Saturday supper-time. Last night a torrential downpour, today dark grey skies alternating with sun, and tonight chilly but bright. I am inside with the backdoor open, smelling the woody tang of freshly cut cedar. My new deck. We’re getting there, folks. But not quite. As in the “Beyond the Fringe” quip Mum and I loved to quote: “News of fresh disasters.”
Because my kitchen extension juts out from my attached neighbour to the north, she has an outside south wall that is, it turns out, officially mine, though I cannot see it. It has been covered with thick ivy for years, and though I’ve begged her to allow me to remove it, as it has damaged my roof and provided a cosy home for raccoons, she has always refused, because “it’s pretty.” Well, so much for pretty – now we know that it is full of termites, and so is all the siding beneath it. And all of that, it turns out, the removal of damaged materials and the replacement of undercoat and siding, is my financial responsibility.
The irony is that my ivy-loving neighbour has had hardly any termite damage, whereas I have had a great deal. We’re at nearly $40,000 worth. Absolutely devastating.
But I have a new cedar deck. I didn’t realize that the wood needs to be stained and cannot be stained until we’ve had at least four days of hot sun. Until then, we have to walk on it in slippers. I do have eavestroughs now, though, and a finished roof. Praise the lord.
To cheer me up in the middle of all this, my dear friend Eleanor Wachtel, whom I’ve known since the mid-seventies in Vancouver, invited me to be her guest at the Canadian Opera Company’s production of “Lucia di Lammermore.” Those of you who follow here know that I ranted a few months ago about a supremely offensive director, Christopher Alden, who did his best to ruin not one but two wonderful classic operas. I did take a quick look before going this time, to see that this one was directed not by Christopher Alden but by a David something.
Wonderful seats and an amazingly knowledgeable date, who whispered as the curtain went down that she had heard it was a bit strange. Well. A classic tragedy by Puccini, it tells of a love between the son and daughter of two rival Scottish clans, forbidden by the bullying brother of the heroine, who turns their love into a bloodbath. In this production, Lucia is not a passionate young girl but a child dressed like Alice in Wonderland, or a midget, since she spends most of the play singing and moving about on her knees. Her brother the Scottish lord, in this production, spends time playing dazedly with his childhood toys and staggering around with his mouth agape. He is madly, incestuously in love with his sister and gropes her, at one point tying her to the bed, reaching under her skirt and grabbing her genitals just as she hits a high note.
Etc. You get the picture, I won’t bore you with all the ridiculous, offensive details. Once again, the music and the singing are gorgeous, sublime, the production horrible. And guess what? At intermission, I learned from Eleanor about the Alden brothers. Yes. “Lucia” is directed by David Alden, who is none other than the brother of the dreadful Christopher Alden.
What are the odds? Two untalented brothers who direct to shock and be noticed, who put their sexual and emotional neuroses on stage, make a mockery of fine art and are rewarded by extended contracts with the COC.
I wrote to the company, as you can imagine, and this time they actually wrote back. Dismissively.
In other news: teaching started last week, a good-sized class at U of T and a completely full class at Ryerson. Good to see you all, students. And also – I haven’t told you this yet, but now I will – I have started seeing my old psychiatrist again. As my marriage was falling apart and then divorce hit in the nineties, I began seeing Dr. O’Neil, who saved my life, literally as well as figuratively. Eventually I was in full psychoanalysis, four times a week, for four or five years. As I tell my students, “You see this serene and smiling face? It’s thanks to lots of therapy and Dr. O’Neil.”
As we were winding down our work, Dr. O’Neil moved to Montreal, and I’d call her once a year. Now, more than 20 years after we started, she has moved back to the city, and I asked to see her again. Not for myself, but to discuss difficult family issues and how to handle them. Because she is wise and sensible, and she knows me better than anyone on earth. What a gift.
Randy Bachman’s show just started on CBC. Time for dancing. My tomato plants are out there ready to be planted – risk of frost tonight, they said, so I’ll wait till the middle of next week. But it’s spring spring spring. Out there, and in here too.