Mimi, Ricky and Linda

In May, I couldn’t have imagined that I would write this post… well, certainly not so soon.  Today, I wonder when I crossed the line… the line where you think you are immortal and that your friends are immortal too.  Within less than 4 months, I have lost 3 dear friends whom I truly loved.

Mimi and I met in 1974 when I was at Vanier College as a student and she was the reference librarian.  In 1975, I wrote the following in my personal journal, “She’s a really nice person and I’d like to get to know her better.”  And, did I!  Over the following 45 years we spoke at least once a week and the conversations lasted at least 1 hour!  I could count on Mimi like one would a twin!  When I had a falling out with my father, it was Mimi who found me my first apartment.  Over the many years, we would speak about everything… from relationship troubles to sexual politics to the loss of one’s parents to noisy fridges and noisy neighbours!  And, of course, we talked incessantly about our cats.  I remember all her cats… Chevy, Scoots, Berry and Willow.  I’ll never have another friend like her.  I never said a proper goodbye.  She was admitted into an Ottawa hospital and died the following day.

I received her birthday card a couple of weeks before Mimi passed away on June 7th, 2019.


Ricky and I met in 1979 at McGill University.  And although we lost touch for many years, he reappeared in my life in 2009 when I truly needed a friend.  I was going through rough times and I ran into him at a bookstore.  We agreed to have suppers together on Sunday evenings after church.  Ricky was my go-to friend for symphony concerts.  He had studied music in college, his principal instrument was the French horn.  We had tickets to the Montreal Symphony Orchestra’s fifth Symphony  by Gustav Mahler but he never made it.  Two days before he died he asked me whether I still had the tickets.  He was looking forward to the concert and asked me to hold on to the tickets in case “a miracle happens”, his words.  It didn’t.

Ricky saw the Pavarotti documentary a couple of months before he died.  Of all the beautiful scenes and arias, it was this exact scene of Pavarotti as Tosca’s Mario looking up at the stars before his imminent death that spoke to Ricky the most.


Linda and I met in 2010.  Actually, Linda was a client but we communicated so easily that I really felt like I was talking to a friend.  No one laughed like Linda.  She had a big, hearty laugh.  If ever I come back to this world, I hope to be able to laugh like her.  After the contract was over and I had career problems and no one would hire me, she always wanted to know how I was doing before asking me about the job hunting.  I could sense right away that she had a kind soul… so rare these days.

Rest in peace, my friends.



Opera is more like real life… than real life.

Fresh out of university in 1980, I was encouraged  by my best friend to buy season tickets to the Théâtre du Nouveau Monde.  This popular Montréal theatre had a reputation of putting on more traditional french-language plays, rarely anything experimental.  And, of course, there was always Molière and Shakespeare.  There was a time I saw more Shakespeare translated into French than English.

The same friend invited me to a couple of operas and it hit me!  This feels more like real life than theatre.  In fact, it feels more like real life… than life!

Today, friends ask me how can opera be more like real life than life?  I don’t know… to me, it just feels more like real life.  I guess it’s the music.  I still go to the theatre… maybe once a year.  But, I’ve replaced the theatre by music now… symphonies and operas.

For instance, anyone experiencing the despair of the end of a cherished love or the death of a parent or facing one’s own mortality immediately gets the message, even without understanding the lyrics.  In Tosca, the painter Mario Cavaradossi  is told that he has one hour to live and he sits to write a letter to Tosca.  (What would an opera be without a letter scene?)  Only this time, the tenor stops writing the letter to sing the beautiful and haunting E lucevan le stelle (And the stars shone).  The last words, “I have never loved life more.”


Some of my father’s earliest memories were of radio shows in the evening and one of my grandmother’s favourite radio shows featured opera arias and it always ended with Puccini’s O mio babbino caro (Oh, my dear papa).  This aria must have resonated with my grandmother.  In it, we hear Lauretta begging her father to let her marry her love, Rinuccio, who has just been been disinherited by his wealthy uncle.

No doubt, the parallels between Lauretta and my grandmother (Eugénie) were not lost on her.  She would have had to ask her father to marry her love, my grandfather (Giulio), an uneducated Italian immigrant without a history.

Don’t you love this photo?  Here they are, Eugénie and Giulio, the proud couple with their first born.

By the way, great hats, all!


Giulio, Eugénie and Orlando. (c. 1921)

What perfume might Dame Edith Sitwell have worn in her later years?

Dame Edith Sitwell 1916 by Alvaro Guevara 1894-1951

Dame Edith Sitwell by Alvaro Guevara (1916)

Do you know who Dame Edith Sitwell is?  You don’t?  Are you sure?  Well then, I don’t feel so ignorant because before watching this video, I didn’t know her either.   Of course, my next stop is to find some of her poetry but for now I thought I’d write about the kind of perfume that this grand lady might have worn.

Because of her royal British background, I’m going with a rose perfume but not one of those pink, powdery rose scents, like Paris by Yves Saint-Laurent.  I’m thinking of a deep, boozy red rose note.  And oud!  Yes, oud would be perfect because she has such an earthiness to her.  From my collection, I would have her wear Jo Malone’s Velvet Rose and Oud or Ex Idolo’s Thirty Three, although neither are really oud or dark enough.  If anyone has any suggestions, I would love to hear about them… I’ve always been a bit of a rose-whore myself so it might give me ideas for a fall perfume.

This next interview was on the BBC.  Imagine!  This was tv!  And today, they say we are in the golden age.  I’m not so sure.


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