Seen On Broadway.

I ride the bus a lot. On an average day, I get on at least five buses: To tutor in the morning and come home. To work in the afternoon. To tutor after work in the evening, and then home. I love the ability the bus gives me to ride freely, and just observe.

Today, I saw:

A Greenpeace canvasser, baseball cap on and green shirt tucked into short shorts. Sunglasses over her eyes. Clipboard at the ready. It’s a common enough sight on Boradway these days. But what’s this? She appears to be being harangued by a seven-foot tall aging hippie, with flowing grey locks past his shoulders, baggy jeans and some kind of freeform-woven vest thing.

His arms are waving, his head is shaking as he makes some imortant point. I imagine him raving about the origins of Greenpeace and how the early glories of Patrick Moore and all the other idealists was lost on the essentially capitalistic approach of subsequent generations.

The woman with the clipboard is even half-smiling. This guy’s no threat. He’s tall, but she’s also tall. Plus, at his age, it looks like arthritis might be beginning to cripple him. I wonder what she’s thinking. Probably still idealistic, standing around on street corners for what amounts to a pittance. Is she looking forward to going home and having a nourishing meal of adzuki beans and homous? I can’t tell.

The bus rolls past.

Taking Tea.

A few weeks ago, one of my students’ fathers asked me if I liked tea. I can honestly say I love it, and told him so. He asked if I would be interested in trying some fermented green teas. Of course, this roundeye had never heard of them. So tonight after D’s lesson, we sat down and I was initiated into the mystery of fermented green tea.

It’s not exactly a ceremony, but the process involves pouring off the first pot and drinking the tea made from the then-wet leaves. There are two teapots involved, one for steeping and one for the tea to be poured into tiny cups.

As he prepared the tea, D’s dad explained to me about the histoy of the tea. Back in Korea, he belongs to a tea appreciation society who meet to drink and discuss various rare teas.

The first tea was dried simply and left, out of sunlight, for thirty or more years. Not sure what to expect, I sipped carefully. It tasted woodsy, but with a kind of freshness I can’t really put into words.

The second tea was the product of history. During the Opium War, tea became contraband of a sort and was burned wherever it was found. So the wise invented a system whereby the tea leaves were lightly steamed and then hidden underground, sometimes with crushing weights on top of them. In this airless environment, the tea, which was treated like a kind of money, achieved potency. It felt like a furnace had been turned on inside me, prompting me to wonder to myself if there was some strange tea drug in it.

D’s dad asked which one I preferred. I said I liked the first better. He said it was what he’d guessed. It ‘matches my energy’. According to traditional Chinese medicines, some teas are better for some types of people. Me, I have too much energy. The second tea held it in. The first helped me release it.



The new Jilly Cooper book is out. I got it yesterday at 3:08pm (I checked the receipt.) Just now, I looked. I am on page 326.

What I have found most amusing is other peoples’ reactions to this 838 page saga.

Student J, checking the weight: “You’re insane!”

Student S, poking through, scanning here and there, finally checking the total page count:  “I bet you can’t finish it in a week!”

Me: “I bet I can!”

Student S: “Okay, you can pay me a thousand dollars if you are finished in a week.”

Me: “Deal. Come and shake on it.”

Student S’s dad: “Hunh. That’s why you’re a reading teacher.”

Student A: “Does it have kissing? I hate kissing in books.”

Yes, I guess this is why I’m a reading teacher. Eight hundred pages doesn’t faze me. As long as it’s something I’m enjoying.


I am too hot. I’m all pink and sweaty and that makes me irritable.

I went to London Drugs to get some Rubbermaid containers for our storage room (AKA under the bed) and was hot and cranky on the way home. Waiting for the 22, I sat down on them. Nice comfy sturdy boxes, right?

Right. And now my butt has vaccuum sealed them to one another. I can’t get them apart. Grrr.

Update on the Interesting Request.

I found a kid to be friends with Allie!

She’s fabulous. She’s going into grade eight, her stepfather’s a published poet and prof, and she lives right around the corner from Allie’s family.

At first I was dismayed. She has a lip ring. But she’s going to take it out when she plays with Allie.

She was mature, composed and astute when I met her today. I am very pleased.

My Subconscious Sent Me A Message.

On one of the few nights this week I have had enough sleep, I dreamed, quite clearly, of opeing  Email from Liv Tyler.

Liv wrote:


Come on a book tour with me. Come on, what do we have to lose?

And then there was a  link to her huge house in L.A., where she invited me to stay before we kicked off the book tour.

My first dream-thought was, “She’s right. But I can’t get to L.A.  I’d better ask her to come here. ” Then I thought, “Why does Liv Tyler know a) my email address and b) that I write stuff?”

So if I analyze this the way Arwen does, my successful, glamorous, Daughter-of-a-Rockstar self wants my dowdy, Kitsilano Basement Suite self to get a move on and…promote myself.


Making Up.

The summer I was twelve, my mother bought me my first makeup. A four-pannier of eyeshadow from Maybelline, there were two pinks and two blues. (It was 1986.) There was also a tube of lip gloss that looked just like pink lipstick, only there was no colour, it just added a bit of shine. I can still remember how it tasted and smelled, the plasticky texture gliding over my lips. To this day I am not very good about lip products. Most of them just feel strange.

I will never really know what prompted my mother to give me these things. Was it kindness, seeing her geeky daughter and knowing she’d be slaughtered in high school, seeking to give her some protective camoflage? Was she genuinely excited about my emerging adolescence? I don’t know. And why did she buy me makeup without my knowledge or being there? It seems kind of clandestine, to simply bring home some war paint and give it to me.

For the record, I was delighted. I never did much with the blue eyeshadow, but experimented much with the pink. At first, I was hesitant, and would glide a mere whisper over my eyelids. In time, studying beauty magazines, I figured out where to place the stuff for maximum effectiveness. Of course, putting pink above one’s eyes makes one look like there’s been a long-term crying jag in the works. But, still. I played.

It was one of the last kind things my mother did for me before she woke up that day and couldn’t move her arm. A slipped disk. Which turned into degenerative spine disease and arthritis and all kinds of other things. Which shaped my adolescence and twenties.

But I think of that makeup sometimes. I like to think that she was excited for her daughter, on the brink of adolescence, and wanted to give me a taste of being grown up.Wanted to share something of what it meant to her to be a woman.

Interesting Request

Sometimes I’m fortunate enough to tutor parents as well as their children. In this case, I get to see the inside of the family dynamic. This allows me to teach all the members of the family better; I know who they are, just a little more.

As one of the only, sometime THE only English-fluent people that comes into their homes, I sometimes am asked strange questions about Canadian culture and customs. Occasionally I am asked to decipher notes from teachers. But today I was asked the strangest thing yet.

Allie is a bright, active 11-year old with a sly sense of humour and a very strong work ethic. Her trouble is that she’s shy. As a shy girl struggling in a new language, she has a tough time making friends. So her mother has asked me to compose an ad to put up at community centers. She wants a grade 7-9 Canadian girl to come to the house and play with Allie, in English, a few times a week. They can go ride bikes, go to movies, play on the Internet, anything. For ten bucks an hour to the lucky girl.

I must give my phone number on the ad, because Allie’s mom’s English is getting better, but is not fantastic. As with most people learning English, telephones are anathema to her: She can’t read body language or watch facial cues.  I have to interview this person who, Allie’s mom is hoping, will become a mentor to Allie, and bring her out of herself a bit.

I have issues here. I have issues that Allie’s mom is willing to pay some girl ten bucks an hour to be Allie’s friend. I, in my crazy roundeye way, see this as a bit embarassing for Allie. But Allie’s looking forward to it. Which makes me want to give her a big old hug.

Review: The Tempest

It is seldom in one’s life when one sees a production so improved from the original as to be a masterpiece in and of itself. The production of “The Tempest”, as acted by Divisions One and Four of Queen Elizabeth Elementary, achieves this heady feat.

The sumptuous venue for the occasion was the ever-odourous gym. The venerable velvet curtains were spotted with age, and the audience sat on the floor. Wild excitement gripped the crowd of avid theatregoers as Mrs. Watts, the principal, turned off the overhead lights.

Under the dual direction of veterans Mrs. Thurber and Mr. Watts, the cast brings the play to life with fresh, revisionist feeling.  Caliban, no longer fettered as half-man-half-fish, breathes again as  four-foot tall Joseph Hong, lately of Taiwan. Prospero, often played as cruel and calculating, shows a new, kinder side, played by Ashley McManus, whose breaking voice added to the protagonist’s pathos. Ariel, so often seen as an airy thing, full of light and shadow, was cunningly reworked by the assiduous acting of Mike Obermeyer, whose enthusiastic swooping of his gauzy wings almost took out Stephano’s eye at one point. The sailors, sometimes eclipsed by the other members of the cast, were easily the best part. Twelve-year-old Moonsung Han remembered all her lines and
didn’t drop her sword.

This critic was prompted to stand up and shout with pride.

“How Often Do You Wash Your Cat?”

Young is not a cat lover. She is allergic to the beasts, and has therefore decided they are unclean.

The fact that I have a cat may make me dirty, somehow, in her eyes. But I guess now I am beyond the pale.

I admitted that I didn’t wash my cat, ever. He is an indoor cat right now, and he washes himself. I demonstrated, miming licking paws and cleaning ears.

She was not convinced.

But now, neither am I. Baxter’s clean. For a cat, anyhow. He washes pretty much all the time.

But he does lick his own butt. That’s pretty gross.

On the other hand, I’m not going to wash it for him.

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