Thursday, May 25, 2006


Several times a month I cross the impossibly high suspension bridge separating our two countries and go visit my old stomping grounds in the States.

The conversation at the INS booth follows the predictable pattern it's taken for the last twenty-eight years:
"Where are you going today?"
"Lawrenceville" (or West Stockholm--neither of which pops up on the radar screens of the INS very often.)
So as not to ask the question: "Where the hell is Lawrenceville?" which puts him at a disadvantage, he asks me what's going on there today. If he knew the place he'd know that nothing happens in Lawrenceville, and hasn't since Flossy's father found the family dog hung from a tree, stone dead, when she was a little girl.

Today Corby, Flossy's brother, comes home from hospital after surgery, and I'm along to help get him settled back home. In no time at all he's back in his favourite recliner in front of the TV. After a brief hiatus his life has resumed its normal pattern.

Being constrained to sit and watch along with him brought home to me sharply how so many Americans live in this make-believe world shaped and influenced by the box, oblivious to reality and to the rest of the world--like living in a huge gated community.
I was startled to see how many ads there are on US TV for drugs, too--both over-the-counter and prescription-only. Viewers are being coached to self-diagnose and push their doc for the drug to fix whatever it is they've got. Everything's medicalized, and a pill will fix it all.

Americans' health is going to hell in a handbasket.

"We've become spoiled," Flossy remarks.

But there's a glimmer of hope; today Lay and Skilling, of Enron infamy, were found guilty. There will be an appeal, of course. But for just one day it was good to see Big Money get its comeuppance.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Hot Times in Ingleside.

It doesn't take much to float my boat--I'm pretty low-maintenance. I don't need a rich escort, show house, masses of bling, serious shopping trips or a glitzy new car every three years. Right now I'm in hog heaven; Garry, the neighbourhood construction whiz, has built me a System.

Actually it's a streamlined, old-fashioned pantry downstairs in the basement, sturdy shelving with a whiff of pine from the raw two-by-fours. Each time I run down to the basement I open the door to admire and gloat.

Every woman should have one like it--everything is at my fingertips, all labelled and neat. I don't have to rummage around for the right solution to wash the car, the right varnish for the front steps, it's all right there, brightly lit. The food isn't stacked can-on-can in a precarious pile any more, and all the flour and rice are out of reach of the weevils. I know what's on the shelf, so when I need to whip up dessert or a pan of squares for a "do" it's not a guessing game.

Doesn't get much better than this.

Reading: "The China Study" by T. Colin Campbell, PhD, a nutrition research expert at Cornell University. Shows why what we eat is causing cancer, diabetes, heart disease and more, and why the truth is so hard to get at. Gets down and dirty. Buy, steal or borrow the book.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Cannibal

The heavy man hovered near the fridge in the palliative care unit's lounge, cramming bread into his mouth with an air of urgency.

"Can I help you?" I asked, thinking of giving him something more substantial.

"It's OK," he said. "My father just died."

And then I saw that he was eating the dead man's sandwiches.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Water Torture

My daughter, Susannah, emigrated to fame and fortune in England nine months ago and has never looked back, in all senses of the word.

But now she's undergoing the slow water torture that is the English idea of customer service. Basically, when an island that's smaller than Ontario is crammed with 66 million people, if you're in business and your service stinks, just shrug--another customer will be by in a few minutes. Nobody gives a rat's patoodie about what their employees are up to; there's no accountability.

It's a constant source of amazement that tourists would pay good money to go there and be subjected to this foolishness. I go only because I have relatives over there. My last visit was plagued by this constant low background level of indifference--plus the total inability to procure anything like a good cup of coffee.

Flying back in to YUL was like a pleasant dream--smiles all round, strangers--and airport staff--being gratuitously helpful. I still get choked up when the winter CN train pulls in to the station, looking like an apartment block on wheels that's just rolled in off the steppes, with that anachronistic bell clanging away, and the attendant brushing the piles of snow off the train steps with a ridiculous little corn broom.

This summer I'm taking the train all the way across Canada, stopping in Jasper for a long weekend. Like the Orient Express--one of the last great romantic train trips. And you know what? The customer service will be brilliant.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

On Spring

Green fuzz, surging sap

In the trees
Birds cry, "Life, life!"

Whole world is on fire.