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thank God for Jane Jacobs and David Sedaris

Still sick. I spoke to my doctor, who’s sympathetic but can offer no explanation or cure. And in fact, though I had a dreadful night of coughing, I am getting better. It’s ridiculous to have a bad cold in July, but there it is. My doctor did say the frequency of illness might have something to do with consorting with pre-schoolers. IT’S ALL THEIR FAULT, those adorable boys. So I might as well resign myself to years of coming down with something.

A long conference call – a Skype call with five participants, a first for me – a few days ago; I’m on the conference committee for the next Creative Non-fiction Conference to take place for the first time in beautiful downtown Toronto next May. We had to negotiate time and place and other issues, including sensitive ones about programming and activities to recommend to our attendees. I wonder if I’m becoming a crabby right-wing old woman, or if I’m just sensible. One member suggested organizing a tour for our members to an out-of-town indigenous museum which has preserved a residential school, to show people what this horrendous experience was like. “Save the Evidence,” is the museum’s campaign. I had to speak as someone who will not watch a movie about the Holocaust or go to a Holocaust museum: I know it happened and it was unimaginably horrific. It was also decades ago and I do not wish to relive it. What good comes of immersing yourself in human vileness? Increased sensitivity and empathy, I suppose is the goal. I feel sensitive and empathetic enough without travelling for a day to witness the monstrous cruelty inflicted years ago on indigenous children. I just can’t imagine offering this to our members as opposed to the cultural treasures of this fabulous city. But perhaps I am in the minority.

The issue of bending-over-backwards political correctness and the politics of grievance are rampant. I remember when June Callwood, that magnificent woman responsible for so much good in the world, was fired from a charitable organization SHE FOUNDED and was co-running and fundraising for because she spoke impatiently to a woman of colour and was accused of being racist. No one, not one of her colleagues, came to her defence. So these issues require very careful handling. Like June, in the interests of getting things done, I have a tendency to be impatient. A mistake for a white middle-class middle-aged cisgender woman of privilege. Guilty as charged.

Okay, that’s my rant for today.

Saw a documentary on another magnificent woman – “Citizen Jane,” about Jane Jacob’s campaigns to save cities from Robert Moses and his ilk, who smashed through communities to build expressways and tore down poor enclaves to build soulless high-rise jungles, actions which were imitated all over America and in Toronto – just down the street, as a matter of fact, is the former high-rise jungle of Regents Park. The doc shows the disastrous result of these decisions made by bureaucrats theorizing in offices, whereas Jane was on the ground, in the streets, watching and listening to human beings as they walked and sat, shopped and played. How proud I am that she moved to Toronto and stayed here for the rest of her life. Brava.

Last night when I couldn’t sleep, I stayed up till 1.30 reading David Sedaris’s diaries. It’s still an odd book, skipping through little snippets of his life, but it gets stronger and funnier after he and Hugh go to France. He writes about his French class, Today I turned in a paper about social customs. In it I wrote that on the eve of an American man’s wedding, it is customary for his parents to cut off two of his fingers and bury them near the parking lot. The groom has eight hours in which to find them, and if he does, it means the marriage will last.


I’d tried to buy some bandaids at a pharmacy last year, but my French was so bad I couldn’t even describe them. In the end I drew a picture and the woman looked at it, responding with what I guessed was “This is a drugstore. We have no surfboards here.”


Today the teacher called me a sadist. I tried to say that was like the pot calling the kettle black but came out with something closer to “That is like a pan saying to a dark pan, ‘You are a pan.’


A year ago I would have begged Hugh to accompany me to the hardware store, but now I go on my own. Yesterday I said to the clerk, in French, “Hello. Sometimes my clothes are wrinkled. I bought a machine anti-wrinkle, and now I search a table. Have you such a table?”
The fellow said, “An ironing board?”
“Exactly!”


Thank you, David, I needed that. We all need that. B.C. is burning, Trump and his family, incomprehensibly, are still there, select Conservatives have been churning up rightwing American airwaves protesting Omar Khadr’s settlement, it’s 30 degrees but feels like 38. I’m in here, eyes damp, laughing.

Wayson, who is healthy if getting frail at 78, came over for lunch today and at one point said, “I’m going to die soon. And I’m fine with that.”
“Not if I have anything to do with it, you’re not,” was my reply.

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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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