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Posts Tagged ‘Alice Munro’

Happy Canada Day!

In cities, culture, History, travel on July 1, 2013 at 12:03 am

By Caitlin Kelly

This is the week I celebrate both my countries — July 1 is Canada Day. I was born and raised there, (Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal) and the U.S., where I’ve lived since 1988, celebrates July 4.

We have a big Canadian flag we’ll hang off the balcony. After my hip replacement, in February 2012, I walked the hospital hallway, thinking it might be fun — with ceramic and metal in me for good, now — to look like a super-hero.

caiti flag

It’s odd to have become a long-term expatriate, (a word often mis-spelled, with an interesting twist of meaning, as ex-patriot.) When do you become an immigrant? When you take the citizenship of your new land? I will probably do so here because of estate planning issues; I’ll be able to retain both passports.

Ironically, my ability to come to, and stay in, the U.S. was thanks to my mother’s American citizenship. She now lives near my birthplace, Vancouver, and I now live near hers, New York City.

I do miss my Canadian friends and a shared set of cultural references so Jose and I head north usually 2-4 times a year.

Will I ever move back? Hard to say. Living in the States is rougher professionally, but new opportunities come much more easily here, I’ve found.

Here are some fun Canadian facts:

— Insulin was first produced by Frederick Banting and Charles Best at my alma mater, the University of Toronto.

English: Frederick Banting ca. 1920–1925 in To...

English: Frederick Banting ca. 1920–1925 in Toronto, Ontario (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

– The singer Neil Young had a very nice guy for a dad, Scott Young, who worked in the same Toronto newsroom as I did, The Globe & Mail, as a sportswriter.

– If you love the work of smart, tough-minded women writers like Margaret Atwood (who attended my Toronto high school), Alice Munro, Margaret Laurence and Miriam Toews, you’re reading Canadians.

– If you’re in Canada and need a painkiller, ask a pharmacist for a bottle of 222s, which have codeine in them (forbidden in the U.S. without a prescription). They work great.

– Canadian candy bars rock! My favorites include Big Turk, Crispy Crunch, Aero and Crunchie , all of them in milk chocolate. American mass-market chocolate, like Hershey’s, is a contradiction in terms.

– To truly understand how Canadians ran the 18th. and 19th-century fur trade, kneel in  a wooden canoe and paddle for a week or so. Then do some really long, twisty, slippery, muddy, rocky portages, swatting away black flies and mosquitoes as you hump the canoe and all your packs on your shoulders between lakes or rivers. Visit the Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough, Ontario to see a replica of a voyageur canoe, used by the earliest explorers. They are simply amazing. It’s one of my favorite museums in the world.

– There are some astounding fossils to be seen in the Badlands of Alberta. The Royal Tyrell Museum is well worth a stop!

– A great way to enjoy Vancouver’s Stanley Park is to rent a bike and ride the whole thing. As you circle the seawall, you’ll see huge freighters off-shore and dozens of float-planes zooming overhead.

Splurge on a helicopter ride from Vancouver to Victoria; the cheapest fare is $150. The views of the ocean and the Rockies are stupendous.

– Did you know the Vikings arrived in Newfoundland? I’m dying to visit L’Anse Aux Meadows, the curiously bilingually-named site from the 11th. century.

– If you enjoyed the movies Superbad and Juno, and the star Michael Cera, he’s Canadian, from Brampton, Ontario.

– If you’ve never tried poutine, tourtiere, a butter tart or a Nanaimo bar, go for it! They’re all caloric suicide, but well-loved: cheese curds with gravy; a meat pie; a sweet small tart and a chocolate, icing-covered brownie. Hey, those long cold Canadian winters require some metabolic stoking!

Nanaimo Bar at Butler's Pantry, Toronto, Canada.

Nanaimo Bar at Butler’s Pantry, Toronto, Canada. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And here is my favorite short video of all time, Canadian Please.

Enjoy, mes cher(es)! C’est un pays bilingue.

Have you been to Canada? What did you see?

A small-town vacation

In beauty, cities, culture, domestic life, family, life, travel on June 14, 2012 at 2:01 am
BNSF 5307,EMDX 9006.

BNSF 5307,EMDX 9006. (Photo credit: therailroadrooster)

My father moved from Toronto last year to an Ontario town that’s become popular with retirees, with elegant, early brick buildings, a river, a few good restaurants and three bookstores. Not bad for a place with 16,500 people.

– I visit one of the bookstores, buy a paperback and introduce myself to the manager. “You’re the second author we’ve had today,” he says. The first? Alice Munro. That’s like strolling into a music shop and being told that Beethoven stopped in a while before you did.

– There’s a line-up at the chips fan, selling Extreme Fries. Dad and I order the sweet potato ones and eat them, gooey with ketchup. A million calories, but so good.

– It’s dusk here at 9:30, so that’s when the drive-in starts its first show. It’s out, of course, on Theatre Rd., surrounded by fields. There’s a little booth at the entrance with a stern warning, “This is not a campground.”

We pay $20 for our two tickets, tune our car radio to 92.3 and pick a spot with a good view. Little kids in pajamas settle into the cars and trucks around us. We watch Men in Black III. Dad falls asleep. It starts to rain, so I have to use the windshield wipers to watch the movie.

– We walk to the corner deli for lunch. There are all my Canadian favorites — smoked meat and butter tarts and Smarties — for sale. Yay!

– His next-door neighbor keeps bringing us wonderful food: a cooked salmon, chocolate croissants, muffins. She’s 89 and a Buddhist.

– There are two sets of train tracks, one for the CP rail freight train and one for the VIA/CN line that carries passengers. The station, built in 1865, is brightly painted inside and lovingly restored to period condition. I take my husband Jose and we wait until the turquoise VIA train stops, pulls down its metal stairs, and he climbs up with all his bags. This sort of rail-side parting, the holidaying wife left behind, the husband heading back to his work in another country, feels somehow timeless.

The lady in her cap and uniform pulls up the stairs. I try not to cry and wave him off.

The freight train is miles long, laden with metal containers from all over the world. What’s in them? As it pulls past us, which seems to take a deliciously long time, I wave to the conductor. You have to wave to the conductor, no matter how old you are. (You can’t wave to a jet pilot mid-flight, after all.)

I wave to salute him and all the men (and women) across the centuries who’ve done this essential work. The train still brings us salamis and shoes and computers and new cars, chugging across the landscape from some distant port, from a ship that brought them to us from somewhere far across an ocean.

It’s magic.

At night, the train whistles pierce the darkness, echoing through the trees.

Twenty Legendary Women I'm Thankful For

In History, women on November 25, 2009 at 9:16 am
Portrait of Marie Curie (November 7, 1867 &nda...

Mammos, thanks to her, Mme. Curie.Image via Wikipedia

Over the millennia, there are thousands of women whose lives, talents and hard work have smoothed the path for others, thanks to their political bravery, their devotion to the needs of those they do not know and will never meet, their care for the earth and its resources, their skills in medicine or music or architecture or design.

As we sit down for turkey, stuffing and giving thanks, here’s my highly edited short list of cool women, any one of whom I’d love to have had lunch with — some of whom maybe I still can!

And, of course — my Mom. She met my Canadian Dad in France when she was 17, married him and moved from New York City to Canada, followed him and his film-making career to London, then back to Canada where she became a radio, television, film and print journalist. She traveled the world alone for years, from Afghanistan to Singapore, Fiji to Chile. We lived and traveled in Mexico, the first place she taught me the need to pay careful attention to other cultures. A multiple survivor of various cancers, and still kicking my butt, she taught me to be feisty, frugal, fearless and have fun.

I’d love to hear your votes!

Marie Curie. Everyone who’s ever gotten an X-ray owes a debt of gratitude to Pole Madame Curie, who, sadly died of leukemia from overexposure to radiation. Only four people have won two Nobel prizes; she won in 1903 for physics and 1911 for chemistry.

Susan B. Anthony, who helped win American women the right to vote.

Nellie McClung, who won Canadian women the right to vote. She’s on the Canadian $50 bill and a bronze statue of her stands outside the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa, Canada’s capital. I dedicated my first T/S post, July 1, 2009, to her.

Lena Bryant, who emigrated from Lithuania in 1895 at the age of 16, and who founded Lane Bryant, by 1950 one of the U.S.’s most successful and earliest makers of clothing for larger sizes.

Virginia Apgar, a New York City physician and professor at Columbia University whose Apgar score for newborns, has since 1953, measured five key indicators of health within a baby’s first few minutes of life. She never married because “I never found a man who could cook.”

Suze Orman, who candidly admits she learned firsthand what it’s like to wear the leg-irons of consumer debt and who teaches women, especially, to take better financial care of themselves.

Alice Munro, a Canadian treasure, winner of this year’s Man Booker International Prize, and one of the world’s greatest living writers. I have met her, and she was as lovely and gracious as I’d hoped.

Jane Austen, who bequeathed to us some of the most enduring stories that still resonate centuries later.

Babe Didrikson Zaharia for being such a ferocious and multi-talented athlete long before anyone had heard of Title IX, civil rights or the Williams sisters.

Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan woman and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize who was fighting for the land years before it became fashionable to do so.

Sylvia Earle, aka Her Royal Deepness, whose passion for the oceans has made her the female equal of the much better-known late Jacques Cousteau.

Dian Fossey, one of several accomplished women (Jane Goodall, Birute Galdikas) who made saving monkeys a powerful and compelling argument, devoting her life to them.

Billie Jean King, for her many tennis accomplishments, and for taking on the impossibly sexist-chauvinist Bobby Riggs and kicking his ass. Young women today have no idea how prevalent his brand of contempt was for women athletes.

Emily Roebling, whose name should be legend. Her father-in-law John Roebling won the contract, but died of tetanus. Then her husband, Washington, was severely injured by having descended too many times into the caissons to watch the progress of the Brooklyn Bridge, the 8th wonder of the world, as it was known at the time. While he had to sit in their Brooklyn home watching construction of it out their windows, it was Emily — unheard of in the 1880s — who, without any engineering or mathematical training, took over heading up this complex project. She defended her husband publicly, also unheard of at the time, and went on to become one of New York State’s first female lawyers.

Nellie Bly, a crusading journalist who chose to spend time in an insane asylum to report on its appalling conditions, then did a wild round-the-world journey in record time, also to write about it. Bold, brave and way ahead of the days when “embeds” or other forms of immersive reporting were considered cool.

Rosa Parks, who had the guts to take a stand for civil rights when so few others dared.

Margaret Bourke-White, whose photograph graced the first cover of Life magazine, and who became one of the U.S.’s best-known and most-respected women photographers.

Margaret Sanger, who in the early 1900s fought for the rights of women to have access to and to use birth control, a phrase she is said to have originated.

Pema Chodron, a Buddhist teacher and writer, an extremely rare female leader in that world, whose books, and wisdom, have helped millions. A graduate of Miss Porter’s, a prep school in Connecticut, and Berkeley, she began her career as a schoolteacher and now runs Gampo Abbey in Nova Scotia.

Annie Oakley, for escaping a crazy, impoverished childhood thanks to her guts and self-confidence. She learned to shoot so accurately because she initially shot game birds and sold them to local hotels for food, needing the money even as a teenager to survive. She met her husband, Frank Butler, when she beat him at a shooting competition. She became one of the nation’s best-known and widely-admired performers — until William Randolph Hearst, deciding to ride on the coat-tails of her fame, published articles in his newspapers slandering her. She took three years away from her career to fight every single one of them, and won. Here’s a biography of her by one of my favorite female historians, Glenda Riley. I also wrote about her in my first book.

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