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Mr. Smith goes to Washington

Rode my bike to the Y this morning for the first time in at least a month; it was cold but bearable. People are talking hopefully about spring. Fools! How long have you lived in Canada?!

Today, a lull, the Sunday of a long weekend; the city feels sleepy and tranquil. But the world feels dangerous and torn and full of frightening upheaval. Perhaps this latest horror in the U.S. will be the turning point, we think. How can the morally bankrupt Republicans ignore the desperate, heartfelt pleas of teenagers whose friends were gunned down in front of them? And yet they can and they will. How can Trump lie and lie and lie again and get away with it? How can some countries be sliding backward toward dictatorship? And yet he does, and they are.

And here, in my house, is mess. John is here cutting through the walls of a big storage closet on the second floor which will eventually be turned into my bathroom; somewhere in there are plumbing pipes from many years ago – it was a bathroom when we moved here in 1986 – and he needs to find them. So I had to clean out the space, which was jammed full – of clothing, files, books, papers, family DVD’s, years of research, boxes of letters and souvenirs – in short, a nightmare, a huge job that needs to be done. The whole reno will be like that, forcing me to make decisions and get rid of stuff. It’s not just that I have a tiny hoarding tendency and a second-hand store habit, but also that I keep papers and books as research for future articles, and I inherited a ton from my mother, a champion saver, and other relatives. It’s all here, under this roof. By the end of the year, my space in this house will have shrunk by half, and so much of this massive amount of stuff needs to go.

On a more cheerful note, I used my travel points yesterday to book my yearly April travel. This year, no Paris with Lynn, sadly, and no Italy with Bruce, even more sadly. But happily, I am going once more to Vancouver and then on to Gabriola Island, where my dear Chris now has a log cabin with two spare bedrooms and three adorable animals. We will walk and talk and cook and watch DVD’s and sit in his hot tub, and I will fill my city soul with ocean and Vitamin G (for green). If it works out, I could alternate my late winter getaway – one year to France, one year to Gabriola. That sounds like a heavenly combo to me.

Last night I watched “Mr. Smith goes to Washington” on TCM. I saw it many years ago but was thrilled to watch it again – Jimmy Stewart delightful as a naive but passionately honest politician nearly crushed by a corrupt party machine and big money – but truth and decency win and he is triumphant. Particularly relevant today, it should be obligatory viewing for every politician in the world. From Wikipedia:
When a ban on American films was imposed in German occupied France in 1942, some theaters chose to show Mr. Smith Goes to Washington as the last movie before the ban went into effect. One theater owner in Paris reportedly screened the film nonstop for 30 days after the ban was announced.

Now that’s a powerful work of art! And then I watched a documentary on Billy Wilder, Austrian Jew, brilliant interpreter of America, simultaneously with a doc on female sexuality and desire. A fun Saturday night.

In the random pile of papers on my desk are transcriptions from my early diaries, this one from when I was sixteen, in Grade 13 in Ottawa.

Feb. 16, 1967
Michael said to me today, “I wonder why daddy doesn’t like you, Beth.”

One day I will be standing, in the late evening, waiting for a bus. It will be winter, snowing but not cold. There will be a wall behind me, on a level below my shoulders, with a layer of new snow on top. I will begin smoothing the snow off, pushing it away, brushing happily. Suddenly a boy will come up to me and say, “Please don’t do that, you’re making it ugly again,” and I will look at him gravely and say, “It IS ugly. It’s black and hard and lumpy. I’m only expressing its true self.”

And then we will both know that it’s a beautiful wall, for it stops people from falling into the canal, and because it can be leaned on or over, and huddled against, and simply because it’s there, to have snow brushed from it. And then the boy and I will not ruin our moment of perfect comprehension and love, and we’ll get on our separate busses and zoom off. 

Will we ever see each other again? Will I go on brushing, every winter, hoping he will reappear?

Devastating to read what my brother said; this was not a happy time in my life. No idea what all the rest means. That same year, I wrote an essay for Mr. Mann’s English class that he returned with “A wordy concoction of pseudo-philosophy – C +” written on it; it stings still. But this is why I keep paper. What a privilege to have a view of my thoughts more than 50 years ago.



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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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