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dark and rainy down south

A friend flew down at the same time I did for her stepdaughter’s wedding today – the girl is from Toronto but scheduled the ceremony in Sarasota, Florida, to make sure the weather would be good. Today is the worst day I’ve ever known here – freezing, black clouds, black skies, and an almost hurricane-strength rainstorm. Poor young woman. So much for her wedding on the beach.

Last night was wonderful – Stuart MacLean and Dan Hill playing to a a huge crowd of Canadians in downtown Bradenton. What is it, I said to my old ladies, about Canadians? How can we tell with such certainty that these are not Americans, besides the fact that they’re here, of course? We decided that first off, it’s women’s voices. American women speak louder with, sometimes, a harsh nasality in their tone; Canadian women in general have softer voices. I’d venture to say that Canadians of both sexes, in general, have softer voices – and attitudes. There’s a deference, a self-deprecating sweet humour and lack of pretension … it was great to be surrounded by it, here in the bastion of Jeb Bush.
Stuart was hilarious, telling his stories and – what I didn’t know about him – weaving and ducking and flailing his legs and arms about. Dan Hill sang sad and meaningful songs, including several about death, maybe an odd choice in a Florida audience where the average age was 75 or more. (Stuart gave a prize to the oldest audience member, who was 93, from Montreal. Do, at nearly 90, was disappointed. “Maybe I came in second,” she said wistfully, but looking around, I thought, she has lots of competition.) My mother, who knew nothing about Hill, whispered to me as he came out to sing once more, “I hope he doesn’t sing another tearjerker.” He sang “Are you ready?”, a song about death he wrote with and dedicated to Paul Quarrington – definitely a tearjerker, but very beautiful.
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The ladies and I marvel, as visitors from other countries always do, at the phenomenal obesity in evidence here. “All U can eat” signs all over. We have eaten lunch out twice and watched as massively obese people order waffles loaded with syrup or giant burgers with fries; today the woman nearby, about 300 pounds, ordered for dessert the chocolate-chip pecan pie. Just the thought of that much sugar makes my fillings ache. Hooray for Michelle Obama, undertaking to change this unfortunate, in fact tragic situation.
When we asked where to sit yesterday, the waitress said, “Just make yourself comfy wherever, sweetheart,” and I laughed to think about a French restaurant, where not in a million years, even in the most casual place, would waitstaff address a customer that way. I’m not offended by that casualness at all. I think my French friends might be, though.
Tonight we are watching the Olympic opening ceremonies – I hope we get to see other teams besides the Americans. Here’s a note from Chris, who in downtown Vancouver is in the epicentre of Olympic activities:

I have been TOTALLY confused by the enthusiasm for the torch relay. I just could not understand why thousands of people have been attracted to the route to cheer on the torch. And I mean THOUSANDS of people! What the hell is the big deal, I have been wondering. Geez, you stand around for ages and then someone you don’t know comes by and in seconds it is over.

But the runners are preceded by endless cops and trucks with speakers and music. And it gets the crowd going. Still, what’s the big deal.
So I watched the crowd gathering right outside my building and then I thought, I’ll go down and see it for myself. Right out in front of my place, someone named “Terry” was getting ready to run. He was Chinese, and there were TONS of his friends around me to cheer him on. And as the torch approached, I was touched by the unmitigated pride and joy exuding from everyone around me. And everyone, the cops included, were in SUCH a kind mood and so very friendly. And then this blonde woman came around the corner with her torch aflame and up to Terry to light his torch.
And I have to admit, I was moved.
And in another email, he wrote:

Every bus is blaring with messages. There are LED signs on them saying “Go Canada GO” or “Go Team Canada.”There are lineups to get into the Bay!!! to buy Olympic swag. Buildings are covered in signs. There are fireworks every night and the sky dances with searchlights. And gigabillions of people on the street. We have 2 stadia downtown and there are eight events per day in each one. That means some 80,000 people at a time. Can you believe that?! And while some 80,000 watch one event, the 80,000 waiting to see the next event are going through security and waiting outside.Then, at a given hour, 80,000 people leave and another 80,000 go in. So, every few hours, some 80,000 people are disgorges onto our streets.
It is like I am living in the middle of a world’s fair. It is exciting. Time is flying. But the best part is that the daffodils are blooming.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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