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my underground home

A surreal adventure, this – living in my own basement suite. What was I thinking when I agreed to rent out my house for 3 months, though I’ll only be away 5 weeks? Well, I needed the money and had some vague notion that I’d camp out in my office upstairs, that I’d stay with various friends … I would have gone mad. By the greatest good luck, my tenant Charles is away the whole time I need a place to live before departing for Europe, so I’ve sublet from him. I get back end of April, to live down here again until the Belgian students upstairs leave mid-May. And by then, I will be extremely ready to reclaim my own lovely light and space.

An odd scene, arriving back from Florida late at night; the cab pulls up in front of my house, I look longingly at my front door but enter the courtyard to the south, from which you access my backyard. Down the basement stairs, my own key in my own lock, and here I am, in this cosy space. In ten minutes, I’ve settled in and turned on the TV – it’s 11 p.m., time for Jon Stewart. If I can watch Jon, I’m at home anywhere.
The next day, I went to the Y – if I can get to the Y, I’m also home – and made a ton of sorties upstairs; I’d reduced their rent on the understanding that I’d have access to the house – trying to find things I need for my new subterranean life. The Belgians are nice young people, civil engineers doing an exchange at Ryerson. They like the house. I went up later when they were out, and got to stretch out on my own kitchen sofa and commune with my cat, who’s confused but doesn’t care who lives where, as long as she’s fed.
The big news is that yesterday morning, in the chaos, I finished this draft of the memoir and emailed it to the printer. What a relief. It may be the biggest pile of drivel ever written, but at least it’s out of my hair, for now. I’ll mail a copy to Patsy in B.C. and take one to my editor here, Barbara, and keep one for myself so I can read it later and weep. Or maybe just snivel a bit.
Also yesterday, went across town to see my daughter and her luscious big belly. She has been given so many used baby clothes, she has a chest of drawers full, neatly folded and organized, plus change table and little tiny shoes. All she needs now is a baby to use all that stuff. We went to see “Tinker, Tailor …” which was good though a bit hard to follow – but Gary Oldman, what an extraordinarily restrained performance. And then I went on to my evening’s activities – going to Koerner Hall to see Daniel Levitin, the author of “Your Brain on Music,” speaking about “Your Brain on Beethoven,” with a full orchestra to illustrate his points. He showed us the various areas of the brain connected to various emotions – “Emotion is a neuro-chemical state,” he said. And then the orchestra played Beethoven, to show, for example, how many times the composer used the duh duh duh DUH motif in the 5th symphony – 263 times, it turns out, and our brains anticipate every one of them. It was fascinating and fun.
I wondered about my propensity to weep as I listen to music – as happened last night – and that in fact, it’s not being swamped with emotion but a neurochemical reaction that perhaps I can control better. I weep watching parades too and at many other things. It’s my cerebellum or somewhere, just too damp.
A lecture by a neuroscientist about Beethoven was the last place I thought to hear the name “Paul McCartney,” but Levitin brought him up twice, once as a man who has spent his life making music but cannot read it, and also, exploring the concept of motif. “In ‘Yesterday’, McCartney uses short short long,” he said, “repeated over and over, just like Beethoven.” Ah my Paul, I simply cannot escape you.



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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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