It’s been a while, huh? I’ve been thinking off and on of this little part of t’internet for a while, but a couple things have made me want to post recently.
First, my friend Julie has said, almost every time she sees me, “I miss your blog.” And it is Julie’s birthday, and I was thinking of coming back anyway. I have probably vanished off many people’s RSS feeds, but this was for me in the beginning, and it is fundamentally for me now. Even though what has brought me here has more to do with my thoughts about the connections between us, between people.
Fran died. Ten days ago, the cancer that had taken over her world robbed her of her last breath. She was 54 years old. She was my friend. She was loved. She was, she was, she was. She is now in the past tense.
This afternoon, I went to the SPCA thrift store looking for trays for sandwiches and hors d’however-you-spell-it for Fran’s memorial. As I wandered through the store, I remembered thrifting trips with Fran, and how we’d wander and browse, almost independently except to find one another to crow over a good find, or ask for an opinion. I missed her there more acutely than I have since I heard of her passing.
But she has not vanished utterly. What lives on is what she taught me, us, her friends, as well as her daughter. Her gardening expertise, her antiques knowledge, her bone-deep need to research about things. I will not let this go. I carry her around in my heart as though it were a rosewood keepsake box. I wish I’d been able to see here more in the last little while, but there was almost never time to take off.
The past couple of years have been dicey, cash-wise for us. Like, I was mending my socks and underwear as opposed to buying new stuff, kind of dicey. E wasn’t working a lot either. I went Tunguska on my landlord when he suggested we should buy a new TV to accompany the HD stuff. Turns out (Rick, you were right) we could have afforded it with a little research, but I was ready to skin and barbecue the poor man for suggesting that we spend money.
But for all we have had a poor couple of years, I have come to realize more and more, I am rich in love.
I can give love unstintingly and unconditionally. I throw that love around like confetti. I never run out, because all that love is coming back to me. I have people who love me. Probably more than many people do. I can love my friends for their grace and humour and wit. They love me back. We are stars that, together, make a constellation. Many constellations. Reaching out, friend to friend to friend, we are all the stars of the night sky.
When a friend dies, she does not stop being a part of the constellations. She is still a part of our whole, and she is still in our hearts and in our sky.
She shines on.
I have to say, if I deserve the friends I have, I am a stellar example of humanity.
Thank you all for your kind words and your even kinder actions. I’m being employed this week deep-cleaning a friend’s house, and if the weather ever lets up, his garden. I’ve been beer-tasting and dinner-making and every day have had something to look forward to, thanks to my friends just, well, stepping up.
I’m also taking my brother’s advice. I mentioned feeling like a border collie, and Bo, in his infinite wisdom, said, “You can take yourself for walks.” I guess that’s why he’s teaching at Yale next year. He is SMRT.
So I’m taking myself for walks. Last night, I went to a wake E was playing at. OK, you may not think that sounds like a lot of fun, but bear in mind, I have a certain talent for attending celebrating-the-deceased type events. As X-Men powers go, it is kind of lame, but what the hell. There was beer there, and dancing, and frail old guys with Opinions. I love all of those things.
Thanks for listening.
It’s not just the blog. Everything in my life is slipping. Warning: This is not going to be a happy post.
I need employment. I’m tired of waiting for my friend Cam to get his stuff together so that I can go jockey for him. In the meantime, there’s nothing else that will let me keep teaching the kids. If it weren’t for Fran letting me attack the weeds in her garden, I’d be worse. I hope there will be some morning classes to teach over the summer holidays, and that will alleviate some of this vicious cycle. I’m like a border collie in a one-bedroom apartment.
I don’t have enough money. I could take even more out of my retirement money, but that just means eating more cat food in old age. I’m trying to avoid that.
Nothing is any fun. Photography was briefly fun on Thursday, when Rachel and I took some photos for her book jacket. Other than that, not fun. Writing, not fun. Sewing, not fun. Painting, not fun. Cooking, not fun (no money for anything but the most basic of ingredients.) I sent E out to do a big shop. He came home with tins of soup. If I see another piece of pasta, or baked potato, I may cry.
I’ve started sleeping late. No sense in getting up. All I do is sit on the internet until it’s time to teach. Go teach for 3 hours, Come home. Make a boring dinner. Wait until it’s time to sleep. Repeat. If I have chores to do, I stretch them out as long as possible. Today I made three separate trips to Broadway.
There’s no money to socialize. I am depressed and lonely. If Eric goes to work, I am alone in the house until it’s time to go to work, and then, often, afterwards. Some days the only people I speak to are my students. When he is here, Eric keeps doing silly stuff to try to make me smile, when he notices. A lot of the time he’s shut in his room doing whatever he does in there. I don’t want to smile, but I feel bad that I am such poor company.
I don’t feel like I am a particularly valuable friend. Or girlfriend. Or sister or daughter or niece. This weekend, I’d like to be making food for a friend who is going through some health stuff, and could use a couple of easy meals for her family. But all I have is pasta. And fucking cans of soup.
Congratulations if you made it this far, and apologies. I know others are going through far worse ordeals than underemployment and general malaise. It just sucks to be in the middle of it.
We stood out in the balmy evening air for a while, looking for cabs. “Buttresses! Get Liz!” someone called; I’d disclosed my flying buttress fetish while trying to get the perfect Notre Dame buttress shot earlier. Sadly, it was too dark to get the right shot. I don’t think I will photograph every French flying buttress in France, somehow.
Some of us got cabs, but a big bunch of us decided on the Metro. There was a metro station close, and we had Zoe with us, who travels to Paris for business, so, what could go wrong?
First: Paris doesn’t have so many sidewalk panhandlers as it has people who accost you on the Metro. Guy walks into the car with a battered guitar and portable tape player and amp. He turns it on. Hell ensues. I think the deal might be that we’re supposed to pay him to go somewhere else.
I am not aurally sensitive, but when confronted by loud-enough-for-distortion, recorded, tinny flamenco and out-of-tune guitar playing, a part of my soul dies. We endure it for two stops. On the third, the doors have already been open for a while when suddenly Zoe yells, “OFF! OFF! OFF!” and we all start pushing each other out of the door. Her voice has the timbre of drill sergeants. Our NCO legs obey before our minds can process. Part of me, fleetingly, thinks Zoe will not stand for the Flamenco Assault. I obey because of this as well. Good call, that woman.
In the mad stampede, Steph is stuck between the doors, which are trying to close. I am behind her, pulling the doors apart as hard as I can. Finally, we break free. Steph later has massive upper-arm bruising. I feel terrible, but I was trying to free her!
The platform is mercifully quiet in comparison, until Zoe looks up and starts laughing. “What, what? Was it the music?” we are all laughing.
“No! This isn’t our stop. This was my stop when I lived here,” she admits. “I panicked!”
No biggie, because the next train is six minutes away. That’s the thing about the Metro. It never takes long.
On the next train, we see Jane and her family. We are so raucous we don’t want to say hi in case we embarrass them. Zoe pretends to be a Metro Tour Expert, giving us made-up Metro facts. “The Chateau d’Eau Stop is named after a…house. Near a..some water.” This is possibly the best Public Transit Escapade ever. We giggle and say “OFF OFF OFF” at each other.
At the Gare Du Nord we reconnect with Jane and her family and begin the walk to the hotel. Almost immediately, we’re glad of Jane’s tall men, because a belligerent drunk starts following us. The neighbourhood around the Gare du Nord is not pleasant at night. Garbage builds up in corners and the sheltered spots reek of piss.
The drunk is not scary, just grubby. Any of us could take him out with a well-aimed punch, but he never gets in our faces. Just follows us, muttering. Jane’s towering husband and son walk between us and the drunk, who is muttering and hollering in turns, in French, about garbage and beer.
At one point, we have to stop for a traffic light. The drunk teeters along behind us and I think, Thank God, he’s lost interest. But he staggers up right beside Jane, who is beside me. She steps around me closer to her husband and I step closer to the drunk, to fill the space. I do not know why. To fill the gap? To become the first line against him? Was I spoiling for a drunk bilingual fight?
When we finally get back to the hotel, the drunk hassles the concierge for a while. He rattles the door. Finally he wanders away, without the police coming.
We disperse to our rooms, because Sunday is going to be long, and we’re exhausted.
The entire night was too much, in so many ways. You know when you think you have a handle on a new place, and then everything goes sideways? Sometimes several ways? That was me.
We hung out at the Eiffel Tour for a while (you have to, really, don’t you?) and between the sun, sweat, other tourists, and trying for the best shots, we were exhausted. We made our way back to the hotel and got ourselves cleaned up. In our room, Zoe plugged in her hair straighteners and I put on eyeshadow and changed into my Paris Whore Shoes. “Are we ready?” she asked. “This is as good as it gets,” I replied. She laughed. “Let’s take Paris by storm!”
We found enough taxis to take us to the restaurant. This amused me. We could easily have taken the Metro right there. Maybe this is just me being Public Transit Girl, though, because I was happy to get in a cab with Jane, Andrew and Roy.
I had to close my eyes for parts of the cab ride. I think I know where the edges of vehicles are? Not like the cabbie did! Neither have I ever been aware of the flow of traffic like he was. I guess maybe it’s just driving for a living in another city, but wow. I listened as best I could. The driver came from Cuba when he was eight. Paris was the best thing that could have happened to him,and Cuba was a distant dream. Even with my broken French understanding, I saw how lucky this guy was.
The cabbie dropped us off as close as he could to the restaurant, which was still a little walk away: Paris is wide avenues, but also the smallest side streets. The restaurant was in one of these tiny lanes. Cobblestones? Check. Heavy hardwood door frames? Check. The Parisians of Myth? Check.
The Parisians of Myth lingered about in the hardwood door frames, waiting for tables to restaurants so chic that they didn’t even have names advertised. They had glasses of wine dangling negligently in their hands, these Parisians, and they were tall and dark and lean, male and female. They wore beautifully fitted and draped clothes that were worth more than my…well, anything I own. They reeked of ‘Paris’, the myth. Every confidence I thought I had mastered evaporated. It was like looking at Fae.
Edging our way past the Parisians of Myth, Jane, Roy, Andrew and I got ourselves into the restaurant. There were about 20 of us, all lined up at a table along the wall. I was close to the front window of the restaurant, between Rhian and Louise.
The food was also so over-the-top Paris-the Myth. Louise and I sat side by side with our six-inch dish starters of ravioli. The plates looked tiny. The cheese sauce was some kind of mild blue cheese and some pecorino, I think. Whatever it was, it was too delicious to leave and too rich to eat all of. We ate all of it. We were defeated, and picked at our mains (Moroccan chicken and cous cous for me) and chocolate lava cake for dessert. Louise and I, feeling guilty but full-to-bursting couldn’t finish the later courses.
We left the restaurant way too full and ready for bed. And yet, it’s Paris. There’s more to come.
Derek K Miller died yesterday. His last post is a lesson on how to live life and how to accept that life ends.
I was not a friend of Derek’s; more an admirer. He spearheaded the hilarious 432 newspaper at UBC in the mid-nineties. He played in bands I went to see in tiny venues where the carpets smelled unspeakably awful. He taught me some of the first things I learned solidly about taking good photographs.
Today on Facebook, I have not been astonished by how many people’s lives he touched; rather, I’m humbled to have been a part of such a diverse group. My heart goes out to his friends and his family.
Go and hug the people you love. Make them mac and cheese. Read them a story. Forgive them their annoying habits. Life’s too short, people.
Tomorrow, I will blog A Saturday Night in Real Paris. Tonight, I’ll remember a remarkable man.
Eric and I spent a lot of the day in Emergency today.
When he woke this morning, he commented about a little twinge in his chest that had mostly gone before he went to work.
He was back a little after noon because he was too dizzy to climb ladders. Off to the walk-in clinic, who sent us to Emergency.
Three hours later, a doctor pronounced him ‘fine’ and prescribed a B vitamin for being run down.
In that three hours, I aged about fifty years.
I am best at coping. I am good in a crisis. If an emergency arises, I most often pull some kind of miracle out of my ass and The Show Goes Onnnnn! I Do Something. It’s kind of my trademark move.
I am not good at waiting where they won’t let me come in with him and no one is telling me anything and there is nothing but the smell of antiseptic and under that illness and there is nothing for me to do but sit and worry until I notice I am shaking, which is a pretty good indicator that I’m close to shocky but the best thing is not to bug the staff but go out into the sun. but what if Eric comes back and has vital information and I’m not there? If he has to stay in for observation, how fast can I cook dinner and get back so he doesn’t have to eat hospital food, which is subcontracted out to the lowest bidder and what the fuck is in the chili anyway and can I please stop shaking now because I can’t read the article about Golden Age Dating in Senior Living magazine.
He is on the couch beside me now. I’m almost done crying.
Apparently I forgot I had a blog. Well. I didn’t. I can’t even claim to be busy. I’ve been hitting ‘refresh’ on Craigslist jobs. Now that I’ve had fun in Paris, I’m going to have to pay for it. You know how they say you should take half the stuff and twice the money when you travel? It’s true. It’s just the job that was paying for the second half of the money pooped out.
Incidentally, I saw a posting on one of the job boards for the job Tech Boss created for his very own flunky. So, the guy who took a bunch of my work in Tech Boss’s restructure either got let go or left voluntarily. If the latter, how long can the director ignore that Tech Boss can’t manage people?
But. BUT. It’s 9:45 AM April 9th and I’ve just sat down in the hotel lobby. My face is still puffy. A willowy blonde approaches me. “Liz? I thought it was you. I thought I recognized your hair.” It’s Carey, and she leads me through to a lounge where I chat with her and her adorable parents. Her mother is a retired schoolteacher who takes an immediate shine to me. I feel like a fraud, somehow, and protective. Carey’s parents seem so sheltered and I determine to be as British as possible for their comfort. On the computer by the wall, Nathan, Carey’s sister’s adopted son from (I think) Thailand is making detailed notes on their family tree, on one of those family networking websites. “Y’aright, Gran?” he asks in a broad NotLondon accent (North or West Midlands, I think) and my day gets a little more surreal. It is still before 10AM.
Then the elevator door opens and it’s like being fifteen again and at church camp and all of a sudden my friends are there! My friend Jane and her husband and son are right there in Paris with me! I hug Jane, and shake the hands of her reserved menfolk. Her teenage son, Andrew, is bemused about my complimenting his Yorkshire puddings. Of course, Jane has photographed them, so I know that his Yorkies make mine look like Amateur Hour.
We assemble, those of us that are there, as most are coming in on trains and planes throughout the day. I sling my bag into Rhian and Rebecca’s room, and we all head out. Carey’s mom catches me counting heads and clucks, “I do that, too. Years of teaching, and I can’t stop it now.” I vow to count hers first. She is, in some ways, on an even grander adventure than I am, and I want to keep her safe.
We head to the Batobus in the 25 degree heat. Paris in Springtime? Hell, this feels like July! Normally, the Batobus is the kind of tourist-moving scow that I would eschew with all haste, but it’s a cheap and easy way to get to places we want to go, as it docks near many of the places we want to go. Plus, we get to sit down while we travel, in the sun, randomly taking pictures.
Jane’s family and Carey’s family wander off to do their own things. With everybody else having iPhones (and some worried because I didn’t have anyone’s number), Rebecca and Rhian and I meet up with Natalie, Marie, and Clare at the quay by the Louvre.
At some point, Nicky and Emma meet us. Emma is a photo-a-dayer and her fantastic sister Nicky lives in Paris, and has agreed to be our guide. We wander the Champs-Elysees for a while, and almost die in traffic several times trying to get really good shots of the Arc de Triomphe.
We’re hungry and tired, so find one of those sidewalk cafes for lunch and drink rose wine. It’s food from Alsace, which amuses me. It just seems weird for a sidewalk cafe, that Parisian cliche, to serve provincial food. Then again, the goat’s cheese in phyllo is amazing, and I am restored.
Because Rebecca is the texting queen, she knows that Louise and Claire are eating pizza about five hundred feet down the street, so we go and collect them. Again, technology astonishes me.
We go to a macaron store that is, apparently, famous. The little green bags are iconic, and the lineup is a mile long. It’s hot and too full inside the store, so Clare and I go outside to wait for the rest, who are in a lineup for these little sweets. They look like little jewels, and the teahouse in the same store is beautiful and airy, but I want to be outside.
Zoe and Stephanie catch up with us at the macaron shop and we head out for further adventures.
Three of us had planned to meet for dinner on Friday night. I’d met one of the women before, but it was three years ago. If I recall rightly, we shared a dessert. The other one, I only knew from t’internet. That didn’t stop us from having one of the most memorable dinners I’ve had in a long time.
We were slated to meet at Brasserie Lutetia and I was a little nervous. Not to travel the Metro. That’s easy. But would I know them? Would they know me? I shouldn’t have worried.
We got on perfectly. In between some of the most amazing food (we had the ‘Discovering Spring’ menu) we discovered that we’ve been friends for a long time, we just hadn’t been face-to-face.
Knowing these womens’ lives from their photostreams, it was fascinating to hear more about them. Rhian lives on Guernsey, where it is so small everybody knows her business. Rebecca has very definite ideas about the UK medical system. We ate and drank and I stopped being intimidated by my surroundings. We all had been, but we figured that if we acted as though we knew what we were doing, no one would question us. Voila! No one did.
Some three hours after dinner started, and several glasses of wine, a couple of cocktais, and an after-dinner brandy later, we spilled out onto the sidewalk and looked around for a while. Rebecca posed on a hot-air grate a la Marilyn Monroe, and lucky for her, it was too dark for the photos to identify her. Also, we saw a metal centaur statue with giant testicles, which is funny no matter who you are or where you’re from.
Around midnight, Rhian and Rebecca sent me off on the Metro, as I was still at my old hotel here and if you ever find yourself in Paris, you should stay there, is all I’m saying.
I don’t think I could eat like that every day, but it was a tremendous splurge.
Apparently my body will not process jet lag normally. I woke early on Saturday, despite the alcohol fuelled evening with Rebecca and Rhian the night before. More on that epic meeting of minds later. Also, giant centaur testicles. Because what goes with fine dining like those? Jet lag confused eqrly mornings, that’s what! I started out an hour and a half early, but got to my friends on time.
I can’t remember the last time I was as excited as yesterday morning. So many of my far flung friends all at once! When I went to London in 2008, I was there more to go to London than to meet people. Yesterday, I got on the Metro to meet my friends.
I know that sounds silly, but I’ve now known some of these women and their families for more than three years. It’s one thing to know that you share values and interests with someone. It’s another to meet them face to face.
I was so excited on the Metro, I bounced a couple of tmes. The giant black man across from me laughed. I did my best to explain that I was going to meet my friends. We talked in trunkated French about it and he asked for my mobile number. I had to explain that as a Canadian, my mobile didn’t mesh with European technology, but I gave him my email and he gave me his mobile number anyway. I hope he’s not a stalker.
At the Gare Du Nord, I realized that I had no idea where my friends were. I had the name of the hotel, but not the adress. Fail. Usually,I map this stuff out. Did I think there would be a litte sign saying Go This Way?
I started walking, using the Paris Charm Offensive: smile at everyone, explain your French is bad, and ask. It works, but this time, it took a while to work. I sneezed 114 times in 5 minutes and popped an antihistamine, because somethng was causing me an allergy attack. I had to go back to the Gare Du Nord on a bus and try again, after flirting with a halal butcher and a dozen doormen, however.
At long last, I found a doorman who knew the hotel and he drew me a tiny cartoon direction: go over the bridge, and it is there. ok, greqt. I look for a bridge.
From then on, it was easy to find! Carey recognized my hair, althouigh a look in the miror confirlmed that dude should have sent me to the ER because I was supah puffy face. Luckily I caught up with Rebecca, who is a nurse, and knows what a histamine reaction looks like. By 10AM: With my friends, scored digits, got lost, had a histamine reaction. You know. Welcome to the weekend.