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The Artist

Dark and rainy, though still amazingly mild for December. The weather is not Christmassy but the city is, lights everywhere and that endless syrupy music and frenzied shoppers. This year, the commercialization of Xmas appalls me more than ever. When oh when were we shoved into the notion that the way to show love for our family and friends is to rush to stores and buy them things they don’t need with money we don’t have?

I ran into a friend on the streetcar yesterday, on her way to H and M to Christmas shop for her stepdaughter and 18 month old step-grandchild. I know she has very little money. Why are you doing that? I said. What I do, I said – and yes, how arrogant of me to force my opinion and ways on her, but then, l’arrogance, c’est moi – what I do is gather inexpensive things through the year so it looks like there’s lots under the tree, but the real gift is either money or something I know they really need. I refuse, I said – Je refuse! – to go trolling around a shop desperately looking for something to buy. We’ve been brainwashed into thinking that’s Christmas. But that’s the opposite of the real Christmas spirit.
Thank you, she said. You’re right, and you’ve just saved me a lot of time.
My kids understand the real thing; my daughter usually gives food she has made, or a gift card saying she will come over and cook, a post-Christmas treat for me. And my son gives an experience – last year, a gift card for a massage and facial at a spa. This year, along with an assortment of second-hand treasures, I am giving him a massage by a friend who’s a massage therapist. That’s a gift that gives two ways, to him and to her. I have not bought one single gift at a retail store.
Okay, that’s enough, get off your high horse. Settle down. But it makes me sad and angry to see the pressure and the waste. Like the logo thing – how were we persuaded that wearing the name of some company on our clothing and accessories is a good thing to do? That we should volunteer to become walking billboards? What kind of idiots are we?
On that note, I actually went into Holt Renfrew yesterday – had a bit of time to kill before meeting a friend across the street. I lasted five minutes, wandering around. It’s another planet, that big shiny store full of rich people buying very expensive things. The night before, I’d worked late and gone out with my recycling at 1 a.m. There was a tiny elderly woman across the street carrying six big plastic shopping bags full of bottles. I brought the wine bottle I was going to leave on the fence over to her. “This is how I get my streetcar fare,” she said. “After work, I come out at night to find these.” She was over 70, weighing about 80 pounds, wandering my neighbourhood at 1 a.m. looking for bottles to recycle for pocket change. “But now,” she said, “they’re putting up the fare.”
I had to walk out of Holt Renfrew; it made me feel sick.

Went across the street to have tea (well, tea for her, wine for me) with one old friend (from 1967) and then to see a movie an hour later with another. Stopping the race to get caught up, to look at each other and listen and talk – what pleasure. And the movie was glorious – “The Artist.” Highly original and surprisingly moving. The star, Jean Dujardin, has the most gorgeous smile, better even than George Clooney’s – he’s a mixture of Douglas Fairbanks and Gene Kelly, absolutely adorable. Do not miss this movie; it’ll make your day.
And one more thing – the reason I was working so late the other night was that I printed out the current draft of the memoir in the late afternoon, and sat reading till I’d gone all the way through. I missed a documentary about Beethoven I was planning to watch, and I MISSED JON STEWART, that’s how important it was to read without stopping.
Verdict: not bad. It’s a solid draft. Time to write the next draft and make it better.

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2 Responses to “The Artist”

  1. theresa says:

    Yay! A complete draft! Congratulations!

  2. beth says:

    192 single-spaced pages of sheer brilliance.
    Or at least, of words, in some coherent form, with periods and commas.
    Some of those words written recently, and some when I was 13 years old. Quite a trip.
    Thanks for knowing what it means to hold that pile of paper, Theresa.

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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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