Depression, Aspiration and Paris

Paris from Notre Dame

Well, the news isn’t good, we know that much. It’s October, 2020 and the number of Covid cases is rising everywhere, except Antarctica. Places are moving backwards, closing down bars and restaurants and gyms again. The people next door have moved their previously allowed 50 person party from a bar into their apartment. They are yelling and singing and smoking pot. Does this mean aerosol whatnots are flying through the wall?

This is Thanksgiving weekend here north of the 49th parallel and we are not supposed to mix households. Unless we are one-person households. We are. Three of us. So yahoo! I’m bringing champagne. Only problem is there were only three real champagnes left. One was rose, so I snagged a lesser known brand, weeping softly as I paid almost as much as I would for Veuve Cliquot. They just can’t get it, they told me. I’ve heard that first class Scotch is also scarce. All the first class Scotch islands were shut down for weeks and production suffered. But I gave up Scotch to save my stomach a long time ago. I gave up Scotch before most of you were born. Unless you are over 40.

So number two cause for some degree of unhappiness: I am 84 years and 5 months and 5 days old and at the present rate, it looks as if I will live the last years of my life in isolation reading e-books, watching Schitt’s Creek, and ironing my tastefully colored masks for my once a week grocery shopping expeditions.

But then I thought why should I? I have evaded Covid for nine months. I know how to do it. Just a question of discipline. Not that that is easy, but spending a couple of hours on video calls every day talks me down from rushing out with a bare-naked face looking for human touch. A hug! A hug! No, the problem is mortality in general. Actuarial tables. That sort of thing. So I came to a very serious decision – I will just have to go on.

My grandmother set an example. She was born in 1900 and passed on in 1996.

Now she lived her entire life on a farm surrounded by forest, high on a hill and under a mountain. She drank spring water, ate simple food and breathed clean air. I haven’t. On the other hand, I prepare all my own food and live on the 14th floor. Not good enough. All right. I’m up for this. I used to study and teach tai chi. I’ll start up again. I’ll learn to breathe. I know just who can tutor me on a video call. My goal is to get strong and healthy enough to have a few good years post virus.

But I need a carrot, something to pull me through the dark, isolated days of the next six months. Then it comes to me. There is an empty apartment in Paris. It’s a lovely old place with high ceilings and a balcony. It’s next to a subway stop and close to a grocery store. It belongs to my daughter’s Persian/American friends. They live in California. They don’t rent it out. They feel indebted to my daughter, who doctored their parents. Daughter assures me they would say yes in a minute. They have already sent her there on a first class ticket. Not that I expect they will send me, of course. But, if I keep saving the money I used to spend in bars and restaurants, I should get together enough to fly. If anybody ever flies for the hell of it again.

I invite my Brussel’s brother to join me. I have forgotten he hates Paris. He worked there for many years and lived in a 500 sq ft apartment in an iffy district. He talks my bizarre idea over with my sister Georgia. Who also hates Paris. She tells me. I don’t tell him, but I revoke my invitation. It would be better to go with my daughter anyway.

I love Paris. Did I say I love Paris. I went there long ago with the only man I ever really loved and our two young children. We separated 6 years later, about the time I reluctantly gave up Scotch. When he was in his last weeks with cancer a year ago, I said to him, “Do you remember that crazy little hotel near the Arc de triomphe in Paris? The children were across the hall and every time the subway passed the leg fell off the bottom of our bed. We thought the managers were gay but then…” “No,” he said.

“Well, I’ve been there so many times since,” he pleaded. With other women, I heard in my head. So no, we won’t always have Paris. I will have Paris.

I made my brother take me back one Christmas when I was in Brussels. We went to the Shakespeare bookstore across from Notre Dame. Ah, yes, Notre Dame! The centuries old trees in the attic. Well, who hasn’t suffered the ravages of age?

I will go back to Paris. I love the architecture. The city that Haussmann rebuilt, the ancient buildings like the Louvre, the bridges. I will go to look at the many-floored hotel de ville where the Ephrussi family lived. I will take a Cara Black mystery or two and visit where they are set. I know there are Cara Black tours of Paris.. I don’t do tours. And I don’t visit galleries. Too much standing and slow walking for me now. I have never taken a river boat. I would like to do that. I would like to see the tower that way. I think you can.

One wall of my home has black and white photos and sketches of Paris. One is a series of postcards depicting the construction of the tower in 1888-89. One is a photo taken from underneath, up into the woven iron work with a blazing rectangle of light in the centre. One is of the River Seine at night, all the bridges lit and Eiffel’s tower golden in the background. I know the gold is photo-shopped.

As is my dream. But how remarkable it will be if I rebuild some strength into this old body and survive and prosper and go to Paris once again.

Hair: Covid and 1968

She asks me why I’m such a hairy girl
I’m hairy noon and night, hair that’s a fright
I’m hairy high and low, don’t ask me why. Don’t know.
It’s not for lack of bread like the Grateful Dead.
***********
Hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair,
Flow it, show it, as long as God can grow it, my hair

Hair, from the 1968 musical

Fifty two years and here we are again. I confess I enjoyed the musical immensely and I never nagged my husband or my son about their long hair,

For weeks now in 2020, the hair cutters were shut down and hair grew. Our Prime Minister Trudeau seems to have gone with flow and I love his curls. Some people, who lived with other people, ordered clippers on line and got hair cuts. For better or worse. Anderson Cooper’s was all right unless he turned his right side to the camera. Chris Cuomo not bad, but poor guy had been really sick. My Facebook friend, Jeanne, rushed gleefully out when our late opening city finally got to stage -whatever. My own sister got the first morning appointment and sat between plexiglass screens. At no risk. And why didn’t I go to her hairdresser as well? My sister still goes to a first class hairdresser. I had to down scale to First Cut, $21 with the senior discount. I object to paying $100, but even more I object to the unnecessary risk of infection every 6 weeks. (I am following the CDC advice to avoid routine dental care. as well, but, hey, I floss.)

It’s not even the price. My hair started growing as the quarantine went on and on, and I remembered it was curly. The mirror showed me an older, much older version of my young self. My hair is at present pewter colored, whereas it was once brown. But there were those same waves. Miracle of miracles!.

Waves are not to be envied. They are single-minded and defiant. Some days they sulk and droop or on others, stand on end like Medusa’s.

Every young woman, reporter, actress, congress woman has long straight hair. Persons like me with a flawed fusiform face area in their brain, can’t tell one from the other except by hair color. But there’s the age-old rule, passed down by grandmothers: older women should have short hair. My own grandmother wound her long white hair up in a chaste bun for many years and looked like a woman with a very short cut. And tell that to the women, who live in Pine Mountain Club in the California mountains. They proudly swing their long, grey locks over their canvases and pottery wheels. They clap on a straw sombrero or a cowboy hat to add to the effect.

When you decide to grow your hair out, it gets untidy, still too short for a pony tail or a twist, and prone to escaping in the front and low on the neck, especially when you wear a hat and a mask and glasses. How annoying to have this pointed out before you can get to a comb. Or this in the elevator: ‘But what are you going to do with it?’ (You can tie it in a knot. You can tie it in a bow. You can throw it o’er your shoulder, like a continental soldier..)

Look I’m bored out of my skin. I’m 84 years old. I go out to get groceries. Period. I read. I stream mysteries. I stare out at the sky from my 14th floor window. But I have found an engrossing activity: I watch my hair grow.

Let me be.

Or maybe I’ll shave my head down to a bristle like the ‘person’ in Millions. Or a Buddhist monk. They say it clears your mind.

A Hundred Days of Solitude: Chpt 1

Snow-covered Mountain before it all began

A Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez tells the story of seven generations of the Buendia family, which founded the riverside town on Macondo in the jungle of Columbia. In the first generation the isolated town has no outside contact except for an annual visit from a Gypsy band. It is a place where the inexplicable can happen and ghosts are commonplace. Many misfortunes befall the Buedias, all of which it turns out have been predicted. It is a long book, perfect if you are still, like me, a coronavirus shut-in.

*********

Day 100: The premier of Ontario announces that greater Metro Toronto can move to stage 2 of the Covid-19. We are weeks behind the rest of our province. We can now eat on patios, get a massage or have our hair cut.

My grey hair has not been cut for 4 months. It has gone its own way, flipping up or falling limp, whatever it feels like. Forty six percent of deaths world-wide have been of people over 80. Persons over 70 are 60 times more likely to die of Covid than younger people. I am 84. I will be able to sit on my hair before I get the courage to go back to First Choice for another $20 cut.

Day 2: Please submit all maintenance requests on the website or by phoning the main office. Staff is still available to help you, but the on-site office will be kept locked until further notice. (At least 1 slat a week thunders down from my vertical blinds, usually in the dead of night. I pile them flat on the window ledge and rely on curtains.)

Elevator Etiquette – Day 10: If there are 2 people on the elevator, please wait for the next one. Exception: families traveling together. (Day 110: I am on the elevator going down. It stops at 6. A woman with laundry gets on. Another woman with laundry asks if she can. I say no, but I offer to get off, so she can. She declines.)

Day 47: Follow arrows on floor. (I.e. Exit through the garbage corridor or the laundry corridor. (Guess which is more fragrant.) Enter through front door. (So out into the wind tunnel and around the building to pick up mail.)

Day 130: Kindly wear a face covering when you are in common areas.( Our municipality mandated masks in public places two weeks ago, but cannot order rental buildings to comply.)

Day 7 -Health and Wellness: Since my return from Christmas on a snowbound mountain in Southern California, I have not been well. My doctor has prescribed Cymbalta for fibromyalgia. I have been nauseated and dizzy for the month of February. On this day, I reread the label on the meds and stop drinking wine. I am immediately 70% better.

The Premier announces that people over 70 should not leave their homes.(I take this to heart. Pandemics have to be managed. I’ve read Ibsen’s Enemy of the People after all. The Premier is trying to avoid hospital over-load. I will do as he says.)

My equivalent of the flour barrel once I bravely started going to the store.

 

THE BOTTOM OF THE FLOUR BARREL

I am too short to look over the rim of the big barrel that holds the flour. My mother has removed the bread board on its top and she is weeping inconsolably. I hitch myself up on the barrel’s side and peer in. There is a thin drift of flour on one side. We don’t buy ready made bread here on the hill. We don’t buy anything much. We are country folks and the stores are a long buggy ride away, but there is no money to buy anything anyway.

Some solution must have been found. I get older.

“Go to the butcher’s and get 6 slices of bologna,”  my mother tells me at lunch time. We live in the city now. There are 4 of us children and her, but 1 slice will be for Daddy’s lunch tomorrow, so we kids will each get half a slice for our sandwich, but 2 slices of Wonder Bread and a little butter. My little sisters come with me and each steals a jaw breaker  from the candy display. The butcher looks at me to tell me that he saw that. He doesn’t yell. I want to cry as we walk home. Not for poverty. For kindness.

I get my first job in a bakery when I am 15. All my adult life, I have had to have a well-stocked pantry and a full freezer, but stocks have run low in March 2020. So I enter the grocery delivery sweepstakes.

I have a long list of groceries I need. I go through the website list for Longo’s. Some things are not available – toilet paper, paper towels, tissues and all Lysol products. Having completed my order, I move on to the page where I can choose a delivery date. The next possible date is 10 days away, but even as I ponder, one by one the time slots get snapped up until the dates run out in 14 days. I move on to the Metro website and hurriedly place the same order. Paper products are NA. I speed to the delivery page. By now, it is getting very late. All the time slots are gone. Then as midnight strikes, a new day of delivery times magically appears and I grab a 10 a.m. two weeks away.

Day 34: For the next two weeks, I work my way to the bottom of the barrel as I await delivery. The fridge shelves are all but empty. The freezer gets down to questionable beef patties and a partial bag of frozen kale. I scour the cupboard for tins of soup past their best buy date. My impromptu recipes get more and more inventive and I grow heartily sick of kale and rice. Finally, the big day arrives along with eight sturdy red bags. Excitedly, I begin unpacking. I have ordered 3 chicken breasts on the bone. I get 3 packages of 3 chicken breasts from the biggest chickens in captivity. Instead of 2 steaks, I get 2 packages of 2 steaks each. On it goes with minced beef, pork chops and stewing beef. I have enough food for a regiment at least. I am also the proud owner of 2018, unscented wet wipes. I set about cooking chicken for my sister, my niece, myself and the couple down the hall. After this cook-off, I can fit the meat into my fridge-top freezer.

I manage to get 1 more delivery by using the 12 a.m. strategy, but after that, although I try 4 nights in a row, I cannot snag a spot. Obviously, I have to go out to shop.

Coming soon 100 Days of Solitude: chpt 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Something Arrived: covid gives way to chaos

Look The Writer by Mendelsohn Joe 1982

My last blog post was called Nothing Arrived after the Villagers’ song https://115journals.com/2020/05/14/nothing-arrived-day-64-of-lockdown/

It turns out I only had to wait. Eventually 3 cloth masks arrived from the veterinary supply store, not quite as advertised but that’s understandable – not that veterinarians had much call for them on day 70, but the rest of us did. I also received a book from Amazon –Dead Lions by Mick Herron, a birthday gift for my niece, long overdue because it had been circling the eastern half of the continent. And Land’s End sped a summer dress to me, so I could survive my south-facing apartment. Best of all, a new news cycle arrived. Suddenly, instead of watching the death count in the U.S. rolling past 100,000, I got to see burning buildings and looted stores on Melrose. Melrose!! Stay the F away from my eye glass! store.

I caught no glimpse of my grandson in the LA march. He knew better than to be there, I told myself. I called him after midnight. He had just got back. He had been shot by ‘rubber’ bullets three times, one in the chest, but he was carrying his backpack there. One in his foot, which was bleeding, and one missed his face, on which he was wearing a gas mask. He absolutely had to be there, he said. It was his responsibility as a citizen. I didn’t argue. I just whined like an old granny – wait a minute – about live bullets coming next.

“Do over. Do over,” I cried to the gods. I’ll go back to nothing arriving. Please. Yes, I believe in equal justice. I hate fascism. I fought it as a child, dragging a wagon of tin and rancid fat and paper to school. Don’t you just have to do that once?

So I lit a candle to Kwan Yin and Buddha. I have to give some credit to George Floyd’s relatives who appealed for the violence to stop, but I don’t discount my Taoist saints. It did stop – except for the cops who battered girls riding bikes and tasered students out looking for a snack and  crushed news photographers with their shields and pushed old men over to crack their skulls. But, by and large, no more stealing small appliances or burning auto supply stores.

It wasn’t until grandson phoned me on his birthday that I found out he had stopped marching. Too dangerous.

So shut up here in my tower like the Lady of Shallot, I indulge in magical thinking. If I ‘pray’/think hard enough things can change. Some people march in large crowds and refuse to obey police commends, cf grandson, while some people light candles and think hard. If only… justice would be universal and Trump would lose his voice. Pretty sure he can’t write except his signature.

So today, the march in D.C. is going to be bigger than ever, despite the baby gate around Lafayette Park, along more than the two blocks that read ‘Black lives matter’ from the Space station probably. And there will be marches across the States, here in Canada and around the world.

I’m not black. I was -and am- white trash, a hillbilly from the Eastern Townships. In those days, the French held power in Quebec. The French held the mortgage on our farm. Grandpa Willy had defaulted. My father took it on. At first he took me with him to hand over what cash he could pay. Dad’s talent with fire must have been a concern for Monsieur Mortgage Holder. Dad was always first to show to put out the flames in a barn.

It’s not the same. I didn’t have to worry about my black son being shot. They just put my white uppity hippy white son in the cruiser and did a suspect parade of one. “Not him,” said the lady.

And I had a long career, passing as a normal, respectable, more or less middle class teacher. But I lived by a code. Never call the police. Stay out of hospitals. Don’t mess with city hall or the government. Keep your head down. Lucky me! My skin doesn’t advertise my difference.