Friday, August 27, 2010


Here is my garden, as of about a month ago. The snap pea vines, which grew to over 6 feet, were gone by then, and so were the lettuces, but if you can imagine them in the middle there you'll have a pretty good idea of the whole shebang.

It's looking a little more ragged and empty these days. The sunflowers are all bloomed little blossoms are blossoming off the side of the stem while the big old droopy first growth sags over at the top. Most of the carrots are picked--turns out the Mermaid Girl loves them beyond all other vegetables, and, flattered, I've been packing them in her camp lunches all week. The zucchini doesn't seem to be amounting to much, despite everyone's dire predictions that I'd have more than I knew what to do with. It appears to have some kind of virus. And there's some corn, but I'm not sure if I planted enough for it to take. But there are still the tomatoes (most of them) to go. It's true, what they say about homegrown tomatoes. They are like a drug. Sometimes I just go out and stick my head in the plants and breathe in.

Then there were the potatoes. I hadn't even planned on planting potatoes; it seemed too mysterious and dirty. Not sexy dirty, but literally dirty. I mean, even when you buy potatoes in the store, they're often covered in dirt; how much yuckier would it be to actually grow them yourself? I think I've mentioned I don't even really like dirt that much. Plus there were all these warnings about where to plant them, and how to plant them, and weird diseases and such, and it all seemed like too much trouble.

But back in the spring, when I went to pick up the dirt from that woman at my synagogue, just as I was leaving she literally tossed a couple of little plants at me, saying, "Here, want to try a couple of potatoes?" So I shrugged and thanked her and took them, and when I shoveled all the dirt into my garden I stuck them in; why not? Then a few days later, I saw a potato I'd bought-- a supermarket one, not even organic--was too shriveled to eat and was sprouting like crazy, so I stuck it in the ground next to the other potato plants. Again: what the heck?

The plants grew and grew-- you can see them in the photo up there, up front, second from the right, just left of the zucchinis--but the thing about potatoes is that you never can tell what's happening underground, and if you dig around to try to find out, you could mess up the whole root structure. I had one false start when I dug a little and found what I at first thought was a real grown potato and then thought was maybe the seed potato, so after that I just left it alone.

Until one hot day late last month, when I was spraying the Mermaid Girl (who hasn't liked that name for years and now says she wishes she'd picked another one) and her friend on the trampoline, and I stepped backward onto a rock. Only it wasn't a rock; it was a HUGE purple potato. So once more I dug, filled with hope despite myself, and this is what I found:

That's my hand, over on the right: a grownup-size hand, about six or seven inches from fingertip to wrist. So: some substantial potatoes, there.

Gardening metaphors are so easy that they feel cheap, but it's true: you can never tell what's growing underground, out of sight. I've been out of sight of this blog all summer, and I wish I had something as substantial as these potatoes to show for it, but mostly I just have a summer. And a garden.

And a kid who turns ten years old tomorrow. Tomorrow!

A really statistically abnormal bunch of my friends have become dog-owners this year, and it's no coincidence that they all have kids my kid's age (or sometimes older). When I asked, rather plaintively, WHY, I got variations on the same answer: "So there will be SOMEONE who's happy to see me when I come home."

I'm a hard-core non-dog person, so maybe that's why I planted a garden this summer: somewhere on the grounds of this house, there is some living being that responds at least kind of predictably to the nurturing I put into it.

There's a song I've been singing to myself all summer, from a musical I love, "The Fantasticks". It starts out "Plant a radish, get a radish, never any doubt/ that's why I love vegetables, you know what you're about!" and goes on to complain that while vegetables are dependable, "With children/ It's bewilderin'/You don't know until the seed is nearly grown/Just what you've sown."

I love my kid to pieces, RW and I both do, and there are several signs that what we've sown is growing up into an excellent person. But at almost-ten, she's already moving into her own world. Less and less of who she is, who she will become, has to do with us, and what we do or don't do.

One thing is for sure, though: the person she is growing into, that person is an intensely private person. Not someone who would be happy to think of her life and times being splashed all over the Interwebs, even pseudonymously. That's the kind of characteristic that you can cutesify and more or less ignore in a four-year-old. In a ten-year-old? Not so much. I've seldom asked her permission to write about her in this space, partly, I'm ashamed to say, because especially as she got older I was generally sure the answer would be a resounding negative. So I'm thinking this is a pretty good time to close up shop, at least for now, on Booland, which hasn't really been Booland (as she hasn't been called Boo) for some years now. It's not the only reason, but it's a big one.

Like I said, gardening metaphors are easy; really, you can compare *anything* to planting a seed. When I started this blog, over six years ago, I didn't know what I was planting: just that I needed to write, and I needed community. And blogging has given me what I hoped for, and more. I've been writing for six years, more-or-less (less, these days...) regularly. And I have more friends in the computer than I can count. If you're reading this, you're probably one of them, and I'm more grateful to you than I can say.

That's really the end of this post. The rest of this is totally naval-gazey and skippable, unless you are deeply interested in other people's internal worriting:

As I write this post, I'm imagining the "oh-no-not-another-one" dread it's inspiring among the few readers still following. I've felt that same sinking feeling, reading the final posts of one favorite blogger after another, these past few years. So I have this urge to apologize: I'm sorry! I could well start blogging again, sometime! Maybe even soon! A relative recently observed that I'm other-directed: I need feedback, I need to share, I don't write (or live) well in isolation. And I think that's true. But I also think that the feedback, the praise, the comment-mongering, can be a drug, more addictive and yet less satisfying than the smell of tomato plants.

Here's what I mean: a week or two ago, I wrote a post, or I mean a "note," on Facebook. It was just something I wrote, and then I posted it. And some people commented to say they liked it. And the next day, when I sat down to write something else, there was a little imp, a very familiar little imp, in the back of my brain, chattering under the words I was trying to write: "Will they like this? Will they? Will they like it more than yesterday's? Maybe they won't like it as much. Maybe they'll like it more! Maybe they'll LOVE it! I wonder if they will. Maybe they'll hate it. Maybe no one will comment at all. I wonder if they'll like it?"

I know that little imp, way too well. I've fed her copiously for the past six years. And I think I need to give her a rest for a while. I need to figure out a way to balance the other-directedness, which is as much a part of me as my hair and eyes, with the praise-junkie-ness, which is a Problem. So it's really not just respecting my kid's privacy, and not just concerns about my own anonymity and privacy (which has also been compromised, probably inevitably after six years but still a cause for some alarm), and not just that the blog world has changed: it's not her, or them. It's me.

So, Booland is done, at least for now. But I'll be around: on Facebook, and following other blogs (because that's one addiction I just can't quit), and, you know, in the Real World too. So if you're a lurker, and you want to stay in touch, comment or email me: [careful of the spelling; there's no "e" in the middle.]

And I'll see you in the ether. Or, well, elsewhere.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Inch By Inch, Row By Row, Part II: In Which I Acquire Dirt

Oh, hi! Was I neglcting my blog? sorry, I didn't mean to. I've just been so busy. In my garden. Planting, and weeding, and watering, and generally being all farmer-y and whatnot.

How did it come to this pass, you might ask? How did a die-hard urbanite like me become a...gardener?

Well. When last we spoke, I was whining about dirt, and about the impasse that emerged when it became clear that I might need to suck it up and buy some. And that might have continued right up through planting season, had not a timely message come through on my synagogue listserv.

I get a lot of messages on my synagogue listserv. Mostly they're about rallies I can't go to, or political/spiritual debates I don't feel like joining. But this one jumped out at me, because the post-er was offering dirt! Free dirt! And she promised it was all organic and compost-rich and worm-casey and good! Someone had bought the land where her garden plot was, and was going to put a garage on it, and she didn't want all her soil to go to waste. All I had to do was reply, and come get it at the appointed time, and I could have all I wanted!

When I got to the garden the next Wednesday, it was so crowded I couldn't even find a parking spot. Gosh. I had no idea that dirt was so popular, though really I should've known if I'd thought about it. Not being entirely sure how I was going to contain or transport it, I'd brought a wheelbarrow, a shovel, a big tarp, our yard waste bin, and about 40 little plastic grocery bags. I shoveled a few shovelfuls of dirt into each bag, tied them closed, and put them on top of the tarp in the back of our van. As it turned out, I didn't need the yard waste bin at all. The bags were all snug and tidy piled up on each other in the van, sort of like the pellets of heroin that the heroine swallows in Maria Full of Grace. But much bigger. Like pellets that a huge heroin-smuggling giant would swallow. If dirt were heroin.

So. Then I had dirt!

By this point, I had weeded one section of my incipient garden patch--the section where RW had planced flowers the year before. The rest of it was so very, very weedy that I despaired. So I only had that one small patch of dirt on which to dump the new organic dirt.

But dirt does, in fact, take up space. So I had to shovel out some old dirt to make room for the new dirt. This I accomplished by putting the old, bad dirt into the wheelbarrow, and also dumping some on top of the weeds, and then emptying all the plastic bags into the cleared space in a big hill.

Already, gardening was turning out to be much more about logistics than I had bargained for. Also, my back was starting to hurt.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Inch By Inch, Row By Row. Part I

I have never been much of a gardener. I don't love getting my hands into the dirt; actually, it feels all gritty and kind of squicks me out. I'm not big on nature; I've always been a city person, and my idea of getting outside is to walk several blocks while people-watching on a street like, say, Broadway in New York or Seattle, or Commercial Drive in Vancouver. I am just fine with buying my produce and flowers. I feel no need to be self-sufficient.

But. Two things happened. No, three. Well, maybe four.

First, we bought a house. Almost two years ago. I'd lived in a house with my spouse (and a mouse! and maybe a louse! and a blouse!) before that, but it was *her* house, and I didn't have the same feeling about the yard that I did when we moved and it was *our* house. Plus, the former owner was a devoted gardener and made a beautiful garden here, and I felt bad just letting it go to rack and ruin.

The second thing that happened was global warming. Well, sort of. The second thing that happened, really, was that, wanting to contribute less to global warming and landfills and the overall trashing of the planet, we got a compost bin from the city, and started putting our non-protein-based kitchen waste in it. And eventually it filled up, and I thought, gee, I should take some of that compost out of the bottom of the bin and put it in... the garden. Right. Garden. What garden?

The third thing that happened--okay, not the third thing, this is actually chronologically the FIRST thing, but I'm just going to leave it third in this list, okay? Anyway, what happened was, I moved to the Northwest. In the East, where I'm from, it's perfectly okay to spend a sunny afternoon curled up on the couch reading the New Yorker, if you are lucky enough to have the leisure, the couch, and the New Yorker enabling you to do so. If you feel like appreciating the weather, you can look out the window and maybe remark to the cat that it certainly is lovely out. But in Seattle, or Vancouver, or anyplace Seattle-or-Vancouver-like, there's this crazy moral imperative where in the unlikely event that the sun is shining and it's not pouring down miserable rain, really you need to be OUTSIDE! Enjoying It! As I mentioned earlier, my favored Outside activity is walking through a bustling cityscape. But I don't actually live right next to a bustling cityscape (I used to! long, long ago, in Seattle, in a lovely little studio apartment that was recently torn down to make a subway station. But that's another story.), there's no convenient way for me to Enjoy being outside when I have no bus to catch and it's not quite warm enough to sit on the porch reading the New Yorker. So what I mostly do, when it's nice out, is sit inside, not enjoying my New Yorker or whatever, but feeling guilty that I'm not outside and resentful that I feel guilty.

After twenty years of this, I got a little tired of it, and thought maybe I should try Enjoying the Outdoors like other people around here do. And I know from several years of Monday-morning staff-room conversations that the main way that people Enjoy the Outdoors, when such is possible, is to work in their gardens.

Okay! Compost moldering in the bin; cultural imperative to Enjoy the Outdoors, backyard all ready to garden in. This is what we call, in the literary analysis biz, overdetermined.

So. A garden, then.

A lot of our garden is already sort of...gardened. I mean, there are perennial plants planted, and they grow, and the weeds haven't gotten them yet. But there's this long, sunny patch of ground over by the garage, that was basically weeds. The former owner told us that the soil over there wasn't very good and if we wanted to do anything with it we should get new soil in. Last year RW bought some flowering plants at the school plant sale and put them in a patch of it, and they looked pretty, but I thought this year I would grow FOOD. Just like Alice Waters in the California elementary schools, and Michelle Obama at the White House, and all. Because I am the Zeitgeist Girl. With my ukulele and my brown hoodie and my little tiny iPod shuffle. Okay, I am the Zeitgeist-of-2-or-3-years-ago Girl. That works for this. Isn't reducing food-miles so 2008?

But first I needed good soil, and that was where I balked. It just didn't seem right to go to the store and BUY DIRT. Isn't the point--one of the points-- of gardening that it is frugal? That you plant seeds and grow your own food and keep at least some of your nutritional needs out of the capitalist stream? Isn't it defeating a purpose to haul a bunch of plastic bags filled with dirt--oh, sorry, soil--up to a cash register? A friend told me that you could mix compost (compost! I have compost! Okay, the grapefruit peels and eggshells are still pretty intact, but I'm sure there's some compost in there somewhere)--right, mix compost with sand from the beach and get usable dirt, but then she said you have to WASH the sand and I threw up my hands in despair.

[More coming. Because I can milk a saga out of ANYTHING. Stay tuned later on for my riveting series on vacuuming the couch.]

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Things Past

I actually remember the very last day that I bumped around the city aimlessly. It was in 1995, a few days before I started library school, and I was looking for some books downtown. "I wonder when I'll get to do this again?" I thought, idly. Then there was school, and then looking for a job and planning the commitment ceremony, then working, then we had the baby, then there was more work, then we moved, and now it's 15 years later and I think I might finally get to do it again sometime soon. Of course, it is a different city and a different world. But still.

I remember the tile patterns in various bathrooms I have frequented. At my dad's apartment, I think it was, and also my cousin's nearby, and maybe my grandparents', there were these little white hexagons that made pleasing arrangements when you looked at them for long enough. And it might have been my elementary school that had tiles in a repeating combination of squares and rectangles that fit together in an interesting way, that you could re-arrange into many different interlocking shapes. Bathrooms on the West Coast mostly don't have that kind of tile. I miss it. I'm sure all that time looking at those tiles contributed to my understanding of geometry, too.

I remember the first time I wrote a paper on the computer, which was also the first time I accidentally deleted a paper, which was also, fortunately, the first time I made use of the "Undo" command. I was up late, late at night, in my mother's home office, typing away in a happy daze, and when I was done I highlighted the whole thing and accidentally hit they backspace key instead of whatever other key I had meant to hit. I was a senior in high school and the paper was about Theodore Roethke's poetry. I might still have it in my boxes somewhere, safe and sound on paper still. But there was that terrible moment, the moment when everything disappeared: all my insightful conclusions, my illustrative quotes, those graceful paragraphs. All gone--poof! Like that! And me staring at the traitor screen in mute horror.

I remember being three or four years old, sitting on the bus, looking at the funny pointy knobby things you could use to open or shut the windows. I called them kitty-cat ears because that was how they looked to me.

The other day a college friend posted a photo of herself on Facebook. We weren't such good friends that we'd made an effort to keep in touch before Facebook put me in potential touch with almost everyone I ever knew. So in my mind she is still 20 years old, doing pasteup on the college newspaper, funny and witty and flirting, maybe without knowing it, with the editor. When I saw the photo of her last week I thought with great sadness: oh! That girl is gone!

I know that girl (we called ourselves women, but now I think of us back then, fondly, as girls) is still there, inside my friend, like 4-year-old me is still inside 43-year-old me, still marveling at the kitty-cat ears. And if you believe in certain theories of time, she is still there in the common room also, still 20, still cutting and pasting and laughing and flirting. But in the regular, everyday world that I live in, that girl is as gone as the Theodore Roethke paper on my screen, and instead there is a (perfectly happy, by all appearances, I should note) middle-aged woman out there on the other side of that photo, and there is no Undo key.

Why this should make me more melancholy than my own middle age, I do not know.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Random bullets of various ambivalences

*Well, here we all are in the post-Olympic hangover, everyone wandering around saying to each other, "Well that was some party, huh. So, how d'you think it's gonna get paid for? Hmm. Huh. Well, some party, eh?"

*It was kind of wild to see how the local mood swung from wary cynicism to totally over-the-top "Go Canada!" madness. I was at our earthy-crunchy-lefty synagogue's rabbi's house for a hamentaschen-making party last Sunday when the Big Hockey Game was on. We all ended up in front of the TV--Vancouver natives, US expatriates, diehard Olympic protesters and the ambivalent middle (me) alike, cheering like crazy and jumping up and down at that last-minute overtime victory.

*It made me think-- this is how communities are formed, what makes community: shared experiences like this. These people will always be the people I witnessed this moment with, and that counts for something.

*Funny, too, how the hunger for Olympic swag came over me suddenly just in the last days of the games. I resisted for a while and then bought a few kids' things from the picked-over racks at the department store near work. I am kind of embarrassed about it

*A few nights ago there was a young teen in the library at closing time, who asked to use the phone. From the conversation he was having, it appeared that his parents had kicked him out and he was looking for a place to stay the night. I passed him the name & number of the local youth shelter, thought about encouraging him to stay and call him right then, but by the time I'd thought it through he was gone.

*I was kind of shaken and posted about it elsewhere, saying I was trying to wrap my head around what would lead parents to do that. Someone wrote me privately about a similar situation they knew of in their family, and told me not to judge too quickly. The thing is, I *had* been trying not to judge-- I'd just written what I was thinking, and had also written that I knew there was no way I could know the full story or even whether the kid had been totally telling the truth on the phone.

*But I figure there's no point in being defensive to my friend. Even though I feel defensive.

*I ended up just writing back a brief note saying I was sorry that had happened. I know that wasn't adequate, but am not sure what would be.

*A Facebook friend posted that Mary Oliver quote about What Will You Do With Your One Wild and Precious Life, and I just thought...crap, I don't know. What *will* I do with my one wild and precious life? Pull holds on beautiful Saturday afternoons at work? Fold laundry? Check Facebook? Remind the Mermaid Girl to brush her teeth? I love that quote, theoretically, but in real life every time I read it it makes me feel itchy all over and a little bit like screaming.

*The Mermaid Girl and I are going away this week, to see my baby nephew and his parents in the wilds of New England.

*It will be Mud Season, but also Sugaring Season. I guess they go together.

*I think that's where I am right now internally, too: Mud Season. Maybe it will be sugaring season, too.

*I wonder what I'm tapping, and what it will turn into.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Random Bullets of Men's Figure Skating Short Program

  • Our seats were indeed way up high, but the stadium is so steeply raked that we still had a really good view. And we had a side view of the Kiss & Cry, the bench where the skaters and coaches wait to hear their scores. We could see them hanging out there putting on their jackets while the monitors replayed their best and worst moments. And we could see that there were boxes of tissues (green and blue Olympic logoed boxes) down on the floor. In case of crying, I guess.

  • There were a lot of empty seats, too--including some really choice ones lower down and across the stadium from us, and practically a whole section behind the press seats. The ones across from us were eventually filled by skaters and their families as they finished their routines, but the big blue section never did fill. At first I thought the seats belonged to bigwigs who were going to show up late and just catch the highest-ranked skaters, but then as the evening continued and the seats stayed empty, I started to get mad. Why not give those tickets to volunteers, at least? I couldn't believe there weren't a few hundred people around here who wouldn't be happy to see an Olympic event.

  • In spite of the threats from the official Olympics ticket people, there's obviously a huge scalped-ticket market. On our walk from the bus stop to the front gate we saw at least ten or twelve guys selling tickets, I met a woman sitting near us who had gotten her tickets free from her friend, a scalper who buys huge quantities of Olympics tickets every two years, flies to the host city, and scalps them.

  • Our favorite skater was the Swiss guy who danced to the William Tell Overture. And I also liked the guy from Japan who skated early on and was in 2nd place for a long time. They both had chops *and* musicality

  • I don't actually know that much about skating. I always thought that the audience at a big event like this would be made up of really dedicated fans, and there were a lot of those, but as we found out, mainly what you need is proximity and/or money and/or luck. So I felt like kind of a fraud and like I should have done more research beforehand to have really appreciated it.

  • Fortunately, Uncle Skaterboy was with us, and he's a real expert. He was so knowledgeable and opinionated that the people in front of us were turning around between skaters to ask him how he thought the next one would do. He took to calling each skater's rank after their program was done and before the judges announced the score. He was right more often than not, too.

  • And his commentary was a lot more colorful than you get on TV, too. When a skater who had been a major contender would blow a jump or fall down, Uncle Skaterboy would murmur "buh-bye," and I was know that was that.

  • Figure skaters simply should not wear white costumes: they become basically invisible against the ice. We noticed this in the couples skate on TV yesterday, and it was equally true tonight, though there was a lot less white.

  • No shortage of black and sequins, though.

  • We got to see a lot of the little girls who skate out to pick up the flowers and stuffed animals that fans throw onto the ice. Actually, they're not so little-- these girls were about 11 or 12. We could see them in their spot on the sidelines and they looked absolutely thrilled to be there.

  • It was interesting what happened to all those tributes, too, after the flower-sweepers picked them up from the ice: they'd bring them back to their home base and hand them to an adult volunteer, who'd drop them in a bin lined with layers of plastic bags pick up the innermost plastic bag, twist it closed, and remove the bag from the bin and spirit it further backstage to somewhere we couldn't see. Maybe they were donated to hospitals?

  • I seem to be a more patriotic Canadian than I was/am an American. It really was a thrill to see the sea of Canadian flags and the huge roar of cheers when both Patrick Chan and the other Canadian skater came on. I'm watching the broadcast on NBC right now as I type-- it's delayed by a few hours--and the cameras really don't capture either what it looked like or how it felt.

  • Wasn't that skeleton costume weird? Also, the farmer-boy one.

  • We had a great time. The Mermaid Girl especially. I can't think of a more interesting or eloquent way to say that, so I'll just leave it as it is.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Where My Job Went: Part II

So, almost immediately after I'd remedied the hot dog situation and gotten back to my seat, the rehearsal began. First, a woman in a red toque came out and talked to us. We don't really know what she said because the acoustics in BC Place are terrible (RW: "The acoustics in here are awful!" MG: "What??") but she was projected on two big screens and between that and the few words we could catch here and there we figured out the gist of it:

Bienvenue, mesdames et messieurs, to the Opening Ceremonies of the 21st Winter Olympic Games! The 230 volunteer cheerleaders scattered around the stadium will now direct you in the use of your Audience Packets. (massive rustling as everyone looks for packets.) Okay, you don't actually have Audience Packets. The real audience will have them on Friday. For now, I'm going to pretend you do so that the cheerleaders and I can practice instructing. Everyone take out your (nonexistent) white ponchos and put them on. Watch the cheerleaders for cues on when to wave your (nonexistent) flashlights to create special effects. And also [Charlie-Brown-Grownup-like mwa-wa-wa-wa-wa-wa.]

Then Fireworks! Ohboy!

Then, some singing performed by stand-ins. Note on screen says "Talent ID." RW: Do you think that's really their name? Or just a note for later?

Artistic Director comes out and begs us not to tell anything to anyone ahead of time. Oh, okay. If it's so important to you.

And now! The Opening Ceremonies!

The room darkens. The two screens show a montage of scenic Vancouver, ending with a guy standing on top of a snowy mountaintop. Way up high. Then he starts snowboarding down...down...down...all the way down the mountain!

Partway through, one of the screens goes dark. Oh well, minor glitch, I'll just watch the other one.



Real-life, non-film nowboarding guy bursting through paper wall below the screen and swoops down ski run and onto the floor! So cool! My favorite part!

[note from Friday-- did they cut this part after the Luge athlete died? Don't know, I didn't get to see the actual opening ceremonies except for little bits on break, since I was at work tonight]

First Nations! First the 4 local Nations welcome everyone in their languages, then four big totem poles rise up from the floor in provocative fashion & provoke me to low-minded choking hysterics, especially because there's this big concentric-ovals centerpiece thing hanging from the ceiling which suddenly looks very vulvic. But once they're standing upright they do look more like big white totem poles than like, um, anything else, and I'm able to pull myself together and stop snorking and gather the shreds of my dignity around me.

Then all the First Nations of Canada (well, representatives) come out and start dancing. My second-favorite part. My reaction: This is so cool. The US would never do this. RW's reaction: This is Canada showing off that they're cooler and more PC than the US. So irritating.

Flag of Canada raised, national anthem, sort of moving. Flag flapping in the breeze. How are they doing that? Is it coming from the big vulvic thing? No, maybe not.

Then representatives of the BC and Canadian government and IOC bigwigs are announced, but turn out to be actually Olympic volunteers standing in for the actual bigwigs.

Then! The parade of athletes (or, well, flag-bearing volunteers holding long ropes representing athletes) from all participating countries! This is pretty much endless, at least an hour. RW comments that the breakup of the USSR must have added several minutes to this segment all by itself. You can tell where the big waves of immigration to Vancouver have been from the volume of cheering for various contries: Italy, Iran, India, China. Great Britain. Australia. Jamaica, too, for some reason-- there isn't a big Jamaican-Canadian population in Vancouver that I know of, so it must have been on the strength of the famed Jamaican Bobsled Team from that "Cool Runnings" movie I've never seen. We cheered for Israel and Denmark and the U.S. I cheered for Ukraine and Russia and Poland, too, as I think that's where Vilna is these days. It's one of those cities that's hard to keep track of.

Then Canada came out last, and everyone stood up and cheered like crazy, and I got all choked up in spite of myself.

And the First Nations reps had to keep dancing through the whole damn thing. Though I noticed they spelled each other so that not everyone was dancing at once. And a lot of the dancing was just sort of place-holding jogging from one foot to the other. But still!

Then all the First Nations people dance off the stage, including one guy who seemed to really, really not want to leave.

Then the performances!

The room got dark and there was all this lighting effect and tissue-paper snow that everyone started grabbing for. And then some strange dancing in white costumes and a huge weird lit-up ice bear that rose up and then sank down below the floor. and then! Sarah Mclachlan singing "Ordinary Miracles!" and I think it was really her, not a stand-in. Excitement all around, and I forgave them for the ice bear.

Then all the white dancers finished and were replaced by a bunch of Riverdance dancers and a fiddler on a big platform in the middle, while tissue-paper maple leaves rain from the sky everywhere except our section. Is that Ashley MacIsaac? Maybe. Could it be? What do you think? I think so! Cool! Last time I saw him he was skulking around at the edge of a stage at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, performing semi-incognito with his cousin. He'd been wearing a big coat and looked sort of worn out. He seems to have pulled himself together since then.

OK, Riverdance off, next performance on. Now the big vulvic thing kind of droops and drops down four big fabric drapes and light projects onto them so they look like Emily Carr tree paintings. Cool. Actually that was my third-favorite part. More dancing in front of the trees, and people spinning around in the air on wires.

Then the trees are gone, and there's a big sun and a projected field, and a lone dancer running in place and the chords of the next song start and--oh wow--can it be? RW and I clasp hands in wonder and gasp--Joni! Singing her all-grown-up, jazz-inflected version of "Clouds!" But no, soon we realize it's just a recording. Though the dancing-- which soon turns to more swinging around in the air on wires--is gorgeous. And maybe it really will be Joni in person on Friday; we'll find out, I guess.

Then the centerpiece bulges and droops and transforms again, this time into a snowy mountain, and again we have performers on wires, though this time they're all wearing winter clothes and skis and snowboards and pretending to ski and such on the projected slopes. It's very good, but I can't help remembering this parody that one of MG's circus coaches did in a performance a couple years ago that was just like this, only funny. How did he know??

Then, with all the airborne skiiers still doing their thing, a whole fleet of rollerbladers zooms in! One of them is Uncle Skaterboy, but it's impossible to pick him out from the crowd, especially since they're all wearing red, pretending to be speed-skaters on ice. (Oh-- the floor is white, so everything looks kind of icy.) Yay, Uncle Skaterboy! Yay, athletes! Yay, performers! Okay, bye!

Then with great fanfare they announce that the Olympic Torch is coming in only 27 minutes (only it isn't really; it's still wending its way around the Lower Mainland this week). Photo montage of all the places it's been. More fanfare! Announcement that a big High Muckety-Muck will now speak!

Camera focuses on mild-mannered Olympic Volunteer, who steps up to podium and introduces himself, to huge enthusiastic cheers, as the stand-in for High Muckety-Muck. He explains that Muckety-Muck will be giving a four-and-a-half-minute speech, and proceeds to fill the next four minutes with a boring encyclopedia travelogue about the City of Vancouver, while MG and I dart forward and grab as many tissue-paper maple leaves as we can from the section in front of us.

Another speech from another stand-in, and then mounties march smartly out and raise the Olympic Flag beside the Canadian one. RW figures out that the wind machine is INSIDE THE FLAGPOLE, which we agree is very clever.

Now all please stand for the Official Olympic Song! (There's an Official Olympic Song?) Camera to young, slightly embarrassed stand-in, who holds a microphone to her face and grins while a recorded voice sings a very operatic anthem. Occasionally the volunteer mouths a particularly aria-like syllable, and sort of waves her arms around, and everyone cheers extra loud.

Somewhere in there there was another song, only we don't know what it was because it is A Secret. A stand-in stood on the platform for a few minutes while an instrumental version of "Hallelujah" played. We took bets on who the real performer will be: Shania Twain? Celine Dion? Leonard Cohen? Maybe Leonard Cohen. Wouldn't that be a kick? Or kd lang-- didn't she make a big splash at the last Canadian Olympics? Well, by the time you read this, everyone will know, but I don't yet. [Note from Friday: It was! It was kd! Looking quite stunningly butch and soignee, don't you think?]

And another song. Before that one, or after, I forget. But the lights went down and the cheerleaders did a lot of waving their lights around, and finally at the end several audience members got the bright idea to wave their cell-phones in the air. I did, too. It was fun, even though I don't have one of those fancy iPhones with a simulated lighter-waving app.

Was there more? I think there was more. Oh, there were all these white-clad Olympic handmaidens (and, I guess. Anyway, there were men and women) who just walked and stood around the edge of the stage in formation for the whole performance, off and on. They didn't dance, or anything. They were like snow nymphs. Sort of militarized snow nymphs.

They lined up to welcome the (imaginary) torch and light the (imaginary) Olympic Cauldron! Yay!

And then it was over! Good night, mesdames et messieurs! Twenty thousand people rushed for the exits. More blue-clad volunteers shepherded us out of the stadium and told us to go over the little bridge. And as we all surged for the bridge...fireworks! off the top of the stadium! Ooh! Pretty!

"That's where my job went," I said to RW, gesturing to the explosions behind us.

"Yep," she said. "Up in smoke. Well, you might as well enjoy it."

And I did, pretty much. Then we used our tickets to get a free ride home on the Skytrain, and that was the end of that.