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“Itzhak”

It’s 9 p.m. on a very rainy night in Vancouver, and I’m drying off in bed, in a tiny all white hotel room, with a glass of a spicy Chilean Pinot Noir, a platter of Lebanese takeout, and thou.

Rain on Gabriola this morning, where I’d hoped to take a last walk in the woods. Instead, many cuddles with the most adorable dog in the world. The minute I got up, every morning, Sheba bounded over with a slipper in her mouth, hoping to play. I will miss her a lot.

Patsy and I took the midday ferry over to Nanaimo, returned my piano – I still can’t get over that it cost $11 to rent for 3 weeks – got me waitlisted for the 2 p.m. floatplane, grabbed a bite to eat, and hugged goodbye. Last night was truly a gift, to be with two of my oldest and dearest friends, now living on the same island. To think that though we’ve been through decades of change and the batterings of life, yet, somehow, we’re still fundamentally the same people, with the same bond, as nearly 50 years ago … I asked Patsy, since she threw my 20th birthday party, if she would consider in 2 years throwing my 70th. Only joking, of course – she’s much too busy for that.

So – goodbye to the island. It’s right that one of Chris’s favourite pastimes is watching “Escape to the Country,” the British show about rural people wanting to buy a home in a country village. He has done exactly that, and what a perfect escape to the country it has proven to be. How grateful I am to have been invited to share it with him.

I got my standby fare – standby is half price for seniors, so $60 for the 20 minute flight. And then to the Victorian Hotel, recommended by my blog friend Theresa. What a find – very reasonable because the bathrooms are shared and the rooms, at least this one, are small – but in a great location, quiet, pretty, with breakfast.

Reading the “What’s On” online, I saw the documentary “Itzhak,” about the great Israeli-American violinist, was playing at VanCity. I’d wanted to see it in Toronto and missed it. Headed out without an umbrella – my non-Vancouver reasoning, “There’s been so much rain, surely it must have stopped.” Idiot! The film was sold out but there was a standby line, so again, I waited for standby and was successful. What heaven is this film. Yesterday, Chris’s TV was tuned to the Knowledge Network and an orchestra came on backing YoYo Ma playing the Schumann cello concerto. As an encore, he played one of the Bach Unaccompanieds. I wept. And did again today – Itzhak Perlman, one of the greatest of the great violinists, is a mensch, a beautiful man, joyful, generous, kind, very funny. The film portrays not just his musical career but his lifelong marriage to Toby, a woman who saw him play when she was 15, went backstage, and asked him to marry her. A few years later, he did, and many years later, they still have a glorious partnership, 5 children, 12 grandchildren, and several musical foundations that they run together. He was crippled by polio as a child and yet has lived an incredibly full life. He talks about driving with Toby when on the radio came a spiritual sung by Marian Anderson that was so beautiful, he nearly crashed the car. “I feel very lucky to love and appreciate music that way,” he said, and I concur.

Perlman was born in Israel and is deeply connected to his Jewish roots. Someone says, “Isaac Stern was asked why so many Jews play the violin, and he replied, ‘Because it’s the easiest instrument to pick up when you have to run.'”

The film brought me to my father, a nice Jewish boy from New York who played the violin; to Uncle Edgar, his brother, who played the viola and the flute; to my mother, who played the piano and the recorder and tried to play the cello so she could be part of my father’s string quartet. How they would have adored this film. So I watched it for them and with them.

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4 Responses to ““Itzhak””

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hello Beth from temperamental weather land (aka Toronto). Lynda Tam here. I just had to write to say how much I have enjoyed following the blog on your trip out west to Gabriola. As you know, from my ambushing you at Rogers Hot Docs, your blog really makes my day. I open it every morning and if you haven't had time to write, I enjoy the blogs that you follow. Such a treat. Just wanted to say "thanks again".

  2. beth says:

    Lynda, how great to hear from you again. And I thank YOU for following and reading. As a solo traveller, blogging makes me feel that I'm sharing the journey with my bloggee friends, and that makes a big difference. Onward!

  3. theresa says:

    I loved your review of the Perlman film. He is a beautiful musician — remember that YouTube of him playing the Bach Partita No.2 in D minor? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KpYUaRg0aDw I wrote an essay last fall using the piece as a framing element and listened to so many versions. This one? Transcendent.

  4. beth says:

    Theresa, as I'm about to write, a friend wrote to let me know he's going to be playing in Toronto the day after I get back – so I got one of the last tickets. A treat at any time, but especially after seeing the doc. I will listen to the Partita now. And the sun was shining today! Another gift.

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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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