CAN touch THIS!

Tuesday morning. Hi there! Back in the body business today. Sticking to that morning walk? Excellent. If you discover any fun stuff along the way, drop me a line. And if you don’t feel like walking, we’re gonna…

… dance – that’s great for your body. If you’re like me, you can easily replace gym with a dance session for day. When I was a student, I tried aerobics. It worked for a bit but I got bored with dancing on the same music just because it fit the exercises for the various muscles. Good thing I didn’t give up the parties. And man, in those days did we dance at parties… There wasn’t much booze available in the communist stores, not to mention drugs. Just before I was born, an anti-abortion law had been passed which stayed in place until 1990 – you got it, no contraceptives of any kind, sex was a tricky affair, better not. So what could you do at parties? Play the philosopher guy and hope you’ll bewitch the (more intellectual) girls, or dance. Which is why people in my generation are not only pretty good dancers and sophisticated philosophers (yes, of course they don’t say anything), but have also stayed relatively slim into old(er) age.

I love dancing. As a kid I had asked my mom to put me in ballet lessons. At the end of the first one, she excitedly asked: “so how did you like it?” “I didn’t” – I said. “Why?” came mom’s surprised voice. “Well, they asked me to stretch and stretch and to just go around the room.” “Oh, honey, it takes some time and exercise to get into the ballerina moves…” “But I don’t want to learn those moves – I just want to wear the pretty dresses and dance.” That was my first realization that sometimes you gotta work hard for a pretty dress. So I dropped the ballerina thing, absolutely no regrets – and later on became one of those rare architects who also wear colours besides black.

Anyway, no big deal. I continued to dance whenever the occasion arose. Not to brag, but I was the soul of the parties and I did dance almost all night long. I remember once we returned home at 5 am – it would have taken forever to get the buses, so we had to go through a park. My feet were hurting so bad, I removed my white shoes and walked home barefoot. Liberating. (I probably would have done it at 1 pm, too. I’m just that kind of person.) Oh, and I danced a bit more on the way. You see, I was in love.

Dance has the amazing ability to put you in a good mood. A loving mood. And if you don’t have somebody specific in mind, how about loving yourself? Swing, baby, swing. You can put on Swan Lake and twirl through the house, or a waltz and go one-two-three, one-two-three… Or go easy with Ella & Louis and don’t wake up just yet, keep dreaming … And when you’re quite ready to start your day… full steam with M.C.Hammer – trust me on this!

Let’s dance! Happy Tuesday!


Some Middle Class

I don’t know why that Schubert piece made me think of Hanoch. That was a piano piece on the radio. He used to play the violin. I never heard him playing – I just saw the room where he played with his friends. It was in an addition he had designed for his 1950s bungalow. Hanoch was an architect, trained in Bucharest and immigrant to Canada via Israel. If I remember well, he had arrived in Montreal, like many other architects at the time of Expo 67, that phenomenal summer-long event which put Canada on the map. For some reason, he moved to Ottawa shortly after and then found employment with the young Carleton University, which sent him across the country. To collect ideas about architectural training at other schools, he explained. It was a marvelous time. They experimented a lot. There was money for travel, for studying, for free healthcare, for quite everything really. You’d think moving forward was the only natural thing to do, he added. It was disappointing to see that reformers were not exactly the gods they appeared to be, not even those architects. I’m speaking about Central Mortgage, of course – he clarifies – the Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation. They had involved architects in designing houses, good move. Still, the official discourse had been a bit more pompous than the follow up. The houses were well-designed indeed, but once the progressive leadership was gone and their protégés scattered in the wind, the middle bureaucrats switched back from building standards to finance business. They weren’t interested in ideas, Hanoch remembered. I would sketch layers upon layers of façades or try tweaking some corner of a housing ensemble, and they would give my drawings a puzzled look – they’re beautiful, but why do you try so hard? It really is the same thing.


Hanoch laughed. We were sitting at his dining table, with our backs to the small kitchen and the cozy living room. He made a casual gesture towards the sunk-in music room across. Small minds, he said, or maybe scared, you know the builder wouldn’t make these stairs? They’re not to safety standards, he told me, you can’t have an open banister. It doesn’t matter, I said to him, it’s only us and my music friends. We know how to use stairs – and the children will learn too, don’t worry. He asked me to sign a paper stating that, so there would be no liability issues. My signature against his peace of mind. No big deal.


The room was beautiful. Simple. One wall to the end had bookshelves on, rows and rows of music sheets. The wall next to it was mostly glass, with a door leading to a stepped terrace. (Shadows, north exposure, cheap lot when they’d bought it. A few tall trees at the back gave the illusion of a forest. Peaceful, lovely part of the city. Rather expensive nowadays.) Four chairs were clustered in the middle of the music room, with old-fashioned staff-holders in front of each. Who do you play with? Oh, friends. Sometimes my granddaughters, when they’re in town. They study in Vancouver now. When they come to Ottawa in the summer, they go to the market, downtown – one plays the flute, the youngster plays the violin, and the eldest the cello. Does she bring her cello? Yes, she does. It’s fun. They sometimes make money. Not the kind that covers fees, of course. For clothes at the Rideau. It’s close-by – he laughs.


It must be nice to play with your granddaughters. It is, he says.

This is a beautiful room. Yes. Yes, it turned out well, he agrees. Not safe, but hey. He laughs again.


The only other thing that I remember about Hanoch was his way with compliments. He approached me after the lecture I’d given one Wednesday night at the National Archives. He had an amused look on his face. Well, you drew a real crowd tonight, impressive. Congratulations. It was the CBC radio interview earlier today, I explained – really, media does the trick. Ha-ha, our dear leftist force, his eyes twinkled. Publicity worked against them, then – I liked it when you told that guy that socialism is bad; I looked around the room and they were quite puzzled. I laughed – oh well, some of them will stay so. Indeed, he said. Great talk. Thank you.


That was four years ago. I spoke to his wife last month and she told me Hanoch had died sometime earlier. Very lovely lady, tried hard not to sound lost. She hasn’t sold the house yet, would I like to come for tea one day. Of course.


I wish I were a bit like Hanoch.

Schubert helps, to some extent.