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Letter to the Editor and Shuggie Bain

It’s November of the Year That Vanished. Frost tonight, they say. My son is in mourning; the other day, a good friend of his, a young woman, had a relapse with drugs and alcohol and committed suicide. I just found out that a friend from the Y, a fit woman younger than I am, has Alzheimer’s; she got lost driving in the summer and totalled her car. If the vote in Virginia was a referendum on Biden, as everyone wants to make it out to be, then things look bad for the embattled Dems, and thus the world. 

So, given all that, I am going to stop reading the novel Shuggie Bain. It won the Booker this year, was described by Lynn in France as perfect, and is indeed beautiful, stunningly well written with immense sensitivity. It’s a devastating portrait of life in Glasgow under Maggie Thatcher – blasted lives, dire poverty, damaged, brutal people, a mother sunk by alcohol and bad choices, and a dear good child desperately trying to save her and survive. I’ve read 100 pages, and that’s enough. Not that I am looking for light or fluffy or cheery. But that desolate I cannot take in the early days of November, as the light grows dimmer, the days grow colder, the government of the United States flounders, and its monsters loom. As well as our own: suicide. Alzheimer’s. Homelessness. 

Yesterday, the Star printed my letter to the Editor. It was originally three times as long, about several things; they reduced it by many words and issues. But it makes its point. (Last week, as the billionaire Rogers family battled for control of their company, we learned Mayor Tory is paid $100,000 a year to sit on their board in his “spare time.”)  

The city I love feels dangerously out of control.

For the first time in a while, I took a bike trip through downtown. What I encountered is a hellscape: high-rise buildings going up on almost every corner, overwhelming noise and dirt, concrete trucks and other huge pieces of equipment blocking sidewalks and streets.

Who are these thousands of expensive new units for? Our parks are home to desperate people living in tents, yet luxury buildings are going up with no provision for affordable units.

This metropolis is being battered by a pandemic leading to unemployment and business failure, by gun violence, drug addiction, snarled streets, unaffordable housing, hunger, and homelessness, overseen by a tone-deaf premier who has eyes only for the suburbs.

Perhaps our dull, decent, admittedly hard-working mayor should not be devoting his spare time to a company board. The citizens of this once-liveable city deserve undivided focus.

Allen Gardens, serene city park, where there are many tents, as there are in every city park. Winter is coming. 

Today, back to the Y, where they’ve decreed that though we must wear masks in the halls and change rooms, we don’t have to wear them any longer as we exercise. We could understand Carole as she told us what to do; we could breathe. Though the place is still nearly deserted, it started, barely, to feel like old times. Now I ache from head to foot, not from the flu vaccine that I got on Monday, but from Carole. That’s why I go to the Y – because I never push myself the way she pushes me. 

Skyped with Lynn for an hour this weekend. And thought, again, is there anything as heartening as getting caught up with an old friend? We laugh and laugh. She sent me a recent photograph of her in her wedding dress; considering that it’s fifty years and five children later, it fitted amazingly well. Brava, my beloved friend. Be well. Promise! 

I won’t be moving much for the rest of the day. Naptime. 



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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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