Sunday, November 25, 2012


Yesterday Rod and I, movie buffs that we are, saw MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN and THE LIFE OF PI at the Varsity Cinema in downtown Toronto. This theatre always has the best movies and with coffee shops, a Chapter's and a great little Italian restaurant surrounding the 3 flight escalator leading up to the Varsity it's a fun location to hang out while you're waiting for the show to start.

We had an hour to kill before the first show, so we sauntered over to the book store (I could spend a whole day in book stores) where I found a display of cook books. I'm not a bad cook myself - siege cooking is my specialty - making something out of whatever you find in your pantry. But, preferring to be elsewhere and doing anything but cook, most of the time, the kitchen is my swearing zone. I work at super human speed just to get the food and myself outta there. This behaviour, I believe, is a conditioned response from years of working in restaurants.

DEARIE - The remarkable life of Julia Child by Bob Spitz, with a youthful Julia on the book's cover smiling at something off in the distance, captured my attention. I loved watching her when I was a kid - that voice, that sense of humour, that great enthusiasm and of course the wall with the pots and pans outlines amused me no end. So there I stood for the hour browsing through its pages.

As I scanned the book, pausing here and there to read full sections, my memories of the original Julia Child mixed with amazing re-enactments of TV show episodes (that I'd enjoyed watching for real) performed by the brilliant Meryl Streep as Julia in the movie JULIE AND JULIA.

God I'd like to see that movie again, I said to myself. I'll have to rent the video.

My thumb lit on commentary about Dan Aykroyd's impersonation/parody of Julia preparing a chicken dish on a daytime T.V. interview show. She had cut her thumb in the process but continued on with her thumb wrapped in a towel. In Aykroyd's version she succumbs to her wound yelling "save the liver" as she collapses over the chicken. Child apparently loved this.

A here's a lovely synchronicity, Aykroyd has a connection with Julia. His aunt was considered the Julia Child of Canada. Here's the story about that and the birth of that handy kitchen gadget the Bassomatic...

Upon my return tonight from the monthly, full moon fire ceremony, which I found particularly powerful and magical, I performed my usual kitchen frenzy dance as I prepared myself squash soup combining left over squash and yam with freshly sautéed mushrooms, onions, garlic and turmeric. It was a siege cooking success. Since I'm no Julia Child, Rod enjoyed a nuked Shepherd's pie that I'd purchased from Longo's this afternoon.

We dined watching TV and as Rod flipped between channels there was Amy Adams, as Julie, blogging on her computer about her efforts to cook one of Julia's dishes; a scene from JULIE AND JULIA. A major hit for synchronicity! The movie includes Aykroyd's "save the liver" skit which was a lovely bonus.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to find the "save the liver" skit but, since there was also reference to Aykroyd's classic "bassomatic" skit, in both the book and the interview above, I'll include it for your enjoyment...

Saturday, November 17, 2012


My friends on Vancouver Island, make me feel welcome and at home. I housesat for many of them during the '80's when I was struggling to develop my cartoon strip, and have had the opportunity to stay with them on visits to the island since that time. Their presence gives me a sense of belonging. This past Sept, we shared tales of adventure, laughs, our deepest thoughts, hopes and dreams over dinner, on hikes and while lingering on living room couches before heading off to our respective bedrooms.

I am one of the lucky ones! As I was reminded last Thurs night, others are not so blessed.

It was the night of the Sleep Out a fund raising event in which CEO's and notable business leaders slept in sleeping bags on pieces of cardboard on a paved parking lot outside of Covenant House (the host of the event) in Toronto to raise awareness of the plight of the city's homeless youths (3,000 was one estimate).
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I love this vantage point!
Frank Sinatra's voice sets the tone, "That old black magic's has me in its spell...". It's 3:15p.m. Only coffee and dessert are served that's exactly what I, and a smattering of other patrons, desire. Staff casually go about the business of preparing for the dinnertime rush as cheerful banter flows between them.

A waiter serves me in an equally casual, familiar manner saying, as he places my order before me, "You will enjoy this Americano, it's the best in town and I made it special for you." I feel like I've dropped into someone's home.

I sit appreciating the moment, gratitude overflowing, with a big grin on my face, in my familiar corner table at my old haunt, PAGLIACCI's. The aroma of black coffee wafts its way to my nostrils, soothes my soul and, along with the massive piece of chocolate cheesecake, renders me spellbound...
MMM, the best cheesecake ever and sooo rich!

I swore I would finish my treat but a vast serving remains.

As the waiter offers me a refill on my coffee he asks, "Can I package that up for you?"

"No, I can't take it home. I'm staying in a kosher house-hold and can't bring it into the house. I really hate to throw it out though."

"Take it to Doug and View. You'll find someone who'll appreciate it. There's a guy with a scruffy beard that hangs out there. I give him extra stuff left over from my shift all the time. He's a good guy, just down on his luck and, if he's not there, there are lots of others. If you don't find anyone just leave the container on top of the garbage bin, someone will take it."
At the bus stop at Douglas and View St, looking for scruffy-bearded guy, to give the remainder of my chocolate cheesecake to, a spare-toothed man sitting on a bench catches my eye. His clothes are grubby, his hair dishevelled and a battered guitar case leans against him. 
We nod at each other as if we were old friends. He waives me over and asks with a smile, "How's it goin' in the hood?"
"Pretty good" I nod. "I've been travelling around for a few weeks; staying with friends along the way."
"Me," he says, "I'm headed up island to go campin' with my wife. I love campin' more than anything…not more than my wife though, I love her more." 
We laugh.
He continues, "It's good to have people to visit. Makes you feel like you belong."
Taking in the timeliness of his comment, I smile, "It does indeed. Well, I gotta go."
He signs off with a wave, "Peace, love and Harley Davidson to ya" 
I turn to go, then stop and turn to him. "You wouldn't happen to know anyone who'd like some chocolate cheesecake, would you?"
Eagerly he replied. "Oh ya, I would." 
I gave it to him and walked away.
I don't know if he got on the bus he seemed to be waiting for; if there would be a fire to warm him on that cool summer night, inspiring him to sing and strum his guitar; or if there was a wife waiting on the other end of the line or if she resided only in his mind as a memory of better times or a dreamed present. 
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The fact is, Victoria, with its moderate climate, is mecca for people living on the street. Their beds don't consist of folded cardboard boxes placed over subway-line grates in subzero weather that threatens frostbite. Many disappear into the park which conceals their presence and keeps them safe for one more night.
©Nance Thacker 1984

on the outer edges of Beacon Hill Park
Later that same evening I had the good fortune to be able to treat one of my hosts to a meal at Passero's Restaurant where we spent a few hours lingering over a glass of wine and spanakopita with rice and veg - mmm! But, as is always the case, I can only finish half of it. Adele heads home and it's back to Doug and View for me. Those few that wander the night hours dance with fear and suspicion. I place my carton on top of a bin, knowing someone's growling stomach will be satiated for a few hours at least and make my way "home" feeling deep gratitude for the path my life has taken.

Someone on their way to settle in for the night.

Upon my return to Ontario Adele sent me a poem inspired by our time together and my leaving titled CHEERIO; the last line is "Thank goodness friends are everywhere."

My e-mail to her ends with, "Thanks my friend for being part of my belonging."

Monday, November 5, 2012

SPITS - Suitcase Diaries

I've got spit on my mind...Tyee Spit, Rebecca Spit and Sidney Spit. It all started in August during my visit to Vancouver Island...

Rod and I spent many twilight nights down at Tyee Spit in Campbell River enchanted by the sight of clusters of small classic rowboats manned by 2 or 3 members, and aspiring members, of the Tyee Club as they fished for salmon. The boats must be rowed. One or two fishermen cast unbaited lines of a specified weight and wait for the tug on their line. If a salmon of over 30lbs is landed in the boat, the angler becomes a member of the Tyee Club.

The age old nature of the pursuit of the salmon transports me to ancient, mythical times. One night as I watch the fishermen/women, I imagine canoes paddling upstream.
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In 2010 Rebecca Spit was covered in jelly fish.

They lurked in its waters making it unfit for swimming, so I wasn't too eager to spend a sunny, warm, perfect for swimming, afternoon at this Quadra Island spit. Incredibly, crystal clear, cool waters greet us. I swim, drinking in soul's refreshment, while Rod and his sister Sue chat and read.

Families, kids and dogs are also enjoying this long-awaited glorious, summer day. It is perfection. I relax like a happy, wet dog (hopefully not as smelly) in the back seat of the car on our way home.
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A few days later, on the drive back to Maple Bay from the Genoa Bay Café, where I shared a delicious fish and chip dinner and a jug of sangria with my friends Irene and Garth, Garth tells me of a film he knows I'll enjoy - OVER BEAUTIFUL BRITISH COLUMBIA: AN AERIAL ADVENTURE. Irene knows that he's offering this evening of cinema, in hopes that it's magic will capture my heart and ensure my return to my spiritual home.

From our comfy chairs, we fly in a bird's eye view over cities, mountains, forests, rivers, waterways and shores. Of all of the scenes that we pass over, Sidney Spit captivates me. As luck would have it I leave for Sidney the next day (Tues) to spend a few days at my friend Marlene's.

At 10 a.m., on Thurs, for a meagre $20, I board the catamaran ferry from downtown Sidney, headed for Sidney Spit.  About 45 people, including a very energetic and enthusiastic public school class and 2 excited dogs enjoy the 30 minute sail. Though I plan to explore for only a few hours, 1 o'clock and 3p.m. sailings pass by.

In 1985 the Purple Martin population was down to
5 breeding pairs. Thanks to the success of the nest box
program, the number went up to 650 breeding pairs,
in the the Strait of Georgia, by 2007.
This is the sandy part of the spit. The upright logs
were placed to decrease the threat of erosion  by
the incoming tides and waves. This is what it looked
like when I arrived...
And this is what the same spot, viewed from the ferry
as we headed home at high tide.
Note: there is much more to the spit than this section; a lovely
forest and field comprises about 2/3rds of it.
I return on the last sailing at 4:30 landing me in downtown Sidney on the last market evening of the season. I count my blessings as pass by stalls filled with sensory delights, as I walk home to Marlene's, tanned from my outing and contentedly munching some doughy, fried delight.
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Sept 8th after witnessing the raising of Hosagami totem pole on the Lieutenant Governor's grounds I go over to see the newly completed carving of The Salmon People that graces the Government House Bandshell but am disappointed when I realize that I can't stay to see its unveiling. A small booklet honouring the event contains the story of THE LEGEND OF THE SALMON PEOPLE explaining why the salmon return annually to the Fraser River.  This carving symbolizes the respectful interrelationship between this beautiful land, its people and animals.

There are different versions of the Salmon people, but I'll tell you the tale from the booklet of a time when the salmon stopped swimming up the river. The animals, who depended on the salmon for food, devised a plan to steal the son of the Chief of the Salmon people who lived, as people, in a village on a beach by the ocean. The animals paddled up the Fraser River (this is the scene depicted in the carving) and Mouse chewed holes in all the canoes; the Salmon people had to transform themselves into fish in order to follow. The animals tossed clothing in each of the tributaries of the river to "entice the salmon up each stream". The salmon have returned every year since then...

And yes, like the Salmon and the Purple Martins, I'll be returning next summer too.