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Saturday, December 30, 2006

ENDING THE YEAR 2006

Baby Alex, New Year's Eve '64
SATURDAY, Dec 30/06



Here it is, almost New Years Eve, the end of another year. For me, it was a year of adventure and travel which have provided me with many wonderful memories. I'm still relishing the memories of Chile, spending time with Cecilia and Mommy in Santiago, wishing I was still there or at least had stayed a longer time. Yesterday I got the slides and they nearly all turned out, so reviewing them took me back there, walking the Barrios with Patrick, visiting the Poet's houses, riding through the Andes by bus. I can hardly wait now to get the print photos!



This week I started writing again, finishing up more work on "Shadow of the Lion", which is my #1 priority for the New Year. I got so far behind in my writing schedule what with moving, house guests and travel, so now I must get caught up. And oh! the need for exercise and diet!

So, aside from the usual 'resolutions', these are simpley MUST DO's. It's all a matter of health and well-being.



My last two days of 2006 will be spend relaxing and hopefully visiting with friends (will the girls really come to collect those Christmas gifts their mother sent from Chile?). The New Years Eve gala at the Cottage (where Steve's band is playing) has narrowed down to maybe just Cher and myself, unless the Havana Buddy recovers from his toothache. Other friends from the States can't come now as Cor. is sick. But Cher and I are bound to have fun anyway!



So, spending the day in reflection and nostalgia, and looking ahead to 2007 -- more travel? (Yes, Venice and Greece in May); lots of writing? (Yes, I must finish the novel!) and all the other good things that come with having a lot of wonderful friends and a loving family.



HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

CHRISTMAS SURPRISES!


SATURDAY, DEC. 23/06


Yesterday I had the best Christmas 'gift' of all: a surprise visit from my daughter and grandson. We hadn't expected to see either of them as whenever Mike flies up from California to visit his mom, he goes straight to the Interior. But his flight had been cancelled so he had to come in via Vancouver and my daughter drove down to meet him. So we all had an impromptu lunch together at my son's apartment. And though the visit was short, it was certainly sweet and meant a lot to all of us to be together for a rare family reunion.


My grandson Mike is 21 now, and a fine young man with aspirations to study abroad and a taste for travel adventures like his "Nanny". I hope he follows his dreams to see the world.

And to help convince him that studying in Australia would be a fine idea, I gave him a very nice book about Australia for a Christmas gift. I hope he enjoys it.


Here's a picture of Mike the first Christmas I got to meet him when I flew home from Greece when he was not quite 10 months old. He's a tall handsome young man now, as tall as my son.

But it's still so nice to hear him call me "Nanny"!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

IT'S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS!


It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas around my place. I've finished the decorating and wrapped the gifts which are all on the window seat under the little gold tree. My place looks very festive. I even decorated the plants with lights and baubles.

This is a photo of my and my little sister Jeannie, taken in Lloydminster Sask. when I was about five years old. I like the snow. We always had so much fun as children playing in it. When we lived in Saskachewan there was lots of snow every winter. I learned to skate when I was five and once I slipped on an ice patch and broke my elbow. We used to make snow forts and snowmen.

Where I live now is mostly rain, although while I was away in Chile they had a huge snowfall here. It caused a lot of havoc for pedestrians and cars and the weight of the snowfall caused trees to break which made quite a mess out of people's houses and cars. The snow was gone by the time I got home, but it would be rather nice to have a little for Christmas. However, the weatherman is forcasting mostly strong winds and more rain. I'm dreaming of a White Christmas.....



Tuesday, November 14, 2006

THE PEREGRINATIO (PILGRIMAGE)

I am told that the Latin word for a journey is "peregrinatio" (pilgrimage) and yes, this trip I'm about to embark in is very much a 'pilgrimage'. A sentimental journey, for sure. First, it's a trip to the beloved homelands of two of my dearest friends: Anibal's Chile and Roberto's Argentina. Secondly, it's a pilgrimage to the homes of the Poet, Pablo Neruda, whose writing I so admire (thanks to Anibal who introduced me to Neruda ) Neruda won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. He died in Santiago Chile twelve days after the murder of President Salvador Allende, 1973.

I learned all about Chile, in particular those difficult times of the junta when Anibal was forced to flee. I also learned about Argentina from my soul-brother Roberto, who was also forced to flee his homeland during the junta there in 1978.

And so now, in their memory, I journey south to the land of the towering Andes. What a thrill and more so, what a privilege. How fortunate I am, that through my friendship with Anibal I also became a friend of his daughters (who live here) and his wife who I will visit in Chile.

I expect there will be a number of emotional moments during this journey. I have bought a little white candle embedded with tiny shells to light for him. I hope that Cecilia will take me to all the places he told me about, show me Anibal's Santiago, where he always longed to be.

I won't have time to get to Buenos Aires on this trip, but we plan to cross the border to Mendoza at the foothills of the Andes, in Argentina's wine country. And because Roberto was such a lover of fine wine, I will certainly be tipping a glass or two or three in his memory.

"Farewell, but you will be
with me, you will go within
a drop of blood circulating in my veins
or outside, a kiss that burns my face
or a belt of fire at my waist.
My sweet, accept
the great love that came out of my life
and that in you found no territory
like the explorer lost
in the isles of bread and honey.
I found you after
the storm, the rain washed the air
and in the water
your sweet feet gleamed like fishes."

from "LETTER ON THE ROAD" by Pablo Neruda

Saturday, October 21, 2006

SCATTERED PETALS

"After loving you so much,
can I forget you for eternity,
and have no other choice?"
Robert Traill Spence Lowell 1917-1977 (Obit 1973)

Remembering Anibal...

This week, one year ago, was his final struggle and each day I am remembering the details of that difficult time. While I wrote the blog on Nostalgia, he was very much on my mind, and that bolero tune we sometimes danced to kept going around in my head. Then while I was writing my travel blog about Chile the other day, something else happened that made me know his spirit is very close by...

On my dresser below the window I have a miniature ceramic bench that Cecilia, his wife, gave me which he kept in his bedroom. Beside it is his picture and the poem he wrote while he was in the hospital "I am not going to die..." Next to that is a slender glass vase containing a dried red rose he gave me one night at the Latin Quarter.

As I was sitting at the computer reading through my Chile blog ("A Sentimental Journey") the other day, suddenly there was a whooshing sound. A breeze had blown up through the slightly opened window above and two of the petals from the dried rose blew down and settled on the ceramic bench. In that instant I knew it was a 'message' of sorts from him.

Perhaps it was imagination, just the wind through the window ... Still, I could feel his presence, as if he was trying to speak to me.

This will be a week of deep nostalgia, remembering...I can still envision those scenes in his bedroom...so tragic...etched forever in my memory.

I'll phone the girls this week. I know they'll be thinking of their Dad. Iva says he often visits her too. I'll tell her about the scattered petals. She'll understand.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

THE NIGHT VISITORS

WEDNESDAY, Oct 18/06

Last night, just as I was ready to sleep, two night visitors came. I had come home from my class and relaxed awhile watching the news and funny John Stewart's Daily Show, treated myself to a couple of cups of hot chocolate laced with some brandy. In this relaxed state of mind I went to bed, tired from my busy day and evening of instructing a novel writing class.

Just as I dozed off (I don't think I was really asleep, but on the brink), something - was it a presence? - startled me and I opened my eyes. I clearly saw two women standing by my bed. It scared me for a minute and I cried out, then blinked my eyes a few times but of course the vision disappeared. I couldn't get back to sleep. I felt scared at first, then settled a little when I thought of who those two women might be. I'd been thinking a lot about my Mom lately, and also on the weekend my friend Paula and I had been talking about her Mom who was one of my best friends who passed away several years ago. I wondered, seriously, if the two women who had visited me in the night might have been them. I know I'd been thinking how my Mom would have loved this apartment and been so pleased to see me living here. Mom and Doreen were friends too, so perhaps they came together, their spirits, to check in on me. I'd like to think so. And after I had that thought firmly in my head I was able to sleep again, in fact I slept soundly enough that I didn't wake up til late this morning!

When I was a teenager I had a similar experience one night, except the night visitors were two men: One was thin and tall, wearing an overcoat and fedora hat, the other smaller and Chinese. The stood by my bed and just smiled at me. I was scared stiff and never forgot the incident. A number of years later, when I was living with some other people in a house after I'd split with my husband, a girl came to stay with us who later became one of my best friends, Susan. One night we were talking about strange dreams and other psychic phenomena and she related a story of her night visitors. It was almost exactly the same two men who had appeared at my bedside. Who where they? Guardian angels? We've often discussed this and wondered. It was so real it seemed for sure they were there, those night spirits. But why had they come?

This weekend when my friend Cor was visiting with her little doggie Napoleon, the dog kept frisking about yapping at something unseen. She teased that there was a ghost around in the apartment and that her dog could sense it. I wonder...At first we considered it may have been the spirit of the deceased man who used to live here. Now I wonder if it was really the spirit of my Mom!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

MORE ABOUT THE NEIGHBOURHOOD

TUESDAY, October 3/06
As the days go by I remember more and more about this neighbourhood. We first came to Vancouver in 1947 and I enrolled in Templeton Junior High (at that time it was just grades 7 - 9 although now it goes to senior levels and nodays, unlike then, there is an excellent creative and drama program at the school.) That school terrified me, a shy little small-town girl from Ontario and the Prairies. It was then the largest school in the West, a rambling grey stucco building that to me was like a prison. I had to walk quite a distance to get there every morning as we lived outside of the area. It was early October when I started going there and the class had already started to study French which may as well have been Martian to me. I never did catch up and was totally daunted by everything, especially Math and Science. Even back then I dreamed only of becoming a writer and my parents were often called to the principal's office and scolded about my lack of interest in subjects that would have got me A's instead of C's.

At that time, before the clean-air policies that we have now, a lot of people burned sawdust, wood and coal to heat their houses and living on the Coast there were dense pea-soup fogs.
Some mornings, walking to school, the fog was so thick you couldn't read the street signs, so more often than not I'd miss the crossing and therefore be late for school. I was always getting caught by the monitors who were stationed at a table near the entrance and I'd get ticketed (detentions) for being late. Besides that, I have always been slightly dislexic when it comes to numbers and I could never remember the combination lock numbers on my locker so again, I'd be late for class. I wasn't a worldly city kid then. My class mates mostly intimidated me. There were a lot of rough kids at that school and every day there were fights in the school yard, taunts, bullying. I was often bullied myself because I was the Preacher's Kid, rather timid, and not as stylish as my peers. (My mom was an expert seamstress and made most of my clothes. And being a pastor Dad didn't earn much income so my parents couldn't afford to buy me tailor-made skirts and cashmere sweaters. Looking back though, I was pretty well dressed thanks to Mom who was very stylish herself.)

A few years ago I went back to that school for a reunion and felt the same oppressive feelings I recall having as a kid. Funny how those memories linger. I have much better memories of my high school, Britannia, which is near the Drive.

Another thing I remember, walking down Nanaimo Street...There used to be a street-car running down there and at the corner of Kitchener St. where I'd turn down to walk to school, there was always this funny Downs Syndrome guy who lived nearby with his elderly mother.
He had a conductor's cap and a ticket punch and the street-car conductors used to let him ride up and down the line punching passenger's tickets. Sometimes he'd stand in the road and direct traffic. Nowdays he'd be run over! Later they removed the street-cars and eventually along East Hastings became the route of the fabled Number 14 bus which has been made famous with a play by the same name.

Not too far away is the Pacific National Exhibition grounds where they hold an exhibition every year. It was mainly Playland back then, where we'd hang out to go ice skating or roller skating. And there was an excellent ride called the Shoot the Shute, a boat-like cart that was towed up to the top of a runway and then flew down spalshing into a water-filled tub at the bottom. That was my favorite ride other than the merry-go-round which has now been restored and resides at the Burnaby Heritage Park. (And yes, you can still ride it for a loonie! (that's a Can. dollar!)
My friends and I loved it when the P.N.E. was on and we especially liked sneaking into the side shows. By the time we were about 16 I think we'd got over the Italian phase and were into American sailors. I have a couple of photos of myself taken at the P.N.E. with some sailor I'd met (attracted mainly by the uniform!). I'm sure our mothers were at home wringing their hands and turning prematurely grey wondering what their girls were up to!

Later, I heard some of the old famous jazz musicians play there at the Gardens and sometimes we'd attend dances there. By the late 50's and 60's there were concerts by musicians like "Little Richard" and "Fats Domino" and once I even went to see Frank Sinatra in concert. Then, by the 70's when I'd returned to Vancouver from Alberta and was single again, there were all the great Blues and Rock shows including Elton John, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin. We went to all of them!

My more recent memories of this area, besides the four years I worked as head supervisor of the St. David's Preschool in the 70's, when I was a single mom trying to support two young teens, was the year I arrived back home after living in Greece in 1987. I had come home under duress -- partly due to family committments and partly because after five years there I was 'Greeked out' in particular because I'd had a very sad, wrenching breakpup with my Greek boyfriend. I was only back a month, on a one-way ticket, before I realized I had made a mistake. I moved into an apartment just down the hill from where I am now and tried to sort out my shattered life. Eventually I got a job in Chinatown as an E.S.L. teacher for an all Chinese daycare. This turned into a very interesting, though not very profitable situation and a year later I quit and went back to Greece again for six months.

One nice memories of living on Cambridge St. at that time was riding my bike to work every day. I recalled that this weekend when I took my bike out for a spin along the same route. I also recalled, in passing by a deserted old moving/storage building, that for a brief period when I was expecting my first child, I worked there as a file clerk. It's right down by the docks and I recall being nauseated by the smells so my Mom picked me up every day and drove me home for lunch as the only thing I could stomach was poached eggs on toast.

It's been interesting exploring this old neighbourhood. I'm feeling quite at home here and every day a new memory emerges, nearly all of them pleasant. It's nice to be back!

Saturday, September 30, 2006

EXPLORING MY NEW NEIGHBOURHOOD

SATURDAY, SEPT. 30/06

Well, it's not really a 'new' neighbourhood I'm living in as this part of town was once my teen-age stomping grounds. But it's 'new' for me now, living on the north side of Hastings Street in a beautiful bright, clean, quiet apartment. I'm having an enjoyable time 'exploring' the 'hood and reminiscing as I take trips down memory lane.

When we were teens we hung out on The Drag, which is what we called East Hastings Street. (It isn't too far from The Drive, which is the area I just moved from). At that time, there were lots of Italian immigrants who had moved here after the war and settled in this neighbourhood, opening shops and planting beautiful gardens in their back yards. There would be knots of handsome dark-haired boys on the corners and my girlfriends and I were totally entranced.

There was a coffee shop on Hastings called "The Jolly Joan". It's still there but now it's called "The Master Chef". It used to be owned by the mother of one of my friends. It's small, and there were booths on the side and a big juke box. All the kids gathered there to drink cokes and eat burgers and listen to the current hit tunes on the juke box. My girlfriend R. and I were both short-sighted and heaven forbid being seen wearing glasses. So we'd stand outside the window and both of us would squint -- I could see if I pulled the corners of my eyes and she'd peer through the small space made by her closed fist, and we'd figure out where everyone was sitting before we went in. That was the cafe where I met my first love, Jimmy, the young man I later wrote my play "The Street" about. He used to drive an old grey Chev and we kids would pile into it and drive around.

There are still some of the same shops on the street that existed back then including some Italian delis and one particular barber shop that used to be called "Nick's". I have to laugh every time I pass there. Nick was this smooth sauve Italian with Brill-creme slicked black hair. He used to stand in front of his shop and make passes at us girls, sometimes getting pretty fresh with us. These days it would be called 'sexual harassment'. One October day (it must have been around Hallowe'en) we'd pretty well got fed up with his advances so we decided to take revenge. In those days we wore long navy-blue overcoats. We set out with bars of Ivory Soap and wrote all over the barber shop windows "This guy ought to be D-peed" and other stuff. Then we went back to the Jolly Joan and were sitting in a booth drinking coke when a police officer came in. (I think in those days there were beat cops). He asked us why we had 'done it' and ordered us to go with him to clean off the graffiti. We played innocent, pretended we didn't have a clue what he was talking about.

"You wrote on the windows with soap!" he said. We denied it. Then, looking down we saw that the fronts of our navy-blue coats were covered with white soap flakes! The cafe owner stepped in then and defended our actions. She told the cop about the harassment we'd had from the barber and that he deserved to be 'punished' for what he'd been doing to us girls. In the end, the cop didn't make us go and wash the windows off. And the next morning when I was riding the bus to work, when the bus stopped at the light right in front of the barber shop I saw Nick out there with a pail and rag washing the graffiti off the windows. He never bothered us again!

There used to be a movie theatre on the corner where we'd go on weekends. I had my first 'date' there when I was in Junior High. During the movie the boy held my hand and kissed me. I was so embarassed I wouldn't go to school the next day as I didn't want to face him in class!
There was also a bowling alley across the street where my girlfriend met her future husband who worked there as a pin-boy.

My first job directing a pre-school was in this neighbourhood back in the early '70's. I spent four pleasant years as head supervisor of the St. David's Preschool which still exists. I left there because I was going on a trip to Europe -- the one that would take me to Turkey to be with my beautiful love, Hakki. I had met him while I worked at that preschool when he was here on a ship. I enjoyed that pre-school and have a lot of happy memories of times there. When I left the parents cried and presented me with a gold locket. Inside the locket I put some violets that Hakki gave me when I was in Istanbul. I still have it, and all those wonderful memories.

So every day when I go out browsing around my new 'hood, I am reminded of the past, and the good times my friends and I had. I think I'll start going to the water-fit over at the junior high which I attended when I first moved here from Ontario. I never cared for that school which was overwhelming and very prison-like to me, a small-town girl. And they didn't have the swimming pool back then. But now it's conveniently near at hand so I think I'll start going there instead of the other pool on the Drive.

I'm still close to the Drive though, and as that's where my social life is centered, it's nice to know I can walk over there or have a choice of buses to take. And the taxi fare isn't too expensive for those nights that I stay out too late to bus it home.

Yes, I'm very happy to be back here in this neighbouhood. My life once again has come full-circle and I hope I can stay here for a long, long time.

Monday, September 11, 2006

WHERE WERE YOU ON 9/11?

SEPTEMBER 11, 2006

Five years ago our world changed forever. Where were you on September 11, 2001?
I remember being woken up very early by my friend who said "Turn on the TV. Something terrible is happening in New York!" I tuned in just after the first plane had hit the tower and watched in horror the events unfold. It seemed unreal, like I was watching a disaster movie, not something that was actually happening. Later when I got the bus to work everyone seemed frozen in shock. Nobody was talking. It was all too unbelievable. All through the day, whenever we could at the daycare we checked to see what else was unfolding. Not only the two planes that hit the World Trade Centre towers, but one had dive-bombed into the Pentagon and another was taken down in a field killing all on board in spite of the valiant attempts by passengers to stop the terrorists. For days the pictures played and replayed and those images are now indelible in everyone's mind. I especially remember (still with horror) the couple, hand-in-hand plunging head first down from the top floors, the people waving white flags, the sight of those tall buildings crumbling like sand castles. Unbelievable!

That night I saw my friend Anibal. He too was stunned. But he also told me that it was a particular shock to him because on exactly that date in 1973 he recalled walking to work and seeing the war planes bomb the communications towers in Santiago Chile. They also bombed the Presidential Palace, killing Salvadore Allende, the socialist president who had been elected in a democratic vote by the people. Those planes were CIA/US sponsored war planes and Santiago was under seige by the military. As a result of the coup thousands of Chileans were raped, tortured, and murdered. My friend Anibal was on Pinochet's 'hit-list' and somehow managed to escape with his family to Argentina. I didn't know about 9/11 in Chile until that day and from then on I read all I could, watched videos, and got educated about what the U.S. role was in that military coup that resulted in so many deaths, family tragedies, and people like Anibal having to be exiled for years from the country they loved.

I grew up during the second World War as well, when thousands of people were killed every day and watched, horrified, the mushroom cloud rising over Hiroshima the day the Americans dropped the atom bomb.

War is a terrible thing. And this is the new 'war' -- terrorism. Those events that happened on September 11, 2001 have changed our world forever and changed the lives of those people who live in New York City.

I just experienced my third visit to that fabulous city. I noticed the change, not only in the security, the safeness, the cleanness of the City, but in the people. They seem quieter, kinder, more patient. I felt safe and happy there and felt it was a privilege to visit once again.
I had thought to go to Ground Zero, but decided not to because the City was filling up with others who had come specifically for the commemoration services and we knew that it would be very crowded at the site, and best left to those who had come to mourn loved ones or to pay their respects to those who died trying to save lives. Instead, we went on the round Manhattan boat cruise, and viewed Ground Zero from the River -- that huge gap between the skyscrapers.
When I first came to New York in 1968 they were just starting to build the World Trade Centre towers. I remember asking what the construction was. The next time I visited, the towers were there, rising like two massive glass sentinals overlooking the City. Now they are gone and that day will stay indelible in our minds. Those who died there will never be forgotten.
And we who live will carry on, try some way to find Peace in our World. Whatever happens, we must not let these evil terrorists defeat us or take away our freedom.

Monday, August 28, 2006

ON THE MOVE!

MONDAY, August 18/06

On Friday evening I got a peek at my new apartment. I met with my 'landlords', Jeni and Joe, for my very first viewing. (Til then I'd only seen Joe's apt. on the 3rd floor of the condo building.) Jeni brought along a bottle of champagne to celebrate the handing over of the keys!

My new home is on the fourth floor, S.W. corner with a balcony view overlooking pleasant neighbourhood gardens, west view of the city skyline and north view of the mountains. I can just visualize me sitting out there doing all my writing and perhaps painting too. The apartment is full of light, enhanced by skylights in the kitchen and bathroom. Everything is newly painted in a shell white with off-white carpeting. There's a built-in window seat by the bay window and in the bedroom, a built in dresser (all white, which will match my other bedroom furniture). My Moroccon-colored saffron and blue wicker pieces and my wicker couch with the burgundy Turkish patterened cushions are going to look splendid in the living room!

The kitchen is far more spacious than the one I have and has the window opening to pass through to the dining area or use as a counter with bar-stools. There are all the appliances, including dish-washer, microwave, and in the laundry room a washer-dryer. What luxury!
There's lots of shelf and cupboard and storage space too. I won't have junk crowded all around me like I've had in this old place that didn't even have a basement storage. I even have my own parking space in the secure underground parking (where I'll leave my bike as I have no car!).

I won't officially move til Sept 17 because of this up-and-coming trip to New York. But I am already starting to take a few small boxes over there and as soon as my friends with cars are available I'll start moving stuff by the car-load.

Tomorrow is the arbitration meeting regarding these current landlords, the Dragon Lady and the Pussy Cat, and I'm not looking forward to it except to make sure their dishonesty is made known to the arbitrator. And also to make sure they don't pull off any funny business and try to cheat me out of money like they did with my friend Sofie.

I know the new place will be much more condusive to creativity, with far less disruptions, no daily visits from the cops because of problems caused by the people in the apartment block across the street, no obnoxious neighbours and mostly reliable and kind landlords who are friends of mine. Everyone is so happy that I have found a comfortable and beautiful place to live. (No more cockroaches, mice and stinky hallways!) I know I'm going to be very happy there!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

BLOGGING

SATURDAY, August 5.

Some people on this blogspot have been writing memes on the subject of "Blogging" so I thought I'd join in, just for fun.

When did you start blogging and why?
I started keeping an on-line journal (public) about six years ago on a site called www.rememory.com
I have always kept a written journal (for more personal and day-to-day writings) but rememory also had a contest section where you could enter little stories and win points for so-called prizes. That's what got me started writing my Memoirs. I've tried a couple of other on-line diaries but I always returned to rememory until finally one day it disappeared. Then it was recommended I try blogspot.com. So that's how I got here. Meanwhile, rememory resurfaced and I sometimes still write there too, although most of the familiar on-line friends there seem to have vanished. Now I'm meeting a new set of on-line friends and readers!

What don't you talk about?
On rememory I started a collection of memoirs called "Confessions of a Black Sheep". I think I have about twenty-five of them so far. These are sometimes 'intimate' stories of adventures in my life, but I don't always write the racy details. You'll have to read between the lines for that!
I don't think my kids would like me broadcasting all the naughty bits. In fact, when I wrote the series called "The Shipping News" I didn't go into explicit details about some of the escapades my friends and I had during those days when we were 'wharf rats' partying on Greek ships (my introduction to Greece and Greek men. Humahuma!) My girlfriends were disappointed and said they were too 'tame', those stories, and they wanted me to add in the details. I haven't done so as yet. I also like to rant now and then but I'm careful where I do it as I don't want to offend people by sounding 'racist' or whatever (because I'm not, but at times people (like my landlords) just infuriate me and I totally disagree with their policies and/or politics -- such as Bush and his gang including our Canadian Prime Minister and Tony "the Puppet" Blair. )

Are you and your blogger persona the same people?
Pretty well. Besides rememory.com I have three different blogs here on blogspot.com. One is "Living the Writer's Life" and that's focused mainly on me as a writer. "Conversations With Myself" is a place for trivia and ranting.
"Travel Through History" is my travel blog which I've found very useful as I am a travel journalist and I am inclined to add a lot of preliminary info and details to my travel blogs which I can use later in stories. My 'rememory.com' journal is also a place to discuss daily events and issues that are of interest or concern and I write in it mainly just for fun or to vent.

How do you use blogging to build friendships?
I met a lot of interesting people on rememory.com and a couple of them still message me regularly. There was a woman I met there who used to correspond with me regulalry, also exchange personal phone calls and snail mail. She was a writer too, and a very sweet person. One day she disappeared for awhile and when I phoned her it turned out she'd had a stroke. (She was under a great deal of personal pressure in her marriage and that must have brought it on as she was only in her 40's.) We had a few correspondences after that but I believe her motor skills and perhaps her memory were damaged. Then she disappeared altogether. I haven't heard from her since and wonder if she had another stroke and/or died.
Very sad, as I enjoyed her friendship. Since I've been writing on blogspot, especialy "Living the Writer's Life" I've connected with several other writers and this is a valuable connection for me.

How would you describe your writing style?
In my rememory journals, and Conversations With Myself, I write in a more casual style, more in the way I talk to my pals, with idioms and slang etc. On Living the Writer's Life I plan out the entries and use appropriate quotes, sometimes segments of my work-in-progress. I refer students in the writing classes that I instruct to this blog as there are usually some tips for writers along with stories of my own journey as a writer. My main genre is historical fiction, though I'm also a travel journalist and playwright. I think Living the Writer's Life reflects this 'voice'. Travel Through History is set up not only for the reader's interest but for my own information as I am a published travel journalist and use the information I have recorded there later on when I want to write a travel article about my adventures. It's also an easier way to keep my friends at home informed when I'm on the road, than trying to send everything over e-mail.

I believe Blogs are an important part of a writer's life as well as a way to motive writing and record aspects of your life. And it's fun sharing these stories and making connections with your readers.

As for my blog name: It's not totally an alias. And in fact I plan to use it for my historical fiction pen-name. "Wynn" is a Welsh name and a sort of short-form of my first name "Winifred" (not the one I go by) and "Bexton" is my mother's Saxon-sounding surname. "Ruthaki" is a Greek diminutive of my given name. And I'm also known sometimes as "Ruthita"

Sunday, July 30, 2006

RETALIATING

"The pen is mightier than the sword."
Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Baron Lytton 1803-1873 "Richelieu" 1839 Act II, sc ii

(Yes, that's the same guy who penned the now-famous first line "It was a dark and stormy night.")

I've always found it easier to compose the written word rather than the spoken, although I am known as having the "gift of the gab" too. But when I'm angry and really upset, it's sometimes hard to say exactly the right thing, especially when I am livid like I was over getting the eviction notice. It took me a few days to calm down, and by then I'd picked up the forms for filing for an arbitration. Once I got them, I focused on what I wanted to say about these sleazy landlords, and to provide proof and contact numbers of a couple of other evictees -- tenants, like me, who had been long-term residents in good standing, who were kicked out on the pretence that the landlord (or family members) were going to move into their suites. They're using the same scam to evict me when it's pretty clear they are hoping to re-rent for more money. However, I've got all my facts and figures straight now and they aren't going to get away with it if they try. So I had two pages of comments about them on the arbitration papers which I filed the next day and picked up yesterday with a copy to serve the landlords.

Meanwhile, I have already found myself an absolutely beautiful suite to rent and I'm pretty sure I'm going to get it as it's a friend's suite. A bit expensive, but in doing my research I realize this is now the going rate. (Of course the landlords want to kick me out so they can up the rent!) So...it was with great glee today that I served the papers. At first I was a bit worried as they are illusive people. I know they live in the building, but not exactly sure which suite. The address they gave on the eviction notice as the 'address where they can be "contacted and documents served" is a non-existing suite number, just a mail box. But I did my sleuthing work today. Thought I caught the husband in the garden but he'd disappeared by the time I got downstairs. Next, we listened for the garage doors to open (easy, as they are just below my balcony). I had earlier checked the underground parking and noted that theirs is one of the only vehicles parked down there amongst the piles of discarded furniture, boxes and old mattrasses. (They people have turned this building into a pig-sty!) So I rushed downstairs to the basement and caught the whole gang of them coming in with their groceries. They looked surprised to see me. Heehee. I just smiled sweetly and handed Pussy Cat the envelope.
"Here, this is for you!" I said, and rushed back up the stairs.

I'm certain when they read the copy of what I wrote to the arbitrator they are going to be furious (too bad! It's all the truth!) and I am now looking forward to my day in tenants' 'court' to see what bold-faced lies they try and tell the adjudicator. (I was there with Sofie when they evicted her and it was sickening to hear Pussy Cat, putting on her sweet innocent face, insisting that she was going to move into the suite. She never did, of course, so Sofie was awarded an extra two months rent.) I'm hoping this is what will happen next and I have two other tenants who have promised to keep me informed.

In the meantime, I'm now looking forward to vacating this place. Although the rent is going to be somewhat higher than I had hoped to pay, the new suite has many amenities besides being in a secure and well-kept building. I just couldn't consider moving into another cheap place which would likely be infested with roaches and mice and rowdy neighbours and nasty landlords. Been there, done that! Now it's time for some luxury in my life! So by mid September I hope to be out of here!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

A RANT ABOUT WAR

"It is easier to make war than peace." Georges Clemenceau 1841-1929 "Speech" 1919

I am not, nor will I ever be, a supporter of Israeli policies regarding the Palestinians. And this new war they have provoked, though it seems six-of-one-half-a-dozen-of-the-other is, as usual, only serving to harm and kill thousands of innocents as well as displacing the Lebanese (a lot of them Canadians) from their homes and families. This is wrong!

I am currently involved in a 'war' of my own, as of Sunday night when I was rudely disturbed after spending a peaceful and happy day, by the Dragon Lady and Pussy Cat, her ever-so-sweet and two-faced daughters who served me with an eviction notice. There reasons? Dragon Lady wants my suite. I was livid and let them know as much. This is not the first time these devious avaricious bitches have served eviction notices on long-term residents of this building. This time, it happened to be my turn. It should have been no surprise as ever since I first laid eyes on that weasely little woman I knew she was greedily eyeing my apartment.

I first met Dragon Lady in the spring of 2004 when my then landlord (another smooth, sly Chinese man) was touring groups through the building -- mainly requesting a peek at my suite because he said it was the nicest -- pretending they were people from the bank coming to take a look as he was supposedly applying for a mortagage loan. I noted immediately how she kept coming back to greedily eye my suite, and I instantly got bad vibes from her.
They proved to be Liars, all of them!

Following this, there was a brazen daylight robbery on the third floor. Three suites were broken into and a great many items stolem. The landlord was in the building as was another Chinese man on the roof. There were no signs of forced entry. When the manager was informed of the thefts he shrugged it off. A week later we get a notice that he'd sold the building. The Dragon Lady was the new owner and the first thing she did was evict three tenants, one of them a long-term tenant (over 20 yrs) and one of those who had been robbed, on the pretext that family members were moving into their suites. (They never did!) Neither Dragon Lady or her husband speak a word of English so from then on we were dealing with her two young college-student children, Pussy Cat and her equally sly brother. It was all trouble from the word 'go' and has never let up, ending with me being served with this eviction notice.

So, I'm off to 'war' armed with a request for arbitration and twelve pages of recorded complaints and letters from 2004 til now which I have against the managers (most of them never resolved). I will not go quietly from my home. Except for 1 year when I moved out to share an apartment with a friend (bad idea!) I have lived here since 1994. And because I know it is their usual tactics, to oust the long-term residence (except for a Korean family, all were Caucasians and replaced by more Chinese) or to vacate and up the rent because these are dishonest people who have no scruples or ethics are are greedy as sin.

If this sounds faintly racist, well perhaps it is, but with just cause. Yes, I do have lots of other Chinese friends and in fact worked for a year in a Chinese daycare Centre. But these are likely mainland China people who come here thinking they can bend the laws and do as they please -- anything to make a buck. I doubt they are even good Buddhists or they would know that this kind of behavior will provoke bad karma.

Anyway, no matter what I intend to come out a winner and thankfully I have lots of backing from friends. And, in the long-run, no matter what the outcome, I know I'll be better off away from this toxic situation which has been brewing for the last two years. Just the sound of that woman's voice turns my stomach and the sight of her makes me cringe. Evil and nasty is the best word for it. So, I'm going to get my mojo working and put out the Evil Eye. It is I who will be the winner in the end, because harming innocent people can only result in downfall of the perpetrators.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

MORE ABOUT THOSE INDELIBLE DESIGNS

"WHERE TATTOO HORROR STORIES COME TO DIE"
That's the title of a news article I happen to run across yesterday. Reminded me of the blog I just wrote questioning the sensibility of tattoos -- mainly those massive body-covering ones that I'm seeing so often these days.

Well, for the record, here's what a local doctor has to say. He's a specialist in eliminating body art and sees up to 30 patients every day who want their tattoos removed. Several examples are given of the various people and types of tattoos he's been asked to eliminate which included one about a man who was brought in by his irate wife after he'd gone to Las Vegas and returned with a tattoo of a breastacious woman on each arm. The laser doctor also tells of a local gigolo who tattoos his name on the butts of his women conquests. Sort of a 'brand', like you'd brand a calf. What happened with a heart encircling dear old "Mom" that men (usually sailors) used to sport once upon a time before tattooing became 'fashionable'.

It costs a lot of money to remove unwanted body art and takes several treatments over a period of over six months to get rid of them. Usually it costs ten times what the tattoos cost and could run as high as $37,000 to get large tattoos removed. Patients are put under a local anesthetic and a laser is used to break down the ink after which the body's white blood cells disposes of it.

Sometimes it isn't successful. Johnny Depp simply altered "Winona Forever" to read "Wino Forever" when he split from the actress some years ago. Angelina Jolie was left with an ugly smudge when she tried to have Billy Bob's name erased from her arm.

Still want to go under the needle just for the sake of a current fad?

Saturday, July 08, 2006

THE ILLUSTRATED LADIES

Tattoo (Tahitian 'tatau 1769) an indelible mark or figure fixed upon the body by insertion of
pigment under the skin.

Summer's here and it's beach time again. With everyone wearing scantier clothing I've been noticing the large number of people who are sporting tattoos. A few years ago it was mostly ankle or upper arm tattoos or small illustrations but it's kind of shocked me this summer to note the number of young women who have their entire arms and upper torsos and legs covered with illustrations. I can't help wondering if they've given any thought to the future. In observing the changes in my own body over the years, the loose flesh, sagging muscles, I can't imagine how hideous these tattoos are going to look in twenty or thirty years.

Twenty or so years ago when tattoos were usually only a guy thing, my beautiful young daughter came home one day with a rose tattoo over her breast. I have to admit it was tastefully done and at least in a location that could be easily covered if necessary. Shortly after though she announced she was getting a second tattoo and that was probably the one time I begged her not to. Of course her retort was "It's my body and I'll do what I like" so she did, and came home with a small unicorn on her upper shoulder. It turned into somewhat of an embarassement though when she was invited to be a bridesmaid at her friend's wedding and realized her tattoos would be visible. She also felt embarassed about having her Grandpa, a Baptist minister, see them. Some time later, a friend's young daughter was remarking over these tattoos and I heard my daughter say "Don't ever get a tattoo, Tay. You'll be sorry because you can't remove them." Sure enough several years after that she had to pay a lot of money to have the unicorn redyed as she was unable to remove it and it had faded into an ugly mess.
Nowdays those little tattoos of hers are pretty insignificant when you see the massive illustrations some of these gals are sporting. Most of them are not attractive, some are black dye and rather ugly and even the coloured illustrations, when they cover the entire arm to the wrist are excessive, in my opinion. I think it's a turn-off even to see men so heavily tattooed.

I recall noting on a trip to Morocco a few years ago, that the married Berber women have a line tattooed down the centre of their face from brow to chin. I suppose women in our culture would think that simple 'mark' to denote 'married' is barbaric. To the Berber women it's probably considered beautiful. In the Arabic and Indian cultures henna markings are fashionable and some of them I've seen on the hands and feet of women are quite gorgeous. But they're not permanent and are usually part of the marriage rites or other ceremonies.

A woman I know went and got a ladybug tattooed on her ankle as a 70th birthday present from her daughter. I thought that was a rather sweet idea, even considered getting the star of Macedonia tattooed on my ankle or shoulder. But somehow this summer, observing all these illustrated women I'm getting turned off the idea of permanently marking myself.

Remember that movie "The Illustrated Man"? Every tattoo on his body told a story of some adventure he'd had in his lifetime. I wonder what significance some of these massive tattooes have for the young women who are sporting them? I wonder, in a few years, if they will regret having them?

Thursday, June 08, 2006

RECIPES FOR SUCCESS

THURSDAY, June 8

Today at my Memoirs group we discussed the topic "Recipes for Success." There were only three of us today but the topic generated some interesting thoughts.

Margaret told of an incident she experienced yesterday when she had been on an outing to the Sunshine Coast. On the bus returning to the city, the bus was crowded with some rowdy kids with skate-boards. One of them was using a lot of foul language which she found distatesful and disrepectful. Rather than directly confront the young man though, she used an ingenious method of diplomacy to draw attention to his potty mouth language, which began with a discussion with his companion about their skateboards. In the end, her diplomacy and tact really had a positive impact on the kid. He stopped swearing and was quiet the rest of the way home, no doubt thinking over what she had said to him once she's got his attention with questions about his skate-boarding, which was that if his mother had been on the bus she'd be quite embarassed about the way he was behaving. Diplomacy and tact were Margaret's recipes for success.

MJ, who has just returned from six months in London Eng, said she thought 'teamwork' was necessary for success. She read about her adventurous jaunt to France and Italy (by car) with her friend and how together they managed to find their way and figure out directions even though they didn't speak the language.

My recipe for success would be 'discipline' and 'determination' -- to stay focused on the goal and not give up when the going gets tough. I hope I can use this 'recipe' to finish work on my novel this summer as well as some of the other tasks I have in mind to do. If you keep putting things off, they never get done. It's better to just launch into it and do it. DO IT!

I'm such a great procrastinator and waste a lot of precious time dawdling or doodling around instead of doing what I should be. But this week I set about trying to get a few of these tasks finished, such as planting my balcony garden, cleaning my balcony, washing windows. I intended to carry on today but alas, it was pouring rain so instead I spent my afternoon browsing the shops uptown. Tomorrow I have various errands to run but I am hoping the weather will clear again so I can finish the gardening and move on to another task -- such as refinishing the coffee wagon table and painting my telephone shelf. I can only do it when the weather is nice enough to have the bird outside because of the toxic fumes. Then, there's the job of getting back to my writing. I have been thinking about it all day today but was unable to spend any time working on it, but I must do something before Sunday because then my guest arrives from Germany and it will be three weeks of adventures and visiting. One thing though, Patrick likes to roam about town on his own, so I have no excuse no to work on my novel while he's out and away.
And I'm sure the days we plan to spend in the Interior and on the Island will be inspiring to me too.

What are your recipes for success?

Monday, June 05, 2006

SIX STRANGE THINGS ABOUT ME

JUNE 5, Monday.

OKay, Sam has tagged me to participate in this meme about 'six strange things about me".
This is the beginning of my new year and in looking back I guess I have certain idiosyncresies
that I take for granted. Yes, I know, even years ago people would said "You're weird, Wynn!" So that's me. Weird.

It started this morning:
1. Sometimes I'm absent minded and this morning I caught myself slathering hair gel on my face instead of face cream. Duh!

2. I whistle and hum a lot -- all the time. When I walk, I whistle/hum and sometimes walk with my hands behind my back and my head down. I inherited this trait from my Dad. Sometimes people turn into their Moms. I have in some respects, but mostly I've turned into my Dad. I hum and walk head-down, with my hands behind my back while I meditate.

3. If you heard me talk to my bird (my cockatiel Cheeky) you'd think I was nuts. I have a strange birdie baby-talk I use with him. And I constantly chatter to him. No wonder he's so vocal and chatty himself. He's away at the bird sitters this weekend and I still find myself talking out loud as if he's here. "Where's my little birdie-wirdie?" and silly stuff like that.

4. I usually have a set routine every morning when I get up: go to the toilet, rinse my face off with cold water, brush teeth, turn on computer and radio, dress, make bed, put coffee on. If I digress from my routine (forget to make the bed, for instance) I'm discombobulated the rest of the morning.

5. I usually always follow the exact same path when I go to the Drive for errands or shopping. I could walk it with my eyes closed. I do the same routines on the Drive too -- always walk up on the same side of the street and back on the opposite side for part way, then cross over. I do my errands and stop at the Calabria coffee shop. There's other coffee shops but I'm a creature of habit and I like the Calabria best. I always order either a latte but more likely an iced tea. And often I order a Franks Special or House Special sandwich. (Heaven forbid if I ever asked for pizza instead!) When I am in Athens, Greece, I also follow the same routes all the time and in my mind I can imagine them each step of the way, every broken piece of pavement, every place where someone has parked their motor-bike on the sidewalk. I can walk those paths blind-folded.

6. I also have a set routine (except when it's pouring rain) when I got uptown for my Thurs. morning Memoir group, afterwards I walk back up the side street to exactly the same cross-street, go over to Robson, the main street, always walk up the same side of the street til I get to the hot-dog vendors. Order a Smokie with fried onions on which I put mustard and saurkraut, get a can of iced tea and walk over to the Art Gallery benches to sit and eat my lunch. After our stretch of cold wet weather I couldn't find my usual hot-dog vendor. So for a couple of weeks I didn't follow this routine, which bothered me. Last week I found him, on the opposite side of the street. So I got the smokie and iced tea and felt like I was back on track again! (though I'm still a bit perturbed that he's changed his location!)

Well, there's six kind of 'strange' things about me. I guess we all get stuck in our ways the older we get. And as I just celebrated my birthday (one of the Big Ones -- yikes!) I feel I'm entitled to my little weirdnesses.

And on a final note: How come when the rule is "I before E except after C" the word "Weird" has those two letters switched around. And how come I just noticed this?

OK, that's it...now I'm tagging Di, Deb, Scott and Gabriele
Go for it, you weirdos!

Friday, June 02, 2006

OFF TO THE ISLAND

THURSDAY, June 1

Tomorrow afternoon my writer's group and I are off to Mayne Island for one of our bi-annual retreats. I'm really looking forward to it. It's going to be a special weekend because it's my birthday and on Saturday night we're having a Gemini birthday party.

I've been celebrating Gemini birthdays for a number of years now -- probably since at least '78. It's always a gala occasion and anyone who is a Gemini is invited to join in the fun along with other friends. I've had parties on the beach, at home (often theme parties), in Greece we had a weiner roast (or 'boil' as we couldn't have a fire) up on Filopappou Hill and once at the Pynx.
This one has a theme: come as your alter ego or twin in literature or poetry (character or author.) I toyed with the idea of Peter Pan but don't have any green duds. Marilyn Monroe would be my alter-ego but I don't have a slinky sexy dress or blonde wig. So I'm going as Jack Kerouac, the literary hero of my youth. ( I always wanted to write like him.) We have to take readings along to introduce our character.

There will be party games and writer's exercises and all the usual party treats, treat bags, balloons, and other fun stuff. I'm hoping to find a pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey game.

As well, we always go on special hikes (I hope the rain stops!) and do all sorts of interesting and fun things related to writing. It's always a highlight of our year when we go to Mayne so we're looking forward to it. It's disappointing though that none of the new members are joining us so we'll be a small group this time. It's the one thing that makes our group unique -- the retreats -- so it's kind of a let-down when the new members don't participate. Maybe next time!

Friday, May 26, 2006

THE CLUTTER ON MY DESK!

THURSDAY, May 25

Sam posted on her blog all the stuff that's on her desk and it got me to notice exactly how cluttered mine is. To list a few of the things:

A mug with the dregs of some mint tea
Two pen holders - one a ceramic made by my daughter and one a souvenier of Greece both holding numerous pens (many of which are not in working order) also a long, slim paint brush, hole punch.
A small cute ornament of a kid riding a bike with a dog in his bike basket.
Four boxes of floppies.
A tin of paper clips
Various note pads and post-it-notes
two packets of photos
an unused CD rom
a paper napkin and CD cleaner cloth
A small date book and an address book containing email addresses.
A used kleenex
3 pens (1 red for editing) and a box with a souvenier pen from Torrino Italy
I have 2 shelves both stacked with assorted small note books, pages of MSS, computer books, class phone numbers and emails, a 3-hole paper punch. Empty ink cartridge box. Lots of other stuff buried under the junk.
Also on the desk is a large lamp with a silver base.

Time to clean out the clutter (which I usually do at the beginning over each writing marathon. I find it distracting to work with too much junk around. Maybe that's why I haven't been getting so much done lately??

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

WATER BABIES

MAY 23/06 TUESDAY

I chose this colour as it reminds me of the sea in Greece and I am having a major homesick attack for those lovely Aegaen shores. I love the beach and swimming. Yesterday I was amazed to watch that adorable little 7 year old boy swim from Alcatraz to the mainland shore, an outstanding feat for anyone and especially one so young. And such a lovely child. I was impressed by his self-assuredness in the interviews and his aspirations to swim the English Channel. Way to go, Kid! It's so refreshing to see young people (especially a youngster like him!) achieving such daunting goals.

As much as I have always loved to swim, I've never been a strong swimmer but a very buoyant one who can stay afloat for ages in the water. I long for the summer days when I can head downtown to the Second Beach pool (the water's this colour!) and float about like a cork, looking up at the clear blue sky and dreaming that I am actually floating in the sea off some Greek island.

This morning I went to waterfit. The Italian mermaids were absent so there wasn't the usual chit-chat and merry singing in the pool. It's always a good workout first thing in the morning, although the instructor we had last week is a far better instructor and the workout was much more strenuous. Afterwards I swim my usual four laps. I should push myself to increase the number but will as the season progresses and I get myself back into better shape. After the swim and the exercise, a soak in the hot-tub. Nice way to start the morning. I usually go twice a week but for now I am teaching Thursday mornings so much miss it. However, soon it will be beach weather here (when? I don't know it's raining again!) But, eventually...

I at least had some early beach time while I was in Malaysia, and lots of swims in the outdoor pools at the hotels there. On the June 2nd weekend I'll be on an island with my writer's group. Still too cold to swim in the sea but at least I'll be close to it, which I love.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

WHAT WIERDNESS IS IN THE AIR?

SUNDAY, May 21

If there's one thing I can't tolerate, it's arrogant, puffed-up big-mouthed macho men. And this seems to have been the week for those t ypes to show up, as a number of confrontations (not necessarily involving me) took place.

A new guy showed up at our Memoir group on Thursday. One of those types. Up til now we've had a dynamic group of women, so it was a rather rude intrusion into our merry little cliche. Not that we don't like to have men in the group, because we do. But this particular one is not the type who will fit in well -- unless perhaps he was so intimidated he was putting on a macho show. I think, in the end, he realized he was up against a force he couldn't reckon with with and I wonder if he'll return. Being the instructor I keep cool. I've had these blustering sergeant-majors in my classes before and have learned to calmly (bite your tongue, Ruthaki!) keep them in their place. But I could feel my hackles rise the minute this guy strutted into the room and it changed the tone of the whole morning.

Same thing happened the next two nights. On Friday I was meeting friends at the LQ. First thing that happened as soon as we arrived, my girlfriend had a confrontation with Mario the door guy and she ended up storming out. Then when my other friend was dancing, some lout sitting at a table that was half-crowded onto the tiny dance space got angry and attacked her (physically would have hurt her if one of the guys hadn't stepped in.) She was so shook up she was in tears and left. Lucky me managed to stay neutral and in the end the door -guy appologized and said my wine was on the house. These sorts of things don't usually happen at the LQ but that night there were definitely negative ions in the air.

Then yesterday, I went with Jude to the Cottage to hear my son's band play. That's always a fun afternoon. When we got there, though, this work colleague of hers had showed up. I've met this guy once before and wasn't impressed. He's weird! He is so arrogant and self-absorbed he doesn't even have the courtesy to acknowledge my presence even though I sat next to him. (not that I care!) I think he only comes to harass and badger Jude (who is married and who he keeps harping at, insisting she's 'unhappy'). That's all he ever does is badger her - no 'real' conversation. To me, it's harassment.

Maybe it's the tug of the moon or something? Why did all these similar characters come out the last few days creating tension and negativity? I kept hoping yesterday that my Havana Buddy would show up for a little positive respite from the bad vibes, but he was busy doing a radio show and didn't make it.

Let's hope tonight is better when I go to meet him and the gals at a local venue to hear a fado singer. Meanwhile, I will stay protected in my little comfy apartment and get some writing and other stuff accomplished!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

HOT STUFF!

TUESDAY, May 16

Wow! The weather is finally hot! And I promised God I wouldn't complain if it was too hot, because we've had so many months of cold wet weather. It's such a relief to feel the sun on one's body and know that perhaps now summer will eventually arrive. Enough, already, with the rain!

My bird is happy. He's out on the balcony calling to his wild bird friends. I'm getting him used to more cage time (he so spoiled!) and it's good for him to be outdoors.

Life is good. I just won another trip: a plane trip for two to NY City plus city tours. This was again the door prize at the travel writer's seminar on Saturday. I was so shocked at winning, I still find it hard to believe. I asked my friend who went to the gala with me if she'd like to go so today we talked about possible dates, looking at the first week in September. It will be a short trip, just to take in some shows and see the sights. It's been years since I was in N.Y. and I never dreamed I'd return there. This trip is a bonus, because I had just booked my flights to Chile a few days before that. So it's turning into a busy year of travel. But that's okay as it suits my gypsy soul!

Only thing is, I'll have to conjur up some extra work during the summer to save up some spending money for my adventures. So I'm going to try having a private workshop for a few weeks in summer and hopefully might land some daycare work too. Also must get busy writing more articles and sending them out. I'm terrifically inspired right now and feel like I'm on a roll. Maybe I need to go out and buy some lottery tickets!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

SINGING IN THE RAIN

SATURDAY, May 6

Another wet, cold Spring morning here on the Coast. I headed off early for my second Weight Watchers meeting across town. Aside from having the drag myself out of bed so early and the fairly long bus ride it's interesting to explore that particular area with it's posh shops and different kinds of people than we have in the East End where I live.

This morning as I trudged along feeling somewhat miserable because of the weather, I hear the sound of singing. A middle-age man was walking toward me singing, in the most resonant, clear tenor, an operatic aria (in Italian). His voice was so strong and beautiful that people actually came to their shop doors to look out and see who was providing the lovely rainy-day concert. I could still hear his voice as he continued on his way down the street, singing at full volumn as if he was performing on stage. An usual and beautiful touch on this particular gloomy Saturday morning. Undoubtedly, as it did for me, it brought smiles to people's faces to hear him sing.

My mood lifted even more when I went for my weigh-in and found I'd lost all but half a pound of what I'd aimed for this week. (And if I hadn't over-imbibed on all that wine I'd likely have met my goal.) So it made the trek across town in the rain all the more worthwhile.

Afterwards I went back to my neighbourhood, the Drive, and stopped at my favorite Italian coffee shop for lunch. (They always play Italian music there so the early morning opera concert had set the tone for the rest of the morning.) If I'd had the sense to wear proper shoes this morning instead of sandals, so my feet would have kept warmer, I possible would have been singing myself as I wended my way home with my groceries. But just then the rain (which had ceased for awhile) turned into a deluge soaking me through despite my umbrella so I was in no mood for singing as I walked home. I did buy a big bouquet of daffodils though, just to remind myself that it actually IS springtime!

So now, in the quiet warmth of my apartment, I'm listening to Saturday afternoon at the opera.
A nice way to relax and put me in the mood for singing along out of the rain!

Sunday, April 30, 2006

INDULGING MY SHOE FETISH

SUNDAY, April 30

The last day of April. Where or where is Spring? We've had very few sunny days so far (today it's turned out to be one of them) mostly cold rain and still too cold to wear light Spring clothing. I'm so looking forward to putting away my winter coat and dark clothing. And in prepration for the eventual Big Day (the 'real' Spring weather!) I have been on a couple of shopping sprees. This is an indulgence I haven't been able to afford for quite some time so it's been a pleasure to actually have cash to spend and being used to frugalness I am always on the look-out for bargains.

Last week I spotted a buy-one-get-one- pair-half-price at the Pay Less shoe store. I usually go into the store every Thursday after my Memoir class just to browse and drool over shoes I'd love to buy but usually can't afford (although the other week I did get a pair of pale green sandals). Well, this week I ended up buying four pairs of summer shoes (mainly because I couldn't make up my mind which ones I really wanted). I had gone in the store with the intention of getting a snazzy pair of white thong sandals with pretty turquoises on the strap. As it was a sale, I also chose a pair of powder blue shoes with rounded toes and ankle straps that look quite snazzy with my jeans (and happen to match my summer purse). Then I saw some pink dancing shoes and another pair with gold straps. I bought them both. So now I have this huge shoe wardrobe and I think my shoe fetish has been satisfied for the time being.

Now I'm waiting for the right weather so I can wear them with my light pastel-coloured spring/summer clothes. So yesterday I went and got a new pair of jeans with sparkles on the bum pockets, two silky sleeveless tops (one mauve, one pale green) and some spiffy new underwear. As soon as I lose some weight I'll purchase a couple of summer skirts.

Yes...the weight issue. I finally went and joined Weight Watchers yesterday too. (At last I was able to afford to do this!) So now I must also resume my exercise regime which has been sadly neglected since I returned from Malaysia due to work committments. (At least I walk a lot and go dancing on the weekends so I'm not entirely sedintary.)

So...SPRING TIME! Where are you? Let's bring on more of the warm sunshine. We're all quite water-logged about now and tired of being cold all the time. I want to put on my pretty new shoes and go walking in the sunshine!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

HOW I SPENT MY EASTER WEEKEND

WEDNESDAY, April 19

"What made us
friends in the long ago
When first we met?
Well, I think I know!
The best in me
and the best in you
hailed each other
because they knew
that always and always
since life began
our being friends
was part of God's plan."

I found this verse on a fridge magnet at Iva's house last weekend. I was spending the Easter weekend with my friend Anibal's daughters. This verse, to me, defined exactly what our friendship had been. There were many times when I was angry with A. and yet we always made up and I was with him right to the end. And the week before he passed away he told me that he really did love me and had had a feeling for me since he first met me. I felt the same way. Somehow we had seen through each other, into our souls, and made a connection there that couldn't be broken. And now I can also see what 'God's plan' was: I have become good friends with his children, grandchildren and ex-wife. His daughters and grandchildren have become my 'adopted' family.

So Easter was special this year because I spent it with them, reminiscing about their father, walking on the woodland trails where he used to go on adventures with his grandchildren, or alone to meditate and write. I went to church with them and shared the fellowship of their neighbourhood congregation. We talked about their Dad and remembered him in stories. I felt he was there with us and was happy that I was there with his girls and grandchildren.

Later, on Sunday I went to my son's house for dinner and my Havana Buddy came along too. It was a nice gathering, with a lot of music talk and watching music videos as both Steve and Paul are involved in music.

Monday I rested up because I felt very tired all weekend and had a busy week ahead. But later in the day I went to my pal Cliffy's for dinner and a rare evening just sitting around together visiting.

So it was a very special Easter with friends and family. Too bad the weather isn't nicer. Still so cold and wet for this time of year. (April showers go away, come again another day!)

Now is my busy time: lessons, daycare work and trying to squeeze in some writing time.


Friday, April 14, 2006

AN EASTER MEMOIR

GOOD FRIDAY, April 14/06
Why is it always gloomy on Good Friday? Beginning yesterday, when the icy rain started again (is it really Springtime?) my mood became oppressive. Last night, at the bus stop waiting after my class, a deep feeling of melancholy came over me. In my mind a tune began to play, the bolero I sometimes danced to with Anibal. It made me feel sad and I began to review all the events of the past months, and the tragedy of his passing. This weekend, I'm going to spend Easter with his daughters and grandchildren.

When I was growing up, Easter was always a special religious holiday celebrating the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. Beginning with Good Friday, (which as far back as I can remember always seems to turn out a cloudy, gray day) through to Easter Sunday morning when we went to church, it was a solemn occasion though my parents honoured the myth of the Easter Bunny too and when we woke Easter Sunday morning we'd find decorated baskets of chocolates bunnies and eggs and coloured eggs for our breakfast.

One thing I recall best was all the new clothes we would get: shoes, stockings, dress, hat, gloves and sometimes even a new coat. Usually my Mom, an expert seamstress, made us our new dresses and the accessories were bought to match. As Dad was the pastor of the Church, he'd make sure the church was decorated with lilies and other spring flowers although lilies seem to be the most significant flower of Easter. The Easter service was a joyous celebration of Christ's resurrection, with appropriate songs and Dad's special Easter sermon.

After church we'd go home to a delicious meal prepared by Mom (who was also an excellent cook). The traditional fare in our house was either ham with pineapple and scalloped potatoes or lamb served with mint dressing. In the afternoon, all deciked out in our new Easter duds we'd head for Stanley Park for a walk among the gardens with their spring arrays of tulips and daffodils, strolling under the blossoming trees in the soft spring sunshine.

This was the way my family and I celebrated Easter for years until I experienced my first Greek Easter, or Paska, and became invovled with the wonderful traditional Orthodox celebrations that began at the beginning of Lent with Apokries (Carnival) and led up to Good Friday when the funeral bells tolled all day long. At night we'd gather outside the local church and watch the processional of the carrying of the symbolic Christ into the church, everyone holding bees wax candles. My very first Greek Easter was celebrated at the Monostary of St. John on Patmos, and included a visit to the cave where the Apostle John wrote The Revelations. For dinner that night, you eat magaritsa a traditional Easter soup made of the innards of sheep.

All the next day you'd hear the sound of whistling rockets, firecrackers and flares. Then at midnight everyone troops to the church again, this time carrying decorated candles. At midnight the church bells chime and the Pappas (priest) comes out to announce: "Christos Anesti" (Christ is Risen). From his altar candle, all the candles held by the participants are lit until the whole church square is glowing with candlelight. The children are given eggs dyed bright red and polished with oil and with these they play a game to see who can smash the other's egg. Everyone carries their lit candles home to scorch a cross on the door lintel for luck and blessings.

I loved the Greek Easter Sunday, the air pungent with the smell of lambs roasting on spits for the feasts that would follow. I miss those rituals now. At most I prepare a small family dinner and cook a lamb roast (Greek style). This Easter I hope to attend the community church with Anibal's daughters and later on go to my son's for dinner. There won't be the rituals and ceremony, but it still be a special occasion.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

SOME THINGS ARE WORKING

TUESDAY, April 11

I've had a bit of success with the bird since I've changed my tactics and put him on a more structured program of discipline. That is allowing him more cage time each day. It has helped that the weather is improving and I can put him outside on the balcony. He still makes a lot of noise but part of it is because he hears all the wild birds. I've also found the last two evenings that when I put his cage in my bedroom (because I had writer's groups over) he settles down and if I am working at the computer while he's in the cage he doesn't make so much fuss. (He also sleeps in later now I'm covering him with a heavy black cloth. The early and late daylight hours have him confused regarding nesting times.)

He hasn't been so much of a pest although I still want him to quit following me around the apartment and get him to be more independant. He does like waddling around on the floor foraging and if I keep him busy with treats to eat he's quite happy. I bought him a lot of different treats to have in his cage so he doesn't think cage time is a 'punishment'.

The bird sanctuary woman said that cockatiels will shriek for long periods of time to show their displeasure and I realize he was pretty traumatized not only by me taking him away to a stranger's house, but because I was so cross with him I was swatting him and yelling. This upset him more.

I just hope he's going to be okay on the weekend when I have to be away. A friend promised to come around and spend time with him so that might work. But he does carry on vocally when I leave the apartment and I am sure the neighbours are not amused! I've thought of getting him a companion bird. But when I go away who will look after them? This whole bird business has become a huge dilemma.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

BIRD PSYCHOLOGY

THURSDAY, April 6/06

Ever since I arrived home from my trip this week, my cockatiel, Cheeky, has been misbehaving. In fact, he was very naughty for the bird sitters, the kindly elderly couple who offered to take him while I was away. They used to look after Cheeky #1 and loved him so much. Little did they realize what a different personality Cheeky #2 has. For one thing, he's much more social and demanding and likes to be the centre of attention. They call him 'a companion bird'. And since he came to live with me, I've been the main focus of his attention, his 'flock' so to speak. Just him and me and he's spoiled rotten. So when he went to Allan and Betty's, he seemed like he was making friends with both of them, however, pretty soon he turned his attention to Betty and whenever Allan was in the room he attacked and bit Allan's ear. Jealous, because he wasn't the focal point of Betty's attention! He does the same thing to guests when I have people over so I have to lock him up. Betty and Allan had to keep him locked up in his cage most of the time and felt real bad about it. But now I realize that I've been allowing him far too much free flight time and the run of the apartment and he thinks he's a person. And when he doesn't get all the attention he's like a three-year-old having a hissy fit.

When I went to get him Monday, he was so mad at me he attacked me and bit real hard. He flew up on Betty's shoulder and wouldn't have anything to do with me. Of course, later on when I took him home and let him out of the cage, once he realized he was in his old familiar surroundings again he was happy and sat on my shoulder giving me zillions of kisses. And the next morning when I took him into bed with me (as I'm in the habit of doing) he wouldn't stop talking and chattering and kissing me all over my face.

All this week he has been a pest, not only following me around everywhere but squawking and screeching whenever I am out of sight. It was driving me nuts. The last two days have been mild and sunny, so I started putting him out on the balcony awhile. He seems to like that but ends up screeching so loud I'm afraid the neighbours will complain, although today he was a little more subdued and his cheeping blended in with the wild birds'.

Anyway, I thought I better do something fast, before I make soup out of him, or something worse. I was so upset last night I was almost in tears and even considered calling the bird sancutary and asking them to take him back. But we've really bonded these past months and he is a very amusing and entertaining little pal to have around when you live alone as I do.

So today I got out the cockatiel book and read up on some of their habits, and tonight I googled a bunch of cockatiel sites and printed out whatever I could find on the psychology of birds so that I know what I'm doing wrong and how I can correct his bad habits.

First, I shouldn't get mad and shout at him as this only agitates him more. I know also that when I was feeling a bit stressed my other bird used to 'feel' it and react by screeching just like this little fellow is -- and between jet-lag and culture shock and dealing with this naughty bird I have been stressed this week! Second, I have been giving him far too much free-flight time. He needs a more structured routine so that he gets used to being out awhile and in the cage awhile. (My other bird loved being in his cage as he'd never been allowed out until I got him.)
Third, when he nests on my hair (or masturbates or whatever the heck he does that annoys me) I should just gently remove him and distract him. (When I'm at the computer I wear a cotton cap to keep him off but every chance he gets otherwise he's on my head and it bugs me!)
Cockatiels are clever little birds and very intelligent. I need to take that into consideration, that he has been picking up on my cross moods with him and reacting just as a hyper child would.

So here's hoping my little lesson in bird psychology will get things back on the right track. As it is now, none of my friends want to bird-sit with him and I know I have some weekend and longer trips coming up this year and have already started worrying about what to do.

Friday, March 17, 2006

THURSDAY THIRTEEN FOURS

THURSDAY, March 16

OK, Sam tagged me so here's my response the the Thursday 13 Game.
1) Four jobs you've had in your life:
scraping carrots in a cannery (ugh)
copy-runner in a newspaper editorial/ later news librarian
daycare supervisor/director
writing instructor (travel, novel, writing prompts)

2. Four movies you would watch over and over:
Shirley Valentine
Hideous Kinky
Alexander (yes, I know a lot of people hated it but I've already seen it 3 times)
The Sheltering Sky (fascinating!)
(Okay, there's a few others that might rate higher but I'm too tired to think about them)

3. Four places you have lived:
Saskachewan
Ontario
Alberta
Greece

4. Four TV shows you love to watch
L.A. Law
NYPD Blues (used to be my fave)
Sex and the City (ditto)
The Daily Show

5. Four places you've been on vacation:
Central America
Morocco
Turkey
Spain

6. Four websites you visit daily:
Mine and other blogs
rememory.com
pothos.org (Alexander's home on the web)
Lately it's any sites about Malaysia

7. Four favorite foods:
Tortellini with 4-cheese sauce and prawns
Salmon
Salads (especially with avocado)
Chicken

8. Four places you'd rather be now:
The tropics (Yay! three more sleeps and I'm off to Malaysia!)
Greece
England/Wales
Anywhere the sun is shining! (I've had enough of this west coast rain!)

9 - 10- 13: Four friends you are tagging that you think will respond.
Sam
Daisy
Gabriele
Anne (she hasn't got a blog but she might reply anyway)

Saturday, March 11, 2006

A SUNNY STROLL AROUND MY OLD STOMPING GROUNDS

SATURDAY, March 11

The sun is shining again today. The mountains are glorious, the peaks covered with a fresh snow-fall. I didn't want to spend the entire day indoors, so I went on a stroll up the Drive to mail the manuscripts I'd editing this morning for my class. As usual, there were teams of people on the Drive, a lot of them sitting at the outdoor coffee shops enjoying the sunshine.
But there's a lot of construction going on too, heavy traffic on the road as a result, and in some places the sidewalks are blocked off, so I decided, on my return home, to take a different route.

From Commercial Drive, I turned down First Avenue to the corner of Salisbury Dr. where my Dad's old church is located. A lot of memories surface whenever I'm by this church. I sometimes go there but not often because things are different now and it just doesn't seem the same anymore. Besides, the church is full of such precious family memories and I find it to be an emotional journey to return. My Dad preached there for 13 years when we moved here after the war. I was married there, so was my sister and my cousin Grace. My mother's funeral was held there, so was the funeral of my friend Doreen. When he was little, my son went to Sunday School there and so did I when I was a teenager. My friends Ruth and Junie and I sang in the choir and had a trio that was often asked to perform. I also sang solos once in awhile. When I was first married we belonged to a young couple's club at the Church and I'm still friends with a couple of the women. My friend Doreen's daughter is a good friend of mine too.

At the next corner, is a park where the Italian guys play bocce. There was a gang of them there today and a lot of shouting going on. Adjacent to the park is a big old house where a lady named Mrs Grey used to live. I stayed there with her one time when my Mom and sister had scarlet fever. I used to go to the high school just down the Drive where I pass by on my way up to the shops. That park was a place where my friends and I sometimes hung out at nights with the boys. My friends Junie and Ruth (the friend I'm going to Malaysia with) lived in the area and Saturday nights after we'd gone (like good girls) to the Youth for Christ meetings, we'd often spend the night at Junie's. I remember more than once sneaking out in the night and going down to the park to meet boys. I remember, too, that sometimes we'd find a car that was unlocked and sit inside to neck. Nowdays you'd never leave a car unlocked, not for a minute!
Back then I think people even left their houses unlocked!

Down along Salisbury, I passed the very first apartment building my husband and I lived in when we first got married. I wonder if the same multi-coloured tiles are still on the floors and in the bathroom. I think the builder used up left-over scraps when he built it. Still, it was brand new when we moved in there back in '57 and it still looks the same from the outside.
We lived there until I was pregnant with my son and then we moved into the basement suite at my parent's house in a different part of town away from the Drive.

There's a lot of beautiful heritage houses in this area. It was one of the early residential areas of the city. On one corner is a magnificent mansion, now a designated heritage site though it's used a seniors rest home now. That house and another one up the street were built by two Australian brothers who made a fortune in real estate at the turn of the last century then lost it in the 1913 crash. Both houses are named after plants found on their parent's sheep farms. The two mansions were restored within the last ten years and are classified as heritage buidings.

I turned up to Victoria Drive and passed within eye-shot of my old junior high school. I don't often go by there because I really don't have the same warm and fuzzy feelings about that school as I do for the highschool. I was a shy girl, new in town and this was the biggest junior high in western Canada. A lot of rough kids went there. By then the East End was mainly a working-class neighbourhood and full of immigrants, mostly Italian and Ukranian or Polish.
I was always fascinated by the Italians and I've written a couple of memoirs about those days when I was fourteen/sixteen years old. Ruth and I used to know all the words (in Italian) to the opera arias that Mario Lanza sang and we were completely entranced by these gangs of good-looking dark-haired Italian boys who used to hang out at every street corner.

Farther along Victoria Drive I passed the place where there used to be an old run-down frame tenament building where we spent a lot of time visiting a woman called "Ma Dale"
Her son Frankie was a buddy of my boyfriend Jimmy and we loved hanging out there playing cards, talking and just being teen-agers in a way our strict Baptist parents wouldn't allow us to be. We probably even drank beer there, if I remember correctly. Our parents were horrified when they found out where we were spending all our time because Ma Dale was just the kind of woman you'd imagine...sort of a Bonny & Clyde character. We found her fascinating!

Very near by, practically around the corner, is where I live now. And on this sunny day I have a magnificent view of the snow-capped mountains and the city skyline downtown. It's mainly apartment buildings on this street, but there's a beautiful old Victorian style house a couple of doors down. They've used it for filming movies in the past.

I enjoyed my stroll, a change of scene from the bustling Commercial Drive. Sometimes it's fun to take short-cuts and different routes. You never know what memories you'll conjur up or what interesting things you'll run across.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

I AM A BOOK

SATURDAY, March 4/06

MORE WRITING PROMPTS:
Another prompt exercise my Memoir class has done is one where you compare yourself to an inanimate object. The results of this exercise (written in 10 minutes) were amusing and unique. Usually when the people in the class are writing their 'prompt' I do one also. So here's the one I wrote for COMPARE YOURSELF TO AN INANIMATE OBJECT:

I AM A BOOK
I am a book. My cover is illustrated with an appealing and pleasantly colourful illustration invoking the curiosity of the reader. On each page there are words, poetically written, sometimes humorous, often intense and dramatic, occasionally even dark, morous, sad.
In between the narratives are pages of coloured illustrations, photographs of childhood memories, school days, travel adventures, family photos. Most are filled with pictures of happy smiling people, women and girls stylishly dressed, handsome and sometimes exotic men. In the many photographs of travel there are pictures of camping trips, summers at the cottage, journies to exotic places like Mexico, Central America, Europe, Turkey, Morocco, Spain, and Cuba and many trips to Englandand Wales which include photos of cousins and friends. There are other pictures too, of life in different parts of Canada and visits to U.S. (mostly California).
I am a book. I hold untold stories, stories of historical significance, tales of a memorable childhood and a remarkable adult life. I am a book. Keep reading me and perhaps I'll reveal unimaginable secrets.
Try this excercise yourself. You can imagine yourself to be any inanimate object that you like: a fan, a car tire, a warm fuzzy blanket, a champagne glass. The possibilities are endless!