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heading to Noo Yawk

In a frantic flurry, as always happens before I travel – mind you, only to New York and only for four days. I like many others have sworn not go to a U.S. dominated by the now officially impeachable Trump and his disgusting party. But to me, New York is not the U.S., it’s a separate place entirely.

I’m going tomorrow morning, for two main reasons: to visit my father’s cousin Lola, who’s still living in her apartment at 97, the age my dad would also have been if he’d lived, and to see Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish. Apparently it’s a marvellous production, directed by Joel Grey – the original written by Sholem Aleichem, a contemporary and rival of my great-grandfather. Most big Broadway shows now come to Toronto shortly after NYC, so I want to see things that definitely won’t come, like Fiddler in Yiddish. There’s a play about a creative writing teacher, if I can get a ticket at TKTS, I’ll see that.

Also the new MOMA and dinner tomorrow with Cousin Ted and his husband Henry, and then they go to their big house in Northport, leaving their apartment at 77th and 3rd empty all weekend. A great blessing. Otherwise, I would not be going regularly to the great city of my birth.

But everything always goes wrong just before I leave. Big crisis with downstairs tenants, John came over to fix things which took the morning; then my printer simply decided to stop working and it took half an hour with my tech guy Matt to get it connected again. How could a printer decide at a fraught time to disconnect from my wifi? But it did, all by itself. Now I’ve printed my boarding pass and all is well. Robin upstairs will keep the plant running, and Sam may come by to watch the cable TV liberated from his mother’s grasp. Or not. (His Dark Materials last night, Doc Martin tonight. Love is.)

Dear friends Suzette and Jessica came for dinner Sunday night, and we discussed current television at length. Also our frustration with political correctness, various aches and pains, the generational differences in female pubic hair. What use was feminism, someone asked, if women are now supposed to be as hairless as children?

An upsetting experience: U of T sends assessment questionnaires to its students every term, to evaluate how well the course and its instructor are working. These are anonymous and forwarded to my boss and then to me; it’s valuable to find out how students really feel. I’m happy to say my assessments are almost always pretty damn good. This term I thought it was a great class; several have said they’re coming back in January. But one assessment came in that devastated me; a student who’d given no indication of being unhappy vented for paragraphs about the huge problems of the class and its teacher, who, it was asserted, is limited and made insensitive by her “white, middle-class” viewpoint. The U of T needs to train its instructors better or else it needs “more dynamic and engaged” professors. And much much more.

I read it over and over, knew immediately who it was, a student, also incidentally white and middle-class, who’d given no indication of distress, and felt as if I’d been kicked in the gut. However. My boss supported me 100%, and it’s over. But God – I’ve had many good reviews, but the review that haunts is – of course – that one. Aren’t I dynamic and engaged? I think I am.

Plus much much snow, Christmas looming, life. Waking at 5 a.m. from vivid dreams, including one about a beautiful house in the woods where I’d love to go write but where I knew in the dream I couldn’t live because I’d be afraid of such isolation. Not solitude, but isolation – no neighbours, no one to go for help, fear of intruders and big spiders and things breaking down. Yet I can see the place now.

So, feeling a bit strained and drained. But as always, once I’m there, the thrum of the metropolis will sweep me up, and I’ll have four exciting days before returning, with enormous relief, to the tiny little town of Toronto and its snowy December.



4 Responses to “heading to Noo Yawk”

  1. theresa says:

    Have a wonderful trip! And oh, I understand your feelings, re: negative assessment. I don' t teach often but remember a week-long intense workshop and one person deciding near the beginning that I wasn't doing what she hoped I would. She complained to organizers, then changed her mind a few days later, apologizing in the form of a poem, read at a public reading. Which made it worse somehow. I bet you're an excellent teacher.

  2. beth says:

    Since I've been teaching this course for 25 years at 2 universities and no one has asked me to stop and people keep coming, I guess I'm doing something right. But obviously, not for everyone! How nice that the crabby lady wrote a poem about you, Theresa. There are people who will never be satisfied, no matter what. Black holes, I call them. But though we may know they exist, it doesn't make it easier to deal with them.

  3. Unknown says:

    I can't think of anyone more dynamic or engaged in life than you Beth. You teach 2 university classes, hold biweekly home sessions, write a daily blog all while maintaining a lovely home and tenants. And you entertain two lively grandsons, travel, share meals and special events with your family near and far. You produce storytelling afternoons and dance nights and your local Nativity play every Christmas. And you ride a bicycle 6 or 7 months a year!
    Thinking of all you do Beth reminds me of something Fred Astaire once said when he was being praised for his dancing abilities. He said that what he did was nothing compared to Ginger Rogers who matched him step for step, while moving backwards and in high heels. Beth, you are a fabulous writer, grandmother and human being. And as a past student I can say you were a generous, knowledgeable and inspiring teacher.

  4. beth says:

    Dear wonderful former student, I don't know who you are, but I like you a lot and I think you are a wise and generous writer. Thank you for this! Made my day.

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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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