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gearing up

Confession: I’ve been dragging my heels about this upcoming trip. As spring descends on my garden, it’s sure that if I hadn’t booked another journey just after returning last year, I wouldn’t be going anywhere this April. However, I am, and as soon as I land over there, I’ll be back in travel adventure mode. If I had to paint an image of myself during last year’s trip, it would be a dog with his head out of a speeding car window, ears and tongue flapping, eyes wide – where are we going now? What’s that interesting thing? Can I eat it?

I’ve asked myself recently, What has been the fallout of that nearly five-month trip? Has anything changed? Two things for sure – food and clothing. The cheese mania has lessened, to resume as soon as I land in Paris, but I am always aware, now, of the importance of sitting down to a hot meal with lots of vegetables. And I’m not as worried whether what I pick to wear from my second-hand wardrobe is in style. True style simply means a combination of confidence and taste, and I’m working on those. But in the end, who really cares?
It helps for this new journey that the euro and the pound are so low against the Canadian dollar, which means my Visa bills won’t hurt as much when I get back. I’m leaving the house filled with three tenants who’ll keep the cat alive and take in the mail; my courses are set up for the first week of May, and it looks as if, besides both first level courses, the advanced class will run at U of T and perhaps at Ryerson; teaching four courses will be a great help with the bills. But mostly, justify it as I may, I’m taking a flying leap once more which makes absolutely no sense and will do me a great deal of good. At least, that’s the plan.
Last night, I worked at the Creative Writing table at Ryerson Information Night. One young woman asked, first, “How do you make a living writing?” “You teach at Ryerson,” I replied, and then gave her the serious answer about writing because you need to and keeping your day job, at least until you’ve sold the film rights to your work. She asked about my course so I told her. “It sounds a lot like therapy,” she said dubiously. I gave her the answer I always give: creative self-expression can of course be therapeutic, Beethoven was expressing the needs of his soul when he composed, Van Gogh when he painted – in autobiographical writing, it’s a more transparent process. My interest is not in the therapeutic results of the writing but in the writing itself. Etc.
And then I thought, Wait a minute – what’s wrong with a little therapy in these hard times? We’re not sitting around nursing wounds – we’re writing clear, hard, vigourous prose. If the writer feels good afterwards, so much the better.
Today’s news clippings, just for you: a small headline in the “Star” – “Fake matzah alert issued.” Apparently Israel has been flooded with pirate matzah, made with non-kosher flour and supplied with fake kosher certificates. Omigod, can you imagine? What could be worse?
Reading this brought back a memory of a very wild party at my friend Henry’s house in 1968. Henry’s parents, who were of course away, kept kosher, and at about 2 a.m. Henry discovered that his friends had cruised the cupboards for snacks and were eating cereal with milk on the meat plates. Henry was very stoned and very, very distressed. “My parents will go to hell!” he kept crying, as his friends snacked on.
I also like to remember my sardonic great-aunt Helen, 89-years old in her kitchen in Queens, speaking about kosher food. “What use were all those rules,” she snapped,”once the Jews got ice-boxes?” My sentiments exactly.
And the latest Obama alert: he has asked his staff to pick ten letters a day from the thousands he receives at the White House, for him to read and sometimes to write back to. These personal notes mean so much that he carries them around. If it’s possible, I love you even more now, Barack Obama, knowing that you value the reading and writing of letters.
And you out there, blog fans, you’re reading this so I know you do too.
P.S. The Feeling Old Department, a story about how kindness can hurt … The other day, on a crowded streetcar, I was standing looking out the window, when a man’s voice behind me said, “Excuse me, ma’am?” I wondered who he was talking to. Turning around, I discovered to my horror that he was offering me his seat. I smiled as nicely as I could and said no, I was fine, many thanks, but inside I was in turmoil. Do I look that old and helpless? How could that kind young man be so mistaken?
Ah well. The first time I had the shock of getting the senior’s rate at a movie without even asking, I got over it and appreciated the savings. Next time I’ll just smile gratefully, hobble over and sit.



2 Responses to “gearing up”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Ha. I offered my seat to a women on the subway, the other day; she was older, though by no means feeble. I did it because that's how I was raised. She looked upset and politely refused. I don't offer my seat anymore unless the person in question appears to be in pain. I don't feel too good about it, though.

    As far as the kosher food goes, I wish what ate was produced with a little more respect. In this regard, it's Michelle Obama I look up to.

    Have a good time in Praha

  2. Beth says:

    Scott, you are right and I am wrong; it is a wonderful thing to offer your seat with such courtesy. We vain women cannot help being dismayed by the implication that we look old enough to need a seat, but that's our silliness; please do not stop. I too always stand up for someone older. The opposite happens all too often – young people sitting there, oblivious, as an elderly person or a woman with a baby stands beside them.

    Michelle Obama is my hero too.

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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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