When Marc and I talked about doing our Mount Rushmore of musicians, I had no idea what that would mean. I thought, easy-peasy, choose four chicks and voilà. Joni and Dolly were quickly selected. But who would get the other two slots? And so began my research because I realised that I had no friggen clue. I also realised that most of my favourite singers are men. Well hell. I shoulda turned the tables on Marc and said you do women and I’ll do men! He he he… that sounds wrong but right, right?
Since I was not deadset on anyone, I had to do some serious research. Limiting ourselves to those within the last fifty years helped some. I Googled “Women songwriters of influence” or “Women singers who write their own songs”, etc. I was rather pleased that my two original ladies made every list. So did Carole King and Madonna and a few others.
Full disclosure: Not a fan of Carole King! Well no, that’s not the right thing to say. Not anymore. As I did my research, I came to realise just how much I already did know and enjoy her work and enjoy pretty much all her songs – the ones she sings or sung by others.
As for Madonna, I surprised myself by finally adding her. Research again said I had to. We know how much she has influenced the next generation of women singers. Her ability to entertain is without question. She has been innovative and pushed the limits. And I hadn’t realised that she had a part in the writing of most of her songs – no, she’s no Joni Mitchell or Carole King but I could not dismiss her.
There were wonderful side-effects to this project. There were great discussions in the comment sections. Since I share my posts on Facebook, more discussions took place there. Some even got their own Rushmores going. How cool is that?
A fellow blogger, Trent McDonald, from Trent’s World, decided to do his own Mount Rushmore of Female Musical Artists. And what an eclectic mix! Do check it out here.
Marc was further inspired. His posts on Freddie, Bowie and MJ were all fabulous. But then he did a series of side posts, each one more wonderful than the next. His What If? post looked at what could have happened if John Lennon had NOT been shot that fateful night.
Next, he was inspired to create a delicious sandwich and name it the Rushmore. All I know is I want one!
Following his fabulous post on Prince, Marc wrote a fictional story Raspberry Beret – inspired by the song but giving us the woman’s side of the story. Delicious.
I hope he gets further inspired… hint, hint, Marco!
I’m also thinking that I shall be further inspired in the near future …
I was a late bloomer. Musically speaking, that is. When it comes to appreciating Joni Mitchell, to be more precise. There was a time when I thought her singing was closer to caterwauling. I know, I know. What the hell am I talking about? What can I say? I knew no better. Or maybe, just maybe, I can say that my taste in music has evolved over time and that which I could not fully appreciate then, my life’s experience has enabled me to, now. Whatever it was, Joni’s place in my musical roster is firmly established.
My second-favourite movie is “Love, Actually”. One of the characters, Karen, played by Emma Thompson, loves Joni. To her husband’s (Alan Rickman) disdainful comment: “I can’t believe you still listen to Joni Mitchel”, Karen responds: “I love her, and true love lasts a life time. Joni Mitchell is the one who taught your cold English wife how to love.” I would say my love for Joni started just before this movie came out in 2003.
The radio station I listen to (yes, I still listen to the radio), CBC Music, has a little thing every weekday morning called “Under the Covers”, which, as the title implies, means they play a cover of a song. Just this past week (I love serendipity, don’t you?) The Joni Mitchell song “Circle Game” was being covered by Buffy St. Marie. That was fine and dandy but what the DJ, Saroja Coelho shared is what grabbed my attention. Until Joni saw Buffy in concert in 1964, she was singing other people’s songs. Buffy taught her that women can write songs, too. Intelligent songs. Songs that mean something. That very day, she wrote her first song, “Day After Day” and was off and running. Joni gave a tape of her songs to Buffy who carried it around with her on tour, playing it for everyone. As Buffy says:
“Most of the people I played Joni’s tape for – friends and musicians – loved her music, but not the business boys. They were into Peter, Paul & Mary vanilla folk songs, and Joni and I were both originals… and Canadian (not so cool at the time). I played her tape for Joel Dean, my agent at Chartoff-Winkler Agency, and got a “no thanks”. But a younger guy in the same agency agreed to go see Joni play at a Greenwich Village coffee house. That was Elliot Roberts. He and Joni built a great career together and I’ve always loved him for that.”
Joni Mitchell has had her share of accolades: nine Grammy awards, inducted in the Juno Hall of Fame (Canadian Music) and in 1997 she became the first Canadian woman named to the US Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She also received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002 – the first Canadian to earn this recognition. Not too shabby, I say.
And she’s been an influence to the likes of Bob Dylan, Suzanne Vega, Alanis Morissette, and Prince. I mean come on, Prince? Doing a cover? “Drink a Case of You” is a lovely version by him.
My second favourite song of hers is her later version of “Both Sides Now”. Her voice is deeper and richer (smoke-altered) and she brings it down a notch – gives me goosebumps. For those of you who prefer the original, you can click here. For the others, here you go.
All of Joni’s songs tell a story. Her album “Blue” was so personal that Kris Kristofferson, when she played it for him, said: “God, Joan, save something of yourself.” He might have had a point because, as she said, while recording this album, they had to lock the doors to the studio because she was in a state of mind that today would be called a mental breakdown.
“It begins with a sense of isolation and of not knowing anything, which is accompanied by a tremendous panic. Then clairvoyant qualities begin to come in, and you and the world become transparent, so if you’re approached by a person, all their secrets are not closeted.”
When one creates such an album, it cannot help but become a classic and, in this case is called a “bastion of artistic expression”.
None of Joni’s music is meaningless. She mixes her voice (which has shifted from mezzo-soprano to contralto over time) with her superb guitar or piano playing to create music that ranges from folk to jazz to pop to rock to classical. Her songs reflect social and environmental ideals as well as her feelings about romance, confusion, disillusionment, and joy.
And, since Christmas is next week (what?), I had to bring in Joni last, because my favourite song of hers is sort of a Christmas one, which just so happens to belong on that wonderful album that is Blue…
Joni Mitchell definitely deserves her place on MY Rushmore.
Do please go visit Marc over at Sorryless to see who he put as his fourth member of HIS Rushmore. I know one thing for sure. You won’t come away untouched by his beautiful writing.
I was raised on country music. Not that I’d admit it. Then. Neither would my sisters. We’d occasionally get caught by friends when we sang along to songs that we weren’t supposed to know. It may have garnered us more than one disbelieving or bewildered look, followed by a “how come you know this stuff?” We might have blushed and stuttered some inane reason as to the why we knew ALL the words… Truth is, I always loved it and am now not shy to admit it, either! Now.
I always knew when my mother was ironing (NOT a regular occurrence, I assure you) because, when I got off the bus on the other side of the field next to our house – back before four houses were added to the lot – I could hear the music blaring through the open windows. Conway Twitty, Merle Haggard, never Johnny Cash coz she just didn’t dig him for reasons unfathomable, Loretta Lynn and, of course, Dolly Parton. No way in hell you can list the best of the best of country without including Dolly!
Then again, it is unfair to box her into only one genre, singing for one generation. Who else, except maybe Cher, can claim to be an intergenerational celebrity, loved by both the religious right and the gay community; by octogenarians and twenty-somethings?
When you look beyond all the fake, all the make-up, the wigs, the sparkles, you find a proficient businesswoman, accomplished songwriter, brilliant performer and generous philanthropist. You can’t get more authentic inside all of the outlandish packaging. Packaging about which she maintains to have never pretended to be anything but honest about. Her professional career was built on it and she will continue to maintain it until her last breath. Asked by Barbara Walters why she dressed as she did and wore the wigs when she is naturally beautiful, got this response:
“No, It’s certainly a choice. I don’t like to be like everyone else. I’ve often made the statement that I would never stoop so low as to be fashionable. That’s the easiest thing in the world to do. I just decided that I would just do somethin’ that would at least get the attention. Once they got past the shock of the ridiculous way I looked and all that, then they would see there was parts of me to be appreciated. I’m very real inside. And that’s where it counts… Showbusiness is a money-making joke and I’ve just always liked telling jokes.”
You tell ’em, Dolly! And really, such an interesting interview, it’s worth the listen, if’n you’re so inclined.
Her first real hit, ironically not written by her, though it could have been, says it, she may look it, but she ain’t no dumb blonde…
Dolly has been writing songs since before she could even write (age 5 and her mother wrote them for her). She was performing at ten on TV and bought her family a set with her earnings so they could actually see her. And, she made her debut at the Grand Ole Opry, introduced by Johnny Cash, by age 13, earning three encores. As if writing over 3,000 songs – each of them a little story – and being nominated and earning all sorts of awards (Country, Pop, British, Canadian, Grammy, Emmy, Oscar Tony…), she holds two Guinness World Records! She has had a top twenty country hit in six consecutive decades and has had 107 hits to make the chart. Seriously.
Porter Wagoner really put her on the map, though. She replaced the “girl singer” Norma Jean in the late sixties and was practically booed off the stage. I wonder how she managed not to gag every time she was introduced as the “pretty little gal”? She won them all over, of course, and by 1974 was ready to chart her own course. She wrote “I Will Always Love You” as a parting gift.
“If you don’t like the road you’re walking, start paving another one.”
Speaking of that song, she would dearly have loved to have Elvis Presley sing it. However, Presley’s peeps wanted to own her song and she plumb turned them down, stating it’s her song and no matter how much I would have loved to hear it from his beautiful voice, she would not give it up. Talk about knowing her business! That song would make her mucho moolah thanks to Whitney Houston’s goose bump-inducing version, which she adored.
Dolly managed to cross over from country to pop and back to country, finally dipping her toe into bluegrass, which, let’s face it, is where it all began. But singin’ ain’t all this pretty little lady can do as her roles in movies can attest. Did you know Jane Fonda insisted Dolly be brought in for Nine to Five? Can anyone picture someone else playing Doralee? Or Truvy in Steel Magnolias for that matter? I sure can’t. Little tidbit: while in between scenes, Dolly came up with the theme for Nine to Five by “playing” her acrylic fingernails! I kid you not. Move over washboard, there’s a new instrument in town. I wonder if they include them as one of the ten instruments she plays? Usually, she uses her banjo when writing songs but hey, if nothing else is available…
“Find out who you are and do it on purpose.”
She never hid her desire to become a superstar and is the epitome of generosity when it comes to her fans. She will never gripe about any demands made on her time because she knows this is part and parcel of the deal. She is ferocious in keeping herself and her views private and will never speak ill of anyone. No matter how many times she has been asked her opinion on politics, we have been left in the dark. I admire a star who keeps herself far away from any potential scandal.
She is gracious and while never officially stating being a feminist is always there to support her fellow women performers. Her theme park is fine and dandy but I’d rather focus on her causes: Imagination Library, which gives books to children from birth till they start school, Buddy Program to help students resist dropping out of high school; fundraising to help with fighting fires, fighting for animal rights, donating $1,000,000 towards the Coronavirus vaccine research and more.
Ohmygosh! I have overstayed my welcome! I’ll spare you more (even though I keep thinking of more things to say!) Dolly Parton’s place on Mount Rushmore, as far as I’m concerned, is not to be denied.
Please make sure you go over to see Marc’s choice for the Male side on Sorryless.
You may love her, you may hate her but one thing is for sure; whether you are 15 or 85, there is a really good chance you have heard of her! The Material Girl, known as Madonna, born Madonna Louise Ciccone, needs no other name. She has (and still does) shocked and stunned; she has broken boundaries, persevered, challenged, entertained, and opened wide the doors for future generations.
The eighties could not be the eighties without mentioning Madonna and her contributions. My gosh, who has not danced to “Everybody” or “Like a Virgin” or “Holiday”?
While I was never one to follow trends for dress, many others were. Bleached hair, thrift-shop style clothes consisting of lace tops, skirts over Capri pants, fishnet stockings, plastic bracelets, multiple necklaces (don’t forget the crucifix)… ring a bell to any of you? One of my favourite movies “Desperately Seeking Susan” with Rosanna Arquette brought this style to the big screen and really put her on the map making even more girls wanting to be just like her.
Of course, that particular style had an expiry date because she is definitely not one to stay in one groove forever. Her success is due to her versatility and ability to reinvent herself into the next version, not only musically but with her signature looks created through the outfits, from wild to questionable to glamourous. From blonde to brunette back to blonde, bustiers to cone-shaped bra outfits, to the ooh-la-la of Marilyn Monroe to Marie-Antoinette during her Vogue period. (Hey! Didja know that that dress was the one worn by Glenn Close in Dangerous Liaisons? Fitting, don’t you think? Dangerous and various liaisons were had by Madonna over the years).
In July 1985, Penthouse and Playboy published nudes of her, taken in 1978 when she was broke and needed the money. Needless to say, this caused an uproar for which she refused to apologize. To think she was paid $25 per session when the photos ended up being sold for up to $100,000. Good for her, I say. No need to apologize for who you are and what you choose to do, if no one is getting hurt.
Lady Gaga would not be Lady Gaga today if it hadn’t been for Madonna paving the way to the outrageous. Gwen Stefani said it best: “Some people say that I copy her. But show me one girl my age who was not influenced by her.” There would be no Britney Spears, no Christina Aguilera, no Avril Lavigne, no Rihanna, no… well you get the picture. The list is long. Many artists (including actors like Cameron Diaz) as well singers have said they are inspired by her, want her longevity, her bravery, her business sense. If that alone is not enough to merit a spot on the Mount, I don’t know what is.
The nineties turned her splash into a tidal wave. She created her own entertainment company called Maverick, giving her total control over her artistic endeavours. Nothing could stop her now. Businesswoman AND entertainer. A potent mix. Sexually explicit books, photos, music, videos were the ordre du jour. I’ll never forget her documentary “True or Dare”. The balls on this woman! Talk about not being afraid to put yourself out there, win or lose. She ruffled more than one feather, particularly during this decade. From the country of Puerto Rico to the Vatican to the general religious Catholic population. Provocation does sell.
And yet, during this time, she also played in another of my favourite movies “A League of Their Own” and “Evita” – this last one a project that she felt compelled to do and for which the powers that be had to acknowledge she did a more than decent job. Not bad for a kid from Michigan, who lost her mother (a French Canadian – how do you like them apples?) quite young and at the age of twenty moved to New York
The 2000’s brought a more subdued (okay, compared to herself!) Madonna – for a while anyway. Much as I love her music over the years, her album Ray of Light is the only one of hers that I ever bought! So many good songs on this album. I had a mix of songs on my old iPod that included the song “Music” which had the perfect beat to walk/run on my treadmill. Of course, she wasn’t done provoking and I don’t think she ever will.
I could have gone on and on, pointing out all her successes but let’s face it, most of us know that she has had a gargantuan career and she’s not done.
Robert M. Grant said: “that what has brought Madonna success is certainly not outstanding natural talent. As a vocalist, musician, dancer, songwriter, or actress, Madonna’s talents seem modest.” Possibly. You can be the judge. However, when it comes to meeting our criteria, there is no way in hell she does not deserve a place on MY Mount Rushmore. I say she didn’t need a prayer to get there.
Don’t forget to go check out Marc’s choice for the male side of things over on Sorryless.
So, you’re going with Carole King, eh? Wonder what Marc’s going with on the men’s side over at Sorryless?
I dunno for him (not true, I do) and yes. I think she definitely deserves a spot.
I don’t really know her, to tell the truth.
No? You sure about that?
Yeah, pretty sure.
I know you like old ’60’s tunes such as: Don’t Bring Me Down, Take Good Care Of My Baby, The Loco-Motion, Up On The Roof, One Fine Day, to name but a few?
Yes, I do! But she didn’t sing them!
No, but she and her then husband, Gerry Goffin, wrote them. And I am sure you know You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman.
Yes, they wrote it for her. And boy did she make it her own (though Carole’s version is lovely). When I hear that song, I can’t help but think of the Murphy Brown episode where Murphy gives birth and looks in awe at her new baby boy and sings that song. I’ve got tears in my eyes just thinking about it.
Ya big suck (wipes away tear).
(Clears throat). K, moving on… How about You’ve Got a Friend? You must know that one!
James Taylor! Ooh, I love him… Wait. Not his either? Man…
Not his but he loved it so much, he recorded it and brought it all the way to number one. Would you believe that, so far, she has had 100 hit singles from her more than 400 songs recorded by more than 1,000 artists?
That is nuts. But what about songs she’s written for her own self?
You HAVE to know the album Tapestry. Quite a few hits on it and it’s won a ridiculous amount of awards, included being inducted in the Hall of Fame. It’s Too Late, So Far Away and Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, to name the ones that I particularly love. Come to think of it, she didn’t record that many albums. But what an impact she made on the music industry.
You know? You’re right. I DO know Carole King after all! Have you been to see the musical of her life called Beautiful: The Carole King Musical? I’m starting to regret that I didn’t when I had the chance, foolishly thinking I didn’t know any of her songs.
No, I missed it too and am still kicking myself. Maybe I’ll have to make a trip to New York, with hopes it’ll still be playing on Broadway! Carole King has received so many accolades, I could bore you with them, but won’t except to tell you that I discovered that if you played all the songs she wrote and were recorded, by herself and others, you would have a continuous five-hours of music. How crazy is that? I will however, leave you with this fantabulous link to Aretha’s performance when Carole received the Kennedy Center Honors 2015. Carole’s reaction is priceless and President Obama’s tears were heartfelt.
I love how idly chatting about something sparks a discussion which then leads to a potential post (or more). A year or so ago, this discussion took place. We talked about how we would post it. Then we forgot about it. We would bring it up now and again, here and there, just in passing. Talk about our idea, then move on to something else. This week, something clicked and our talk is turning into action. We are finally making it happen. Who am I talking about? Marc (affectionately called B, by me) over at Sorryless and me. What am I talking about, you ask? Our personal idea of a Mount Rushmore of musicians. Marc’s intro can be found here.
We decided to split them between us: he, taking the men; me, the women. This is no easy task and of course you understand that our choices are completely subjective. Your top four and my top four are surely not going to be the same and that’s more than all right. But how to go about it? How to narrow down our choices? There had to be some sort of criteria, otherwise, we’d have the likes of Mozart or Memphis Minnie mixed in with today’s artists. How the hell do you bring it down to four?
This is what we decided.
Only artists that have been productive within the last fifty years. That still leaves us with a ridiculous list.
They had to be the writers of their own (and possibly others’) songs. That eliminates a slew of fantastic performers.
They need to have been (or still are) an influence – not limited to us fans but to other artists, as well
They need to have stage presence – and by this, it could be on a huge stage or a small venue but they have that ‘it’ factor.
Who are the artists who’ve written the songs that put them atop this esteemed Mount?
Every Wednesday (usually much earlier than this), I post a Wordless Wednesday over on Sorryless. I have been doing a Church series of sorts and was lucky enough to decide to photograph the Ste-Anne Basilica in Varennes at noon on a Saturday.
Sainte Anne Basilica of Varennes
I was leaving after my photo session and realised it was noon when the church bells started. I quickly (okay, I missed four beats) decided to record them.
And then, a whole ‘nother bit of bell-work started so I tried to get most of that too!
Last week, in preparation to try and capture the Harvest Moon, I took a few pictures a couple nights before. The partial moon was bright and my hopes were high because I am limited with the lens I have plus I have no idea what the hell I am doing. I Googled how to go about it and managed to get this one. It’s not as good as so many out there, but it pleases me anywah. Especially since the damn Harvest Moon was behind clouds by the time I got home and wanted to get it!
I am now officially counting down the days till the golf club closes. It can’t happen soon enough. All of us employees are tired and just done with seeing and serving these members day after day – even if most are nice and sweet.
This is the last day of September – yay! Which means in two weeks, or mid-october, the restaurant will be open for dinner (or supper, if you prefer) only on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Wooooo hooooo! And the other days cannot be later than, say 6-7 pm. Bliss. My feet are already starting to celebrate.
I laugh because many members ask what I do once the golf club is closed. My usual answer is: A whole helluva lot of NOTHING! We recuperate for the first month (when many of get sick coz, yanno, the letting go of all the tiredness, stress, et al). Mind you, we still work the Christmas parties so that means we work some weekends till mid-December. Still. January will be here in the blink of an eye and by then, I shall be putting myself out there to find something else to earn a living.
Friday was a beautiful day so Zeke and I decided – OK, Zeke had no choice but it matters not, as long as we go somewhere, he is happy – to go to Parc de la Freyère at the other end of Boucherville and see if we couldn’t capture something interesting. As I finally found my battery charger for my camera in one of my still unpacked boxes, I was good to go.
Did I mention that in another life, Zeke must have been a water dog? Bloody guy just waits for me to be concentrated on photographing a bug or something to hop in where I had just told him no!
Can I go in Mom?
And while Mom is photographing this
Zeke is doing this
Noooooooo!!! Thankfully this is duckweed (thank you FB peeps who know stuff) and just fell off as we continued our walk.
Zeke and I ran into many a wildlife photographer with their big-ass lenses and tripods. I just moseyed along with mine, sans tripod, and figured I’d get what I could. Many of them said the birds were all in hiding. Ah well. I don’t have the patience to sit and wait, all hidden in the rushes so I just smiled and kept on.
Walking along the shore, we came upon a gaggle of geese.
Then came upon a dock
So Zeke and I lay down to just be in the moment (and dry off Zeke before I allowed him back into my car!) and whilst doing so, a magnificent turkey vulture flew above.
Happy with ourselves, we made our way back and crossed the little bridge and to my surprise, there was a magnificent heron.
I have another great image but you’ll have to go to Sorryless’ blog on Wednesday to see it 😉
And speaking of Sorryless… The owner of said blog, a certain Marc Anthony, or Marco or Bronx or B for short as I call him. Well, today is his birthday! No way I cannot NOT acknowledge this wonderful ‘Murican I had the luck of meeting over the blogosphere.
This guy has come into my life and given me so much. He’s got the greatest laugh, the wittiest brain, a wicked sense of humour and a taste for music that has me diving into new stuff daily.
He is snarky and loving and do not ever mess with anyone he holds dear because that Bronx will come out.
His writing is what captured my attention way back in February 2018. And since then it has only gotten better (or rather, I have just learned to truly appreciate his art). Thanks to him, and his encouragement, I have let my own writing wings open wide.
I cherish our friendship and know that he has my back just as I have his.
In the spirit of Christmas and the Advent Calendar that has been revamped and re-purposed in myriad ways, I have decided to do one of another sort. Instead of taking one chocolate per day (or wine or whatever goodie is in vogue) or adding one item into a box to donate for a good cause (a very good thing, indeed) I have chosen to send a little love to my favourite blogs.
I met Marc through A Frank Angle’s (yes, Frank, this one is all yours) “If” Challenge last February. It was a sign of things to come. Miles and miles of comments back and forth, first on Frank’s posts, then on Marc’s, then on mine. Can’t lie. Didn’t take long before I was totally smitten. In the relatively short time since, we have become the best of friends. A friendship I cherish deeply.
Now… onto why I’ve added this blog to my Advent Calendar! This guy can write. I mean seriously WRITE. He has a way with the phrase that just flows and meanders and roars and soars. It can punch you in the gut and make you cry. He is passionate about the subjects he tackles and is not afraid to put it and himself out there. He’s funny, snarky, rude, romantic (though he’ll deny this one), smart, witty and ironic, to name a few.
And I am far from alone in singing his praises. His followers all say what I do: that his skills as a writer are exquisite.
Now, if I can just convince him to write and publish a book…
Karen Craven, over at Table for 1 really loves to send us (Sorryless and me) some crazy things to work with. Now she’s been a tad busy with her new job and all and is not posting nearly enough – yes, I am complaining – though she did finally share a few lately. Anyhow, she overheard this woman on the train the other day and this was part of the one-sided conversation she heard:
“Yes, I really like my box of macaroni. Give me all my expired things. I need you to get a job.”
And issued us a challenge to use this. So, being just the right amount of crazy, we accepted. Here’s my submission. Sorryless’ fantabulously wonderful answer to the prompt is here. Karen’s wonderfully fantabulous submission is here…
There’s Nothing Wrong With Me
It was a regular Friday commute as folks boarded the 6:02 train towards home. People jostled, trying to find seats or at least a pole to hang on to while others, as I, just leaned against the back doors or sides. Books were taken out as well as iPods and cell phones, earbuds firmly in place. A wall erected by those wanting to remain in their own world, not interested in their surroundings, not inviting exchanges. I, on the other hand, love to people watch, see what they are reading, guess at what is going on in their lives, create whole scenarios in my mind based on what they are reading.
The students take out their books and papers to try to catch up on homework, business-folk break out the laptops and furiously crunch numbers because the days of doing work at work are over; you are now expected to work on your own time as well to get ahead. A sad state of affairs, really. Everyone absorbed in their own microcosm.
Suddenly, a cellphone rings with an old-fashioned rotary phone ring. “Dring, Dring!” I look around to see who it belongs to and find myself eavesdropping, barely subtly, in fact. The woman is seated in the single seat facing me, is in her late seventies, maybe early eighties. She’s slight, her clothes hang on her frail body, two sizes too large and look like they’ve been rescued from a garbage bin. Her stockings have runs in them and her shoes are laced up and seem the only thing she owns that doesn’t date back twenty years. Her hands are those of a woman who has worked hard; they are overly large for her wrists with knobby knuckles and jagged nails that haven’t ever seen a manicure. Not that she would ever waste money on such a thing. Between her legs are a trio of bags, filled with who knows what. Her purse rests on her lap.
She digs into her purse and pulls out an old Blackberry. “Hallo? … “Oh hi, Doris. … Yeah, I’m on the train now. Should be home by seven-ish.”
“What do you mean, you’re at my house? Why are you at my house? Who let you in?”
“Right I forgot you had the key. Still, I don’t care, nothing is yours to touch. Those are my things. I don’t care what the neighbours say. What smell? I don’t need you to clean out my stuff.”
“Yes, I know I have lots of cans of beans and boxes of macaroni. They were on special. And yes, I do need them all. Yes, I really like my box of macaroni.”
What do you mean I don’t even like the stuff? Of course I do! What do you care, anyway? It’s none of your business. And no, they don’t go bad. Don’t you dare throw any of them out. You wait until I get there. And stay out of my fridge!”
The older woman closed her eyes, a mixture confusion and frustration lining her face. I couldn’t help but wonder what was really at hand. There was a feeling that this was not the first time this type of exchange had taken place.
“Just give me all my expired things…they’re still good. Expiration dates are a bunch of hogwash,” she almost whispered.
Voice raised: “No, it’s not true. Best Before does not mean no good after!” … “What, three years old? It’s friggen boxed macaroni, Doris! How bad can dried macaroni with powdered fluorescent cheese get? The expiry date is obligatory by the government. Just stop, already. Don’t even think of throwing anything out.”
She pulled the phone away from her ear and held it on her purse. I could hear her daughter’s voice raised in anger, “You are confused, Mother. I’m worried about you living on you own. You need to leave your apartment and move into a home for the elderly. I have already found the perfect place for you. Mother? Mother? Can you hear me?”
I couldn’t help but feel for the poor woman and, at the same time, for the daughter. Experience had taught me that early stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s meant there were very lucid moments but also very confused ones. I imagined the old woman had become a hoarder of sorts and the daughter had a helluva job ahead of her.
The woman put the phone back to her ear. “Yes, I hear you. No, I don’t need to move into a home. I visit people there, I don’t live there! There is nothing wrong with me! I need you to get a job. You obviously have too much time on your hands to find yourself rummaging through my personal belongings. Get out of my house!”
She threw her phone into her handbag, rearranged the ones at her feet, patted her hair in that comforting manner women do, and placed her now trembling hands upon her purse. She stared straight ahead, a mutinous expression on her face.
We arrived at the next station and a large bulk of people disembark. The seat kitty-corner to the old woman becomes free so I make my way there.
“Good evening, Ma’am. Mind if I sit here?”
She smiled, “Oh hallo. No, no, please do. Do you need more room? Are my bags in your way?”
“No, not at all and thank you. I’m fine and have lots of room. How are you? Are you okay?”
“Why yes, I’m fine. There is nothing wrong with me. Why do you ask?”
“You seemed a tad upset with your phone call just now. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop…”
She looked at me with confusion, “What phone call?”
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