silly stories

My delicates are drying on the dash board heat vent of my car. They flutter at the lacy seams when I pull into the left lane at Nanaimo. There’s been no time for laundry. I am praying, “Please God, give my dog a heart attack.” I slow to 20km for the sharp turn at McGill and my fatigue allows for a couple of tears. The poor old boy has taken a turn for the worse. I bought the small bag of dog food at the grocery store. When can I even fit in the vet? “Oh, God, don’t make me put down my dog during tech week.” I sigh. God, as I understand God, is not some invisible administrator of canine euthanasia…I know…but who am I going to ask to do the job if not me?

Last night I warned my daughter, “You may want to spend some quality time with Tartuffe because I don’t know how long he can last, honey. He can’t go down the stairs, he’s waking me up several times a night to go pee, he has a hard time eating, he’s messing in the house and vomiting.” She gazed out the window, casually, “Well, I don’t love him like you do, Mom. You’ve known him for eighteen years. I don’t even remember his frisky days. He mostly just sleeps.”

Later that evening she was lying on the floor beside the pup, big round splashy tears streaming down her cheeks. He rolled sideways with a groan and thud, hoping for a belly rub, his milky eyes fluttered open towards the ceiling. His fur – still as soft as an angora bunny. “You can’t kill him, Mom, you can’t. He’s so sweet.”

I nodded, bleary.

“want some tea?”

We watched the Crown and sipped from the china cups I inherited from my Gramma. My daughter headed to bed all royalled up and dreamy. I tried, but Tartuffe woke me at one thirty, three and five. I stumbled around our rainy block with him each time, sputtering aloud like a mad woman, “I can’t, I just – can’t – keep – doing this…”

We open tonight after four intense rehearsal weeks. I am in Misery, playing Annie Wilkes, a huge demanding role, I drive every scene. Though this is one of the most significant roles of my career and the only time I’ve played someone “scary” in thirty years of being in the business, I don’t know anyone in the audience and there is no fan fare. The poster for the show tonight cropped a promo shot in a way that featured the male actor and decapitated me. We’re on tour first before hitting the main run in the city.

I am grateful for this quiet birth. It gives me time to grow the role. Right now we’re in survival mode still and rehearsing during the days, The set is like a big fun house with pop out doors and moving furniture. The play is largely underscored with music and sound and so the cues, the timing, the demands of the scenes, the fight choreography…it’s been a brainful for sure. I’ve loved the challenge but I certainly have needed my sleep.

We rehearse for five hours then break for dinner before our first audience. I decide to go for comfort food. I’m in West Van at the Kay Meek and stumble upon an Italian joint on Marine called Carmellos. I order the special without checking the menu. I have no room left in my brain for decisions. I just need a quiet hour to eat and rest my voice and not think.

A monied handsome foursome sit down in front of me. They chat about their travels in Spain, the painting they just commissioned and then – “Do you know anything about Misery? It’s Stephen King. Kathy Bates won the Oscar for it you know. Very intense story. Very suspenseful. She was AMAZING.”

No pressure, Frangione. No pressure. I munch my very nice lobster stuffed ravioli and sip my lemon and honey.

“I hope the play is as good as the movie.”

Shake it off, Frangione. Shake it off. I order a double espresso. Oh you foursome, hold onto your custom designed hats. You’re gonna get Annie live and jacked up on caffeine.

I get the bill. The cockadoodie ravioli is thirty bucks. You’ve got to be kidding me.

I get a text message from my husband. He’s unable to stop in to feed and walk the dog on his way to work the night shift. He didn’t realize I was rehearsing all day. I text my ex, the only other person with a house key. “Can you by chance walk and feed Tartuffe for me?” He texts back kindly and immediately, “I can do that. Happy opening!” I sigh with relief. “Oh that’s so great, thank you. And this might be your last time seeing the old guy so I’m glad you’ll get a chance to say good-bye.”

I head back to the theatre and start my warm up. Two hundred and fifty tickets sold tonight. Not bad. I think through the story. Will they find it suspenseful without the aid of camera close ups? Will they find me scary? Will anyone laugh? What parts of this are funny? I guess we’ll find out. The three technicians backstage are running around doing last minute checks on moveable parts and props. The two male actors are chatting away in their dressing room. They’re wonderful men, my first time working with either of them. One is a real jokester always making me laugh and the other is thoughtful and on these rainy days he’s a spot of warm sun.

My director is giving last minute reminder notes. She’s a tiny woman with a huge intellect and she’s also a dear friend of mine. This is the first time we’ve worked together in this capacity and she’s really challenged me to be something other and it’s been uncomfortable living without all my defaults of motherly soft sensual gliding energy. She described Annie as a Mac truck and I have aspired to be this. I live mostly in the bottom register of my voice and I lead from the pelvis. My costumes are magnificent. I convincingly look over two hundred pounds. I’ve been given these wonderful tortoiseshell 80s glasses. They are my favourite. I get another text from my husband.

How are you doing, honey?

I open tonight.

Right. Feels weird not to be there.

No. Come to the Granville island run.

How are you feeling?

Tired. Tartuffe woke me up three times.

Oh honey – sleep deprivation is a kind of torture.

I know.

It’s been two and a half years – 

But he’s still wagging his tail and sneaking down the lane to steal cat food from Alice’s porch and licking puddles. I can’t kill him.

I wasn’t telling you to kill your dog. When will you be home tonight?

Eleven. 

Well, good luck honey! You’ll be great. I love you. 

We get through the show without too much of a hitch. There are a few dropped cues and some late entrances and a missing prop but nothing the audience notices. They laugh and they gasp and to my great surprise they give us a standing ovation and hoots! I head backstage to shower off the blood. When I’m presentable, I meet up with the artistic director near the green room. He gives me a big smile and a full hug. He hugs according to how much he likes what you do. I am used to the half hearted side hug. I think this was my first full. This is my favourite moment of the evening. He’s retiring this year. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him and I’m glad to have made him happy.

I head home in the rain. Nobody wanted to go out for a drink to celebrate so I treat myself to a quick glass of wine and a plate of asparagus on the Drive. When I get to the condo, nobody is home. The kids are at the others and Scott is doing a night shift. I turn on the light and Tartuffe is lying on his side on the carpet, too deaf to hear me come in…or…? Or?!

I take off my boots and walk gently towards him and bend down for a pat. I startle him awake. I check around the house. He’s been golden. I walk him around the block. He finds something interesting in the bushes by the blue house that always has some kid smoking dope off the porch. Tartuffe decides, at his age, with his sore back hips to roll. Oh yes, he rolls in the bushes with glee. I didn’t know he could still do that. A little moment of puppy. I chuckle and say to him, “is that for my benefit? Can you tell what I’ve been thinking lately?”

He rights himself and wags his tail. Well, I’ll be damned. He’s made a comeback. We continue down the dark rainy road. I think that’s my favourite part of having a dog, walking in inclement weather. He forces me to get out and experience damp dark starlit and solitary beauty. I’ve never been much of a dog person. Certainly I’ve never called Tartuffe my fur baby. He does not get up on the furniture, he does not lick my face, I don’t give him a stocking at Christmas. That’s just not my thing. I have a bit of dog guilt for sure. Could I have made his life more fun? More interesting? Could I have pet him more often? Yes. But we must have done something right. He’s a happy little dude who has lived to eighteen. I respect him enough to have him live out his days as long as he seems to want to.

“Hey. Buddy. I opened a big show tonight, Tartuffe.” He looks at me sideways and pees. Whatever. You silly humans and your silly stories.

We sniff and snort our way down the dark empty puddled street.

 

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1306 at Paul’s

It’s a rare comfort to be able to order the same omelette from the same waiter and sit in the same booth for twenty three years. Paul’s is humming with old timers at 8am and I greet my 1306 with eager glee. I eat the twist of orange first and warm my hands around the cup of coffee. I chuckle over my rye swirl.

I think I first came here with Michelle and Don and Rod – maybe even Cheryl. We would have been a good looking bunch of youngsters back in the 90s: Michelle with her wild blonde tangle of ringlets and Rod with his broody dark Heathcliffian looks. Cheryl would have just become a doctor in her sassy black boots. And Don was mostly a carpenter who wouldn’t likely believe you if you told him he’d end up on Broadway.

I sigh when I think of myself sitting among them. I would have been…26. Long west coast frizzy ringlets. Trying to dress all MEC, pretending I liked camping. I had just been denied a student loan to finish theatre school and I was wondering how on earth I was going to carve out a career in this city. I was about five years younger than the rest of these cats and I was always racing to catch up to their worldliness and cool.

I remember being proud that I managed to order the best thing on the menu at least.

i smile now, spreading jam on my toast. “Well nerd girl, you’re still ordering the same thing and today you’re rehearsing Misery at the Arts Club without finishing theatre school and without MEC”.

I finish off my second piece of toast though…and contemplate New Years resolutions. I used to resolve to eat better and exercise so I could look good. Now I resolve to eat better and exercise so I don’t die. I decide to make a modest but achievable goal for 2018.

I will strengthen…my right leg.

Good.

Done.

I look at my bound play script all dog eared and high “lit” in pink. Don was the first person I knew who bound his play scripts, all proud and neat, spending the little extra bit of money at Kinkos up the street. I’ve done it ever since. That little nod to taking myself seriously. It’s his birthday this week. Right. Interesting what bits of life people leave with you. Michelle introduced me to Miso. That sort of thing. I just got a letter from Rod a few days ago and talked to Cheryl this morning about this play I’m doing and my character’s psychology.

Good company I keep.

I wonder what all our new years resolutions were over the years, us five. What dreams were beating then in those young hearts? What was being tossed around over excellent eggs and coffee? Are we pleased with where we ended up? Two working actors, a doctor, a lawyer, a nurse. Pretty good. Pretty good indeed for a bunch of bed headed punks out for something to eat. 

 

 

 

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the pragmatic and the poetic living together

Like many of you on the Westcoast, the rainy season gets to me. Knowing it’s coming, I have learned to do kind things for myself ahead of time to make it through. I try to make sure my house has decent lighting, I get out and walk in the rain with my dog regardless, I wear bright colours and bright shoes, I drive a bright coloured car, I buy kale, I live in a brightly coloured home.IMG_5236 I avoid any film or TV show that is Swedish…I have people over who make me laugh.IMG_5237

My favourite combative move against SAD is to plant “early blooming” tulips, paper whites and daffodils. Today I finished off the last few beds down the side of the house. That makes about 325 bulbs. It feels so good to know I have this beauty cushion. My husband feels good when he knows he has a money cushion. For me, it’s all about the flowers. Not to say he doesn’t like flowers and not to say I don’t value a little extra money, but it does sort of sum up a major difference in our approach to life: the poetic and the pragmatic.images

I’ve had quite enough of my Mini Countryman 2011 – a year I will never ever recommend anyone buy.  Despite its lovely daffodil colour, it’s been nothing but repair after repair, bug after bug. The woman who owned it before me rode the clutch so bad she also wrecked the fly wheel and two tires and a rim. There’s now a rattle in the dash. Could be nothing could be everything. The automatic brake works now and then…nobody knows why…the car is nearly impossible not to stall when in reverse…soon after I replaced the computer board my alternator belt called it quits. The list goes on and on. I’ve put $20,000.00 in and I’ll be lucky if I get $15,000 out. Ive only had the car for about six months. This has been a colossal blow to the poetic argument.

I warned my fellow when I married him that I was a Mini owner for life. He drives an ancient grey Matrix with tools and boots rattling around in the hatch and  no hubcaps and he couldn’t give a flying duck. He sometimes yearns for a truck. Why? So he can haul dirt. images-1

When he met me, I had my first Mini: an electric blue 2004 cooper S (fantastic car, just got old). Most guys I knew loved the car and couldn’t wait for me to hand over the keys. Not my Fellow. I was a little put off that he didn’t seem excited to drive it at all. He never once asked. In fact, he preferred to escort me in his ancient dirty Matrix filled with clangy water bottles…even on a hot date! As I eventually discovered, he didn’t understand my choice at all. On a bad day, a tired day, he may even resent me for owning a car that uses the most expensive gas, is above my pay grade, costs a mint to fix and doesn’t easily fit a family of four. “The only one who enjoys a ride in the Mini is the driver” he said to me today…in other words, I’m a selfish cow.

“so, what, what, what do you want me to get? Just tell me because I don’t want to argue about it anymore. What? A grey…2011…Jetta?!”

“Yes. That would be GREAT!”

He headed out the door to work on the chicken coop and I went back to the car trade drawing board. I looked at Volkswagen…I looked at all things Autotrade four door under $15,000…and it made me feel…

sad.

I kept navigating back to the 2014 volcano orange Mini cooper S. Guilty. Now car porn.

When my fellow returned I tried to explain. It isn’t about status “yes it is” no it isn’t. “You told me you want to drive something cool”. Yeah, but not to try and prove anything to anyone. It’s because the Jetta, for instance, is built entirely for pragmatism. There is no visible attempt at making this car aesthetically pleasing. It doesn’t even seem like a consideration. I am not a designer but I am an artist. This car is basically saying, “we don’t need you, you have no worth, artist! All we need in life is to get from A to B safely.” The Mini…values the artist, as a company. That’s how I feel. I don’t want to drive around in something purely functional. It depresses the hell out of me. Does that make sense?

He sighs. I suspect – not really.images-2

I spend a few more hours looking at something new: electric vehicles…all ugly except the Tesla…but the Kia Soul EV at least is almost…peppy. I could live with peppy. And we’d save so much on gas…perhaps there is a compromise to be had…

I then head out to plant my daffodils. I notice my Fellow has carried my heavy bags of earth down the stairs, dropping them off here and there where he figured I might want them. I get the gardening tools out of his garage that he has made all clean and orderly and easy to find things. I walk down the garden steps that he recently repaired. I dig into the bed that he built. I fill it with flowers.images-3

 

 

 

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the value of knowing your neighbour’s level of crazy

Four o’clock in the morning and my old dog has to pee. This has been the situation for the past year and a half. I can’t remember the last time I had a good sleep. Having just thrown a big Thanksgiving dinner party I am particularly sluggish at this hour. I roll out of bed with Headpins hair that takes me right back to Darby Mills  in the 1980s. I am wearing my husband’s t-shirt and some frilly panties (this detail is important for later). I catch myself in the mirror, bad posture. Not sexy! Not even if I squint. I can’t leave myself to ponder that disturbing image during this middle of the night walk, so, I do a sexy pose at a better angle. Oh yeah. That’s an improvement. I’d still have married sex with that. The dog looks at me with disdain, “All is vanity! It’s four o’clock in the morning, woman, just let me pee so I can continue to snore on the carpet for the love of God in heaven.”IMG_5232

I’m the only one in our Vancouver condo besides my daughter who is fast asleep. She always has her head flung back over one arm as if doing the art of dramatic gesture for the emotion of “dismay”. The boy is off to his Mom’s and my Fellow has gone to Bowen to tuck in the ladies, his chickens…otherwise he usually does the four o’clock in the morning condo dog walk because he’s seen kids doing crack near Britannia secondary school yard and doesn’t want me out here. Bless him. I’m sure I’m fine. I’ve walked the dog for years before I ever met him.

I pull on my fancy high heeled boots and my dress coat over my t-shirt and panties, nobody’s going to see me. I leash the dog and out we go. The night is beautiful. The moon is full. The rain has stopped and everything is shiny dark and fragrant. I pull Tartuffe past Tony and Lucia’s yard (my lovely Italian neighbours) and make my dog wait until we reach the tree on the corner to relieve himself. Tony has put up two new “please clean up after your dog” signs. Poor Tony. His yard is always full of shit no matter how much he protests. We walk further down McLean and round the bend. Tartuffe does his business. His back legs are getting quite weak so now it’s a walking squat defecation, rather humorous, but rather hard to follow the trail at night. I throw the bag of goods into the usual dumpster. A few houses down the block I put my hands in my pockets and I notice…IMG_5234

“Where are my keys?”

No.

No no no no no.

My first thought is, “You threw them into the dumpster with the dog shit you dork.”

But I can’t –  I can’t even go there mentally without my brain fuzzing out. I decide I must have just dropped them along the way. Probably they slipped out of my pocket when I was picking up the poo trail. Yes, that’s it.

No, that’s not it. I squint in the dark and walk the path I just took twice. No dice. I head back to the dumpster and peer in. It’s so dark, I see nothing. It’s mostly empty but there are probably about twenty smallish bags of garbage in there, most likely dog shit bags like mine. It’s a big dumpster, there’s no way I can reach. I’m not about to climb in there either with my high heels and bare legs and frilly panties. Good Lord. I can’t believe this is happening to me. I lean against a tree to think things through. I have no phone. I can’t reach Nora because her bedroom window is out of reach and the apartment buzzer is attached to my cell and my cell is on silent. My husband is on the island. Maybe a police officer will drive by? Then what? I have to try to solve this.

So, I find an old chair in the alley and grab a recycling box and haul them back to the dumpster with my confused dog. I stand up on the chair and scoop the garbage in the dumpster up with the recycling box. I do this as quietly as possible. I pull up about seven different bags, one of which I’m sure is mine, no keys. I haven’t heard anything like a key down there as a I scoop bags up. The smell and the stick on my hands – I can’t do it anymore. No. I’ll just have to wait by the door and hope that someone in the condo complex leaves the house early.images-1

I walk back home, scouring the sidewalks and grassy shoulders again for anything that gleams. I wait outside the condo for the next hour and a half. The moon has moved across the sky. It’s the Thanksgiving weekend and nobody is stirring, no lights are on in any of the sixteen apartments. My patio fence is too high for me to climb over and it’s locked from the inside. I try buzzing my apartment eight times, just in case Nora is up and concerned about my whereabouts and might notice the phone lighting up. I shiver, I pace. I can see my breath. It’s cold. I’m cold. My teeth start chattering. Imagine getting hypothermia right outside my door. Yet, I cannot bring myself to buzz any of my sleeping neighbours. There’s only one neighbour who strikes me as kind. But she has two dogs who will bark their heads off and wake up the whole floor if I buzz her. The strata council already hates me for all my “room mates” over the years.

But if this was any one of my neighbours locked out, I would want them to know they could buzz me and I’d let them in. No problem!  No. I shake my head. That’s small town thinking. This is the city. These people…I don’t know if there’s any charity.

My family is all sleeping soundly. I can picture the bunnies huddled together in their hutch. I can see the ladies all snuggled up on their perch in the coup. The gecko is under his rock. My boy is tucked under some stylish bedding at his Mom’s, my daughter is rolling around in deep sleep striking a new pose, my husband is splayed slightly sideways, his long feet poking out from under the duvet…I look down at the dog. He is looking almost…frisky! I let go of the leash.”sniff at your leisure, buddy, we have another two hours to wait at least.”images

Yesterday I dropped my cell phone in the centre of my pumpkin pie. My husband, while cleaning out the filling from my adapter connection with a toothpick chuckled tenderly, “Ah, you pulled a Lucia.” I thought to myself then, “Oh, you think THIS is pulling a Lucia? You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

I think tonight is a full pull.

Should I go back to the dumpster? Should I jump in? Should I try to flag a car on Clark and ask to use the phone and call my daughter awake? Not the safest option in this outfit…As I ponder this I hear the familiar rattle of a grocery cart pushed slowly up the street. What are the social politics around asking this urban outdoorsman if they would consider dumpster diving for me if I pay them twenty bucks? I shouldn’t assume this person dives dumpsters. But what if this person does and finds my keys? I chuckle imagining him driving off in my mellow yellow Mini. I decide to leave him in peace.

Just before six in the morning the sky is starting to enter the blue hour and so are my bits. I am so very cold I hurt. The dog is done exploring and sits his old butt down on the cement, looking at me worriedly. The first pedestrian I’ve seen all night walks by, a young man in a dark hoodie. He’s either coming back late from a party or heading out early to work. Or both. I take my chances and I chase after him with my bare legs and Headpin hair.

“Excuse me, excuse me, so sorry, I locked myself out, I’m freezing, I’ve been out here since four in the morning, could I borrow your phone?” He pulls back his hoodie, revealing a kind and surprised face.

“Oh my goodness, how horrible, of course you can!”

He hands me his phone and I dial my husband and hate to wake him.

“Bella? What’s wrong honey?”

His voice is low and groggy.

“Dear, I’m so sorry, I was walking the dog and dropped my keys…”

The young man looks down at his feet.

“You mean these ones?”

Just left of his feet in the grass are my keys. Unbelievable. Why did they fall out here? Why didn’t I see them? I walked up and down this street a number of times.

“Honey, I found them! Sorry, goodnight.”

I hang up and thank the young man profusely.

“Amazing, amazing, thank you! You have saved me!”

He smiles. He’s got the beautiful high cheekbones of the Japanese. An angel to me.

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I quietly enter my apartment, my daughter is blissfully sleeping. Her arm is flung out to the left in a delicate curve. The dramatic gesture might be “supplication”. I decide to curl in beside her to warm myself up.

I think about the kindness of that young man. A lot of people would not stop and listen to me. A lot of people would be too afraid of the possible depth of crazy. Reminds me of when my car got hit on Franklin street. I was six months pregnant. Three people saw the accident and they all hurried inside their homes. One stayed out on her lawn. Shaken, I assumed with gratefulness, “Thank you for staying, would you mind being a witness?” She smiled at me unkindly. “White people have never done anything good for me.” “But…I’m pregnant…he was clearly in the wrong….” She smiled even wider, “I didn’t see a damn thing.” This is the downside to living in the city. We don’t know each other and yet we live together. That’s what I love about living in the country. At least I know who I’m dealing with and they know who they’re dealing with.

As my eyes flutter closed I think…I really…should…try…to get to know…my neighbours…get to know their kind of crazy.

 

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Thanksgiving vs vegan

My children have been pescetarian for a year and now they have both told me they are interested in going vegan. This has become very popular here on the Westcoast, particularly with teens who have watched  What the Health on Netflix. The more I try to encourage moderation and gently discuss how manipulative and incorrect the doc/propaganda flick is – the more passionate they become. They don’t want to create more work for me, but they’d love to explore this. I gently invite them to join us for turkey dinner this Thanksgiving for the cultural experience and tradition but I leave it up to them to decide. They say “thank you.” I am left to wonder.MV5BYWU3ZTk1ZDgtNTFlOC00MGRjLWFiZmQtYmI0Y2JjMmI5YTBkXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzI5MjI4MTc@._V1_UY268_CR12,0,182,268_AL_

I believe both of their other parents are on board with a vegan diet, my husband is not, and of course my family doctor is adamantly against teens risking their health by avoiding all meat products. What the Health doesn’t tell their audience that B12 is only found naturally in meat products. It doesn’t tell us that iron and protein and calcium are easiest to digest through meat. It doesn’t warn that each body will absorb nutrients from plants, legumes and supplements differently. It also says nothing about the risk of pregnant women, pubescents and menopausal women making a drastic elimination of a major food source.

What the Health errors

an article about the virtues of eating meat

In the end, only blood will tell. So, I order blood tests. Until we have some medical proof of what is happening, I will endeavour to out vegan the heartiest vegans for the next six months, then take a blood test again and see if there is a negative result. Despite the fact I don’t agree with veganism and despite the fact this imposes greatly on my own diet, time, and lifestyle, I want to support my children’s quest for health and I respect their compassion for animals and their love for the environment. I won’t assume that I am right. I will let the blood tests tell us all what they will. Easy to write. Hard to do.

“How is that going?” You may ask. Vegan food takes three times as long to prepare. “But you’re such a good cook, Lucia”. Well yes, I pride myself on my skills and now I cannot use 90% of my knowledge. “Food is your love language”. Yes, yes it is. It’s what I thought I did best as a Mom. Now my love is expressed through the blandness of quinoa. Also don’t ask me about how I feel regarding children taking supplements instead of fresh food. Vegan is not as hard if you decide to eat out of cans and bags and buy bizarre soy products formed to look like meat. I know that soy does disastrous things to hormone levels, not to mention what the soy crops are doing to the environment and that it’s almost entirely GMO. I know that nutrients disappear the very moment a vegetable is chopped, let alone stored for days in a plastic bin at Whole Foods – Oooooh so good for the environment.. No. If I am going vegan, I’m going to do it right. I have a huge garden, I make my own bread, I do my own preserves, I sprout my own beans, I press my own almond milk and I soak my own legumes.IMG_5212

For weekday meal planning I decide to do the Thrive Diet, devised by the guy who started Vega. It promises to balance all the necessary nutrients and uses fresh or whole dried ingredients only. Okay. I head to Famous Foods and purchase witchy brew things like nutritional yeast, hemp protein and purple sea weed called dulse. It only costs me $10,000.00

Tonight I am going to prepare lunches, snacks and breakfast for tomorrow so I can focus on Thanksgiving dinner later. I’ve given myself two hours to do so, that should be just fine. I am going to ace this!

Lunch first: greens with tahini dressing over popped amaranth. Sounds…edible. Amaranth is a very small grain, I discover. This is not like popping corn. I’m supposed to melt coconut oil in a pan on medium heat and put a thin layer of amaranth on top and shake the pan covered until it’s all popped, scrape off that layer with a spatula and then do another round. I feel dismay. The recipe calls for a cup of this stuff and I’m telling you, it’s going to take me five hours just to spatula scrape that much. But I try anyway. The amaranth starts to pop. It’s about the size of a fly turd. Before a third of it is done, despite my best efforts, the rest of it burns. I try again. Another spectacular fail. I ask my Fellow to try because he is the popcorn king. Another disaster. F this. So, I try the alternate suggestion of cooking it “like rice”. This results in a grainy glue. Great. I slop it into the salad containers and cover it with greens.

The tahini dressing is so bitter I continue to add agave nectar until it might as well be a peanut butter cookie. I drizzle this scrumptious baby poo over the kale bits and shove it in the fridge. Okay, lunch is done.IMG_5213

Next is prepping the blueberry chocolate granola bars. I opt for strawberries instead, catching the tail end of their second crop. I believe in eating things in season. As I read the ingredients list on the recipe I notice there is no call for chocolate despite the title. Well, that’s false advertising! I guess it’s this spoof stuff called carob powder instead. I feel sorry for tricking the kids. I reach for my carob powder and realize that when I asked Nora to fetch it, she grabbed carrot powder. By this time it is 10pm so I say to myself, “what the health.” The blueberry chocolate bars are now strawberry carrot date and seed paste clumps (which remind me of bear offal). I roll them into balls and shove them in the fridge to harden.  To be honest, they don’t taste that bad.

That night I have a vegan nightmare. I dream that as I am carving the perfect Turkey at Thanksgiving, my son brings a plate of soy bologna to the table. True.

The next morning I get up before everyone else to prep the wild rice yam pancakes for breakfast. There are a million ingredients including sprouted barley flakes and hemp hearts. Lord save me. Try as I might, these are also a culinary disappointment. Grilling these flapjacks is like grilling a pool of vomit. There is no pleasing coagulation, they stick to the pan and don’t firm up. It’s an aesthetic assault. I try baking them on parchment. No good. By this time my boy has to leave for school so he grabs his salad and a bagel and cream cheese and heads out the door. I do not remind him that the cream cheese is not vegan. Instead, I call after him, “Did you grab your balls?” At least this results in a chuckle. I add, “you can have two balls if that’s your preference.”IMG_5210

For the poor suckers left behind, I scrape the pancake goop into bowls and call it vegan porridge. My husband offers grace, “Thank you, Lord, for my wife who is doing her best to cook vegan as a sign of love for her children, despite the fact it takes a very long time and is causing her much frustration and causing me a bit of gastrointestinal discomfort.” My daughter (who hates porridge) swallows it solemnly and then offers some kind encouragement, “I really appreciate you trying Mom. It has a nice flavour and it only made me gag at the end.”

As everyone leaves the house I am stuck with a kitchen full of peelings and appliances covered in mysterious beige slop. My husband peeks his head through before he closes the front door, “I’d like to have an early dinner because I want to leave the house by 8pm.”

“I’m making Thanksgiving turkey tonight…”

“Yeah, I know…?”

“Okay…I’ll have it ready for 6pm.”

I am left with an empty house and a big dinner to prepare for a rushed ingestion. Why am I freaking bothering?! The vegan nightmare floats into my mind again. I can see that slimy pile of pale soy bologna, mocking me. “Why go through all the trouble of making turkey dinner if nobody is going to eat it?” I don’t know. I only know that I refuse to give up years and years of tradition. I refuse to put a slab of shit on a plate instead of a free rang organic bird stuffed with chestnuts and sausage, slathered in gravy, with all the scrumptious colourful beautifully textured vegetables and potatoes and rolls. My pumpkin pie will be topped with whip cream.

Something always has to die for something else to live. This is the truth, people. This turkey had a great life. This turkey had a better life than a wild turkey. This turkey met a more compassionate end than a turkey killed by a fox, that is for damn sure. This turkey never went hungry, unlike 826,000,000 people in the world.

I roast my chestnuts, pumpkins, garlic, onions and sweet potatoes to perfection. I know how this is done. I start my bread and it rises warm and wholesome like a woman’s precious pregnant belly.  I smooth melted butter and herbs over the bird and whisper, “Thank you. Thank you for feeding us well.” I think of the fellows I bought this bird from at the Banana Hut. They serve non-medicated organic free range meat and dinners on Commercial Drive. It’s a son and father operation. “Happy bird happy human.” I agree.IMG_5214

This is the way to live. Moderate. Wholesome. Kind. This is how I was raised. It isn’t just a recipe. This is family. The turkey farmed and slaughtered by my uncle Ed, gramma Bunny would make the pie, Mom would get me to mash the potatoes while she snapped the beans, Auntie Connie would stir the gravy over the stove top…the sage, the butter, the thyme…these flavours came all the way over on the May Flower with my ancestors…yes…my ancestors were on it…quaking.

I know all the recipes by heart. When did i become the grand matron of the kitchen who doesn’t use a recipe book to make pumpkin pie or chestnut sausage stuffing or dinner rolls? This year I roast a garlic and an onion and throw it into the sweet potato and yam puree, topped with roasted pecans and maple.I wipe my apron. Everything is turning out perfectly and on time.

The kids come home from school. One hasn’t eaten the vegan lunch because it was pizza today at school…the other has left the sludgy amaranth entirely alone and I entirely don’t blame him.

 

I have called up a few more people to join us for Thanksgiving, dear friends who happen to be in town and happen to be free.  They also happen to not mind that the kids will eat dinner on the sofa because there is only room for four at the table.

 

I have to admit, this is the best Thanksgiving dinner I have put together. Everything turns out perfectly. The turkey is tender, my Fellow makes a lovely gravy, my green salad is topped with pomegranates and pear. The best part is all the children have a little bit of everything. When I notice the tiny bit of turkey on their plates, the fact that this year they have decided to honour this family tradition, it brings tears to my eyes. Of course I say nothing.

 

After a lively conversation and a great time had my all, I drive our guests home then start in on the soapy warmth of dishes.IMG_5217

I think of the conversation we had last night with the kids, talking through our goals for the year and our frustrations and our hopes and suggestions for our family. There was a big focus on the importance of spending time with friends on the weekends…in Vancouver…instead of on Bowen island…this paradise we are trying to make for them…for us…and I guess that is what parenting is all about. We present our idea of home and our traditions and they will pick and choose what they want to continue with or not. We give gifts and not all of them are taken and this sorting out of what to continue and what to end is a necessary part of their growing up. Wasn’t I the same at this age? Yes. Except I ate everything on my plate.

Whatever they decide to choose for their life, I feel fairly confident they will end up living moderate, wholesome and kind.

 

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handling the rejection letter: spider and moth

I took the time to cradle two moths in my hands. One by one, I escorted them outside. Normally I assume their delicate wings will simply crumble with the terror and flight of capture, so I get it over quick and whack them dead with a dust cloth. And…I’ll be honest. I kill to save time. This is a suite, I have guests coming, I can’t dilly dally being all PETA with insects. But today their delicate hope, pressed against the window pane, moved me.

“The outdoors is there. I can feel it. I can see it. Perhaps if I wait patiently enough and am still enough, the window will deliquesce with the spatter of rain and I can slip my slender wings through its dissolve and be free.”images

I do not offer this grace to spiders. I rescue entirely on the basis of good looks.

Once the clean was done, I came upstairs. My daughter was still fixed to a chair, furrowed brow, puzzling over her essay. Her long slender legs were tucked under her. This isn’t school homework this is “Mommy” homework I’ve given her. She asked me to teach her how to write a good essay. She chose her own topic. I was thinking it might be tap dancing or bunnies, but no. She wrote her essay on: how the BC public school system has failed her while trying to operate under severe budget cuts. She is now tired of this essay. She is tired of the re-writes. The subject is depressing. She still doesn’t quite understand essay structure and she just wants to go outside and play.

I cradle her soft little cheeks in my hand, give her a kiss and let her go.

For now.

(we are going to finish that essay so help me God)

I open my email and read another significant rejection letter. I’ve had some doozies lately. Well, I know it’s not because I’m a bad writer. So…hmm…it can only mean that the artistic community at large has decided that I’m a nutter. Thirty years of me and they’ve had enough. I nod my head and brew my tea. Yes. Makes sense to me. I continue to build a case against myself, thinking of every possible thing I’ve ever done professionally that could cause people to not want to work with me. Then I fantasize about dying tragically and unexpectedly. At my memorial, colleagues say things like, “She was eccentric but she had her heart in the right place.”

This thought makes me chuckle as I pour home-pressed almond milk into my tea. It leads me to think of some of the moments throughout my career when I’ve come across someone who completely lost their coconut. Well, every tech week. Nearly everyone has a bizarre ritual, an emotional outburst, a snarly dog moment, an over-indulgence, an odd default. Some start to talk about themselves incessantly. Some get very quiet and start using aroma therapy and do many deep stretches in odd places. Some become a sexy comedian and try to start up a romance. Some just get sick. Literally sick. Whatever it takes to get through the pressure of the long days and the vulnerability of opening, largely to a house full of peers. I would work with all of these brilliant beautiful nutters again. Of course! In an instant! Even when I think of the worst artistic experience of my career, I would work with all those people again. I’d just watch my back with a couple of them.

And then I thought of the truest thing all day: the NO I received in the mail today has nothing to do with me. The YES went elsewhere. That’s all.

How to capture the YES. That’s a much better way to look at this. It’s something I can do instead of wondering what I should not do. “Keep calling those producers! They’ve been absolutely lovely so far, all of them. You’re on the right track.”

As I write this, literally, a huge spider crawls up the side of my window. (the outside, thank God) She’s massive. I don’t know how those gossamer threads hold up her big fat belly full of desiccated flies. No waiting against the glass for her. No sir. She sets up shop right where she is.

“Come to me my darlings” she waves to passing buzzers with a fuzzy arm.

Oh yes. I wanna be the spider not the moth.images-1

 

 

 

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self promotion and preservation

I have decided to contact a theatre every single day and tell them about my writing. This is terrifying for me. I would rather people just mysterious “hear” about my work, all across the world, and spontaneously produce it. I an not afraid of the word “no”, I am not afraid of criticism, I am afraid of being a nuisance. Isn’t that stupid?!

I started with Bob in Manitoba because he’s a very warm and generous man and he likes me and he’s done two of my plays already and he produces a lot of female playwrights. His line up is always at least 50/50. The overall stats for Canada are still 30/70. We had a good long chat about theatre and what he was up to. He was very encouraging and asked me to send both new scripts. But the nerves…all I could do the rest of the day was can 60lbs of roma tomatoes.IMG_5152

Today I contacted someone I only met once. I sort of chickened out by writing an email instead of cold  calling. Oh, don’t make me phone. Don’t make me hear that tired exasperated “Oh GOD it’s a PLAYWRIGHT” voice from an over-worked AD who is madly trying to cast that play with people of colour in his remote rather caucasian corner of Canada. The courage it took to write this email alone exhausted me. I had to fire roast 24 bell peppers and make home-made catsup. My brain was fried.IMG_5150

Perhaps tomorrow I’ll be bold and call Australia. I wonder what polite annoyance sounds like with that accent? I should get my husband to pick up 20lbs of pears. I’ll definitely need to do more processing. Our pantry is going to be ready for the apocalypse. Maybe that’s why my response is stocking up the larder. Calling people trying to market my work certainly makes me feel like I’ll never work again.

I’m onto homemade salsa now. The recipe is from a blog by a woman named something like Madison White. She looks exactly like that pastel cardigan nude lipstick slight bouffant middle aged woman I always go up for in Hallmark movies of the week. Wow. Women from Wisconsin actually look like that, it isn’t just on TV. She claims to have the BEST SALSA RECIPE EVER!!!!!!!!!!!! Yes, never mind all you Mexicans, Madison has you conquered. You lose. She wins. She has THE BEST. So, why am I doing her recipe? Because of the pretty pictures.

Each jar I put in my pressure canner, I whisper to myself, “This is the BEST SALSA RECIPE EVER!!!” and then snort with derision. Imagine having the audacity to claim you have the BEST? I have a very funny fast paced murder mystery and a very “now” sexy four hander romance to sell, but I would never say they are the BEST. Maybe I should. Maybe I should call up South Africa and say I HAVE THE BEST 8 HANDER MURDER MYSTERY AND 4 HANDER ROMANCE EVER!!!!!!!!! I wonder if it would work? I wonder if it would help to send pretty pictures?IMG_5149

I know it’s a gender thing for me. I was brought up to be modest, demure, to be looked at and not heard. There’s much of me that rebelled successfully against that but not when it comes to a deep down belief that I SHOULD be heard. I still feel so…so embarrassed to even write that. I don’t know how people without a spiritual sort of mission or social justice mission do it. The way I talk myself out from under the rock is to say to myself, “Well, if the Spirit prompts me to write this, then someone out there needs to hear it, it has nothing to do with me, really.” I could never just rely on my talent alone. I couldn’t just call someone up and say, “Hey, I’ve written something smart witty and sexy, you will want it, all you have to do is read it.”

It’s rather sad, but I have to actually tell myself, “Lucia, if you were a man…you’d pick up the phone.” I hope the next generation, I hope my daughter, never has to say that to herself. Even writing about this, my heart is pounding and I want to have a piece of chocolate.

I am part of a playwright pod: a magnificent group of local playwrights. We all get together and read scenes and give each other feedback, or not. I love it. But one of the members said he felt the urgency to write as much as he can now because nobody wants to hear from a writer over the age of sixty.

So, I guess we all have our fears. I have no fear of age. I think I’m only going to get better and more audacious. I’m going to be that crazy Nonna Lucia who writes wildly and weirdly. Kids out of college will want to do my scripts at the fringe. Yeah. And I’ll show up with my long white braids and red boots and delight them by saying fuck a lot and having whiskey in my coffee. Yup. That’s what I’m aiming for. I wonder if by then I will have given up on Australia or perhaps by then I will have been produced in every English speaking country in the world – give or take Antiqua…who knows. IMG_5155And then about twenty years after that when all my contemporaries are retired or dead, my work will no longer be produced or even known by the next generation. Fifty years after that it will be in the public domain but no longer available anywhere. Not even my grand daughter’s book shelf. All my words will scatter in the wind, undone into random letters, returning to the great expansive A to Z.

Well, when I get all “Ecclesiastes” about it…..the phone call doesn’t seem so frightening.IMG_5145

 

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cube van girl

On my way into Vancouver a little red vespa pulls up in front of me. A man in his sixties is driving and he has one of those cool brown leather helmets. When his pants hitch up, they reveal beautiful bright blue striped socks. I want to yell out the window, “your socks give me joy!” Everything is winking at me today, who am I kidding? I just drove over the magnificent Lion’s Gate Bridge and through Stanley park all lush and green and sprinkled with young people who all seem to be laughing.

The little girl beside me (I’ve brought Nora’s friend over from Bowen) is excitedly listing off all the rides she’s already been to at the PNE in the past, which food truck is the best, and what she hopes to accomplish today with her unlimited play pass. She’s a great kid on this side of Mocking Bird’s Scout. We’ve already covered all the drama she experienced unfairly in grade six and her hopes for grade seven, her cat, her dog, her baby brother and what her parents do for a living. I drive along Pacific Avenue with its warm sprawling beaches filled with sandy bummed tourists drinking iced coffees, sailboats bobbing out in the bay. How can anyone help but feel like a channel for sunshine today? How can anyone not beam?IMG_4976

A U-haul pulls up beside me, the smallest model of a cube van they build. A woman is driving. She is the smallest model of a woman they build. She is about thirty three. Her hair is pulled back in a perfunctory pony tail and half of her eyelash extensions have fallen out. How do I know this? I am not that close to see. But I can sense it. Lashes don’t stay on eyes that deeply sad. Scout is kicking her legs and laughing over the exhilarating memory of going on the “Hell-evator”. This little woman in the cube van is in the background in sharp contrast. She is not feeling the thrill of her free fall drop right now, only the hell. All the birds can chirp. all the boats can unfurl their sails, all the best looking men can cycle by with thighs as thick as tree trunks and it would not buoy her up.

I’m guessing it’s a break up. What is it she can’t imagine right now? Finding love again? Finding someone before she’s too old to have a child? Did she just get laid off from her dream job? Or is she dealing with her parent’s estate, clearing out the family home because Mom just died of cancer? Or…maybe it’s nothing like that at all. Maybe she was an NHL player’s arm candy and he caught her cheating on him with a right wing and now she has to give up the lavish lifestyle and join the rest of us stiffs and get a job? Oh yeah. She’s moving from West Vancouver to a Surrey basement suite on her grandfather’s blueberry farm. She is anticipating lectures from her father, babysitting her sister-in-law’s snotty screaming children, vacuuming because Mom has a bad back, dealing with her younger sister always borrowing her nude heels and wrecking them, her only escape being her old retail job at Guilford town centre.

That would make me lose my eyelashes too.

“Lucia, the light is green!” pipes up Scout. Scout tells me she used to be a biter, and people on the island just can’t seem to let that go. I love this kid so much.

 

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We pick up Nora at her Dad’s. First Nora shows Scout her room, her cat, her fabulous father and all his paintings. “Woah, you’re REALLY good” says Scout. “Like, I would BUY this!” Nora’s Dad chuckles warmly, “Why thank you very much.”

We head to the PNE to watch Nora dance on the festival stage with the tap company, sweat pouring down their sweet faces in the heat.

The girls giggle and jump on all the rides they can fit into the evening, their faces painted with unicorns and their fingers sticky with cotton candy. I hobble behind them with my blistered feet and stare up at a horrific two armed monstrosity called the Salt and Pepper shaker.

I used to go on all the rides, terrified and screaming, taking up any dare. But now I just don’t need to. I don’t want to. Nobody can make me. I don’t care to invite that kind of excitement into my life anymore. It costs so much and is over before I know it, leaving me wanting more. No. I like the solid ground. I don’t need to nearly die to feel alive. I’ve found much more thrill in being grounded.

Of course, I’m not just thinking about rides anymore…

I ponder this for a while and try a glob of blue cotton candy.

Mistake.

I think of my girl in the cube van. I whisper to her from a sticky curb by the pirate ship, “When you’re sick of it, get off the ride. There are great joys to come from being firmly planted on the earth.”

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savouring peach pie

Tonight I made a peach pie I could confidently serve to the jury of Chopped, the queen of England, or the ghost of my grandfather who always said “Bring on the pie” at the end of every meal. I made a peach pie that Bruce Springsteen would write a ballad about and the chorus would include high plaintive keening. I made a peach pie that made me twenty six again in a white sundress when that man crossed the street to give me a single rose for no reason other than I was twenty six and wearing a white sundress. Tonight I made a peach pie that would make Justin Trudeau and Sophie Gregoire ugly cry.IMG_4703

The peaches were perfectly ripe and Okanagan pure. The skin peeled back with the gentle tug of my blade and the flesh was as perfectly plump as a summer evening too hot for covers. This pie wasn’t a recipe. It was whipped together with a prayer and a song after a day at the beach with my family. I remember: a toss of sugar, tapioca, almond, fresh grated ginger and a splash of decent bourbon and lime. The crust just happened to be angelically flakey and light and browned just right and how did this happen on such a sweltering day with my warm hands? I don’t know. I served this pie after a roast lamb dinner with a scoop of real vanilla bean ice-cream and…

Nothing.

The kids only wanted to eat ice-cream.

One of the adults didn’t finish his and other left the crust.

My husband ate all of his absentmindedly while he talked politics.

I took one bite and knew it was the best pie I’d ever made after thirty years of trying.

It’s not that my guests weren’t gracious, they were lovely, lovely, absolutely, so kind. But they were tired and busy with kids and had other things to think about and weren’t necessarily dessert people to begin with.

Nobody wept with joy. Nobody marked the miracle. Nobody made any particular declaration of love.

It’s these exact moments that I realize it is best for those born with the sign of Leo to believe in God. Leos are very generous by nature but we need to be seen and acknowledged, praised and thanked rather excessively some may say. Yes. It’s true. We live for a rub behind the ears and a “good kitty!” But humans aren’t always there to do that. It can be exhausting. So, times like this, Divinity can come in handy. It doesn’t really matter what manifestation of God a Leo prefers, they all work. If God is the father who sees the sparrow fall, then surely God sees the abandoned pastry gutted with fruit knifed into the compost bin. If God is the creator and we are created in God’s image, then surely She rejoices in a Mini-Me creating something of gastronomical beauty. If God is the more abstract Love and Creative Energy, surely God was in that pie and we ate of it and it was good. If God is my own personal Jesus, then Jesus wept and asked for another piece. He may even tell me, between mouthfuls, that this pie reminds him of a woman who broke a jar of perfumed oil over his feet and rubbed the oil into his skin and then dried his feet with her hair once. And I would tell him about the day when I was twenty six wearing a white sundress. And he would say, “Oh yeah, that guy with the rose? That was me.” I would smile over the empty plate and lick some of the melted ice cream off my finger and wink, “I knew it.”

I quietly thought about this as I pressed the last few crumbs onto the end of my finger and brought them up to melt on the tip of my tongue. I looked up at the big dark beauty of the red cedar above me. I gazed out at the hazy ocean with the red setting sun, smelling slightly of forest fire. I listened to the gentle clucking of our new flock of chickens settling into their secure coop. I watched my not yet two nephew open the patio door and close the patio door and open the patio door and close the patio door, taking great delight in his ability to do so with his dear little chubby toddler hand. How beautiful this slice of life. Have I stopped to taste it? Have I said thank you? Have I savoured every bite?IMG_4705

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The Lion’s Den Cafe

Out from an audition and eager for a spot of lunch before getting on the 2:20pm ferry, I pull into a line of restaurants around Fraser and Kingsway, surely one of them has to be open. Los Cuervos, closed, the Savio Volpe, closed, the gluten free – a bakery only, tiny little cafe maybe Jamaican? not fond of jerks, the coffee place pretentious, Les Faux Bourgeois, closed. I pedal back to the Jamaican joint. It’s full, that’s a good sign: the Lion’s Den Cafe. I peek at their menu: Caribbean Japanese food. Well, never heard of that before, must try.Unknown-1

I sit down at one of the cheerful tiny outside tables. A friendly faced young waiter asks me if I would like a water or coffee and I would like both. He chuckles and says, “Where do you work?” Right, I’m in my “waitress” costume: a white apron over a skirt and high tops. I confess, “I’m an actress pretending to be you.” His face brightened and he asked me about the biz and if he may have seen me in anything. “I play a lot of middle aged women in cardigans” I shrug, remembering that a costumer recently called my hit “cozy”.

I ask him what I should order here and he suggests the curry or the jerk chicken. “How about the Japanese pizza?” I ask. “Oh, it’s very good but it will be a bit of a wait. The kitchen is pretty busy right now. So if you’re in a hurry…” I shrug again. I have an hour I should be fine. “Let’s go for the pizza.” He looks at me a little unsure and then decides to agree with me, “Yes. Good.” And he’s off.

I hear a young man call out a greeting behind me. I turn my head. It isn’t for me, he’s speaking to a Bahamian man in a wheelchair. How did I not notice him when I sat down? He’s ten feet away from me, pulled up near the curve as though waiting for a car. I focus on my phone, on all the people who are not in the vicinity. The young waiter interrupts me gently asking if I want cream for my coffee. Not unless there’s almond milk. “Sorry!” He apologizes sincerely. By then I’ve taken a sip and the coffee is mild and smooth, “Oh no need, good coffee.” He brightens again.  He asks me again about the biz and we chat briefly about the Americans filming here on the cheap, better roles for women and people of colour recently and Vancouver’s independent theatre scene. Then he’s back to the kitchen.

I turn to my coffee and my phone and this time a woman approaches the man in the wheelchair. He’s still here. I guess he’s not waiting for a car. She’s wearing a rough linen apron draped beautifully around her hips. She has that fabulous thick caramel coloured naturally curly hair you see on women who do not look cozy but frisky. She’s sashayed out from the artisan gift shop next door. They know each other. I start to piece it together. This man is a stroke victim. This man used to run this cafe.

I become absorbed in my emails and day book and my Fitbit keeps bothering me to get up and move. Wait a minute, if it has bothered me a couple of times it  means I haven’t moved for a while. I  check the time: oh my goodness, forty five minutes have passed! Where is my lunch?! I was expecting it to take a while but not this long. I peek inside. The kitchen isn’t busy anymore, there are only two tables occupied, what is going on? My friendly waiter looks anxious and starts waving his hands. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, it shouldn’t be much longer, she makes everything fresh, everything from scratch…” “I know, but forty five minutes…” “I am so so sorry, do you have to be somewhere?” “Yes, I have to catch a ferry.” “Oh my God, okay, should I pack it to go?” “If it comes out in five I’ll be okay.”

I head back to my table. When I do, another person has stopped to say hi to the man in the wheelchair. Then another. The stroke hit him hard, he can’t seem to move much or say much, but he has a wide genuine smile. This man isn’t only known, he’s loved. Now I feel bad that I’ve been impatient in front of him. But five minutes pass, ten, now I’m in danger of missing my boat. This is dumb. I head back into the restaurant, further in, and can see into the kitchen and notice it is run by one person, a Japanese woman, maybe late fifties. She is absolutely frantic, arms akimbo above her apron, face streaked with panic and sweaty strands of hair sticking to her cheeks. She yells at me from the little peek-a-boo window, “He’s new, he’s new, he should have told you, I make everything fresh, I make it all myself, and it takes time and there have been a lot of people!” Oh my God, this poor woman. The lunch rush was too much for one person and now she’s frazzled and alone. My friendly waiter (who actually has done nothing wrong) bears the blame and hangs his head quietly.

I notice a picture in the bar. It’s a Japanese woman in a beautiful red dress and veil getting married to…the man outside in the wheelchair…a long time ago. They are man and wife. They are young and beautiful and hip, opening up a cafe in a part of town that used to be very sketch.

I can miss a ferry. I lean in and smile sympathetically. “Oh my dear, I see, I see you are all alone here.”

She stops for a minute over the stove, flips my “pizza” like a big omelette. It lands perfectly in the pan. “Yes, yes, if you had ordered the curry – ”  she shakes her head in dismay. “I will next time. But no worries, I can take it to go, I can still make my boat. No rush.” (lie) She confirms what I suspect, “I have to run this restaurant, train new staff and take care of my husband out there…” I nod. “Well, I want to assure you this guy, your new waiter, he’s FANTASTIC. So friendly and great. I’ll be back for sure just because of him!” The waiter brightens and straightens the take out box and napkin bundle into perfect alignment with the end of the bar counter. The owner in the kitchen is surprised by my praise. I head down the little hallway to use the washroom and when I return the Japanese pizza is all packed up and ready to go.

“You have to eat it hot, please, promise you will put it in the oven when you get home?” The chef nods at the box like a mother giving last minute babysitting instructions. “I will” (lie) I pay and tip twenty percent. She comes out of the kitchen and smooths her apron and takes a big breath and smiles. Ah. This is who she is. She presses her hands together and bows. “Have a creative day” she says. I smile back, “Thank you, a pleasure to meet you.”

On my way out I’m too ashamed to say good-bye to the man in the wheelchair because I didn’t say hello. I didn’t even see him in the first place. He was a non-person to me. I had no idea my brain registered disabled people as non-persons.

While driving in vain hope that the ferry might be late, I get plugged up with traffic on Denman Street and have a little unreasonable rage. “Well damn it, damn it, damn it, damn it!” I shout like a toddler. I shout in my car. I knew I was going to shout so I rolled up the windows and put on the air con. I could have just had lunch at home. I could have just shut up and had lunch at the cafe, one or the other. “Damn it, damn it, damn it! F!” I could have said no to this audition that took all of two minutes, a one shot read, three hours of driving. I have a messy house and a guest at home and some kind of f’ing vegan dinner to invent because my kids both watched What the Health. It’s 2:45pm and I haven’t eaten or moved all day and my Fitbit is deeply disappointed in me and I am morally disappointed in myself. F! I THOUGHT I WAS A KIND PERSON!” I bang the steering wheel.

Everyone is heading over the Lion’s Gate bridge. It’s slow as molasses through Stanley park. I flip open the pizza box. “What the hell is Japanese pizza from a Jamaican joint taste like anyway?!” It’s an eggy flour pancake with fried cabbage and peppers and onions and I’m to top it with this sweet soy garlic based sauce. I’m allergic to soy but I want to honour what this woman has made me, so I pour it on. Plus, it smells delicious. I’m not sure if the meal is a hot mess or the most fantastic thing I’ve had in a long time. I fork in the gooey comfort of it at every red light.

While soaring along the Upper Levels, I turn on the radio. I kid you not, a woman is talking about being disabled, needing to walk with canes, and how she receives outrageous discrimination. If I had heard this interview on the way into town I would have cocked my head in surprise. i don’t think of society as being “outrageously discriminatory” towards disabled people. On the contrary. But having just been made aware of my own fault on this point…I listened intently.

Once I get home I do some research on the Lion’s Den Cafe and it gives these people I had just met some names: Juniko Tanabe is the wife, co-owner and chef, Ken Brooks is her husband, the owner, the man in the wheelchair. He had a stroke last year. His only word is “Mama” right now, but he is showing signs of slow recovery. The restaurant has been there for over eighteen years and they need our support or they’re going to lose the business. Here’s their story here.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/friends-family-come-together-to-save-iconic-lion-s-den-café-1.4015318

Of course I did miss my ferry, despite the fact the ferry was late, so I now wait for the next late ferry. I have learned to bring hand weights with me, so I have plenty of time to do my squats and lunges and arm curls in my waitress uniform along the line of cars in the loading dock. Women look up from me behind the steering wheels of their mini vans full of groceries. Some roll down the windows and shout, “What an excellent use of time!”

Once my exercises are done, I open up my kindle, my birthday present from my husband. I continue to read the first book I downloaded, “The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America” by First Nations (Canadian) writer, Thomas King.

https://www.amazon.ca/Inconvenient-Indian-Curious-Account-America/dp/0385664214

It’s fantastic. So witty and warm and accessible and shocking. See, I know I am discriminatory towards indigenous people, largely due to ignorance. Now I have to download something about disabled people. Am I never going to get to fiction?!

My little wise ass voice (don’t we all have a wise ass voice) says to me, “Haven’t you already been living in the fiction of your superiority far too long?”

I toss the rest of my Japanese pizza and keep the box for recycling. It wasn’t too long ago nobody recycled. Oh gosh, remember there was a time I thought men shouldn’t vacuum because that was women’s work? Remember when I thought gay people were mentally ill? Remember when I referred to God only in the masculine and was sure that Indian women were only murdered by Indian men in those dangerous reserves? Well. Right. I guess I can learn.

The sun sets the ocean off dazzling with diamonds and gulls soar overhead. I’m going to hike another 5km today so that I can eat cake. I look down at these knees that give me so much trouble. “Thank you” I say to them. “Thank you” I say to my body and mind. I can be strong, I can move forward with ease. I can head back into the Lion’s Den and rethink.51nWj9+qPIL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_

 

 

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