Sunday, July 15, 2018

I moved from the wilds of Atikameg, Alberta to New York City in 1959 (My husband wanted to be an off-Broadway actor) This was at the very end of the Joe McCarthy Communist witch hunt days.
We lived uptown first of all but then we bought the key (a time-honoured practice in those days) to a three-room, rent-controlled apartment at 171 East Second Street on the Lower East Side of New York City. This area was called 'alphabet city', between Avenues A and B. There were also Avenues C and D which explains the nickname.The bathtub in the kitchen of this apartment was an old claw-footed model which had been raised up on four 3" wide pipes so that the top was about waist level. We got a plywood cover and tiled it to make is a usable a kitchen counter for preparing food and what have you. There's a story that should come a little later but I'll tell it now because I just described that tub.
We had a dog and a cat. The dog was called Ladybird, after President Johnson's wife. She was a lovely female boxer and she was very fond of her grub. We also had a cat called Bitsy, a grey tabby. If we left Bitsy's food on the floor the dog would eat it, so we put her food on the countertop covering the tub. Bitsy would jump up there to eat her food and all was exceeding well. Her dish was placed on a little plastic tray to keep it separate from our own food preparations.
The pipes in the building were suffering from hardening of the arteries due to calcium and mineral deposit buildup, particularly in the hot water pipe that led to the tub. When you started to run a tub only a trickle got through and it took almost an hour to fill the tub.
One time I had the tub top off. The bathtub was filling and had almost reached its capacity when Bitsy decided she wanted some food without checking, as she usually did, to see whether the countertop was on or off. She made a vast leap intended to land her directly in front of her food and saw beneath her, oh horrors, a tub full of very hot water!
You've seen those cartoons where the animals, finding themselves over a chasm, develop the ability to walk on air, until they discover that there is nothing beneath them to offer support. Then gravity takes hold and down they go.
Well, Bitsy had that 'magical cartoon moment' when she was in mid-air. She magically froze in mid-air then did a kind of flip motion with her backbone. I don't know how she did it but, miraculously, she 'walked on air'. Nothing got wet but the tip of her tail.

Friday, July 6, 2018


When I first came back to Canada from New York City, I was shocked by the audience's reaction to performers. They just sat there and then, at the end, they would clap, sometimes politely, sometimes very heartily, but just clap. Nobody moved to the music. Nobody grooved to the music. They just sat there and, at the end, they clapped.

In New York, on the folk scene in the 60s, those were our people up there on stage and we were listening to them and watching them make mistakes but hearing what they were doing. It was a creative period happening with people we knew personally up on a stage and singing songs that we were familiar with. It was part of our subculture, I guess you could call it.

I had the good fortune to attend several performances at New York City's Apollo Theatre up in Harlem and I saw there an audience like you would not believe. The black culture there was embodied in the music. Embodied is a good word for it. What was going on there on stage was reflected in the body movements of the audience. I don't mean they were dancing. They were sitting in their seats but were they ever grooving to the music. They knew every note, every nuance. They knew what was good. They knew what was bad. The musical language was totally familiar to them.

When the comedian came on it was Redd Foxx telling scandalous stories about 'fried chicken'. I can't repeat it on the airwaves. It was pretty blue. Redd was famous for his naughty 'party'records. Onstage, he started talking about 'blue gums' and his whole audience burst into laughter. It's a Southern black thing that is you're dark enough your gums are blue, instead of pink, for goodness sake. He knew all of those buttons and he knew just how to push them. The audience was right with him.

Then Pigmeat Markham, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, came on and did his "Here come de Judge" routine. There were screams and roars of laughter because these people had been through the court system, so seeing it parodied on stage, with black folks playing judges and cops and so forth, was just a real hoot.

Tito Puente came on. Tito was a native of Spanish Harlem in New York, so he was from the 'hood as it were. The audience liked his music just as well because, golly, it had the rhythm, it had the beat. So, they were with it. They were really, really with it.

Ruth Brown came tripping out on to the stage in a gold lamé gown so tight around her legs and feet that looked like a mermaid she could barley tippy-toe, waddle up to the microphone but once she was up there and started singing.

"Mama! He treats your daughter mean....."

Everybody knew the song. Everybody was with her.

Now, if you didn't perform up to standard and there was a very high standard, you could be in a mess of trouble, particularly on open stage night. There was a guy with a long waist-high hook who would come out from the wings. I may be remembering this from another performance. It might have been a clown-like figure with a noise maker. Performers who were not up to audience specifications would try to duck the hook or noisemaker and eventually it would haul or drive them still gamely singing off the stage into the wings. You don't really find that sort of thing in, say, a polite folk club nowadays.

When I moved back to Toronto, Ontario I found a somewhat similar reaction to a performer who was expressing the culture. A friend of mine who was from Madras in south India, a Tamil would go out to hear performances by Tamil musicians and entertainers. This would be a huge occasion because, just for the moment, their culture was it. Everybody there was part of it and knew it and understood it and reacted to it. It was 'home'.

I guess the Apollo Theatre was sort of like that. In a white would, before the civil rights movement took hold, you could step into a theatre and hear your talk, hear your people talking about things that concerned you. Making fun of it. Making music out of it. The rhythm carried it and it was just total immersion in a vibrant culture.

People up here in Canada are really nice but, sometimes, they're too polite. Sometimes, the absolute best thing is to get down and dirty with that performer. Yell when you like it and say when you don't and maybe even get out the hook. Both audience and performer will be better for it.

Friday, March 8, 2013

ChangerChanger by Jane Lindskold
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Consistently engaging story of 'immortals' on earth. Great plotting, well-maintained suspense, engaging characters. What more can you ask for?

View all my reviews

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

As promised Barbie with my Raspberry Pi mini computer running Raspbian Linux

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

My latest venture was to put together the bits of hardware surrounds a really tiny Linux computer called an Raspberry Pi.

Most expensive part was the adapter to connect the tiny motherboard to a computer monitor.  Got ripped off by a company I will not name for both the price and the delivery fee.

When put together it worked just fine.  Stay tuned for a photo of a Barbie doll holding the CPU :-)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Ancient Lands

Reading Oxford History of Biblical Lands but I have supplemented it with a fine volume (strange to call it thus when it is an ebook) on ancient Sumeria.

Such scholarly texts are a relief from more ephemeral fare. They require concentration and thought.

I am less pleased with the Biblical characters and society and more inclined to see the larger picture. What defines the bible cast is a book of carefully crafted propaganda, beautifully written about folk more legendary than real.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Looking backward

I have 3 eReader devices,, 2 Kindles and an Kobo, plus 4 desktop applications which also allow me to peruse the world's literature.
My shelves are crowded with books made of paper and I wish there was some way to bequeath them all since my reading lately is electronic through my devices and on my computer desktop
Perversely, I seem to prefer reading material from 1912. I am now reading H.G. Wells' "Lost World", an interesting series on common life in Victorian London and have just purchased a Neal Stephenson book "Quicksilver" set in Colonial times.