep red and gold one, with the big diamond pattern. As he was saying thanks, she was reaching over with her left hand, to touch the front of it. Their eyes met, he had a chance to briefly caress her hand and she said, “You have the best shirts.”

He shrugged. She slid out of her coat as she settled back down and he caught sight of the low-cutness of her top. Nice. It was a tad . . . distracting. He cleared his throat.

“You look nice,” he said. “You have the best tirts, I mean tots, I mean tops too.” Oh geez. He was blushing. Thank god for dark skin; maybe she won’t notice? The way her eyes lit up, he could tell she was smiling behind that finger, elbow propped just so on the table, back arched. Which made his gaze drop again, to that breath-taking creamy cleavage. Which he got away with for a while because Frank came by then and, picking up her napkin, placed it with a flourish across her lap.

“I will hang this madam?” he said, indicating her coat, and he pulled it from the back of her chair, laid it over his arm and launched into his menu spiel, describing the dishes in a way that made everything mouth-watering.

“Guess we don’t need these,” Joe said, handing Frank the menus, agreeing with Rose on shrimp cocktail and steak and a bottle of red, a zinfandel. 

“I always thought zinfandel was a rose,” Rose said from behind her finger.

“Ah, you have much to learn,” Joe said, a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face. He really wanted to ask about the finger-thing, but perhaps it would make sense at some point? When she took a sip of wine, maybe? As they watched Frank gracefully open the bottle, Joe noticed how she kept that hand there, either fingers splayed up, index finger across, or hand just scrunched there covering up the bottom half of her face. He took the sip Frank offered, said it was fine, Frank poured the rest and vanished. 

Was Rose purposely thrusting her chest toward him? He felt hot, burning up, so he unbuttoned his cuffs, rolled his sleeves. Looked up and caught Rose watching, her smoky eyes on his forearms. She looked up, seemed embarrassed, then swayed from side to side, said something he couldn’t hear.

“I beg your pardon?” Oh man. Was this the way it was going to be? What, what, what?

“This music.” With her left hand she pointed up, as people tend to do, whether speakers are up there or not. “Norah Jones. ‘Come Away With Me’. I love it. So – ”

And they said it at the same time: “Romantic!”

They laughed. “Cheesy huh?” she said.

“Not cheesy,” he said. “Not at all . . .” And he told her about Alicia. Rose was so interested, so open, despite the covered mouth, so easy to talk to. It was after the shrimp, though, that things started to deteriorate. And not the conversation. It was her face, which was growing redder and redder, starting at the chin line – which Joe could only see the left side of – and then rising, up and up. And her lips seemed to be swelling. He couldn’t see this, but could hear it in the way she talked. She fidgeted and fidgeted, holding her napkin to her face often, then finally excused herself and disappeared into the loo. For a very long time.

***

When Rose looked in the mirror, despite the poor lighting, she did not know whether to laugh, cry or vomit. Her stomach felt squeamish – from the shrimp? – but not enough to hurl. Blowfish. That’s what she looked like. If a blowfish has swollen-to-bursting red cheeks and lips, a pussy white moustache and beady eyes nestled within fire-y protruding lids. Omg!

What happened?! And what to do?

She ran water, then wet sheets of harsh brown paper towel and placed them over her face. Ah. Stumbled to the toilet, plunked the cover down, sat, cried. Peeled the paper off, looked in the mirror again. Did a quick review of facial events as she leaned on the sink.

The super-restorative-radiance cream Deni had been so tenderly putting on her red-purple moustache had a scent. And it was wonderful. Rose. How ironic was that? Rose, allergic to roses? All these years and who knew? She had no idea the make or ingredients of the “ultimate coverage 24-hour foundation” Deni had generously slathered on her face tonight, but for sure, she must be allergic to that too. And the lips? The shrimp? How long had it been since she’d had shrimp? She was allergic to shrimp now?

Whatever the hell was going on with her face it was beyond repair. For tonight, and perhaps many nights to come. And as much fun as she’d been having with Joe, as tingly as she felt about getting to know him better on many levels, the tingliness of her face overpowered everything. Her impulse to bolt – like at Starbucks two days ago, like when Glen was into all the hijinks that led to his death years ago, like when CJ passed before him, like . . . when Gregory, scrawny, nerdy Gregory from high school, sat almost where Joe was sitting right now. Waiting for her to return to the table. She should have said no to that date. But she hadn’t wanted to hurt his feelings. Then? After she’d tolerated their stilted conversation and his halitosis for over an hour, while also ravenously devouring filet mignon cooked to perfection and a loaded baked potato . . . hmmm. Such extreme feelings. 

Anyway. It was from this very bathroom she’d escaped and she’d do it again goddamn it! She checked the window. Same. But . . . her body had changed, considerably, since 17. Would she fit through? She must. Returning to the table with blowfish face was not an option. 

She unlocked the double-hung window, then struggled sliding it up. It was tight in the opening and it took some forcing, up, down, up, down, to get it to the top. No screen, thankfully. Rose figured she’d just text Joe, when she was safely outside, say sorry, so sick, (puke emoji?) didn’t want to bother you, snuck out the back. Thx for dins. 

As she eased her barely-covered-up breasts out through the window and the cool November night made her nipples tingle, she remembered her coat, hanging in Frank’s closet. Dang! She’d come back tomorrow night for it. And then Rose just about, almost, let’s say she came very close to clearing her womanly hips through the opening when the interesting thing about a double-hung window, one she’d not had to notice at 17 when she had the agility of a track star, became so obvious that, well, it came down and almost bit her in the ass. In her grappling to slide through she’d reached her left hand up for leverage and pulled the top half of the window – which must have loosened downward when she forced the bottom half up – right down. Slam! It had wedged above her left hip, effectively trapping her. Ouch. And, although neither arm was caught in the window, her left arm was at a most unhelpful angle and her right hand was tangled in the straps of her purse, which was dangling inside the bathroom along with the lower half of her body.

It was, to say the least, an awkward position to find oneself in. And it was about then, as she wriggled and jiggled like an overturned turtle, trying to loosen the window, the purse straps, that she remembered she was wearing a dress, it was bunched up around her waist and she’d done her habitual thing of going commando. At least she hadn’t used sandpaper down there. Ha ha.

As there was nothing else to do, Rose looked around. The night was navy and still. Despite the lights from the nearby restaurants and shops, she could see a few stars and a stunning full moon, spooking-looking behind some slender, swirling clouds. If only someone would walk by. Did she want someone to walk by? Would she be embarrassed or grateful? Both. Oh those extreme feelings.

She heard muffled knocking. A voice. Soft at first, then louder.

“Hey Rose! You ok in there?” Joe’s voice.

Instinct had her flailing about again. One last-ditch effort to escape. But no.

“Um. A bit of a problem in here.”

Nothing. With the inside window fully up and the outside window mostly down, sound was not travelling well. Her face throbbed. And the pressure on her right hip and hand was rendering them numb. What to do? Scream?

“HELP!!!”

It seemed like forever, but maybe it was just several seconds? She had time to think:  Joe will find me like this? He’ll see way too much of me. He’ll think I’m nuts. He’ll never want to see me again. Please! Let me out!

The door burst open and there he was, eyes wide, taking in the spectacle. As their eyes met, Rose managed a shrug with her left shoulder and turned her head away and down, so her hair would cover her face while she waited for his response.

***

Joe figured Rose must be sick. And as he’d waited at the table, testing a few bites of the aromatic and tender steak, at first patient, then impatient, then worried, he’d expected to hear her say just that when he finally decided to knock on the bathroom door. Then? When she’d yelled help? And he quickly dug out his Swiss army knife, found an appropriate tool, managed to jiggle the lock free? Her voice had such a far away, echo-y sound, he figured he’d find her hunched over the toilet bowl, perhaps needing medical help?

Stuck in the window? Not a chance in hell did he think that’s what he’d find. Also? The view.

“Ah. A full moon tonight,” he joked, venturing inside. Then, acknowledging her attempted escape: “Was it the conversation? The wine? The food?”

As he got closer, he realized she probably couldn’t hear him that well. And she looked completely and thoroughly trapped. Interesting. Should he set her free? Or just go back and finish that lovely meal? She peeked over her left shoulder then, eyes pleading.

“Bit of a situation,” he said, hooking his fingers under the window, forcing it up, helping her back into the bathroom. He was about to say something smart, like, “Shall I help you continue on your way, out this fine window?” But then, as she straightened her dress, stretched her body out, her back, her hip, her hands, he caught sight of her face. He put his right hand under her chin, said, “What? What happened? You ok?”

She hung her head. Shook it. Said, “You wanna?” while pointing toward the door. He led her back to the table. And when Frank approached, with a questioning look on his face, Joe shooed him away. And she explained it all, from the sandpaper to the salve to the foundation to the suspicion about the shrimp.

“Oh. And here,” she said, pulling his freshly laundered hanky from her bag, extending it across the table.

“You know it was chocolate on your lip the other day, right?” He said. “You really think I could rub facial hairs off with this?” He took the hanky, held it up, as she shook her head.

“You made this, um, kind of, face of disgust.”

“I had the sun in my eyes.”

“Yeah. Then, I got, ah, inspecting my face when I got home, saw things in the mirror I hadn’t noticed before I left.”

Joe reached over then, gently touched her swollen face. “Rose. Before you got messing with it? The most beautiful face. And wow, is it hot! Burning. Wait there.” And he went back to the bathroom, ran cold water on his handkerchief, returned to the table. “Here.”

She held it to her face, breathed a sigh of relief.

“Let’s get you home,” Joe said. He signaled to Frank for the bill and her coat and within minutes gave Rose the escape into the cool night she’d been angling so desperately for.

“How about I drive you home in your car, then I’ll come back for mine later,” he said.

“Sure,” she said, fishing her keys out of her bag, leading him in the direction of her car.

Then? Joe took to laughing. And his laugh was deep and warm and hearty, making him stop in his tracks, wipe his eyes even. And Rose smirked, as best as she could with those blowfish lips.

“Sandpaper?” he said. “Did you use a – ”And Rose crossed her arms. 

“Nevermind,” he said, chuckling. “I won’t ask if you used a belt sander.” He swatted her bum playfully, then put his arm around her as they took up walking again. “Ah, look. Another full moon.”

Although it hurt, Rose had to laugh too. “So much great scenery tonight, huh? Mr. Shirts.” 

And Joe said, lips close to her ear, his deep voice reverberating in the most pleasant way, “You’ve got it Ms., um, Tops . . . and Bottoms.” Then, “Or is that Mr.? You know.” And he tapped his own moustache area so as not to irritate hers any further.

“I deserve that. Sure. But once again. Mom was right.”

“About?”

“Getting the guy before the facial hair!”

Movember Part 2 2021-02-04T15:57:55-05:00