Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Will the River Come?

Monday morning was eerie as I got ready to go for our walk with our friends on the penultimate day of November. There was fog and an unusual yellow light. It was, as I say, eerie, but it was also beautiful, the tree trunks slowly fading into obscurity in the ochre light. And it was warm, a calm day before the next expected atmospheric river. The walk was lovely thanks to the absence of rain and the rich fragrances of the forest.

On the way back, I noticed a neighbour had a large Christmas tree up in their living room, all decorated and lit. In November. What do you give people who start celebrating Christmas so early? A bathing suit? Suntan oil?

I’m chuffed that I’ve lost twenty pounds since I decided to eat less and better. My diet now, is almost all about seafood and vegetables and no dessert. What a difference it makes. 

Later today, another atmospheric river is supposed to begin. I’m praying that Winter is not going to be as nasty as is this season. Geez. Our weather has been a lead item on the news for ten days now. It’s going to be months—many months—before the transportation infrastructure is back to normal. 

Monday, November 29, 2021

Sunday for Stephen Sondheim

Dana sent me this: It’s the Broadway community amassed in NYC yesterday to sing Sunday from Sunday in the Park with George, by Stephen Sondheim, in honour of his passing this past Sunday. What a community we are, we who passionately love theatre. I was touched deeply by this tribute to a legend.  

My dear friend, David, called me on FaceTime from London yesterday, but I could barely speak with him. Plus, my arms and hands went all spazzy on me as I tried hard to get words out. It was brutal, so I asked if he’d mind me using my accent, and of course he didn’t.

I never felt bad about having FND. I didn’t have time to feel bad about it; I was too busy trying to understand it and adapt to living with it. It demanded my attention all the time. Now, close to six years in, 

He told me something interesting in our conversation. He has a friend named Chole, a young woman I met long ago and didn’t care for. He told me that she’d moved to London well over a decade ago and on arrival, immediately started speaking with a fake British accent. It’s an affected accent and, David told me, it confounds everyone she meets because they can tell, immediately, that it’s fake.

He was reinforcing my distaste for my accent. The reaction of Chloe’s friends confirmed my suspicions, but of course, my friends understand why I use my accent, and I use mine only when speaking is impossible. Chloe uses her all the time.

I had a friend, long ago, who is Québécoise, and because she hated the condescension of Parisian French speakers, she adopted a continental accent—and she did a good job of it. She hired a French dialect specialist who works with film actors to change her speech. I was in my twenties when she made the change, and I always have wondered how she could do what she did.

For me, speech is a huge part of my identity. To be comfortably me, I must use my authentic voice. I could not do what Genevieve did, but I understand her motivation. Chloe, I think, is an idiot. I will only ever use my fake accent when speech is impossible with my friends.

Yum. Yum. Yum. I got a subscription to Acorn TV. Its entire catalogue are U.K. productions. I’d often thought of subscribing but never did, but right now one can subscribe for two months @ $1.99. I signed up. And last night I went to it and the first thing that screamed out at me was Dalgleish. I haven’t even checked out the catalogue. As soon as I saw Dalgleish, I clicked on it.

Dalgleish is the name of the chief inspector in a long series of crime novels by P. D. James. I’ve read every one of her books. The Dalgleish series is based on her writings, and it’s sumptuously produced. I loved it immediately.

Beth had told me that Call the Midwife and Grantchester were over, so I was delighted to have the Dalgleish series to watch instead. I can hardly wait to see what other things are on the Acorn site. It’s a streaming service serving the kind of entertainment I can bear. I almost watch exclusively, British productions. (I hate almost all things American because of the emphasis on beauty over talent and honesty in casting.)

I never felt bad about having FND. I didn’t have time to feel bad about it. I was kept busy trying to understand it and adapt to living with it. It demanded my attention all the time. I’ve lived happily through the adjustment. Besides, I now live in a wooden palace in a tranquility zone. Having FND made me move here. I had no reason to be sad.

In the past few weeks, I’ve had real trouble with my speech. And my arms are doing what they stopped doing years ago; they move uncontrollably as I struggle to speak. When my mother was moved into care when I was a kid, visiting her meant exposure to many things I wished I’d not seen. I’m afraid I judged aspects many of her peers. Many terrified me, and a lot of them did things with their arms like I do with mine right now when it’s hard to talk.

I was wrong to judge them, to fear them, and now it’s like I’m doing penance for my sin. (Guess what religion was imposed on me.) It’s my arms that has me feeling bad. I fear others will perceive me as I saw those people with my mother. 

When I went bald. When I came out. When I became HIV positive. Even FND requires openness from me. Self-acceptance was a battle for me when I was young. But once I came out as gay, I felt much stronger. (Meeting my birth mother, was a spiritual rebirth for me, and I came out feeling whole and strong.) 

I hate seizures and losing control of my arms. I’ve got two kinds of seizures going right now: full body and limbic. It’s the arms that bother me the most. 

A few paragraphs back I said I lived a happy life. That is one very, very true statement. I don’t have any depressions or sadness as an adult except, understandable, when Steve left (long, long ago), and when my pets (Spike, Alex, Béla and Leon) died.

My arm issue is the first serious challenge to my genetic disposition to happiness since young adulthood. I repeat: “It’ll go away. It’ll go away. It’ll go away.”

The Green Cathedral.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

A Walk Without Rain!

Friday night, the power went out, so I went to bed. Once in bed, I was going to sleep when the power came on and my smoke alarm sounded. I had a terrific and most unpleasant response.

This FND really affects my arms. I had a violent startle response to the sudden noise of the alarm. Then the power went off again, and then on again, and I had another very violent response. I cannot turn off the alarm, so instead, I wrapped my bedding tight around my arms to prevent them from over-reacting to sudden noise, and that brought me relief. Saturday morning, one shoulder was really, really painful from all the jerking of the night before.

Saturday morning, it was the Internet that went down. Plus, I discovered that I have lost the key to my postal box. Thankfully the post office was open Saturday morning, and I arranged for a new lock and keys. Mid-day, the river arrived. Rain like before Noah’s flood came down. I did not want to go for an afternoon walk, but we did—practically in the dark. And we were wading. Poor Sheba came home mighty wet to a night together by the fire. What a shit afternoon it was!

And this morning, the river was still flowing. It was still dark and raining—not the torrential rain of the recent record-breaking storm, but constant heavy rain. I skipped the big community dog walk this morning; they were walking in a seriously swampy area and I didn’t want to come home having to hose Sheba down to get the filth off of her. Instead, we went to a drier trail on this, my favourite day of the week.

It was glorious walking because for the duration of our walk, the rain stopped and the sky lightened and it was toasty warm. It was 12° and I had to take my hoodie off and wear it around my waist and when I put my coat back on, I left it open.

I’m looking forward to tonight and Call the Midwife, Grantchester, The Great Canadian Baking Showand A Suitable Boy (featuring the absolutely delicious Danesh Razvi).

Saturday, November 27, 2021

R.I.P. Stephen Sondheim

Fish curry. Yum! I have never been so passionate for a dish—this recipe of my own invention. I took the time and made the effort to experiment with the ingredients I love, to find the right balance, and now I have a recipe I could make happily once a week for the rest of my life. And now, with Wishbone getting such fabulous sushi-grade Salmon and Tuna every Thursday, I am eating healthier food and far, far more satisfying food than ever before in my life. 

Friday was a lovely day all morning. The morning walk was particularly joyful for me. I wish you could smell the forest fragrances we get as we walk. I think Autumn might be the most fragrant months of the year in the forest.

It clouded over in the afternoon and now we’re expecting another massive dumping of rain over the next week. Sigh. This is in this morning’s news:

Environment Canada has issued its first "red alert" for British Columbia ahead of what officials are characterizing as a dangerous weather system expected to push more atmospheric rivers into the province.

"The red level is something new that we have not issued," Armel Castellan, a meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada, said.

I was sad yesterday, that Kevin and Shelly aren’t coming tonight for dinner and games. I am ready for some stimulation. At the same time, I was kind of relieved that they weren’t coming over because they both work at jobs that have them in different places and interacting with lots of people. They are anti-vaxxers, so I am not entirely comfortable seeing them. However, they have been great, great friends to me since I moved here, particularly when I was in hospital. 

I am blessed to have a regular visitor: s spectacularly feathered Pileated Woodpecker. He is just gorgeous. Well, yesterday he brought a friend who’s just as gorgeous and friendly. They inspire me to keep my suet feeder well stocked. They and the Jays, plus the zillions of little Finches, Sparrows and the like, really make Pinecone Park a wonder. 

I wear a hoodie every day from September to May. My uniform is a t-shirt and hoodie; the hood keeps my bald head and uncovered neck toasty warm, and because it’s attached, I can’t lose it. I have five hoodies, each one a single colour. But I wanted to liven things up, so, for my birthday, I ordered the two hoodies you see above. I love ‘em and they remind me of the wonderful trips I took to Tanzania, Botswana and South Africa.

Sad, sad, sad: Stephen Sondheim’s passing has hit rather hard. He was Mr. Broadway to so many passionate theatre lovers. I saw both Sunday in the Park with George and Sweeny Todd on Broadway and they were highlights of my life. A fine, generous man and a miracle of a composer and lyricist. A true genius. 

I’ve always had a long list of heroes inside my head. Some faded, but those whom I most admired stayed. Some were people I met and knew; most were people I read about, great writers, scientists, animal lovers, visual artists, leaders of various kinds, etc. Most all of them hit me hard in the mind. They taught me great things or made enormous contributions to the history of mankind. Few hit me emotionally; even fewer, profoundly. Two emotional heavy hitters of mine were Harvey Milk and Dr. Evelyn Hooker, who got the very first Ford Foundation grant to objectively study gay men. Her findings opened the door for the American Psychiatric Association’s decision to remove homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual’s inventory of mental illnesses. (She sent me a letter when I wrote her a fan letter.)


Stephen Sondheim is the only hero who rocks my mind as much as my soul. He’s so many things: stinkin’ smart, warm and personable, musically a genius, an innovator and GAY! And his music could so easily make me cry. Watching Tick Tick Boom affected me so much because there’s a lot of Sondheim in Jonathan Larson—tons of words, rhyme all over, being both composer and lyricist, writing about the creative process … and more. 


I’m just so, so sad, as I was when the princess who hugged men with AIDS in front of the world died.

West Side Story; Company; Sweeny Todd, Sunday in the Park with George. I saw the last two on Broadway. I loved them so much, leaving the theatre, going back to the real world, was powerfully painful.

It’s easier having heroes who are already dead after learning about them. When you make a hero of a living person, it’s like getting a pet: you do so, knowing how much it’s going to hurt one day.

Further to my passion for Louise Penny….

The golden age of detective fiction occurred between the world wars when a particular style of murder mystery novel took hold, led by the prolific and talented Agatha Christie. It wasn’t until the grand dame introduced the world to Poirot that the genre shifted into its strictest and most enduring form: the garden variety murder mystery. 

“I specialize in murders of quiet, domestic interest.” —Agatha Christie.

Ms. Christie is the most popular modern writer to ever live (outmatched in sales by only Shakespeare and the Bible). She is unrelenting in her ability to surprise — she killed children, popularized the unreliable narrator, introduced serial killers. Yet, she was a fiercely disciplined adherent to a form created by her community of fellow writers, developed in the legendary Detection Club (including Dorothy Sayers, Ronald Knox, and GK Chesterton).  

A central feature of many of these whodunits was that the reader had access to all the same information as the detective and could, in theory, figure things out before they did. In 1929, Ronald Knox wrote down 10 rules that made this possible:

1. The criminal must be someone mentioned in the early part of the story, but must not be anyone whose thoughts the reader has been allowed to follow.

2. All supernatural or preternatural agencies are ruled out as a matter of course.

3. Not more than one secret room or passage is allowable.

4. No hitherto undiscovered poisons may be used, nor any appliance which will need a long scientific explanation at the end.

5. No racial stereotypes.

6. No accident must ever help the detective, nor must he ever have an unaccountable intuition which proves to be right.

7. The detective must not himself commit the crime.

8. The detective must not light on any clues which are not instantly produced for the inspection of the reader.

9. The stupid friend of the detective, the Watson, must not conceal any thoughts which pass through his mind; his intelligence must be slightly, but very slightly, below that of the average reader.

10. Twin brothers, and doubles generally, must not appear unless we have been duly prepared for them.

Consider these rules as concerning contemporary TV and films. They use “hitherto undiscovered poisons” and “appliances which will need a long scientific explanation” all the time—not to mention the “unaccountable intuition” of characters.