Thanks to the several readers who have asked where the blog has gone. What happened is that I moved. I sold my house and bought a beautiful apartment and moved from A to B at the end of October. That took a major concentration of physical and mental energy, so the blog writing ended up with the packing boxes. Aside from loving my new home (as much as I loved the old one as well), I am now freed from ever having the slightest interest in the Vancouver obsession called Real Estate. I will never again care about who is selling what and for how much above asking.
Friday is my sixty-ninth birthday. My son is taking me out for brunch and my dear friend, Yan Min, is taking me out for dinner. Life is pretty good.
I have never been so happy and so miserable.
Every single day for some months now, I experience moments of great clarity and bounce and self-satisfaction and good cheer. I feel myself striding, youthful and energetic, tall, fit and overflowing with narcissism and ego, certain that I look great. Who could resist me? Why would they?
On the same day, the sheer relentless idiocy, stupidity, greed, profligacy and rudeness of the human pool engulfs me. I feel I am drowning in a sludge pond of ignorance and unkindness.
Crossing the street is a terror. Trying to read in a cafe one might as well be sentenced to life in a Boeing hangar. Everyone on the street is texting or talking or both. The bumptious noise is piteous and unceasing. I don’t need to hear your most private thoughts. I don’t want to.
Sartre said, “L’enfer, c’est les autres.” But it’s not just them; it’s also me.
I have been cruel and self-regarding, often in the cheapest ways. Today, I am more impatient and intolerant than ever and that is saying something. I am generous one moment and leap to self-righteous indignation the next.
With my son, I was demanding and unforgiving, angry and overbearing, with the result that today he is thoughtful and kind and loyal.
To my daughter, I was the doting serving placating Jewish father. Today, thanks to all my attentions, she is largely absent from my life.
I have left some friends behind, closing doors on them. Others have done the same with me. Yet, I make new friends almost every day. They will stay in the corral as long as they stay.
My interest in the schemes of politics is waning. I believe very little of what comes from the mouths of the elected or the want-to-be-elected. The fictive lives of “celebrities” shriek past me at the supermarket line leaving no imprint whatsoever. Who are these people? Look, they are having babies or not, conjoinings or not, charities or projects or not.
I still like information. Tell me about history or birds or oceans or where the mothers and children of Africa are hiding tonight. Show me the latest, greatest, biggest, fastest air transport. Clarify for me what prompted Haydn to write that symphony, Joyce to choose Trieste of all cities in which to roost or George Blanda to play football for Al Davis for all those years. My encyclopaedic knowledge of The Movies drops right off the cliff around the turn of this last century. There are some great movies being made here and there, but I see fewer and fewer of them, and rarely in large dark rooms with hundreds of other people. “Moneyball” was amusing, the main kick being the opportunity to watch Brad Pitt, who is that rare gem – both a genuine movie star and a fine actor. “J. Edgar” was fascinating, if badly told. So talky, a peculiar choice for director Clint Eastwood, who, as an actor, was almost mute. Nevertheless, the tale is saved by terrific actors, not the least of whom is Leonardo DiCaprio, dazzling in the title role.
Little children are still a delight, as are dogs - somebody else’s children or dogs. And for a few moments at best. I cannot be a pooper scooper at this age, if ever I could.
My energy has changed.
Of course, I cannot play tennis for two hours or more, not without hurting myself, which I have managed to do nicely twice in the last two years. Both my doctor and I are hoping these lessons might register and take hold.
I cherish many ancient pleasures, music topping the list. Gershwin to this day makes me weak at the knees, joyful, teary. The Rhapsody is still a rhapsody. But so are Rogers & Hart, Ella, Tony, the Bach fugues, Mahler symphonies, the Beatles, Pete Seeger and The Weavers, Carousel (The waltz and the soliloquy), and a library of concerti, arias, folk tunes, and most of the American Songbook.
Swimming, cycling and eating are high on the same list. Not too many days after my last heart “episode,” I was frogging along the bottom of the Vancouver Aquatic Centre pool on a quiet summer morning. There may have been all of eight people in the whole building, only half in the gigantic Olympic pool. The light was streaming through the roof windows and bending into the deepest reaches of the water. For a brief ecstatic moment, I felt I was in an earthly watery heaven. I marvelled at the astonishing efficiencies and modernisms of our local medical wizards and then simply reverted to that old familiar tadpole sense of squirming joyously through this other medium so scantily understood. When will we be fish again?
I don’t bicycle as much as I once did, and now only on designated paths that will not, do not intersect with the lunatics of car traffic. And I don’t career down craggy paths on nearby mountains. I cycle, and pause always at the turn-around point for a well-drawn cappuccino. Nevertheless, I cannot get on my fabulous bike (Hey, Dave. Your bike is like BMW!) without thinking I am again 6 years old. The way the sun catches the pavement in intermittent flashes!
I eat less and often can`t believe how delicious every bite is. One raspberry can make me crazy with happiness. This is one of my ``comfort foods,`` because my grandfather grew these tiny treasures in our back yard on St. John`s Avenue in Winnipeg when I was a boy. Every second year, he set fire to the entire scrub to add carbon to the soil – then watch out the next summer.
I had a Caesar salad at a restaurant the other night and except for the glass of cold water I am drinking right now, I thought it was just about the best thing I ever experienced. Jack Benny used to play cards with his celebrated friends at the Hillcrest Golf and Country Club in Los Angeles and when he would have a cool drink, he would exclaim, `This water is wonderful!``
I have been a dedicated Astaire man my whole life, believing as did Balanchine, that Astaire was the greatest dancer of the 20th Century. The man could do anything and he could do it twice. I never much cared for the Other Guy, but you have to admit that Kelly`s Singing in the Rain number is one of the single sweetest things ever put on film.
Of course, I am not rich, and, given the state of things, I not really poor either. My basic needs and comforts are pretty much accounted for. I can`t claim to want much.
Other than kindness and affection and another hundred years or so of good health. Failing that, a reasonably quick exit, sans hospital and tubes and Nurse Ratched.
I was saying my energy has changed.
I do one or two things of a day and I`ve had the biscuit. I just don`t want to do anything else. A couple of phone calls, tape a half hour TV show, maybe a therapy session, something resembling work and then I just really don`t want to do anything besides drink an espresso, read a book, talk to friends, check out the news on my android, see if there`s a fun new app.
Friends are going, crossing over, leaving the mortal coil, dying.
My three favourite people in Venice, Evania, Meg and Susan, are now on the other side, Susan last week. I read the Gmail on my android sitting in a room at the Harrison Hotel between meals, cribbage and the hot springs pools. I, the most emotional person you know, haven`t even cried yet. Am I in shock? Have I become inured or accepting of the inevitable?
While I continue to carp pointlessly about every minor annoyance, the two heart shocks in the last six years have brought about a kind of calm, a going with the moment. It is what it is.
I hate modern life and, like my mother before me, I love every tiny bump and grind along the way.
I do everything slower and I won`t understand why anybody is rushing anywhere, except that little girl or boy over there who skips along the street to some internal tune.