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avoiding Santa

Today I rode my bike all over town, even though it was snowing. But the Santa Claus Parade had taken over the city, impossible to get anywhere on four wheels. Eminently possible on two.

I rode first to Inspire, Toronto’s new book fair. On the way – this was at 9.45 a.m. – I passed people already sitting by the curb downtown in the falling snow. Grownups with no children, even! How have I managed to avoid the Santa Claus Parade all these years? Anna was there today with Eli and some of his cousins, all bundled up. He fell asleep before Santa appeared, she told me.

My friend Kerry Clare, whose blog Pickle Me This appears on this page, was at the book fair with her website 49th Shelf, and she and I met for the first time, though we feel we know each other well from our mutual blogs. Kerry describes the event beautifully in her current blog post called Inspire, so I won’t reiterate. It’s a terrific event put on by Rita Davies; brava to her and her colleagues – beautifully organized, restful, thoughtful, fun. My only caveat was that at the panel I went to on writing memoir, one of the speakers was asked about writing one and said she’s a novelist and hates memoirs. Perhaps not the best person for this panel.

I offer my services. In fact, Rita, who’s a friend, said she’d ask me to do a seminar on memoir next year. Happy to oblige.

Then, skirting the vast crowds, I rode up to Bloor Street – saw Santa! He was on the last float, just as the parade, thank God, ended, because I wasn’t sure even with the bike I could get where I wanted to go – to Koerner Hall to hear the brilliant New York pianist Richard Goode. My piano teacher Peter recommended this concert, saying that Goode, a pianist of uncommon emotional richness, is getting on in years – good to see him now. And I concur. Emotional richness indeed, and incredible precision, delicacy and force. Hard to believe two hands could make that wealth of music. Discouraging, no, inspiring for a fledgling pianist.

THERE ARE SO MANY THINGS TO DO IN THIS CITY. In this life! How to choose, how to cope? Last night I was going to work but just had to watch TCM’s Wild Strawberries, which somehow I’d never seen – and it was well worth it, what a haunting film. There is so much theatre, music, film, art – not to mention the piles of books and TV – and then there’s this little machine on my lap, the internet so packed with stuff, good and bad. Overwhelming sometimes. Lists. Must make lists.

I just picked up one of my new library books, the memoir “Time was soft there” – about a Canadian journalist’s time in Paris. But I will not read it. I happened to open by chance to a page where he describes a story he pursued for a Canadian newspaper; he found out that a highly respected Ottawa heart surgeon had been arrested with a prostitute, and the story was buried. This journalist – Jeremy Mercer – decided to pursue it. Because of him, the surgeon was forced to hold a press conference with his family, confess and resign.

I know this story very well. The heart surgeon was Dr. Wilfred Keon; in my family, the man is a beloved saint – and in countless other families too. He operated on my mother’s heart not once but twice, putting in a pig’s valve and granting her decades of new life. A man of compassion and skill – in fact, like Richard Goode, of incredible precision, delicacy and force – whose one embarrassing illegal incident had been concealed because of his eminence and vital work, who should not have been hounded into humiliation. I’ll take this book back tomorrow.

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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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