Saturday, September 29, 2012


Tomorrow September ends.  Monday is the first day of the week and the month.  I like that symmetry.  Although I realize that officially the week starts on Sundays, for most of us Mondays signal the start of the week.  Symmetry, proportion, balance have always appealed to me.  I have looked for equilibrium and order in everything external as much as possible.  Because, I suspect, the opposite is true internally.  The hypothesis is that if things outside are neat and orderly, things inside will eventually be too.  That has been the hope, albeit not the reality, most of the time.

September has proven to be a challenging month.  When it began I hadn't the slightest notion that, at its end, life as I knew it would have changed forever. Never again would I be able to call Sonia to talk about nothing in particular, never again would she meet me at Panera Bread on Clybourn  Avenue for lunch, never again would we dance our beloved Greek dances.  And that idea (or reality) of "never again" represents the most difficult concept to accept.  How is it possible that she will never again walk down Clark Avenue to Kopi Cafe on Saturday mornings?  How is it possible that she will never again pick food from my plate instead of eating from hers?  How is it possible that she will never again listen to my problems and find words to elucidate my concerns?

October will set out without my best friend.  For forty years we shared dresses and earrings, joys and sorrows, friends and even a therapist, the quotidian and the extraordinary.  Our relationship with our respective fathers brought us together many years ago when someone labeled us "red diaper babies."  We had never heard that appellation before but laughed in earnest recognition of our bond.  Politics, language, our past and present, even our physical appearance, branded us as "sisters."  Sisters - not of the blood kind but by choice.  Or, perhaps, by destiny.  We were fated to be as close as sisters since the time we met so, so many years ago on the stage of the Notis Tsecouras Greek Theatre Company.  As an only child I had always searched for friends to lean on, to hold on to for support and companionship.  Sonia was there.  The connection was made and it lasted until now.  

My only solace now is to write about her, about us.  And in this way, she remains in my heart and in my memories: laughing, eating, dancing.  In this way, the unbearable sorrow her absence has brought may fly away like the twelve white doves that soared up to the sky above her resting place.  

Friday, September 21, 2012


In 1982 Sonia and I went to Greece.  We spent a few days in her hometown.  I wrote this poem then, which I dedicated to her and is included in my collection Mapmaker Revisited.  I also dedicated the book to her.  She always found it funny and used to say: "Someday people will think we were lovers or something."  We were best friends.  I want to share it here again:

                                                  for Sonia

salima said "the night is blue" but
here nights are black stars hang
from the sky like pearls around
an african woman's neck

when the moon's full we sit on
the balcony weaving dreams with words:
                        embroidery of cotton and silk
                        beads with opals, rubies for passion
the darkness blends our souls:
                        we become one with the moon

trees and old houses draw shadows
on the mountainside   crickets keep
us awake wounding a silence
as thick as plum

when the moon is new we count
the stars   try to guess their names  you
know the big dipper   i see it now too
the air is a knife's edge cutting through
                        our skins
                        our words
and we become many like the stars

one night in the village we became
all the women who've ever shared their lives
from the beginning of time


Friday, September 14, 2012


...but I am not in the mood for movies and stars.  My best friend for 40 years is suddenly gone; I don't know what to think, what to feel, what to say.  I cannot cry, cannot talk.  I am numb from incredulity. 

Sooner or later it will all sink in and the reality will slap me in the face.  I think I will write about her at some point; I will write something, or maybe more than one thing. 

Right now I have no words.  No words.

Yesterday we saw "Barbara" - a German film, and "White Elephant" - Argentine movie.  I liked them both.  Today I decided to see the first film we had - "Kon Tiki" - about Thor Heyerdahl: an excellent feature film about Heyerdahl's trek to Polynesia from Peru.  It was entertaining and for brief moments made me forget the ugly reality of our loss.  Couldn't go to a film this afternoon.  Instead we had supper with our friends and talked about Sonia.  Two more films tomorrow and Sunday we head back home.

I feel like I should be home doing something, helping her parents, making phone calls.  Something.  Anything to keep me distracted.

Words, words, just words.  That's all I have.  And they are not enough. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012


Going to a movie in the morning seems the height of decadence but that's what TIFF wants you to do, so we do:  "Disconnect" at noon (OK, not morning, but almost).  Bill Horberg is the producer of the film (Marguerite's brother): excellent and scary - all about the world of the Internet and how screwed we are with it.  Or can be if we're not careful.  Jason Bateman and Hope Davis are some of the actors in it.  The others, not so well-known, at least by me.  Recommend it. 

Before the movie we grab a quick breakfast of crepes on Yonge Street next to a club that advertises on its marquis: "Back to school lap dances special."  Question: are the lap dances for the students or the teachers?  or both?  What a country!

The theatre is filled to the brim.  Quandary: either the unemployment rate in Toronto is very high or everyone takes vacation these two weeks.  Answers welcome. 

Lunch is at an Irish pub seating in the sun and then a walk back to the hotel to lie down for a little while before heading back to the same cinema for another film.  This time David stays in the hotel because he's bidding in an auction and "must get these posters."  So I go with my friend Ewa who lives in Toronto, has been here for 10 years.  We were classmates in graduate school and became good friends. 

I arrive at quarter to 5 for a 6 o'clock showing and must stand in line way back.  One of the few drawbacks to TIFF:  standing in line for one or two hours before the movie starts.  My back hurts.  My feet ache.  I am bored.  Should bring a book.

Film: "Smashed" - about a young functioning alcoholic teacher with Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Octavia Spencer.  Very good production. After we walk out and must wait because actors are coming out of the theater and no one can pass by.  We see Spencer and Winstead.  Small red carpet though.

David joins us for supper at Donatello - Italian restaurant - where we sit on the terrace and sip martinis.  The night is glorious and my feet and back are grateful for a rest. 

Tomorrow the line up starts later.  We'll go sightseeing "to an ethnic neighborhood" says David.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

TIFF HERE WE COME! (Toronto International Film Festival to you)

What a breeze to fly out of Midway on Porter Airlines!  They have their own Priority Lane.  Quick security check.  The planes are another story.  They're prop-jet planes says David.  The propeller is right outside my window: what a racket!  And the vibrations!  The entire flight I feel like I'm in a blender.  My left arm gets numb from resting it on the arm of the seat.  The din is insane but the flight attendants prove friendly and the in-flight service much better than the American airlines: free drinks (even wine or beer) and snacks: chips or almonds or pretzels.  Good thing it's a short flight to Toronto. 

The Billy Bishop airport is in the center (or centre) of the city, next to the lake, on an island.  Yes, an island.  The landing shook me to the core - rough, very rough.  Then the customary walk through immigration and customs.  And then - we wait for the ferry.  Yes, a ferry to take you to the mainland.  I did not expect that.  Kind of fun, if you ask me.  And very easy to get to your hotel, very close.

After checking in to the Metropolitan Hotel on Chestnutt we rush to the TIFF Bell Lightbox to pick up our tickets.  We've already purchased them online a few weeks ago after a convoluted, long, insanely complicated process.  If you want to know about it, ask me.  Ticket pick-up is painless.  Taxi to the first cinema: the Elgin - a beautiful old theater (ala Music Box in Chicago).  Lines are forming already.  It's only 4 o'clock for a 6 o'clock film but we go across the street for a restoring cup of coffee and some cheesecake.  By 5 we are in line: the VISA Priority Line because we have a VISA Platinum card ( or so we think).  After about 45 minutes we are allowed in.  Fortunately no one checks to see if we indeed have a Platinum card.  But I really think we do.  We grab two seats towards the back as we like to do.  It is crowded!  The film?  "Hanna Arendt" - German director Margareta Van Trotta is well-known and respected.  No seats left in the house. 

Film is outstanding.  I recommend it if it comes to a cineplex near you.  What a fascinating figure Hanna Arendt was!  I knew next to nothing about her but now I am very intrigued and want to learn more.

When film ends we must run to the next one.  Luckily it is only a few blocks away: the Cineplex on Dundas.  Line is not too long.  We get in, sit.  Film: "3" - Uruguayan director who made "Whiskey", a film we saw a few years ago and liked very much.  This one?  Not so much.  After an hour David is restless, shifts in his seat, keeps asking me if I like it, wants to leave.  We do.  It is very slow and very depressing.  I am sorry for the director.  I hope he didn't see us walk out.

Late supper also proves somewhat disappointing but we are starving.  Taxi back to the hotel and I am exhausted.  So tired I take clothes off and plop in bed.  Sleep.  Tomorrow will be another day.  More movies and hopefully some star sightings.  We need some stars.  Well, I do anyway.