Archive for November, 2009

Hello, I must be going

November 17, 2009

On Friday night, I and two friends went to the Shadbolt Centre in Burnaby to see a powerhouse of a play called, Hello, I must be going.  It has finished it’s run at the Shadbolt, but it is likely to turn up again as it is on tour this 2009-2010 season. I’ll try to find out where it’s going next.

Bessie Wapp and her mother Judy wrote the play based on family letters and remembrances of growing up in Lithuania and fleeing persecution under the Czar, Alexander III. Woven into the play are heart rendering scenes of what happens to the women in the village when it is taken over by Germans in the World War II, and action that takes place in Minneapolis, Minnesota where one of the family has immigrated.

Bessie Wapp plays all the parts, shifting character and generation as swiftly as she can put on an apron or cover head or shoulders with a shawl.  The stage sets are minimal and versatile. Bessie never leaves the stage, but in our imaginations, she has changed countries, changed her age, played the part of a child and then an aunt and then a grandmother.

It’s a play with a message and the message is powerful – and it’s all based on a true life experiences.   Try to see it if you can.

The web site for Twin Fish Theatre who has produced the play, is:

http://www.twinfishtheatre.ca/helloImustbegoing.html

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Solzhenitsyn

November 16, 2009

I’m reading The Oak and The Calf , a memoir of Alexsandr I. Solzhenitsyn. You may remember his novels The Gulag Archipelago, Cancer Ward and First Circle. I think I read them in the early ‘Seventies.

When I came across this book in the thrift store, I only remembered his last name and associated it with a monumental struggle to have his work published. Then I checked out his list of publications and recognized that I had read several of his books and was deeply affected by them. They rang with truth. The stories seemed not so much stories in the sense of fabrications, made up tales, but as documentaries in novel form, to protect the innocent and the guilty.

The Oak and the Calf is a memoir about his struggles to publish after memorizing his books, one by one, without writing them down for fear of being sent back to the gulag in Siberia in which he had spent a greater part of his adult youth. Sixteen years, if I remember rightly, and being released only in his ‘Forties. Even when he finally did write them down, they were typed, single spaced, both sides so that they would be compact, the easier to hide them until they could be safely brought out.

I am always astounded at the strength of the human spirit against massive adversity and how some individuals manage, with grit and determination, to soar above the imprisoning machinations of power and evil mankind.

I’ve only read the first 110 pages so far. Solzhenitsyn has finally dared to bring out the first of his novels and his instantaneous success had been wonderful. Khruschev has appreciated his work and therefore the work is published with official consent; but then Khruschev is overthrown and Solzhenitsyn is thrown into panic to hide the remainder of his works in case he is tarred by Khruschev’s support and his own anti-Stalinist, anti-party-line writings. He prepares to go under the radar, to make himself small and unnoticeable.

He finds in his own spirit that each of these moments of adversity, there is a lesson that he must decipher about life and living. I thought this passage was quite interesting so I am sharing it with you:

Solzhenitsyn writes:

Later the true significance of what had happened would inevitably become clear to me, and I would be numb with surprise. I have done many things in my life that conflicted with the greater aims I had set myself – and something has always set me on the true path again. I have become so used to this, come to rely on it so much, that the only task I need set myself is to interpret as clearly and quickly as I can each major event in my life.

(V.V. Ivanov came to the same conclusion, though life supplied him with quite different material to think about. He puts it like this: “Many lives have a mystical sense, but not everyone reads it aright. More often than not it is given to us in cryptic form, and when we fail to decipher it, we despair because our lives seem meaningless. The secret of a great life is often a man’s success in deciphering the mysterious symbols vouchsafed to him, understanding them and so learning to walk in the true path.”)

– end of quote –

I am thoroughly enjoying this book. Although it’s a memoir, it reads like a novel written in the first person.

Hanging out at the gym

November 12, 2009

Yesterday was a busy day and by the time I got writing down a few details, I was pretty traumatized. It took a mere 2000 words to craft the previous post. In doing so, I sloughed over the incident at the gym which I am now going to share with you. I have to go back a little in time, though.

Last year this time, I was doing a very hearty three-times-a-week workout at the gym. I rarely missed; and when I didn’t go to the gym on the days between, if the day was dry, I would go walking out into nature. I had built up a good endurance and created muscle where none had gone before. The little I had developed in my aging career of non-participation were beefed up. I slimmed down, Hallelulia. I was more fit than I ever had been.

Early in May, I went to Santa Fe and Taos with my sister. The two weeks preceding, I was too busy to get to the gym, but the weather was fine and I got out walking.  In Taos where we stayed, there was a gym in the hotel but when I tried the equipment, there was not much that suited my abilities. We had been walking all day in our tourist activities and a treadmill was out of the question. The kind of cycling machine they had was not good for my damaged knees;  and the other equipment which I don’t remember at this point, did not engage me either. Another two weeks went by and I had not been to the gym.

When I got back, it was sunny and warm. We had a wonderful summer of sunshine. I upped the walking content of my exercise program and let the gym go. Why would I want to be in a gym on such lovely days?

Fast forward till last week. Our weather has been horribly rainy. Walking on the dikes has been out of the question. For the first time since April, I went to the gym for a half hour on Tuesday.  I was not inspired. I was out of shape and knew it.

This  and last week have been very busy with meetings, preparing for a sale of art from my house, and preparing for an interview with a gallery, so I didn’t make the time to go again until yesterday.

My muscles complained over the first three minutes of the reclining bike but learned to shut up after they realized that I wasn’t going to quit. I cycled those fifteen minutes (down ten from last May, at 25) thinking about Gershwin and his impossibly difficult passages where the right hand (in piano pieces) play thirteen notes in the same time as the left hand is supposed to be playing seven. Or he might have nine against fifteen. both passages are supposed to be played evenly and together, but nothing matches up. I’m positive that Gershwin was able to rub his tummy, pat his head and play drum with his feet all at the same time.

I got to thinking that he might have spent a lot of time in a gym. He came from Brooklyn.   Boxing and European martial arts were de rigeur if a young man were to defend himself and there must have been lots of gyms, too, for them to work out in. But would he have risked his million dollar hands?

Did they have treadmills? Or are treadmills an invention of our affluent and electrical ages.

Did he spend time training to box? Would he have picked up his impossible  rhythms from someone skipping rope or from someone rapidly aiming his fists at a punching bag? Would he have concurrently been listening to them both at the same time and saying, “Wow, Ain’t that sweet, … ”

I was listening to two joggers, one going fast and one going slower, both running with their own distinct rhythms, neither rhythm matching up ever with the other’s. These thoughts kept me from leaping off my own stationary vehicle in sheer boredom.

When my time was up, I did my circuit of exercise. The gym was not very busy. My neighbour, Mr. Stepford had remarked earlier this week that a public gym was the last place he would go. Just think of the H1N1 spreading possibilities it would provide.

In fact, the gym was very aware of the potential for virus proliferation. Patrons were asked to wipe down the machines before and after using them. There was lots of disinfectant available and clean paper towels.  I resolved my dilemma about cleaning the machines – I who never do housework if I can help it.   I soaked two paper towels with the disinfectant spray and then used these to grasp the handles of each machine, the layer of towel acting so that I never touched the machines at all and therefore never had to clean them.

At the end of my work out, I spoke to the nice young lady gym attendant.  There was an in-house advertisement for the Christmas tree challenge.

“Just what is that?” I asked.

“It’s a promotional effort to get everyone to challenge themselves a little bit,” she explained.

I’m curious, so I ask “How does it work?”

She opened up a black binder containing sheets with green triangle trees on them covered with red doughnut shaped “ornaments” . There was a star at the top in yellow and little ribbon ornaments on every row of red doughnuts.

‘Here’s the star at the top. You need to pass this challenge before you can sign up. You need to do ten push-ups before you can get one of these cards. In other words, you need to be able to pick up your own body weight. ”

I let that sink in a minute before answering, “Well, I guess I wouldn’t be able to join in then,” and I started to go.

“No! No!” she said.” This is not meant to be exclusive. It’s meant to be inclusive. We can modify this if we need to. Perhaps you could do this from a standing position and do the push-ups against the wall.”

She demonstrated against the mirrored wall behind the desk making her body shape form an M then a V with her reflection for five very easy looking repetitions. I still looked doubtful though. She couldn’t have weighed more than 130 pounds. I was a different story.

She asked me to wait until the supervisor came by and she could check if I could participate doing some other modification of this exercise. In the meantime, she showed me the rest of the challenge.

Every  red doughnut shape represented a regular work out. After two work-outs, there was a red ribbon with either a one or a two marked on it. The participant would draw a slip of paper from a box, much like a fortune cookie, and would have to accomplish the exercise designated thereon. There were easy exercises (number one) and more difficult ones (number two).  The attendant drew a slip of paper out of the box.

Balancing ball upper torso twist” it said.

“Is that something I could do?” I asked in disbelief. “I don’t even know what it is.”  It sounded torturous.

“Oh yes,  we would show you. In any case, you would have to prove you could do it before you could go on to the next thing. Do you want to try?”

“The torso twist?” My voice was getting high pitched and defensive.

“No, I mean The Christmas Challenge,” she replied.

“I don’t think I could do that first thing. I don’t think so.”

“Look, ” she replies, “I’ll help you. After all, you’ve already got today’s work out to mark off and the first challenge is not so hard. You would already have two things ticked off on the tree.”

“But I’ve never used that machine before. I don’t even know if I can get onto it with my game knees.”

“Come, ” beckoned the Siren. I felt at once challenged and willing to meet it and at the same time foolish and ready to run.

There are pedals about two feet off the ground covered in black rubber with tread, much like that used for car tires.  I was to place my feet on these.  I did so and the pedals came down hydraulically almost to floor level.

Next I was to take hold of the handles that were eight feet above.  I had to lessen the weight on the pedals by holding the sturdy white horizontal bars at midway on the apparatus.  The attendant helped and somehow (because I cant remember this part very clearly, being more totally engaged in doing rather than in observing) I grasped the handles and hung on. Now I no longer could reach the pedals unless I could pull myself up, my whole body weight worth, with my muscular (not!) arms.

Try as much as I could, I could not move an inch in this endeavor. I pulled my knees up to my chest and the pedals rose accordingly.  In fact, I never pulled up my body with my arms at all. I hung there like a piece of game – an elk carcass, an entire bison, a bear maybe)  curing in a freezer. My arms were outstretched and my shoulder sockets were screaming at me. “This is a mistake! this is a mistake! Get us down off of here!”

The attendant was encouraging as I pulled my knees to my chest. My arms had not pulled a thing except a tendon or two.

“See! You are doing it! That’s one. That’s two. That’s three. You can do five! Six! Seven! You’re almost there. Nine! Ten! Wonderful! You have met the first hurdle of the Christmas Challenge!

“Help!” I whispered in panic. “Help me down!”
I was still holding all my weight by my wrists, unable to reach the pedals because I had lifted my knees to my chest, not at all the motion that was required.

I suppose the attendant was used to athletic guys jumping off the machine and getting themselves away from it without the least assistance. It took her at least two excruciating more seconds to realize that she had to help.  My next movements were awkward and fumbling. I managed to get a hold of that white steel bar and then slide in an ungainly manner until my feet to the floor.

“Congratulations!” she crowed. “That was wonderful. See how it is when you just do a little bit more?”

She signed me up. She ticked off the star and the first red doughnut. Her supervisor happened by.  The attendant recounted how courageous and wonderful I was and reported that they now had one more person in the contest. (There are prizes for anyone who finishes, I understand).

I left feeling quite knocked out. Dazed.

It was only later that I took time to reflect on how foolish I had been. I knew my limits and had allowed myself to get into a situation of risk where there was no possibility of achieving my goal, despite the attendant’s blandishments.

Only a year ago, I was delicately building up strained muscles on both of my shoulders by adding a pound at a time to my exercise routine.  On those machines where I pulled down weights,  I could at maximum pull sixty pounds. By multiplying that weight to muscle demand, I could easily have undone all the work I had striven to achieve so far.  And if I had fallen, in descending from the rack?

If I had lost hold and fallen in amongst all those hard surfaces of white enameled steel  and pulled a knee or hip tendon in doing so? It’s only a month since I’ve overcome the summer troubles.

I’ll be back to the gym. This hasn’t stopped my resolve to work out there. But I am going to be wiser in what I ask this aging body to perform. Those Vs and Ms at the mirror look safer. And, when it comes to the upper body torso twist. I’ll have to make an evaluation before I leap in there to do it.

I may still be hanging out at the gym, but before you will find me hanging like a meat carcass, I’ll be out of there.

A date with my banker

November 11, 2009

My banker called me up a few weeks ago and asked me out to a lecture. He’s been rather friendly lately. Maybe he’s sweet on me. A lecture was a tantalizing idea. I like intelligent men and this seemed to be a good beginning for a first date.

Just so I wouldn’t forget, he sent a little reminder by e-mail. He asked me to meet him at the hotel, and there would be some appetizers and drinks before hand and dessert and coffee after the lecture. He would look after the parking.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been invited out on a date, so I got a bit dolled up before I went. I changed my tee-shirt for a dressy blouse, wore dressy casual – or at least that’s what they call it in the business world. I rarely use make-up but this time, I put on a  little bit of lip gloss.

Normally I don’t like driving at night to a place I don’t know very well. I had intended to leave during daylight but I went to the gym in the afternoon and promptly fell asleep when I came home.  It was six when I awoke. I was late for leaving already.

Rain was falling as I left – not a hard driving rain, just suspended droplets  that gum up the windshield and force you to keep the wipers slapping away at the mist that collects there. As I turned down 128th, I made a mental note to call the municipality. The lighting was dreadful for driving, or rather, it was non-existent. Everything on three sides was black as could be but on the on-coming traffic side, the strong beams of light were blinding.

I made it onto the highway and followed it, glad to have a car in front of me to lead most of the way at reduced speed into Burnaby. Even with more lighting, the road was slick and shiny with drawings in red and white squiggles worthy of an exuberant four year old.  It was impossible to see where the lines were delineating the lanes. Even the yellow center line had become invisible.  It only took  twenty-five minutes to reach destination, but it seemed like two hours.

I drove into the hotel driveway and was ushered into a parking lot underneath one of the two twenty storey towers. There was a lot of activity going on. I feared that I might not get a spot, but way down a dead-end aisle, I finally found one. I noted my stall number on a piece of paper just in case I had to buy a ticket and get reimbursed and thought it might be helpful in finding my way back to the car. Memory-like-a sieve, my middle name, was aptly chosen.

People were streaming towards the exit. It was becoming obvious that my banker had invited me to an important event. In the lobby, there were swarms of people and my banker was not to be seen. I had a sinking feeling that I was not his only guest.

Not to be miffed by this discovery, I drifted towards the food tables; but I must have mistaken the appointed time because all that was left were carrot sticks and celery, a bit of well-carved-into cheeses and a few stray biscuits. Just as I filled a little plate with these delectable dinner appies, the lights began to flicker.  A tall man with a tinkly bell much like the little chrome jingle bells one sees at Christmas time, came breaking his way through the throng ringing away and herding people into the lecture hall.

Barely on time, I gulped down my last cracker loaded with pepper-coated goat cheese, and entered the hall to look for a seat. Only the front row was empty. It seemed a good choice since the big display screen was right in front of me and I could see the speaker without any disruptive head to block my view.

The host greeted us all and then introduced our speaker, an erudite pundit from Toronto. She proceeded to tell us how the economy was, how it seemed to be improving and where her think-tank colleagues thought it was going.  Chart after chart showed the disastrous crash of  November 2008 and a comforting return towards the previous highs of the months before.

After the nineteenth chart, my eyes began to glaze. On the twenty sixth, they closed.  I shook my head to clear it up. What would my banker think if he saw me sleeping through this fascinating discussion of the stock and commodity markets? Would he query me on specialized jargon? Would he ask my opinion on the TED-Spread*?

I don’t know if I snored. I’ve been accused of this before.  I’m always at risk when I’m forced to remain in a warm room, not moving, not participating in a conversation, in semi dark and listening to a lullaby of lecture drone. What I do know is that when I came to, people were clapping for the lady-expert and she was leaving the podium. The host banker returned to the stage and thanked her, asking us to applaud again (as if we hadn’t already been naturally polite enough to do so) in appreciation of her sharing her wisdom and knowledge with us. Dutifully, we applauded one more time.

It took me seconds to rise and turn to leave.

Perhaps I missed something in the speech or in an announcement. People were squeezing through the double-wide doorways and those who could not get through were pushing and shoving. Was there a fire? An emergency? No. That was not it at all. There were desserts. Ah yes! I had been promised my just desserts.

As I waited my turn to exit the hall, I realized why some of these people must be better investors than others. Some of them have superior abilities in the first-come-first-served principles; some are more perspicacious as to moving forward in line. Patience is not a virtue in the financial category.

Ten minutes later I had inched myself forward in line to a table dressed for dessert. (Don’t ask why I didn’t just leave at this point. For the mad-pack of people, you couldn’t get out the door.) There were forks in a basket, white cups and saucers stacked, ready and waiting, for self-serve; there were lots of serviettes and little white plates, but the large glass platters of squares and sweets were only decorated with crumbs. Locusts had passed by in a single sweep, it seemed, or pirhanas had swum though on a feeding frenzy.

I looked around me to see it there might be a less popular table. After all, this table was right beside the doorway and must have been attacked first. I saw a tiny lady with bright avaricious eyes standing beside me with a plate containing two large pieces of cheese cake, one orange coloured the other white, and four different squares – chocolate, lemon, coconut, and date, but unfortunately, her hands were full with that and a cup of coffee and she stood, a bit baffled as to how she would consume the treasure that she had garnered for herself.

One lady came up to me as I was approaching the coffee urn and pleaded, “I don’t want to get into line, I just want coffee.” Happily, I chose a cup for her and poured. She thanked me and left. In those twinkling few seconds of interchange, the person behind me had advanced four spaces in the line and now  was serving herself desserts. Obviously, at this modest rate, I would never get ahead.

At last I was before the platter. My empty white dessert plate was pleading for a sweet. ‘You poor little plate,” I thought. “All you are going to get is a date square, and I bet I make better ones at home.” It was true. There were only three pieces of anything left and  two of them were matrimonial squares. That seemed to be the only date I was going to get tonight, so I took them both.

I don’t really know what got into me. It might have been the feeling of deprivation that I had succumbed to as I stood in line, when I realized there was nothing left.  I took the decorative strawberries carved up to look like roses. I took the garnishing kiwi. I was not going to leave unfed.

I went out into the lobby and found another table mostly shorn of its delicacies. At this next table, I elbowed a little and put on a deprived look which I made sure the gentleman in front of me noticed. As he reached  for the last slice of flan, I sighed, “Oh, doesn’t that flan look lovely!”  He must have felt guilty because he gave it to me. I munched it right there and grabbed for a lemon coconut square while I was at it. His second choice was a chocolate something and I never eat chocolate so I didn’t have to cajole him out of that as well.

When that table was totally cleaned off, I went in search of another. There were only crumbs, but I took them. What was the matter with me, anyway?  Who was counting? I shouldn’t even eat this sugary stuff, but I was up to six squares already plus the flan; and here, I’d found a cup of coffee. It wasn’t as if I hadn’t been fed. It was time to go.

It was raining outside. The walkway to the underground parking was well lit, and the parking lot was painted all white, gleaming with new paint. I found the car and drove off into the black night.  At the edge of the hotel grounds, the motor vehicle signage indicated that I could only turn right, but it was the wrong direction for me. On the slippery shiny streets, I headed north up the mountain to the first left turn, found a deserted street-level parking lot in a lane and turned the car around to go back southwards.

When I got to the intersection, I turned left on to the highway heading home. There was not much traffic and it was impossible to see the  road again. Rain was coming down harder, faster. Cars coming from the other direction provided glare and halo-like images around the raindrops on the windshield as they formed between the hypnotic slapping of the wipers.

Cars coming off side streets onto the highway seemed to lurch out and threaten. The road seemed to disappear before me. Oh, Lord, I prayed out loud, this is the sort of night that accidents happen. Please don’t make it mine.” I drove ten kpm s lower than the speed limit and grumbled at the cars behind me to pass me if they didn’t like it. I couldn’t see.

Then the windshield began to fog and the fan seemed no match for it. I was fiddling with the control buttons trying to get the hot air coming out on the windshield rather than down the vents by my feet  when I noticed the pre-light warning that the traffic signals would turn red. I slowed.

The other cars behind me slowed. We stopped.

In the left lane, a car coming at 80km per hour did not slow and continued right through the red light, nipping the tail end of a car proceeding across the intersection on a green light.

Bang!

The cars swung out of control. The rain began to descend in earnest. The light changed to green. There were car parts, fenders and light parts strewn across the black slick tarmac.

When I felt it was safe to proceed, I drove past the delinquent car and then parked just a few feet in front of it. The front fender had been ripped off. The hub cap sat propped against the wheel. The tire had been torn to shreds. There was no more headlight nor signal light. A woman was in the car looking dazed, staring straight ahead of her.

“Are you alright?” I yelled. Rain was pouring down my neck.

She made as if to get out on the driver’s side. I don’t know if the door was locked or bent into a shape where it would not open, or if she realized she would be in peril with cars now whizzing by on that side of the car. She began to exit from the passenger side, crawling rather nimbly over the gear shift mechanism as if nothing hurt.

“Are you alright?” I asked again. She got out and held her arms around her chest in a protective gesture as if holding her body to herself. She said she was fine, but I swear she was in shock,.  Standing in the rain, she was getting a cold-shower approach to coming out if it.

The other driver approached. This was not my business except that I had been a witness, so I left my name and number with  the other driver, the innocent-of-fault driver, and I left.

I drove even more cautiously, muttering under my breath to those following after me that I would not go faster. That they could pass me and be welcome to it. Visibility was zilch. I couldn’t wait to be home and out of this dark, stormy night. I had a word with God, while I was on my last lap of the journey.

Lord, you didn’t have to take me so literally, there.”  Had the accident been my fault? You need to be careful what you pray for. You might get it. I didn’t get smacked, but there, right in front of me, two cars had collided and I’ll bet the occupants, all four of them, feel mightily sore tomorrow.

You don’t need the details of the rest of the way home. It was much the same. I railed at he banker for luring me out on such a nasty night. I could just as easily have slept in my chair at home as sleeping in the front row of a lecture on investments.  Was I edified? Had I learned anything more? No.

I had, however, confirmed that they were willing to spend inordinate amounts of the shareholders’ money to entice their poor clients to give money so that the bank could the play the markets.

Next time my banker talks sweet to me about coming to a lecture, I’ll say no. I’m afraid pie charts are not my kind of art; nor are bar charts in all their fancy colourful glory.

p.s. The TED-spread is the difference between US Treasury bill rate and Eurodollar rate; used by some traders as a measure of investor/trader anxiety or credit quality.

November 10, 2009

Edward cherry Mercery Lane Canterbury small

Edward Cherry , late 19th c. Etching, Mercery Lane, Canterbury

This has been my first “tools down” day in two weeks. Sure, there were a few days when I was doing something different – going into Vancouver, seeing people for business, attending an opening – and a day when my sister Elizbet came through town on her way to  Tahiti. The main thrust of my activity, though, was preparing an at-home sale of art work. which meant completely changing the display of paintings in my house and cleaning. I spent a lot of time sorting out boxes stored in the basement full of old things from Mother’s house and my own collection of vases and trinkets.

My house gets so disorganized in the process that it looks like Hurricane Gustav has hit, concentrating on my location only. At the end of the two weeks, minutes before the first guest/customer walks through the door, though, it looks calm and classy. The process of getting there is erased and the illusion of neat-and-tidy is maintained for a full day.

But back to Lizbet. I must say that we had a lot of fun on our one day together. There were no garage sales to be had but we did two or three thrift stores; went for fish and chips for lunch;  then headed over to Langley to the “art candy” store where she bought a lot and I bought a little. We shared a sinful cinnamon bun at a coffee shop; went to the Fort Gallery in Fort Langley;  got lost trying to find the new Golden Ears Bridge to cross the Fraser River;  and came back home for a glass or two of wine and an easy dinner.

The next morning we had breakfast together and she left for Otto’s place. She’s gone with him to Tahiti for three weeks. Nice work if you can get it!

I came back to the house, took paintings downstairs to storage and brought a new selection upstairs. That sounds so simple but it wasn’t. The stairs are steep and I can only carry one or two at a time. I would find just the right painting for a spot, only to discover that it needed hanging hardware on the back, so I would stop and do a bit of framing; or I would find that it had been stored too long and needed a good cleaning of glass and frame.

I was doing this show with my friend Rose who also had paintings she wanted to sell. We had to coordinate paintings that didn’t really hang together. She had a beautiful framed framed batik of three zebras (which I covet, by the way) . It’s zingy and in your face, perky and fun. I had  etchings by Edward Cherry and Georges Capon, both print-makers of the classical persuasion from the early days of the 20th Century.

There were other contrasts – she had a painting of a panda sitting in a house, as hair of the dog realism as you can get; and a gorilla in another painting peering out aggressively through ferns. On this painting, too, you could see each hair of the beast. Contrast that with my own flamboyant paintings of lilies. It was quite a challenge.

On Monday, I should have issued invitations by e-mail but I didn’t get to it until Tuesday for some reason or another. By Tuesday, it was pushing the limits, expecting people to rearrange their lives for our sale. But on Saturday, we did get a few people – just enough in my case , that I don’t feel badly about the lack of sales. Rose, on the other hand only had one of her invitees turn up and then that lady bought my stuff. It’s a strain for friendships, I’d say, having been there, done that, but Rose took it in stride.

Yes, she was disappointed. but Rose has a lovely personality. She was upset but not angry at me for the little success I had. On the next day, I decided that I would try to pull my Christmas presents from the remainder. I had bought them, after all, but just not this year; and the quality of things was quite lovely for the most part.

When I say only one of Rose’s invitees turned up, I’m not counting the half hour when her entire local family turned up – all eight of them, including the baby and a very energetic two year old – and they milled around looking at things, providing moral support to my friend.

Our friend Matthew was supposed to turn up and protect us from unscrupulous shoplifters and those would-be murderers who turn up to Real Estate open-houses and cart bodies off in the trunk of cars or leave them bleeding on the newly installed interlocking laminate flooring. Since we didn’t invite any but our acquaintances, we didn’t get any of those bad people, luckily, because Matthew had other commitments by the time the actual sale started and he didn’t stay to protect us.

We were on for dinner, all three of us, though. Fish and chips at Austen’s; five-thirty on the dot.

By the time five-thirty rolled around, Rose was  deadly tired an begged off which left me alone with Matthew. He drove. I was also pretty punch drunk after two weeks of work so I appreciated the lift and I closed my eyes whilst driving up to Austen’s in the manner of a catnap so that I didn’t fall asleep on my plate during dinner.

Don’t laugh! My ex, Frank, and I used to deal in antiques in France many years ago. We’d get up at four in the morning, drive two hours to some small town with an antique fair; set out all our stuff to sell; finish at noon, pack back up  and then deliver, if needs be; then go home for another two hours driving, usually stopping at a roadside cafe or a truck stop diner for a meal. More than once a poor, exhausted Frank drooped precariously while waiting for his meal; and by the time he had eaten it, when the carb slump kicked in, his head might just touch the table and stay there until it got really embarrassing and we (me and the other antiquarians) poked and jabbed him until he came back to life. Sometimes our days were fourteen hours long with out much of a break. It may sound grueling, but it was  the most interesting job I ever had.

But that’s an aside.

Matthew and I ordered our fish and chips. We were just about finished, lapping up the last coleslaw on our plates when Rose came in the door.

“It’s Saturday night,” she exclaimed. “What am I doing home along alone on Saturday night? Don’t they say that you should pay yourself the first ten percent? Well, that’s seven dollars and I’m treating myself to fish and chips with it.” And she did.

I think we were out of there by six thirty. Matthew dropped me at home. He waited until I safely got in the door and went on his way.  I went in and got jammies on and promptly fell asleep. The next day, after all, was an important one.

When I woke up about ten that night, still dressed in jammies, I packed out paintings and drawing to the car, arranging them so that the canvases would not get dents in them and the paper would not become dog-eared before it had a chance to get framed. It was dark out but the constant rain storm that we had been going through for the last three days had abated. It was dry; and I figured no-one would see me.

Sunday was the day I would be interviewed by a nearby artist-run gallery to see if I could join their collective. There are some fabulous artists in the group and I’d like to get to know them and work with them.

Wouldn’t you know, I woke with a headache Sunday morning, already severe enough that I knew I couldn’t just wait it out. There was no way that I was going to be sick for this interview, so I popped a migraine pill.  Within a half hour, the pain abated, but rapidly, I was feeling stomachly very out of sorts.

Oh no!” I thought. “H1N1! Here it comes. Rapid onset. Nausea; chills and fever.”

By three o’clock, the ill feelings had sorted themselves out. I was still moving rather slowly, but no longer was I feeling like I was teetering, balanced on one leg like a heron,  on the turbulent edge of water. I could go to my interview and manage it, if acing it was not in the books.

I drove over early so that I could find the place in daylight. With the new bridge over the Fraser, my driving paths are no longer the same. I’m still trying to find the best way to get to the Fort. In doing so, I arrived three-quarters of an hour early, so I went for a delicious crispy crusted apple strudel and a cup of coffee at Wendell’s Bookstore and Cafe and read a book to pass the time.

It was the funniest interview I’ve ever been to. When I opened the door to the gallery, there were fifteen people sitting in a circle and I could tell they were criticizing the work on the wall, the latest exhibition that had been up for three weeks already. When I entered, no one said, “Yes, you are in the right place” nor ” please come in and sit down while we finish this critique”. I didn’t know whether to come in or back out. After a hovering awkward pause,  someone said, “Just take a seat. We will be finished in a minute.” And I did.

Two artists helped me bring my few paintings and drawings into the gallery. I was appointed as the second speaker. I fee, now, that I explained myself fairly well – my background; my exhibitions; why I wanted to join the cooperative; and how I saw my commitment, volunteering, to this artists’ organization. I think I acquitted myself well but I was just as nervous as I was thirty years ago. Somehow, all my bravado about my work fled out the window, replacing my assurance with a heavy dose of self-doubt and timidity. Nervousness reigned (whether they could see it or not). I was being judged!

I won’t know until Wednesday or Thursday what the decision is.

But going back to the ill feelings I had on Sunday morning. I panicked about the H1N1 flu. I don’t fit into any category that would give me the right to go get innoculated yet. If I got it, I’d have to ride it out. Some people were dying of it. That got me to thinking that I needed to change my will.

So this evening, I was next door to see Mrs. Stepford. Mr. Stepford, a lawyer, was not home. Mrs. Stepford plied me with some red wine. We chatted quite a while about gossipy things and reran the interview a couple of times, picking out this word or that which had been pronounced on my art work and wondering what it meant in this context.

Mr. Stepford arrived about ten with his libation of choice and a bag of hickory-smoked sticks, some kind of very salty junk food.

While Mr. Stepford was getting his jacket off and preparing to join us, he saw Mrs. Stepford put her hands on the packet of hazel smoked chips.

“Get your paws off of there!”  he bellowed. “They’re MINE!”

Mrs. Stepford put them down and smiled sweetly at him. The eyes however told a different tale. There was mischief in them.

“Don’t you touch those, now” he admonished her, and he issued a few threatening scenarios if he came back into the room and found the package was opened.

Exit left, Mr. Stepford. He has something to get from the basement.

With impish glee, Mrs. Stepford grabs the package and opens it. She holds it open to me!

Now my rule is, “If you can’t see anything is missing then there are no calories. ” Equally”, I will add, “if you can’t see that any are gone, then most likely there aren’t any gone.”  I took five or six of these very thin potato chips and popped them in my mouth.  Mrs. Stepford took a handful. I innocently stopped elbow bending towards them just before Mr. Stepford came back into the room and eyed the opened bag.

“I warned you,” he said, menacingly, though I knew he would not do anything but be gruff. He’s got a soft heart.

“I opened them for Kay,” Mrs. Stepford prevaricated.  The scapegoat tales deepened. I remained, hands in lap. Mr. Stepford looked at the two of us, then conspiratorially at me. “Thanks for leaving them, Kay,” as if I had, truly, been innocent of this deed, and he leaned over and snatched the bag from Mrs. S.

“Kay says she just took a few for medicine,” continues Mrs. S.  “You know you are supposed to gargle with salt water to attenuate the H1N1 flu. With these very salty sticks, you don’t need to gargle. The salt flowing from them is sufficient to kill off all the viruses. It’s medicine. You just chew them up and savour them in your mouth for a while. Did you bring more than one package of medicine?,” she asks saucily.

“You’re not getting any more,” Mr. Stepford says as he protectively holds the bag of Mrs. Vicker’s hazel smoked sticks to his chest. As an aside, in a much softer vein, he says, “I love these. They’re a favorite snack. Want to try them?” and he proffered the bag to me.

Of course I had to try some, looking more innocent and pure as if I’d not gotten into them myself very recently.
I had the decency to wait until I’d chewed them up a bit before I let him know my opinion.

“My, they are salty!” I exclaimed. “I’ve never tried these hickory flavor ones before. Very good.” I felt it was political to go. It was getting late and with a glass or two of the red stuff (which I had to have more of, because I’d eaten something quite salty), I was getting rapidly very tired.

Tomorrow is another day. I’ll take Mrs. S. to do her grocery shopping and I have an evening reception to attend. Otherwise the day is mine and I’m heartily looking forward to it.