Archive for August, 2008

August 30, 2008

I met P., who is 78, at an evening German class I was taking.  He wore a long-sleeved sweater draped suavely over his shoulders.

There were some coincidences.  We discovered by a fluke of conversation during the course that we had both lived in the small village of Portrush, on the coast of Northern Ireland.  I was attending university in Coleraine and, decades previously, he was attending a boys’ school.  He was sent there from London during WWII by his parents.  While in London, he had seen a V1 rocket fly overhead and the RAF planes heading off to bomb Italy.

I ran into P. once walking around Lost Lagoon.  I joined his stroll – which went back past his apartment building. I was surprised to see it was the same building I had lived in for several years in the 90’s.  Another time, I asked him when he had first arrived in Vancouver.  “In the fall of 1957.”  he told me  “So did I…” I said, “at Vancouver General Hospital”. 

During that walk, P. told me he had needed a new prescription and just been to the eye doctor.  While waiting in the reception, he noticed a photo of the doctor, a man in his sixties, with a younger woman and child.   P. went into see the doctor and told him that he was having trouble seeing while driving.

“You shouldn’t even be driving at your age.” the doctor curtly told him.

 P. was angered by remark and told me, “I thought of that photograph and felt like saying – And you are far too old to be fathering a child!”


The Family Pontiac
August 28, 2008

I was reading a story in the newspaper today about a family that had their 1969 Pontiac Beaumont stolen.  Father and son had bought and lovingly restored it.

I once had a conversation with my father about Pontiacs.  There was a Pontiac commercial in the sixties that he claimed was one of the most successful in that decade.   When it aired, Pontiacs flew off the car lots, selling like hotcakes.  He thought the woman appearing in it had been put under contract never to appear in another TV commercial again.

I vaguely remember the commercial, even though I was a child.  I think there was some sort of crescendo of orchestral music, a Pontiac drove into view and pulled to a stop.  The camera moved in as a leggy, beautiful young woman opened the door and stepped out.  Her hair may have been blown by a fan.  She smiled, looked into the camera, pointed at the camera and said “Yooouvvve got a PONTIAC!”

That was it.   I told this story to R. later and said, “I didn’t think about it at the time, but my father had a Pontiac.”

“So did mine.” he said.

Sic transit
August 27, 2008

I was trying to chose an interesting Continuing Ed course for this fall and was torn between one on Existentialism (Sartre, Kierkegaard etc.) and another on the violin concerto.  My thoughts turned to the subject of existential nausea…

When I was young and couldn’t define existentialism,  I lived in East Vancouver and spent a lot of time catching buses at the Kootenay Loop.  This transit exchange was on the boundary of Vancouver and Burnaby and was fairly busy for such a small place. 

The Kootenay Loop consisted of an ugly bus shelter from where you could sit and stare at the cement wall of the convenience store adjoining.  It seemed to rain a lot more then and traffic aqua-planed by noisily.   Trolley buses I wasn’t waiting for were alway lunging in off Hastings Street  and shunting around to their pickup point.   Fellow travelers stared blankly off into space.  My only clear memory of an interaction there is a woman coming up to me and whispering that my skirt zipper was undone.  

At that time, one of the local community papers published a ‘Best and Worst of Vancouver’ issue.  Flipping through it one day, I spotted my hang-out.


It remains the existential gold standard, in my mind.  I’m glad it got recognition.  Anyway, I have registered for the violin concerto course.

August 26, 2008

A woman I met recently told me why she had just cut her long hair.

“After 50, if you have long hair, you look like a witch.”

“You think so?”  I blinked and changed the subject.  I’m fifty and have shoulder-length hair.  I dye it chestnut-brown.

I thought witches were considered good these days.  And I don’t want to cut my hair.  The only thing to do is grow it even longer and see if I gain magic powers.

Goodbye Ingeborg and Yelmer
August 25, 2008

My mother was raised in a Scandinavian community in Duluth, Minnesota.   Probably that’s the reason one of her friends gave her a pair of large trolls.   She called them Ingeborg and Yelmer.  These two stood about 9 inches high, had orange hair and red and green felt lederhosen and skirt.   They were always on display somewhere during my childhood.

After she died, I couldn’t throw them out.  They were too kitschy to display so I stored them in a closet.  Years passed and, recently, I’ve been paring down my belongings.  It was time for Ingeborg and Yelmer to move on.  But I still couldn’t throw them out.

I combed their tangled hair, washed their smiling faces and dusted down their little suits.  Then I took them downstairs and left them on a shelf in my apartment lobby.  When I came back later in the day, they were gone.  They are probably in Osaka now.

A good question
August 24, 2008

My apartment building has many young people who are language students from Korea, Japan, China, Brazil and other countries.  They come for six months to a year generally to study English at downtown language schools.  Many are quite stylish dressers and have quite funky gear.  I am not the Queen of Small Talk but I’ve found if I meet them in the elevator and say “I like your hat/purse/shirt/shoes” or whatever, they are quite friendly.  We then exchange a few sentences of neighbourly chat as the elevator decends to the lobby. The most memorable fashion item was worn by a pleasant young Korean woman who spoke halting English.  Her coloured T-shirt had the phrase in large letters, “WHAT SHALL I DO?”

August 23, 2008

One morning I read an interesting review of a new recording of Bach’s early works for harpsichord.  I tore out the review and about a week later, took it into the best classical music store downtown to make the purchase.

The man behind the desk looked at the clipping. “Oh,” he said “We had this but we sold it.  Someone else came in a few days ago and bought it.  They saw the same review.”

“My competitor.”  I said, and left my name and number so they could order it in again.

The situation seemed strange.  A national newspaper publishes a music review in a major Canadian city.  Two people are interested and go to the same store to buy the one copy.  Things narrowed down very quickly.

Who was this other person who loves harpsichord music?  What was his/her impression of the recording?  Perhaps we should meet, having so much in common.

But then I thought – What if it was me?   I’ll just have to see if the recording sounds familiar.

August 22, 2008



August 22, 2008