Monday, September 19, 2016

surviving parental disapproval

I wish I'd had my camera because she had such a good-natured face.
This is what her hat looked like:

Yellow fake flowers and a straw hat she'd smashed onto her grey curls. She was sitting on a bench outside a pharmacy, singing in a quavering, crooning voice that reminded me of the popular Québecois singer, La Bolduc (1894-1941).

It's not a style of singing that's attractive to our modern ears. It sounds almost like complaining, except that the accompanying accordion or fiddle is in party mode. The woman outside the pharmacy didn't have an instrument, but in the interlude when one would have been playing she stopped singing and danced her fingers along in the air. She rocked on her bench as she sang. She was short and chubby and her feet didn't quite touch the ground. Her hat was ugly but cheerful. She was enjoying herself, even as she seemed aware that people were edging away. She couldn't stop herself. She had to sing.

Then she noticed that I was listening and she broke off. Oh, I'm sorry! I don't know all the words. I make up the ones I don't know. That's awful, isn't it? I should just shut up.

That's okay, I said. What's wrong with making words up? To my ears it seemed the words she'd made up matched the rhyme and rhythm of the song. And if some of them were nonsensical, many lyrics often are.

No, no, she insisted. My father used to say that only an idiot would sing if she didn't know all the words. He said that was the proof I would never amount to anything in life. She rounded her eyes at me and bobbed her head to make her point. And then she began singing again, wagging her hands in the air, rocking on the bench, smiling.

She was 70 or 80 years old. Her father was probably dead. She had outlived him and she was singing -- out in the city where anyone walking by could hear.

But also still hearing the voice of parental disapproval. It leaves such an echo.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Five Roses Book Club Resource

For those of you who belong to book clubs and are considering discussing Five Roses, the lovely team at Dundurn Press have made a resource package, including a map (!) highlighting where events in the novel take place.  Here's the link:

And also, for the fun of it, here are a few pictures and sketches of the neighbourhoods described in the novel. I took the photos. Sketches courtesy of Robert Aubé. I see the photos as factual documentation but the sketches strike me as being more quintessentially true. Whatever truth is.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Harlequin romances, demolition of a highway, eggplants

I want to bake a cake but I only just remembered to take butter out of the freezer.

So... here are some random pictures.

This one is a card a friend sent.
Yes, I mean snail mail. Remember envelopes and stamps and writing letters? Why don't more people write letters? Are they saving the trees? I really don't think the trees mind if you write words on the paper. My day is made special whenever I get a real letter or a card in the mail. But there seem to be only a few of us who still indulge.
The card is the book cover of a 1949 Harlequin romance. Look at that title. And the men with striped and spotted wings sprouting out of their ears. How was this ever billed as a romance? Looks dystopian to me.

And can you guess what this is?

It's the last of the Bonaventure Expressway that was built in 1967 to stream traffic from the south shore into the city. The noise and dust from the demolition is astounding.

The highway didn't only go into the city but right through it. Which is one good reason, I'm thinking, to get rid of it.

I took the opportunity to find a new angle on the FARINE FIVE ROSES sign. Here it is with its reflection in the Lachine Canal.

We stopped for a drink in one of the pseudo-post-industrial bars that are cropping up near the Lachine Canal. That is not R's hat but mine that I put on his head.

In other news, the garden gods--groundhogs, squirrels, and other critters--decided to leave me a few eggplants this year. It's the first year I've been able to bring home eggplant. So I'm happy.

Butter not soft yet.