Monday, December 16, 2013

2 cappuccinos -- Canada Post

- Hey did ya hear the news?
- Ya mean Peter O'toole died?
-Not that.  His liver packed it in back in the 90's.
-What then?
- Canada Post is no longer goin' to deliver the mail.
-You're kiddin' --Fabulous!
-Right. No more shovelling the snow.
-Yeah, no tickets for ice.
-Another Christmas present off the list.
-No more bills.
-Now you can buy more at Christmas.
-For sure. Bill comes-- just press delete.
-Yeah, perfect
-Did ya read  the whining in the Globe?
-Who reads the Globe anymore?
-They're riled up about old people gettin' their mail.
-What did old people do when the Milk man stopped? Go dairy free?
-I almost forgot --we're old.
-Jesus Christ, you're always on top of the news.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Eulogy for a best friend

One of my best friends, Susan Eckert Avner, known as Ecky-- a woman I have known since I was in junior high passed away this week. She died alone in her condominium and it was days before anyone discovered her. It was only because she was not posting on her Facebook that we, her high school friends from across the country, became alarmed. The fire department broke in to her home in Kansas City, and  found her dead at 66 years of age.  Cause unknown.

I have written a bit about her on Facebook, and I could write a lengthy eulogy, but instead I want to describe just one afternoon we shared that  I will always remember.  It was a wonderful memory because it was vintage Ecky.

It was a hot day in June in 1963.  Both Ecky and I were sixteen year olds in high school in Buffalo.  It was a great moment for me because I'd just received my  driver's  license that day.  My mother let me take her car to school. It was a Monday and  Ecky and I, both Irish Catholics, had to go to the dread of all dreads-- religious instruction. She went to Saint Benedict's and I went to Christ-the-King. I agreed to pick her up  at a corner after what we called the  'hell-on-earth" class was over. We'd planned to go out to dinner.

My mother never made a meal and  she had to go to her study club that night.( She studied the Congo.) So she gave me money for dinner and enough to take a friend so,  as she said, " I wouldn't be lonely".  Ecky's mother abandoned the family forever when Eck was around seven and  basically left Eck in charge of her younger brothers. Thus we were on your own with our new Impala 409 Convertible.  What is better than two teenage girls in a convertible with no parents in sight out who are out  on the town for the first time?

We decided to go to Pat's Hot Dog Stand, a local hangout for 'older boys with cars'  and we planned on breezing in on two wheels with the top down, cigarettes a blaze.  I decided before we made our grand entrance we should get the car washed at one of those new fancy drive-thru car washes on Niagara Falls Boulevard.  Ecky, always the cautious one, said maybe we should think twice before driving in since we hadn't done it before and I'd only had my license for a day.  I replied, "How hard can it be."

We pulled in and there was a line up of cars.  I drove in to the spray and neglected to read the sign that said, TURN OFF MOTOR AND PUT CAR INTO NEUTRAL. I decided to blast through in drive and to rev the motor.    I also missed getting into the track that pulled  you along.  Once we got in the middle  the car stalled; I'd screwed up the clutch; flooded the car and it would not start again. People were beeping at us to move as the cars were piling up. Ecky and I started laughing and couldn't stop. We were out of control. ( You know that kind of laugh that only teenage girls can have?) We were surrounded by giant red automatic round slapping machines that were in revolt. They kept making loud gear grinding sounds and then they reversed direction and water came at us from all angles.

Ecky lowered her window to yell,"HELP," but the water flooded  into the car  due to the fact that  it was coming in from a sideways angle.  The water pressure shot  her over to my side of the car.  We were now in complete paroxysms of  laughter. No one could get to us because the machines were stuck on our car, beating it and spinning around.

Finally, between cycles, I screamed "MISSION ABORT!" and we tore out of the car hoping to make it  out without a wax coat. Well, the second we got out of the car, we heard the  Puerto Ricans who worked there yelling at us in Spanish, "Go Back." Sorry boys-- too late.

Suddenly the huge brushes started buffeting us all over the place. Many people would have cried from the pain of the slaps, but Ecky was still laughing hysterically and screaming, "McClure, we are going to die with really clean skin!"

As we moved toward the exit, having abandoned the car in the suds department, we were thrashed with wax from above. I 'd paid for the extra wax and we got it.  It took two weeks to get that wax out of our hair.  Our eyelids were heavy with wax and it was  hard to keep them open.

Eck screamed, "McClure, I see sunlight ahead!" We just had  to get through the dry cycle.  We continually kept flying into one another.  The air was so hot and so powerful our faces were  beet read and we were  sandblasted. Eck yelled over the din, "My freckles are gone and my nails curled upwards."

Finally we heard an eery silence, the lights flashed  and the whole car wash ground to a halt. Someone had pulled the emergency switch.

The owner came running up to us screaming that we had to pay for all of his damaged equipment and there now was a line up of twenty cars waiting to enter, blah blah.  We couldn't  stop laughing and  Ecky had such an infectious laugh that the guys who worked there started chortling  at  the wax coating on top of our suds.

I wanted to argue with the angry owner, but Ecky, always far wiser, made him see how funny it was.  She said, "Hey now you'll have a story to tell your wife, The day the girls from Amherst went through the car wash without the car." Finally, Ecky broke him down and even he was laughing. He   got the car moving and we pulled out to everyone's cheers.

Never deterred from my original plan, no matter how awry it has gone, Ecky and I drove along to Pat's Hot Dog Stand.  We put the top down and let our long white waxed hair flap in the breeze. I already had white hair, but Ecks was black and the white wax made her look like one of those wax dolls that you used to buy for a penny that had kool aid inside.

When we got to Pat's Hot Dog's, which was only a drive-in-stand, with a huge parking lot surrounded by tables on a scrappy piece of yard, we  each had to lay down on a picnic table to dry out before ordering.  Naturally, since we were encased in suds and wax we were the centre of attention.  Neither of us acted like we were in any way unusual. Ecky just said to some boys who left their Corvettes to see the mummified wax figures,  "You guys should go through the car wash on Niagara Falls Boulevard,  It's a riot!"

When we dried off, we got our long dogs, curly fries and cokes.  We laughed so hard the cokes came through our noses.  When were got home, the best part of the caper was that no one noticed that we looked even slightly different. All anyone said to either of us was "Hi, how was your day?"

Although our lives took different paths, I moved to Canada and Ecky to  Kansas City, we got together every year.  Once when we were in Florida getting our nails done, the manicurist asked us if we wanted a Brazilian wax for the beach. We both burst out laughing and Ecky said, "No thanks we've had a Buffalonian.

Two years ago I picked Ecky up at the Buffalo Airport in my new car  and  told her I had a plan for lunch.  Fifty years later we drove through the car wash and then drove to Ted's Hot Dog Stand. ( Pat's was gone now.)
 It was full of teenagers and we were 63 and 64.  Still we laughed so hard that coke came out of our noses.

Eck, I still hear your laugh and always will. May you wax eloquent in heaven.


Monday, December 9, 2013

Two Cappuccinos --Movie deal

-Gettin' my novel optioned as movie.
-Which one?
-That the Darwin and Freud thriller?
-Do they love it?
-Say they do.
-Keepin'  it as is?
- Almost. Takin' out the Freud.
-Too fifties.
-And the Darwin?
-He's axed as well.
-Too highbrow?
-They say they want it to be accessible.
- Accessible, scary word, that.
-Right. Terrifying as family fare.
-Keepin' the detectives at least?
-No. makin' it into a children's series.
-Least you get paid.
-That's why I have coffee with you.

Two Cappacinos

-Kids drivin’ me nuts.
-Yeah, well look on the bright side.
-Motherhood -- a bright side? You're holdin' out.
- You could be Mrs. Ford.
-You kidding, I’d love it! She’s not worried.
- What the hell is there to worry about?
- All little Robbie needs is a driver.
- Lose a few pounds.
- Bob’s your uncle.
- No one's goin to call her  a helicopter parent.
-She's a bloody role model.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

people to avoid

The world is full of people and sometimes you have to make snap decisions on who to befriend or even have as an acquaintance. I often make my snap unfair judgements based on linguistic grounds. There are certain words that put my nervous system on alert. Since these are legion, I will only name the top  six. I won't bother with explanation. Either you get it or you don't.

1. People who refer to their BUCKET LIST.

2. Those who apologize by saying MY BAD.

3. When something is funny they say, LOL

4. Those who say, WHATEVER DOESN'T KILL YOU MAKES YOU STRONGER. They need to meet people who have post traumatic stress disorder and are not stronger.

5. Those who refer to a coincidence as a COINKIDINK.  ( Oh no! Spell check recognizes it.)

6. Colleagues who meet you at a business meeting and say NAMESTE.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Hong Kong Reprimand

Interesting incident at my hotel in Hong Kong. Before I relate it let me tell you what I have read in all of my guide books about interacting in China and Hong Kong. FACE is a term everyone uses. You must never embarass anyone or point out their faults. THEY HAVE TO SAVE FACE. Even if you are right never say you are right.  It is up to the wrong party to take action. If you point out an error, the person stonewalls you, smiles and never forgets the slight-- for their WHOLE LIFE. 

Now with that cultural tidbit under your belt, let me proceed. The other day I got a note from the General manager of the Hotel under my door  actually it was a formal letter saying that there has been 'an incident'  and we needed to meet. Husband #1 said that I have been writing a blog critiquing the government and now they were going to throw me out.  David, #2-3 son suggested that they were going to tell me that I was annoying. With that family support I trudged to the desk and at the time appointed on the  letter.    When I went to the desk of this giant hotel all of the hotel clerks said they were waiting for me. They called the general manager who wore a black formal tux and white gloves. They all surrounded me to listen to the manager. 

The manager said there was an incident with my lampshade and then he produced two giant pictures of my lampshade. One was before I damaged it and One was when it was intact. The conversation follows with 12 clerks watching and nodding.

Manager:  Do you see the damage to the lampshade

Me:  yes it has a water mark on it.

Manager:  I see it as well.

me:  I guess we both see it.

Manager:  nods and no one says anything.

me:  Actually I was drying my laundry and placed my almost dry socks on the lamp because the lamp was near the sunlight coming through the window. I see that the socks have left an imprint on the lampshade damaging it.

Manager:  Yes I understand. It was very smart of you to find the light for your socks. It was warmer there. 

Me: I do it at home and this has never happened.

Manager: so  you did it here thinking it was the same. Drying things my hand saves on energy and that is good.

Me: Yes but I damaged the shade and would like to pay to have it repaired or cleaned.

Manager: Oh that is very nice of you. It would not be much. Just $200 Hong Kong dollars ($30 Canadian) 

Me: It would be my pleasure and thank you for contacting me. 

Manager: We will add it to your bill since you suggested it.

The next day when we were checking out there was nothing added to my bill. I think they wanted me to confess my wrongdoing and offer to deal with it. WELCOME TO HONG KONG!

See pictures of the lampshades presented to me below:

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Pets in Hong Kong

 I am now in Hong Kong. Can anyone guess what this tiny cage is for? Well you're wrong. You see the people who live in Hong Kong are cramped. There are 7 million of them on a tiny island. Unless you are rich you live in a 400 ft. apartment with 8-12 people.( That includes parents and in-laws.) So they have no room for pets. They can't fit a dog or a cat in their apartment unless they get rid of the mother-in-law, which would have been my choice, but hey this isn't about me. Yet, they want a pet. So off I went today with my guide to the goldfish and bird market. There are streets full of all kinds of goldfish and innumerable tanks as the chinese love goldfish as pets. They also love birds in cages. They can hang from the ceiling and don't take up important floorspace. Some birds are exotic and the Chinese believe that they need walking. So today I went to a park where men carry their birds in cages for a bit of fresh air. The men who are crammed in a 400 square foot apartment also need air. Sometimes the birds like a picnic and to visit with other birds while the men play cards or mahjong. Problem -- the birds get hungry and like a live grasshopper for a treat. So the men bring the grasshoppers in these one inch cages so they can feed them live to the birds. Believe it or not I saw thousands of grasshopper cages piled up in stores for just this purpose. ( SEE PICTURE ABOVE. I BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW THIS WAS A GRASSHOPPER CAGE.) There are vats with maybe 5,000 grasshoppers in them and you pick the one you want, cage it, take it home, pick up you bird in his cage, go to the park and then feed it his grasshopper. All cages are reusable and everyone has an outing, picnic and fresh air.

 Takes all kinds, Cathy

Monday, November 4, 2013

Bangkok flower market

Flowers say so much about a culture. When we stayed at our fancy hotel in Shanghai it had every luxury feature and  was packed with artificial flowers.  Shanghai has every advantage and is immaculate in the 2 blocks we stayed in.  

Bangkok is confusing  and strange AND  has real beautiful orchids and all kinds of colourful REAL  flowers everywhere. They have a flower market that is blocks and blocks long.  It turns out that most Buddhists worship alone in their homes at their own altars a few times a day. Budda is always with them and they have real flowers on their altars. Almost everyone buys real flowers a few times a week. When I asked a man why real flowers were necessary, he said it was an honour to Budda. All restaurants no matter how poor, like one table affairs on the street have real flowers on the table.

I went to a Buddist temple to pray the other day and it was fascinating. I did all the rituals and eveyone welcomed me and attempted to show me how to do things. Even little kids held my hand and led me to the incense and showed me how to light it. I was totally welcomed.

So unlike Catholism where you can only go tot communion IF YOU ARE CATHOLIC and Judiasm who has the obligation to give you three reasons not to be Jewish when you think of joining them. 

If I come back I hope it is as a Buddhist ( and I do not live in the prostitute section of Bangkok)

Friday, November 1, 2013

Bangkok's GNP

We arrived in Bangkok late at night so when I went to the included breakfast the next day I  had not been outside. Attempting to be friendly, I asked the four men next to us what they were doing in Bangkok and they looked a bit sheepish.  Also they were a tad weird and almost as sketchy as our hotel -- although that would be difficult to replicate in a human form. David, #2-3 son, told me to stop asking groups of men what they were doing in Bangkok. He said we are in the sex capital of the world. Men are here to have sex with Thai teenage prostitutes.
Oh, how could I not have  known that and then  why are we here for a week for Christ sake! Then I ask where that section of town is and I find that it is on every downtown street and alley and we are directly in the middle of it. 
When we walk to a coffee shop,  young girls line the streets and yell invitations to  David, #2-3 son, to 'date' them. Their come-ons  are totally shocking. I have taken to not walking anywhere with him.  
The men who are here in these bars  are really all sent from Central Casting. They are either Australian football players gone to seed at 45 or 50, or  Brits who are about 50-75 who are alone and living as T.S.  Eliot says, "Lives of  quiet desperation."  
So the prostitutes caterwauling rages on.  They sit on stools in front of their tiny bars and call customers. Because life has to go on for the 15 million people who live here, and kids play on the street, families dine together and ignore the prostitutes and the fat pasty white johns, and it is one big neighbourhood.. All this takes place in 88 degree heat. It is a thick soup complete with spice.
Oh,,btw husband #1 who chose Bangkok as a destination, ignores it all and listens to physics lectures through his ipod when he walks around and sees nothing, not even the bed bugs.

When I told my friend about Bangkok he said I had to include the lyrics from  ONE NIGHT IN BANGKOK by Murray Head.  Once you've seen the place you realize how perfect the lyrics are.

One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble
Not much between despair and ecstasy
One night in Bangkok and the tough guys tumble
Can't be too careful with your company
I can feel the Devil walking next to me

Bangkok, Oriental setting
And the city don't know what the city is getting
The creme de la creme of the chess world
In a show with everything but Yul Brynner

Time flies, doesn't seem a minute
Since the Tirolean Spa had the chess boys in it
All change, don't you know that when you
Play at this level, there's no ordinary venue

It's Iceland or the Philippines
Or Hastings or, or this place

One night in Bangkok and the world's your oyster
The bars are temples but the pearls ain't free
You'll find a God in every golden cloister
And if you're lucky then the God's a she
I can feel an angel sliding up to me

One town's very like another
When your head's down over your pieces, Brother

It's a drag, it's a bore, it's really such a pity
To be looking at the board, not looking at the city

Whaddya mean?
Ya seen one crowded, polluted, stinking town

Tea girls, warm and sweet, warm, sweet
Some are set up in the Somerset Maugham Suite

"Get Thai'd", you're talking to a tourist
Whose every move's among the purest
I get my kicks above the waistline, sunshine

One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble
Not much between despair and ecstasy
One night in Bangkok and the tough guys tumble
Can't be too careful with your company
I can feel the Devil walking next to me

Siam's gonna be the witness
To the ultimate test of cerebral fitness
This grips me more than would
A muddy old river or Reclining Buddha

But thank God, I'm only watching the game, controlling it

I don't see you guys rating
The kind of mate I'm contemplating
I'd let you watch, I would invite you
But the queens we use would not excite you

So you better go back to your bars, your temples
Your massage parlors

One night in Bangkok and the world's your oyster
The bars are temples but the pearls ain't free
You'll find a God in every golden cloister
A little flesh, a little history
I can feel an angel slidin' up to me

One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble
Not much between despair and ecstasy
One night in Bangkok and the tough guys tumble
Can't be too careful with your company
I can feel the Devil walking next to me

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Hotel in Bangkok

we get to Bangkok from our luxury hotel in Shanghai. I expect another good place but arrive at what David, number 2-3 son, calls Hotel Sketchy. It is in an alley. When we get to our room, I ask for a bed for my son and they bring a crib. Ah no he is 33 years old. Then they bring a cot.

  #2-3 son is an inveterate traveller so they first thing he does is check for bugs in the folds on the side and finds them! Husband #1 refuses to check our bed saying "What we don't know won't hurt us." After 13 hours of travelling at midnight I am inclined to agree.

 David informs me to NOT OPEN MY MOUTH during his interaction with the staff. He says this is Thailand and these are people  who are Buddist and gentle.He calls the management and they come  to our room with housekeeping trailing behind. All transactions are followed by a prayer sign, fingers pointing heavenward, and a bent nod. David does the same points his hands heavenward and explains about the bugs and says that he wants a new mattress wrapped in plastic. They nod saying they are very sorry they don't have one. He begins the conversation again saying exactly the same thing. They both bow and it starts over. ( It's like groundhog day in Bangkok) They say they don't know what he means. He does not explain and simply says for the 5th time, "Could you kindly bring me a mattress wrapped in plastic that is new."  David pretends he is asking this for the first time.  Everyone pretends they haven't heard it before. No one refers to the previous times it was mentioned.

Finally they all smile and say suddenly "Of course" and then a new mattress wrapped in plastic arrives. Everyone bows and smiles we all go to bed. 

Welcome to Thailand,

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Cricket market in Shanghai

Today we went to the cricket market in Shanghai. It was filthy and David, (son #2-3)  who lives near therewarned me not to wear sandals as filth could rise to ankles. I told him he was nuts. When I got home I had to wash my feet. I permanently had to file the sandals for Hong Kong.

So you walk into this long narrow building in a working class area and you are shocked by the loud din of Crickets. Some are tiny in glass cases. They are for wearing in your pocket so you have a cricket sound when you walk. I guess that is so you are quite cricket. ( Who would say "Here comes a man making cricket sounds, I may faint" How irresistible is that?) I guess it is no stranger than Old Spice.

Then there are large crickets 2 inches by one inch in breathing jars. ( check out picture. some are larger.) They are  bought for gambling. You put the two male crickets on the table and then they fight to the death and you bet on the winner. There were thousands upon thousands of crickets and hundreds of men were carefully combing over them to choose a winner. Most of the men were middle aged with rugged faces.  There were no women there.

Then there were five foot high piles of maggots for sale for bird food. All live insects were on sale as well. Also mice and gerbals were for sale for those who have birds of prey in their tiny apartments. How weird is that?

Gambling is illegal in China, so the government  does not  want tourists to see the huge markets of raw material for gambling. There are gambling dens all over Shanghai in underground places.  Apparently Gambling, not alcohol, drugs or sex, is the major addiction in China.  Cricket wars are the new Opium. Get ready for the cricket wars.

The guide says he is shocked that people are talking to us so much and are willing to be so friendly.  We think this is hilarious because we don't see people as particularly friendly. 

Off for a boat trip. Hope it is a junk and not a cruise line.

Cathy #1 wife.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Shanghai GaGa

Continuing on my journey through China, yesterday I was on my way  on foot to  the Shanghai National Museum. There are so many people in cars and so many pedestrians that no one can cross the wide downtown streets. They make you go underground to cross each street which entails walking down steps and then again up steps at each corner. While underground people grab you and try to sell you useful items like Curious George slippers and little kitty sandals. Underground there are snaking malls that are packed with people.

  Since I have a torn meniscus in my knee, I was in pain on all the steps.  At one corner, I didn't see that much traffic so I decided to make a break for it and dash across the street and hope for the best. Husband #1 and David  son number # 2-3 ( he is a twin) warned against it saying this was a really repressed society and they would catch me. David, who live in Hong Kong and  knows more than I advised against it. Still I dashed across and low and behold two men in traffic uniforms emerged from the bushes and I was dragged back by the men in grey and yellow uniforms, which are different from police and other official uniforms. They dragged me back to the curb screaming at me the whole time.  I screamed back and adults who passed me shook their heads at my appalling lack of ability to follow the law. I get it -- I was wrong. But I didn't expect people to run out of the bushes in uniform.

There is no Google for they have blocked it, no facebook or twitter so that there can be no 'Arab spring' and no utube. All are blocked and only information that is approved can get through.  All the protests here are never reported and the government  gets away with it. They have prospered and they are out of the dark ages, but at a cost. 

At the museum things lighten up and I am at the Mogolian exhibit and a gaggle of teenage girls come in wearing little red scarves, sort of Girl Scouts for the party kind of thing. They begin to take pictures of me and touch my hair which is pale blond or white and ask all about it. I say "I was born this way" which I have now learned from my friends is a line from a Lady GaGa song. When I say it the girls start laughing and then sing as loud as they can in the museum the Gaga song in English and in Chinese. They raise their fists and scream the whole song. A few verses follow:

I'm beautiful in my way
'Cause God makes no mistakes
I'm on the right track, baby
I was born this way
Don't hide yourself in regret
Just love yourself and you're set
I'm on the right track, baby
I was born this way, born this way

Yeah, they made a break for it. They gave voice to individualism. The guards came over and went crazy and then the teacher appeared and the guards yelled at her and she in turn yelled at the girls. She was furious. 

Wow Good for Lady GaGa. They block out the news and the info from the west, but no one anywhere in China could block out the words of Lady GaGa. She deserves a medal and so do those teenage girls.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Shanghai visit

 I tried to hook up to facebook in Shanghai to post my 'impressions' and found that all of google is blocked in China! The Chinese government had a huge fight with Google saying they had to block porn sites and all anti chinese government sites. They don't want a situation like Arab Spring. Google said no -- they are into freedom of information as that is what the internet is for-- China said fine and blocked all of google and facebook.  So all of Shanghai has been Shanghaied  by their own government. Don't get me started.

Yesterday in Shanghai  David,( number 2 son as they say in China-- actually number 2-3 son since he is a twin),  Michael, Number 1 husband and I go with a guide for a tour. He takes us to a place called Chinatown. How can there be a 'Chinatown' when we are in China?  It is full of shopping crap and tourists. So David says that we have to read the riot act to the guide and let him know that we want to see only things where there are Chinese people and the real things that Chinese people do. No tourist crap. 

David  is now living in Hong Kong and knows that not losing 'face' is the name of the game. He said we can't criticize the guide  because then he will just do whatever he wants and freeze us out with smiles. So David  goes through a long song and dance about how we are strange people and we like to see strange things that have to do with Chinese culture. He said do not take this personally because we are this way at home.  WE ARE JUST WEIRD. It works --the Open sesame.

First stop -- Marriage market in public park on a sunny Sunday. We are the only whites there. The people who are not looking for a spouse do not appear. Only the parents. The parents in China make all the decisions. The parents who come from far and wide  turn umbrellas upside down and sit on the long park walkway. On the umbrella is a picture of a son or daughter  and information about them. Other parents approach and then they barter. Do you own an apartment? Do you have an education, etc?. What are your savings? What is your son's height?  Height is crucial since many people are short and tall is a 'scarce resource' as our guide explained.  If your kid is foreign educated then a flag of that country flies over the umbrella. Totally fascinating.

 Then people approached us thinking that we were parading our son David, who is 6' 5" around the marriage mart. 

A gorgeous girl approached us saying she is an English teacher and wants to work on her English. After five minutes she asked about David and if he was available. I said, no. She never thought of asking him. It all goes through the parents. I said he had an unattached twin and she wanted to know if he was also tall.  After an hour we were swarmed. Michael, ( Husband #1) kept saying to each of them, 'I'm available'.  He was of course kidding but  the guide  had to stop him  because this was no laughing matter and he had to put a lid on it. 

Finally there was a circle around us asking questions, such as , "What if your son wanted to marry a girl you didn't approve of?" When I said that it would be none of my business there was a shocked sound that reverberated through out the park. Word spread and more people came up to us.

 We had a great time and I learned more about Chinese culture in an afternoon than any book could have taught me. The guide said he was shocked at how open people were with us and how inquisitive. He also had a great time.

There are not enough university positions, jobs and apartments for everyone so marriage is about securing these things. As one pretty girl said, "Love cannot enter into it." It is about survival and getting ahead. If you don't do it, there is no room in the society for you.  When I told her I married for love,  and my husband's mother forbade it and I'm glad I did it, she had a little tear that fell down her cheek.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The gift of enchantment

Fasten your seatbelt for a lurid tale of animal magnetism.

     I have a farm in Creemore, Ontario, where I went last weekend from my home in Toronto. On a freezing snowy day that was brittle with blue skies and relentless sunshine, my friend Judi and I were driving down our remote dirt road where there are only a few isolated farms. Suddenly  we saw what looked like a hitchhiker who was waving us down. As we got closer, Judi, whose favourite book is  Worst Case Scenario Handbook ( She has all the editions),  said, "Keep going.  He wants you to stop the car so he can  murder us.” As I slowed down I saw a tall thin man in a pink wig and pink rhinestone cowboy hat. He had a pink boa jauntily swung around his neck. (He presented as a trashier version of Jon Voight in Midnight Cowboy.) Seriously this picture below was the guy.

 As I was coming to a complete stop, Judi shouted, “Haven’t you ever read In Cold Blood? They were at a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. Does that ring any bells?” I told her that when you live in the country you have to stop for someone I distress. A person could die of exposure and according to the Creemore Echo, our local newspaper, it happens every year. People go off the road and even if they’re alive they can’t find help and die of exposure in unpopulated area. It’s not called Northern Ontario for nothing.
      I ground to a halt, and Judi reluctantly rolled down her window to address the apparition. When I looked in his face in front of the nine foot snow banks, I wondered if he was a transvestite. He was  six feet tall but  lanky. The man leaned inside saying his car had gone off the road about a mile south and he was trying to find Sue’s Clothes Closet in the town of Payner. He was referring to a tacky women’s store in a tacky town where I often sink to buying summer duds.  I have been known to be decked out  in a new outfit from Sue's and proudly ask my Creemore friends "Guess where I got thee duds?”  They always reply in unison, “Sue'e Clothes Closet, of course, because it is hideous and you need a fashion intervention.”
     It was odd since the tall man  was miles from the clothing store. I said, "Well get in and we’ll take you to our car." Then he said, “Thanks”. The way the androgynous being pronounced the flat A in the word thanks tipped me off to a Buffalo accent. Since I grew up ‘in the queen city’ that flat A has been branded on my brain.
Suddenly time stood still. I sensed danger. Why was there a man from Buffalo going to Sue's Clothes Closet in Northern Ontario in the depths of winter on an isolated country road in a pink wig, a pink cowboy hat, and pink boa with no car in sight. It finally dawned on me that  Judi was right. (Let's face it; most  pessimists usually win the day.) This was all a scam to get into our car. I looked again and was about to drive away and suddenly my heart began racing and my mouth was as dry as the Sahara dessert.  I began involuntarily screaming  so loud I had no operational vocal cords for three days. It dawned on me that I was looking at my best friend from childhood, Louise Greenberg. ( For those of you who have read my memoir After the Falls, she was the very tall friend whom I named  Leora.) We were inseparable from grade seven right through high school and we are still in touch. She now lives in Boston and does medical research. I screamed “Louise—Oh my God why are you here?” She said she just felt like a visit and wanted to freak me out. Well, she succeeded.

 Then the three of us pulled into our farm’s long driveway  with trees on either side. I suddenly saw something, almost subliminal out of my peripheral vision. It was a red flash. Was it a red fox leaning out from behind a tree? It was like a fox-human or something from a William Steig book, half human and half animal like Dr. Desoto where the dental patient is a fox.

Then an animal came out from another tree with yellow tufts and blue forehead.

 It looked like something from Cocteau’s 1946 film of Beauty and the Beast, when the beast began to look part human and part beast. 

Then a black feathered creature one came out from behind the lilac bush with a white feather mustached  mouth. This phantasmagoria looked like it had  been  taken from the fairy tale The Seven Ravens –at the exact moment when the brother was changing into a raven. He was half raven half human. On it went. Some other creature rose from the pond. Finally one danced across the frozen landscape near our pond.

 Judi said, "Well I hope you now realize we are being robbed. Those creatures are humans in masks. They didn’t expect us to be up here on a weekday." Louise asked why robbers would be hiding behind trees as animals unless this was a Grimm's fairy tale The musicians of Bremen  which was about animal robbers. Then four of the animals popped their heads out  as they stood on one another's backs.  

 Finally a mask blew off and I saw standing before me my friend Anne.  Then all the masks came off and there restored to human form were my female friends from all over the world. They all screamed “Happy birthday”. I collapsed and banged my head on the car door. 

We had a birthday party from Friday at noon until Sunday noon. So don’t think when you have your 65th birthday, you have to wear support hose and eat bridge mix.  I cried several times which is very rare for me, particularly in public.  Why was I so moved? All of my friends took trains, planes and automobiles to get to the party and gave it their all. Now everyone knows that we all have way too much stuff. Especially at 65 your stuff is getting moldy and really piling up. George  Carlin says it best in his video on TOO MUCH STUFF.

     My friends knew that what mattered the most to me was adventure. They presented me with more than adventure. These friends gave me a day of enchantment.  Enchantment is a word that is hardly used anymore. It is tied to fairytales as Bettelheim says in The Uses of Enchantment. The word actually is defined as "a captivation: a feeling of great liking for something wonderful and unusual." 
I will never drive in my driveway without thinking of the magic of those half multicoloured animals coming out from behind trees. Real love is when friends sit down together and say, “No matter how much work it is,  no matter how long it takes, no matter if we have to freeze our asses off behind a tree in twelve inches of snow on the windy top of the Niagara Escarpment for an hour, Cathy is worth it. That is what  real friends do and I love them for it.

Guess who?