Finders, if you’re like me, you’ll find yourself looking through the window of your computer screen at a world that seems to be shifting on its axis. The pandemic rages on amid horrifying displays of unbridled racism and state-sanctioned atrocity. Feckless, callous leaders stoke the flames and bask in the chaos. I can’t help but wonder what in holy hell is next.
But I have to believe that good will come from all this upheaval. This particular uprising against the racism so endemic in our society looks and feels different somehow, and I think maybe, just maybe, we’ve reached a tipping point. Could this be the beginning of a path towards actual and sustained social justice? I really hope so.
But today I’ve decided I’m all about good news. I’m wading through the mountain of garbage in search of anything to soothe the spirit. The state of Minnesota is set to begin a police overhaul. Outstanding!! New Zealand has conquered Coronavirus. Hooray! A Golden Retriever named Finley now holds the Guinness World Record for holding the most tennis balls (6) in his mouth. Three cheers for Finley!
And then there’s this: I have finally finished my book and I’m delighted to share that I’m now represented by the wonderful literary agent, Hilary McMahon of Westwood Creative Artists. The supremely talented Ms. McMahon will now do her level best to steer my novel toward publication. Yippee Yahooey!
Most days I think I’m a good person. Not like Malala/Marie Curie/Rosa Parks good. I mean more like I always vote, follow the law, tell the truth, try to think of others, helped as many kids and families as I could kind of good. I’ve always been a responsible and respectful citizen, keenly aware of the suffering of my fellow humans and my compassion toward them is strong. And years of being a psychiatrist has taught me how to suspend judgement of others. But I have to tell you this pandemic is testing me.
Yesterday I watched videos of folks strolling about my city like it was any old day of the week. Groups of six or eight people walking shoulder to shoulder, laughing, sipping coffee, blissful and oblivious. Maybe they’re just ignorant, I thought. Perhaps they hadn’t heard of the global scourge. But we all know that dog don’t hunt. It’s enough to make anyone slip into judge and jury mode. Neil and I are doing our best to think charitable, positive thoughts at all times, but it’s an uphill slog at times.
Speaking of Neil, it must be said that he too can be counted as a model citizen. His hands are now rubbed raw from washing, he leaves the house only when absolutely necessary, and his distancing is world class. The other day American writer Laura Lippman tweeted, “I see a lot of men are as confused about six feet as they are about six inches.” Not my Rusty. He knows exactly what six feet looks like: the length of his wife. He’s taken to saying everyone needs to stand at least one Bobbi apart. He finds this hilarious, I do not.
What I did find hilarious was his solution to avoiding a barber visit. Note to all: letting your hair do its own thing is not nearly as bad as being ventilated and dying alone surrounded by strangers in Hazmat gear. Don’t even think about getting your hair done now.
Anyhoo, I was sitting at my desk hard at work on my novel (almost finished, I swear) when I heard a buzzing sound coming from upstairs. The buzzing stopped and I heard Mister yell out, “Oh my Jesus. I think I’ve made a huge mistake.”
A little background. Neil and I were both long overdue for haircuts. I’d been waiting out flu season and he was just plain lazy about it. He wasn’t as far gone as I’ve seen in the past (see Exhibit A below) but his signature hair was wild enough to be driving him right round the pipe.
I found him in the bathroom, electric clippers in hand, a pile of orange fluff at his feet. His head was a mish-mash of bald patches and stubble, round humps and tufts and tendrils poking off every which way. He looked like a lunatic. If I hadn’t been in danger of wetting myself from laughing so hard I might’ve thought to grab my phone for a photo.
His only choice was to press on and he finally got the hang of it. Now he looks like a relatively stable individual albeit an individual who guards the dressing room door at The Pussy Palace just off of Highway 13.
I think he’s on to something. I’d say I’m two maybe three weeks away from taking the clippers to my own head. In the meantime if you’re looking for some smile-inducing advice on how to deal with your locks while on lockdown I’ve got good news. All you need to know to tame the tresses can be found right here.
Well my dear Finders, I have no idea how many of you have left this portal open, but if you have I hope this message finds you and yours safe and well. I can’t recall when I last posted here, a place a humour and joy and general wackiness. The days of blissfully traipsing about France seem so long ago now. Those were the days before this coronavirus, and these are the days after. I suppose it’s not a stretch to say that it’s a new world.
Rusty and I are hunkered down, heeding the advice of our public health wizards like our lives depend on it because they do. With my chronic health issues and Neil’s medication that suppresses his immune system, we’re considered “vulnerable” people. Truth be told, this supposedly novel way of living has been my reality for some time now. Hand washing and disinfecting have long been enacted in my house, so nothing new on that front. As soon as flu season ramps up, I lock the doors and settle in for the winter. Sweatpants and Netflix, books and wine. Friend time is FaceTime. Add in my many years of medical training and experience and you’d be hard pressed to find someone more prepared for a pandemic such as this one. And yet.
The trouble with doctors and other healthcare providers is we know too much. We know how this kind of scenario will play out. I’ve known this was coming, every detail of it, probably since mid-February, then watched in horror and maddening frustration as the people in charge of the world just let it happen.
And now here we are right where I knew we would be. The ever rising case tally, those big red circles blooming over world maps like drops of blood. Folks panicking in grocery stores, fist fighting over toilet paper as if survival is somehow connected to how much you wipe your arse. World leaders fumbling and melting down, laying bare their ignorance and ineptitude, fiddling while the cities burn.
I don’t worry much for myself, even with my risk level I’m privileged beyond reason and resigned to whatever comes to me. My concern is bigger and broader. The jobless, the homeless, the indigent, the people trapped in homes where violence is rampant at the best of times. The countries under siege like China, Italy, America (Christ on a cracker), the economies, the cumulative effects and losses, just the world in general. I worry that the damage to every aspect of modern life is marching toward being irreparable. It’s enough to crack the hardest of heads and hearts open.
But somewhere underneath the angst is a little bubble of hope. Hope that good things may come out of this. That this may be the crisis that finally gets people to wash their godddamn hands properly. This new-fangled 30 second soapshow is how I’ve washed my hands since I started medical school. I worked for years in the ER of children’s hospitals, ground zero of all that is infectious, and managed to escape with only one serious throat infection. I’m still waiting for my medal. If you take nothing else from this whole debacle, know that the hand washing alone will make the world a better place.
Perhaps we’ll see a new trend toward a deeper respect for science and evidence, and recognition that we are all citizens of the globe. A trend toward demanding better from our leaders and from each other. Toward thinking of the greater good and placing equal value on all lives. Pandemics come and go and this one will be no different. It’ll leave its mark on every one of us but it’s entirely possible that somehow we’ll emerge on the other side of this, battered and weary, but changed for the better. Maybe truth and reason will rule the planet and women will suddenly be in charge of everything meaning when the next crisis hits my poor sister will be spared wandering the streets of London searching in vain for the last box of tampons in England (true story). You know full well if the ladies were at the helm there’d be a shortage of Viagra long before the period shelves were empty. Unicorns and rainbows. Puppies romping through fields of wildflowers. Maybe.
But until then we have no choice but to settle in. This is a marathon not a sprint. By now you all know what to do. Wash your hands. Stay at home. No travel under any circumstances. Listen to those with a string of letters after their names and not to those spouting nonsense. Do what you can for your neighbour. Don’t sweat the small stuff like serving ice cream for dinner or plopping your kids in front of a screen for hours on end. Just do what you need to do to get through.
Here’s to better days my friends. They are coming. Of that you can be very sure. Love to you all.
Brrrr. Finders, the temps are dropping faster than my saggy hindquarters. All the leaves have turned, some glorious, some just withered and crispy waiting for the North wind to whisk them away. I’m working away here, tick tacking on the old laptop making good headway into a second book while sending my first around the world, which gets me to thinking about just how cold it really is out there. Tragedy steeped in hatred at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. A Brazilian president that makes Trump look like a sweet feminist auntie. Migrants inching along a perilous path seeking refuge from terror now unwitting pawns in political strife that feels like a herald of the end of days. On and on and on. It’s all so…depressing. And the shrink in me does not use that word lightly.
It’s hard to think about my doodles, but what else can I do? What else can any of us do but carry on? The minutiae of life will not be put off by a world that seems to be cracking apart. That laundry pile cares not for your righteous rage and indignation (speaking of which I just read Rebecca Traister’s Good and Mad and it’s a mad piece of good). The fridge will not be magically replenished while you protest. The kids must be fed no matter who wins in the next round of pivotal elections held around the globe. Bills gotta be paid even in times of tyranny. And so it goes.
You all know that this space is about joy and today I’m looking for inspiration. A little humanity in the insanity. Reports of random kindness, sappy videos that will dissolve me into a puddle, puppies and rainbows and unicorn sightings. The silly, the obscure, the unexpected, and the mundane. I’ll accept anything and everything even goofy pictures of your cats, creatures for which I harbour a deep seated mistrust. Dig down and find me the joy that I know is out there hidden under all the vitriol.
I’ll get the ball rolling with this. A meaningless ad for a meaningless product that somehow makes me feel hopeful and alive. Joy is where you find it, right?
…it’s the humidity. Oh, this wet, soggy armpit of a city where I now find myself. I tell you it borders on heinous to be a menopausal woman in this town right now. I’m like an oil slick from the moment I open my eyes until I lay my head down again to flip flop around like an old fish between the sticky sheets. It’s been weeks now of weather that people who are clearly suffering from some sort of derangement call “lovely.” I tell you I’m no good for it. Even at the height of my estrogen-filled heyday humidity and I were fierce foes. But here’s the best part: I have A/C. Its the only reason I’m still alive.
I have all the vigour of a very long and skinny wet noodle. I’m supposed to be writing and I am, I am, honestly. I finished a novel recently (please direct all prayers, vibes, and voodoo to the publishing powers that be) and I’ve started in on another, but the inside of my head is as muggy as the outside world. So I’ve turned to the words of others: Less by Andrew Sean Greer, Tin Man by Sarah Winman, The Path of Most Resistance by fellow Newfoundlander Russell Wangersky, and I have been momentarily revived and inspired. Then I step out into the wavy searing sunshine and a new round of wilt sets in.
They say we’ve a few more weeks of this mess to endure, and I suppose I shouldn’t grumble. It’ll be sleet and snow and power outages galore soon enough in my part of the world. So, distract me for a moment and tell me what’s happening where you are. Tell me what you’re reading. And tell me your secrets to keep cool. From my window I can see a young boy gleefully running through a sprinkler in nothing but superhero underpants. He’s the picture of glistening, goosebumpy joy. I’ve got a black thong and a pink shower cap at the ready. Cover me, I’m going in.
When last we met I was banging on about my first attempt at fiction writing. Full of hope and optimism I was. Oh, bless me. Turns out my fluffy beach read wasn’t pleasing to a single soul. Now it lives in a little blue folder on my laptop screen where even I agree it belongs. It was late autumn when I finally decided to put it aside. The leaves had turned and Old Man Winter was poking his gnarly fingers in my direction when I decided to see if I could do better. I tick-tacked away desperately trying to block out all the malaise found in the real world. Anytime bad news passed before my eyes or wormed its way into my ear I developed a bizarre syndrome, a cluster of symptoms—fatigue, irritability, restlessness, a twitchy eye and facial grimace, and a strange urge to let fly a stream of profanity every time Trump or someone like him spoke—for which the only cure seemed to be slipping back into the world I’d created on my screen.
While the wind blew and the snow swirled, I wrote and wrote and the next thing I knew I’d written another book. A book that may be prominently displayed on a bookstore shelf someday or simply take up residence next to the first one in the blue folder, but a book nonetheless. The early reviews from test readers are good and it’s caught the eye of a couple of publishing folks, but as everyone knows, even JK Rowling had to grow a skin thicker than a rhino when she started shopping her little wizard book about. Where it will go from here is a mystery.
For now, the weather appears to be turning although given that there’s still snow in my garden I’ve decided to start in on yet another book. I shall emerge at the first sign of a daffodil and not before. At any rate, whether I wind up a published author or a deranged hermit or both, I’ve found a way to cope with what goes on outside the walls of my house. What have you found?
Well, dear Finders, I thought it was high time for a howdy do. I hope you’ve all been happy and healthy and tearing up this thing called life. It’s been a while since I’ve written, which seems a tad ironic to me as lately it seems I’ve done nothing but write. In between being laid up with some pesky health issues, watching the entire library of shows on Netflix, and nagging poor Rusty almost to death, I’ve been click-clacking away on my trusty laptop.
Here’s the news: For those who have ragged on me for a second book, today is your lucky day. Instead of writing about myself, mostly because my life is in the running for the most tedious yawnfest in history, I decided to give fiction a go. So, I sat down and banged out about 81,000 words, also known as a novel. The initial draft of the manuscript is finished and sent off to a few elite readers for the first round of criticism.
The first review is in and it’s a doozy. “I loved, loved, loved it. It’s wonderful. I laughed, I cried, I couldn’t put it down. Thank you for writing it.” Not bad, right? Well, hold your horses. Given that it’s a book about a young woman and her sister who happens to be a psychiatrist, and that the review came from my sister, I’d say the bias is about as big as Donald Trump’s racist, woman-hating, full of shit, scary as hell arse. Still.
At any rate, there’s a long road to travel between a draft manuscript and a book that you can wrap as a Christmas gift for 50 of your closest friends (see what I did there?). I have to edit again based on reader feedback. I have to begin the arduous process of finding an agent. I have to eat and drink and wail through the repeated rejections. Then maybe, just maybe, open a bottle of champagne if some sucker decides to take a chance of the greatest piece of literature ever written. I had a marvellous time writing it and I hope someone out there gets a chance to read it someday.
At the very least I know you crowd will always find a few kind words of encouragement for me. And this is very important to me because now that a night with Sam Shepard is out of the question (RIP, beautiful man), having a published novel with my name on it has just rocketed to number one on my bucket list. A drunken dusk to dawn prowl on the town with Justin Trudeau is a close second, which is actually far more likely to happen than the new number one.
So, wish me luck as I venture into the muck of trying to become a novelist. Although… an obscure book gathering dust on the back shelf at Chapters or body shots and gender based policy debates with JT. Hmm, tricky, very tricky.
So, my lovely publisher and I had a long overdue, lovely chitty-chat on the phone the other day and she was kind enough to inform me that Finding Me in France is still selling in Canadian bookstores. Sure, many copies were used as fire fuel during the long Canadian winter, but still. In fact, the phrase “regional bestseller” was bandied about. Naturally, the important word here is bestseller. Or maybe that’s actually two words, I’ve no idea, which would perfectly explain why the words New York Times number one bestseller were not uttered once during that conversation.
Yes, said region may indeed be the back end of Canada that lies isolated in the frigid, windswept North Atlantic, but who the hell cares. Yippee, huzzah, hooray and ta da. Regional is a perfectly fine category, think California wine region or regional hockey champions. Any way you look at it, the book of doodles is a winner. Proof positive that France, public humiliation, and overuse of the word arse are the path to greatness.
Quite puffed up by this news was I. So much so that recently, while waiting in a small restaurant for a friend to join me for lunch, I engaged in some banter with two very impressive silver haired ladies. The jumping off point was the complete badassery found in our rejection of societal hair colour demands, and the landing was, “You two should buy my book.” Smartphones were tapped and next thing you know I was three bucks richer. Take notes, mes amis, that’s how it’s done.
Truth be told, self-promotion is not one of my strengths. Righteous indignation, moral outrage, justifying ridiculous expenditures, much more my speed. I don’t even have a single copy of my own book. Shameful I suppose. At any rate, people do often suggest that I should write another book. Possibly. Maybe there really is a shortage of good bathroom literature. I’m no fiction writer so I’ll have to mine this mundane life for something worth saying, not an easy task (ideas, please). I’ll keep you posted.
For now all I can say is merci to anyone and everyone who threw their Visa down for me. Next time we’re going for the big prize, #62 on the Canadian good seller list.
From time to time I get emails from folks who’ve read Finding Me in France offering their reviews. They are incredibly kind and gracious and say things like, “Oh I laughed and laughed,” or, “You’ve inspired me to travel more,” or, “Overuse of the word arse gets tiresome.” That last one has been my favourite until now.
The other day I got a curious email from a name I didn’t recognize (let’s call her Florence). Her message was fairly direct, in fact, one sentence: “Does the name So and So (again, to protect the innocent) from Corner Brook (town in Newfoundland) ring a bell?” I saw that the email was cc’ed to So and So. Intrigued, I wrote back, “Yes, my head is always ringing with bells.”
It became clear that these two women worked together with the next reply, ” I have just put your book down…magical…laughing out loud in the middle of our recovery room for the last few days…driving So and So crazy…I think my two favourite Newfies should get together for a drink.” Either they both worked at a hospital or my book is currently being used as an anesthetic agent for major surgery. Continue reading “Good Night, Nurse!” »
Sometimes I forget about that French adventure I had. It seems so long ago and so far away and then Bam! it comes rocketing back to me, sometimes in very fine form. If you’ve been hanging out here for a while or if you’ve read the goofy book, you’ll know about my fabulous neighbour who made living in rural France quite special, the fantastique Jean-Claude. JC divides his time between being the prince of panache in a small French town and the master of mayhem in Morocco. And, god love him, he carts my doodle collection wherever he goes.
Not long ago, while sipping cocktails in a Moroccan nightclub, he ran into a famous French musician and producer by the name of Patrick Derue. I imagine they chatted about the spectacles Patrick has put on in Vegas and France, everything from a Chinese version of Cirque du Soleil to gospel concerts, and then somehow, this unfolded…
Well, the Big French Adventure has come to an end. What an interesting, exhilarating (at times, frustrating), up, down, and all around time it has been. I’ll tell you this: I admire anyone who can live here and not spend every cent they have on Meursault wine and pastries, anyone who can master both spoken and written French in less than 15 years, and, most of all, anyone immigrating to a foreign country without a sidekick who’s willing and able to manage European bureaucracy.
You know, someone asked me the other day if I thought the project was a success. I suppose the answer depends on how you define success. I’ve had unforgettable experiences, and met equally unforgettable people. I’ve seen many beautiful places, and while I haven’t seen a fraction of what I’d like to see in this part of the world, Europe’s not going anywhere and I know I’ll be warmly welcomed back. Overall, I’m far better for it, despite the deleterious effects on my derrière. Continue reading “The Last Au Revoir” »
I had planned to write a long and sappy, yet charming and witty post thanking Rusty/Big Red/My Better Two-Thirds for this adventure of mine (everything from funding the finding to feeding the giraffe), but then I remembered he doesn’t read my posts very often—bastard.
Regardless, I sat down to write my thank-you note, but I just couldn’t find the right words to convey my gratitude. I almost abandoned the whole thing, and then I got lucky. I found maybe the best thing I’ve ever seen on the internet, and rather than waxing poetic about my husband’s many gifts to me, I’ve decided to share someone else’s story—an ordinary couple who share an extraordinary love.
So, Neil, if you’re out there, you’re a first rate smartypants, a kind soul, and the best friend a girl could ever have. This one is for you: Click here, turn up the sound, enjoy, and then get busy with dinner, will ya?
Okay, for anyone who’s curious about where I’ll be finding me next: think ocean and mountains and vineyards. Think temperate climate, totem poles, Chinatown, orca whales, and people who say please a lot. Come the morning of May 1st, I’ll be opening my eyes on beautiful Vancouver Island. Not exotic or exciting enough? May I remind you that I have never once set foot on Vancouver Island, and that’s as exciting as I’m prepared to be at the moment.
While many locales were up for grabs, we decided an immigration to yet another foreign country was beyond our energy expenditure capacity—code phrase for too bloody lazy. We have friends and work contacts there, and I hear that English is spoken in all the respectable hair salons.
For those who might not know a lot about Canada (Americans, I’m looking at you), perhaps describing Victoria as a mini San Francisco or Seattle with fewer guns and higher taxes will suffice, with apologies to my new home if the comparison is off. Of course, San Francisco, Seattle, and my bucket list restaurant—The French Laundry in the California vineyards—are just around the corner, and I’ll be plotting a plan for all 3 destinations as soon as I unpack. Continue reading “Island Girl” »
Finders, it’s official: I’m moving. Again. I don’t mean across town, I mean to a different country. Exactly where is not important. For now, it’s enough simply to divulge the drama of the impending déménagement—that’s French for repeatedly doing things that might lead to complete physical and mental collapse.
In case I’m misunderstood, I’m in favour of further adventure; I just want the magical version of it, where someone waves a wand or wiggles a nose and it all comes into place while I’ve been off having a full body massage.
To say this decision was not arrived at lightly would be the very definition of understatement. Rusty and I discussed and debated like never before and, like always, reached a consensus. We know how to do this by now. We celebrated 11 years together Monday past, and I was quick to point out that 132 months had passed and we’d managed to avoid killing each other, a major triumph in my view. We’ll see over the coming weeks whether I spoke too soon. Continue reading “Mama Was a Rolling Stone” »
So a while back, a lovely Canadian journalist contacted me to do a profile on my shenanigans for a magazine called The Medical Post, a monthly publication exclusively for physicians that covers everything from tuberculosis treatment to travel. OK, Vogue it is not, but it is national and seen by almost every doctor in Canada.
Naturally, I had mixed feelings about having all my former colleagues learn about my abandoning ship, but the woman who interviewed me was so respectful and smart and she asked very interesting questions, so I thought this will be fine, cool even. I’d come off looking all groovy and wise and worldly.
And I did, mostly. Of course the goofy element was loud and clear, but what wasn’t loud and clear was that the cover would feature of picture of my head. Sweet hand of god, not much subtle about me now is there? I pictured me on the back page, you know, the one that nobody ever reads and gets used to sop up spilled coffee or line the compost bucket. I should have known when they asked for multiple pictures of me. So, neither subtle nor swift, me. Continue reading “Cover to Cover” »