When I got sober, I was living in a room in an unfinished basement — grey concrete block walls and the blackened underside of exposed first floorboards. I cooked on a hotplate in a corner near a tool bench — in one hundred years of wear and dampness. The owners were kind to me. It's the place where I changed.
Six weeks in and I looked in the dingy bathroom mirror one morning and was shaken. Pantone 15 – 559. My eyes were the colour of tropical water. Big clear turquoise pools. Windows into a new soul, maybe. I stood there grappling with how hard I had tried not to see. Dodging reality to keep on lifting the lager glass. It hurt my heart and felt like a miracle.
My eyes were a measure of my denial. I crawled toward change. Below ground…sending out weak new shoots. Waking up to life in a basement is poetry.
For the addict and their posse of co-dependents, late-stage addiction is madness. And the world right now reminds me of it. Why act here and now if some distant hostile country is not doing the same? Why care about losing an island somewhere I'll never go? Almost every day, we cross a new barrier. Rationalize environmental disaster. Consume fossil fuels like it's not a matter of life and death.
It's raining again in Toronto. And it's hot.
Hardly "extreme" conditions. Here, the only sign of fire is smoke. The Humber River is moving fast but we've been spared catastrophic flooding. Farmers in southwestern Ontario are dealing with too much water. In Strathmore, where my mother lives, everything is parched. Ottawa's taking stock of the damage and cleaning up again.
We need to change. In my experience, some of it will hurt.
"Love on top of fucking pain."
We like our male rock stars fierce. Chewing the heads off small birds. Not so much the women. You must read this about Sinead.
I've been recording conversations with my mom for a couple of years. A spot lights up in my heart when we talk, and I know I need to record. I'm creating an audio collage — bits and pieces that express her human beauty. We talk a lot about when she was young — in the time before me.
On Friday afternoon, she remembered a period when she lived in Ireland in County Donegal near Letterkenny. (When I was well and alive in 1985.) She met a man who taught her rebounding has consequences. The lonely person's seduction — someone telling you you're wonderful when you know you're complete shiite. Now we laugh about it. Then it was painful. It took her on an international adventure.
She worked in the hospital in Letterkenny and lived about a 3-mile walk in the country. It rained almost every day of the nine months she was there. She had this to say about the weather on those walks,
"It's a nice soft rain, and it feels so wonderful on your skin. It never felt like a soaking rain. I couldn't get over the different greens in the countryside. And their fields are separated by rock walls."
At 82, my mom channels gratitude. There's so much more. Listening to her talk about drying clothes in front of a peat-burning stove melts my heart. Writing has made me ask better questions.
I can close my eyes and see my mom on the shoulder of a narrow country road. Walking parallel to a mossy rock wall. Green fields dotted with sheep. Under a felt grey sky.
Probably walking in high heels.
I wish I had a recording of Chuck. The two of us laughing so hard we're crying. The Reids can cut it up.
Working in kitchens has been hard on my knees. I did not give it much thought as a young cook. Rushing around all day long in wooden clogs through the 90s. The only sitting I did was on a milk crate in an alley while inhaling a cigarette or a post-service beer.
I'm living with what are likely mechanical issues from an aging knee replacement. And operating in a healthcare system squeezed by rich white men wearing suits bought at Tom's Place. Wonder what deal they get.
Are any of your friends going to private clinics? Some of mine have. I'm jealous.
Wear the best work shoes you can afford. You'll be glad you did at 60. If you're ever thinking of a knee replacement, pick your surgeon and hospital carefully. Don't just ask your GP for a recommendation. I could talk your feckin' ear off.
Just so you know, my mom hit a home run third time around.
A happy coincidence — the song was released the year she was in Ireland. I hope it makes you want to dance with someone you love. Even on hurtin' knees.
Winnipeg on the left. Montreal on the right.
In the same gorgeous season — the gateway to harvest. When a gossamer yellow settles on bright green leaves. The temperature is ideal for wearing your most beloved sweater at night. A good time to be travelling — if you're not working your ass off.
The photos were taken on Canadian FAM trips organized by a local tourism board — I've been on two in this country. That's enough, and it's not. The terms are fraught with obligation, and the schedules are breakneck. From arrival to departure, there's not a minute to collect your thoughts. I always come back having met interesting people, eaten superb food and smelled gorgeous wines. And with stories that don't land with travel editors. There are a few I'd still like to write. I came close to selling one to Canadian Art magazine just before it folded. It's in the untold file, with other gems.
Name a more perfect fruit than raspberries. Okay, I'll give you peaches.
Here's some quirky trivia: Raspberries aren't mentioned once in Elizabeth David's French Country Cooking. I know that because I made an interesting writing exercise with that book. There's nothing like studying the hand of a master for learning.
Raspberries are a gateway to peak season — when fruit and vegetables start rolling in quick. Weathered bushel baskets are ready for filling. You'll swear you'll only plant one zucchini next year. Or at the roadside farmstand, you buy one of everything to bring back to the city.
There is a restaurant kitchen you'll work in that will leave a big imprint. Each place will give you something. But…
I know what place it is for me. Some of you can see it in my cooking.
A canadian chef could not believe I worked there. The surprise registering in the high-pitch in his voice when he said the name of the restaurant. I had credentials. Get the fuck out.
I was playing with three songs. This one felt like it fit the spirit of the week. Michael Kiwanuka is a brilliant singer-songwriter.
"All I know is that I've wasted all these years looking for something, a sort of trophy I'd get only if I really, really did enough to deserve it. But I don't want it anymore, I want something else now, something warm and sheltering, something I can turn to, regardless of what I do, regardless of who I become.
Something that will just be there, always, like tomorrow's sky."
Kazuo Ishiguro, When We Were Orphans
The symmetry and play in this passage are masterful. How "a sort of trophy" relates to "something warm and sheltering" and, "did enough to deserve it" relates to "regardless of who I become." Using "really" twice. I like a rule breaker.
I work full-time. And I write. I'm at a point where I can't not do the latter. I attribute it to ten years of practice. I let go of stuff at home to make it work. My mom and I laugh at the idea that's why some men have wives. To clear the way on the domestic front. To create a grand allée toward his bright future.
I'm under the influence of the poet Maggie Smith's book You Could Make This Place Beautiful. How her ex-husband shows up for her career success is challenging — it's less than half measures. She paints a portrait of male jealousy. And makes a case for creative women to hold out for something better.
This header image on Nick Cave's The Red Hand Files yesterday is *chef's kisses.*
"I am afraid that I don't think I am the right person to help you navigate my music though. My relationship to my songs is too entangled with their personal history, and I have no clear understanding as to which are the good ones and which are not."
As if it's not enough to create music, people need an artist to tell them what's best. Create a list with guarantees — The World's 50 Best Nick Cave Songs.
Remember discovery? Listening to all the tracks. Finding a song you love on the B-side.
The way the girls scream when the curtain drops in the first video. Their young hunger.
A musician I miss. George Michael left us with much. And not enough.
In the end, he was true to himself.
I spent six weeks in Tuscany cooking in a villa near Panzano. A gorgeous country walk to Volpia. A good story with other stories nesting inside, like a matryoshka.
The first item on my daily shopping list toward the end of my stay was husband. It made the company I was with laugh. It was done with a light heart and expressed how hard I’d fallen. Leaving felt impossible.
When that day came, the man I cooked for came to collect me from the clothesline where I’d gone to cry. He said nice things to me on a grassy hill. His words carried on a soft June breeze. On the way to the Florence airport, I could see my reflection in the window, like an underpainting on the receding landscape — Cypress trees passing over the hands in my lap. I longed for the place for weeks after. Felt the heart pangs of a breakup.
I’ve fallen in love with many things. Hard for places, people, stories, books, paintings, and restaurants. I get serious crushes. Some fantastically irrational.
I didn’t need a man to create conditions for staying. There were good people I was sharing the experience with. But there are places where I recognize the absence of that intimacy. When it’s good.
Have you been to Paris in April?
Culturally we equate singleness with a failure to form attachments. Can I introduce you to my friends? Passion is not something I’m short on. Living alone is just another way. And it’s not terrible. I have enough coupled friends to know. And I’ve been there. Alone and together.
One morning this week, I heard on the news that researchers believe the Orcas are playing in the Strait of Gibraltar. Boat rudders look like fun to the giant creatures. It made me smile. Socially, it’s interesting. Unless you’re a boat owner lacking consciousness of living with other beings.
The photos were taken in another special place. A few of you know its beauty.
Sampha’s words. His lyrical voice.
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