I have endured way too many excruciating dates over the years – the wired (or should that be spelled weird) lawyer who took me to a huge event and dropped me into the crowd, where I didn’t know a soul, and disappeared(the fact that he nearly rear ended several vehicles in the parking lot didn’t much for the evening, either) the aspiring director who I invited as my date to a big party, and who, amazingly, ended up necking with my best friend in a side room. This is the sort of stuff that makes memoirs a great read, when I get around to writing them. Hey, it is all grist for the mill, fodder for the future, whatever. All I know is that eventually, even if it takes a few decades, I can roar with laughter over the mishaps of the past. Thank goodness I don’t date any more, although I suppose I am missing out on some great subject matter by not doing so.
A week or so ago, I had an entirely different sort of date. A Writing Date with my friend Shelley. We met at a coffee house with our laptops. (Well, okay, she brought her laptop, but I couldn’t find the flash drive for mine, so ended up working in a notebook by longhand, which was fine ….) It was companionable, fun, mutually sustaining, and ultimately productive. Now this is the sort of dating I could get into bigtime!
I worked on the structuring of my next Lulu Malone mystery, which is basically written, but needs a structural overhaul. (As in, why exactly does Lulu do the incredibly crazy things she does, unless there is a major plot point involved? Everybody loves Lulu, especially me, so I just need to get her to the next level in Trashing the Trailer.)
Natalie Goldberg (Writing Down the Bones) has advocated writing dates for years, and now I know why. Away from the household chores, the phone, the office mess that keeps snarling at you ‘Clean up, clean up’ it is very freeing to simply sit somewhere else and do nothing but write.
I have done so in the past at writing salons at the Banff Centre (courtesy of fabulous Wordfest) and even, in my travels, in hotel bars across the country, sitting with a good chardonnay, a good fountain pen, and a beautiful notebook, in solitude and creativity. (I highly recommend the Hotel McDonald in Edmonton, and the Hotel Vancouver for this.)
So, now I am all for the dating game again! As long as it requires a good friend, a quiet place and a story to write.
I met Roger Ebert once, years ago, at a film festival event in Vancouver. Accustomed as I was to the rather loutish behaviour of many of the wannabes or already ams in the film and television industry, I was somewhat floored when he stood up to greet me when I entered the hospitality suite at an upscale hotel.
Let’s put this more strongly. I nearly fell over. I was somewhat jaded after years of writing about film directors and producers in the warmest possible terms, and then having them snub me, as I walked toward them, smiling. So to have a complete stranger, who apparently seemed to recognize me from my role in McCabe and Mrs. Miller, actually stand up (yes!) and offer his hand when I entered the room, was mind boggling, to use that retro term.
Whenever I saw Roger Ebert’s name after that, I smiled. And I thought, A Great Film Critic. And A True Gentleman.
For most people, Easter has religious meaning, but for me, it heralds spring, and with that, renewal and hope. I suppose this has a religious context, but I am so busy revelling in tulips, bunnies, and Easter eggs, that I don’t really examine the relationship between renewal and the religious aspects of Easter. Hey, I just want to hippity hop around with the bunnies, listen to the chirping of the birdies, and enjoy devilled eggs. (Gotta say, I made my last batch of devilled eggs for a family dinner on Good Friday. My swan song in this department. Way time consuming and the praise, however welcome, did not balance the work hours. Basically, to make all that work worthwhile, people would have to do a ten minute song and dance, while incorporating my name into the lyrics and maybe laying five dozen tulips at my doorstep.) People (mostly women) have been making devilled eggs for years, and I think we should all just stop it, right now, and write our family histories, or volunteer at a food bank, or take a cooking course at Cookbook Co. Cooks. Just forget about the devilled eggs.
Having ranted on that, I rejoice in the white hare who galumphs across my back yard whenever I open the back door. I know he isn’t the Easter bunny, but I am sure he is a distant relative. I love the Easter bunny, and the joy that little rabbit brings to so many generations.
I will never forget the Easter morning, many years ago, when I was already an adult, living in a little bungalow in a nice part of town, when my doorbell rang. By the time I got to the door, a small car was scooting away, and hanging from my mailbox, was an Easter basket of chocolate rabbits, coloured eggs and other treats. One of the sweetest moments in my life.
I have written extensively about the rituals of Easter, in magazines which might not even be in existence any more. And I suppose I will continue to do so. But in the meantime, I just want to say, in the spirit of joy and optimism, HAPPY EASTER!
Easter brings renewal, hope and delightful surprises.
As often happens (with me, anyway) a satisfying rant is followed by a more compassionate view of the situation. In my last post, I emitted an aria on a clueless and annoying Kijiji customer, who had been inconsiderate in a major way.
But, now, a little while later, I realize that this young woman was not deliberately trying to ruin my evening or make our household ill with her germs, nor was she aware of her silliness. She was just clueless. As we all are, at time, especially when we are young.
Oh, good grief, if I tried to make a list of all the times I had done stupid or insensitive things, I would be up for weeks at a time. So, I realize now, that this young woman was, well, just, CLUELESS. And that twenty years from now, she may be a wonderful, evolved human being, doing great work for orphans in Africa, or the homeless in Saskatoon, or simply being a good and compassionate citizen.
So, for myself, more than for you, dear young lady, I wish you well. (Hey, I read Oprah Magazine, I know the benefits of forgiveness and evolvement – ONWARD!)
I love Kijiji. I have been clearing and decluttering my basement through Kijiji. I have met some truly wonderful people through Kijiji (Nick and Candace, are you listening?) and I have been tremendously heartened by the kindness and generosity of so many people (many of them younger than I am) who have graced my doorstep through Kijiji, and become tentative, or firm, friends.
The downside of Kijiji is that you also meet the truly awful people (e.g. the con man who works for the health services department who showed up with two toddlers, who he must have rented for the occasion, and proceeded to try to steal a number of items from my basement) and then, the simply clueless.
This last description applies to my experience today. A young woman emailed and asked to see jewellery, evening bags, compacts, clothing and much more. I obliged, hauling up stuff from the basement, to arrange in the hallway for her perusal. She was to come at 6 pm. At 6:30, she emailed that she was delayed in traffic. Fair enough. By 7:30, I had to feed my starving loved ones, and put dinner on the table. OF COURSE, the doorbell rang after the first bite.
The young woman had brought with her a boyfriend who looked as if he maybe knocked off 7-11s for a living, but then, a toque makes anybody look suspect, even if you are Canadian. She spewed germs indiscriminately into my foyer, despite my screams of “Don’t Breathe On Me! I AM A CAREGIVER!” And …… after all that ….. she foraged in her purse, saying she hadn’t had time to go to a bank machine, and pulled out a five dollar bill and few coins, and bought an eight dollar purse and a two dollar compact. Which totally justifies, right, her asking me to haul out three boxes of stuff for her to look at.
Hey, I want to buy stuff for a dollar, too. But, I like to think that I don’t ask people to display for my pleasure a huge pile of goods, when I know perfectly well that I have TWO CENTS to spend. I have been there. I know what it is to shop on the cheap. But please, young lady, don’t come back to my house!
I have met some great people through Kijiji. We chomp our way through Chinese food, we send loving emails, we exchange great links on collectibles. It is a great life when you can connect with kindred spirits.
This is what I must remember. OM. OM.
Today, I bought an unusual item (for me): corned beef. And a more mundane item, half a cabbage.
Anybody who has ever dined at my place knows one great truth. I am a great hostess, and a lousy cook. I particularly can’t cook anything that has ever walked on four legs i.e. red meat. I can at least communicate with a chicken and get it to cooperate and contribute to the evening. In my book, The Rebel Cook, I offer excruciating examples of my culinary disasters.
So why on earth would I, the greatest kitchen klutz of all time,especially with red meat, buy corned beef?
Because, reading the ubiquitous recipes for St. Patrick’s Day, which usually involve corned beef and cabbage, I was transported back to my youth, when I was a young artist attending what was then the Banff School of Fine Arts (and which is now the Banff Centre). Musicians, dancers, painters, actors ….. we were teenagers or young adults, and a combination of our age and the mountain air and the rigorous schedule of classes, made us hungry all the time! Relentlessly hungry!
We ate in a communal hall where huge platters of the daily offerings from the kitchen were passed from one end of the table to another. This was the first time I had ever tasted corned beef and cabbage. I can remember it now, forty years later. The incredibly tender corned beef, and the salt and pepper cabbage. We cleaned every platter. This was one of the favourite dishes in my circle of young artists (unlike the soggy chocolate pudding which one wag dubbed Beethoven’s Last Movement ……)
So, for some crazy reason, I am hoping to replicate or at least, remember, the gorgeous platters offered up by the kitchen of the Banff School of Fine Arts, not so much for the Irish, as for the artists of my youth.
Many years ago, I was a member of the Screen Actor’s Guild, in addition to being a member of ACTRA in Canada. One of the advantages of being a SAG member was the wonderful magazine which I received. I have never forgotten a profound article written by a female performer who was also a psychologist, in which she spoke of how actors must remember that in many ways, ours is a noble profession, and, as such, we should honour it, and not dismiss ourselves.
I was reminded of this when I watched the SAG Awards last night. I was so happy to see so many fine actors honoured. I especially loved Ben Affleck’s acceptance speech, in which he spoke of actors around the world showing up on set, delivering lines, doing their best, working for the good of a project, no matter what.
I mused on how this is so true. For many people in what would be considered the regular work force, a day off for the flu or a cold or a hangover is not a big deal. In the world of the actor, this is not an option, unless you are at death’s door. A theatre jammed with paying customers? You show up and try to reach the upper balconies no matter how horrific and tomblike your voice may sound. (This is why most actors, including MOI, have gone through major voice training.) A film set, with a crew of dozens, maybe a hundred, expensive equipment, and a tight schedule? You don’t put your hand to your forehead and fade away. You show up, no matter how much your maladies resemble the plague. (Huge stars excepted, of course.) Actors show up, say their lines, and go home and collapse afterward. Most of the time, they are quite wonderful in the role.
So last night, I was a little disappointed that in SAG Awards. Not for the awards themselves, but for the riffs from the actors, some of whom seemed somewhat apologetic about their chosen profession (“I get to be a kid” or “I have big boobs” and other self-deprecating one liners that got laughs. )
I didn’t laugh. I thought the SAG Awards were intended to honour actors and the acting profession. Where was the honour here?
I no longer work as a performer, but I still honour the life of the performer. I hope the producers and organizers, next year, try to infuse the evening with more respect and less apology for being an actor.
I may be a writer of mysteries, but I am also aware of mysteries in my everyday life. For example, last night, a friend came to dinner and raved about my kale.
This is a mystery to me. As the author of The Rebel Cook: Entertaining Advice for the Clueless(TouchWood Editions, 2006) I have established myself as a klutz in the kitchen. A klutz with a lot of laughs and charm, but no way a real chef.
So to have somebody actually ask for a recipe from me was a major event, worthy of a small parade, or at the very least, a glass or two of chardonnay.
So here, is my recipe for kale, shoplifted from other, real cooks, who know what they are doing.
THE REBEL COOK KALE:
Wash the kale well, and tear off all the little curly parts. Throw the stems away.
In a large skillet (I use non-stick) melt butter (or margarine) and olive oil until it is foamy. Add as much garlic as you can stand. And kosher salt. (A little goes a long way with kale.)
Don’t let the garlic burn (I always do and have to start over, oh bother, as Pooh would say) and then add the kale.
Stir it around so that it knows that somebody is watching. Cover it, and let it do its thing for a few minutes. Then check again, just so that it knows it can’t get away with anything.
After about one minute, it will turn a brilliant dark emerald green. In another few minutes, it will turn dark, dark green and start to become crisp. This is when you should turn off the heat, cover it, and pray with all your might that it is time to serve dinner.
People who hate kale love this recipe. Go figure. I always think I am lucky to get it onto a dinner plate, and I always, always have doubts that it is edible. But so far, the votes are pro-kale and pro-Rebel Cook. I am sure it is a hallucination on my part.
One of my favourite tv shows is The Good Wife. I love it for the smart writing, the interesting characters and the great acting. But, oh my goodness, has it ever taken a dive (in my humble opinion) in the opening episodes of this season. The writers (the glorious Kings, for whom I have great admiration) had established terrific characters and relationships in earlier seasons, especially Alicia and Peter, and Alicia and Kalinda, and Kalinda and Cary.
Will any of us ever forget Sexy Boots Kalinda (as she is known to her fans) played with great panache by Archie Punjabi, stomping into a Home Depot type store to buy a sledgehammer (which she uses rather effectively in following episodes)?
Kalinda has been set up as a strong, mysterious person with a troubled past. I think most Good Wife fans were expecting a terrific payoff when we finally discovered who was stalking her, and what her fears were. Oh dear. Oh yucch. The story devolved into something worse than expected.
As one of my fellow screenwriters said, “I just don’t believe it. I am not so much offended by the crassness, as by the fact that I don’t believe these people in this relationship.”
But, hey, I am not going to give up on The Good Wife. Like a lemming, I am going to continue to watch every Sunday, because I am Always Hopeful. Hopeful that there will be a big payoff for the Kalinda storyline and that Kalinda will rise again, and not sink into the morass of cliche. Hopeful that Archie Panjabi’s career will survive this. Wondering what sort of conversations have gone on between actors and writers (not that actors have much sway in this, as a former actor, I know this oh so well…)
I just want good taste and good writing to triumph. Let us put these episodes behind us and never speak of them again.
I have a new phrase to offer to chiropractors, massage therapists, and physicians: BUTTON BACK.
It is excruciating. It limits movement. All that pain, and it is caused by a person, a button collector like MOI, spending way too long bent over a big tray of buttons, sorting and ooh and aahing and thinking and trying to decide which to keep and which to move onto another home.
After a few hours of this, lost in the meditative world of the button collector, one feels so relaxed. And so doubled over with excruciating back pain. As I write this, I am bent over like Quasimodo, only with none of the rewards of being a famed literary character. I am just me, an author with a modest bestseller and several other well regarded books to me name, lurching around the house and the computer with Button Back.
Maybe I could launch a line of Button Back health products: Button Balm, Button Back Beautiful, and so on. It would be a big hit with the button crowd. Of course, the only place I could sell this stuff would be at the National Button Society Show in the U.S. every August. I figure I have almost a year to figure this out.
On the other hand, maybe I should just do some yoga, and think of buttons.