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Debbie Ridpath Ohi reads, writes and illustrates for young people. Every few weeks, she shares new art, writing and resources; subscribe below. Browse the archives here.

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Sunday
Dec172000

snow






I'm back in my home office in Toronto, looking out at the soggy snow on the asphalt, listening to a chill wind beating against my window. Far below, I can see the garish marquee lights of the Royal Alexandra Theatre, still highlighting "Mamma Mia". In about a month, I'll be back here for good...I can't wait.

I've packed up as much of my apartment in Philly as I can for now; cardboard boxes of books, clothes, and papers are stacked up against the wall in preparation for my move back home. My cubicle in the office (my half of it, anyway) has pretty much been bare for over a month now. I still spend a few days a week in the office, but people have already begun scavenging...items have started to disappear from my desk area: my wastepaper basket, office supplies, my office chair. I sent out a couple of office-wide e-mails pleading for the return of my chair. A kind soul did find me a chair; it wasn't the same one, but the gesture was appreciated...I was starting to get paranoid about the need to chain everything down so it wouldn't be pilfered. Sadly, my benefactor is resigning from the company next week.

I still love my harp; it's keeping me sane in Philly these days. My harp lessons aren't as frequent because of scheduling problems, but I've learned enough basic technique from Kim to be able to make some progress on my own. I'm starting to learn a Kim Robertson arrangement (Blind Mary) which is absolutely gorgeous but way too hard for me. I want to learn it anyway, of course, so I'm working through it one slow measure at a time. Meanwhile, I'm still plugging away at my other pieces. Out of curiosity, I took out some older pieces which I tried when my harp first arrived...and was delighted to find that I could play them much more easily. I even sightread through a few Christmas carols, even though it's highly unlikely anyone will hear me play them before Christmas. To all you musicians out there: do you learn pieces for yourself, or to perform for other people? i.e. would you learn a piece even if you knew you would never play it for anyone?

I'm also starting to compose my first piece on the harp. It's a simple instrumental work; I'm hoping to get it finished as a good-bye gift for my harp teacher in Philadelphia. I love composing on the harp; -everything- sounds good. :-) Before I hooked up with Urban Tapestry, I used to compose piano instrumental pieces which no one ever heard. When I discovered that Allison and Jodi could sing pretty much anything I wrote, I was in heaven. I'm hoping to eventually write some harp-vocal arrangements for Urban Tapestry, but the difficulty will be in transporting the harp. I've discovered that in its case, the harp doesn't fit into a regular cab. Since I don't drive (our car isn't big enough, anyway) and there is no way the harp would fit into Jodi's car, it's highly unlikely I'll be taking my own harp to any convention, even local ones.

I went to Sara's Christmas play this afternoon. She played the Star of Bethlehem in the Nativity Play and had two lines. Jeff and I arrived 40 minutes early to get good seats (there were already three rows filled ahead of us by the time we arrived!). Sara had two lines which she delivered with a huge smile on her face; I was bursting with auntlike pride, of course. I knew what the lines were already because she had rehearsed them for Jeff and me the previous week.

Going back to Philly tomorrow night. I can't believe Christmas is a week away!

Friday
Dec012000

slowing down




So I took today off. In fact, I'm changing my work schedule so that I no longer work Fridays. I've finally had to admit to myself that I'm burned out...I've been running at high stress mode since the beginning of last year. I could handle it at first; even got a certain level of masochistic pleasure out of it. I worked on my book. Inkspot grew. I realized that I couldn't handle Inkspot by myself anymore; I needed more resources, especially fulltime help.

Living in Philadelphia has been fun in some ways, but the stress levels have been even higher (and I didn't think that was possible :-)), partly because I was working even harder than I did before. My body finally started rebelling. On Jeff's insistence, I saw my doctor last week, and she advised me to take some time off work. "But I can't!" I protested. "Yes, you can," she said. I decided to listen to her.

And in trying to take genuine time off, I'm realizing how much of a workaholic I really am. After several years of frantic chaos, I'm finding it immensely difficult to suddenly slow down.

I played some harp today. Did some Christmas shopping, browsed some bookstores and children's toy shops. Bought some healthy ingredients for meals and snacks instead of the usual frozen dinners (though I do still think Philly has the greatest selection of frozen foods!). Rented three movies: X-Men, Cider House Rules, and Anna and the King.

Fought the urge to check my work e-mail, to leap back into my children's book writing right away, to go into major packing mode (I'm not moving home for over a month), to go into an apartment-cleaning frenzy.

Downshifting is tough. But I'm learning. :-)

Today's Blatherpic:
My friend Brian Parkinson (Parki) and me.

Tuesday
Nov282000

lloyd landa memorial




The memorial for Lloyd this past weekend wasn't at all what I expected. I had anticipated sadness, regret, and a sombre crowd. Instead, the event focussed on celebrating Lloyd's life. I only knew a handful people in the crowded room, but I felt as if I was among friends...we were bonded through our friendship with Lloyd, and the fact that he had touched each of our lives. I got to know Lloyd better that evening through the stories and songs of his other friends.

Allison posted a report of the evening to the FKO mailing list, and she gave me permission to post it in today's Blatherings:

Memorial for Lloyd Landa at The Tranzac Club

by Allison Durno



Debbie, Jodi and I attended the memorial for Lloyd on Saturday at the Tranzac Club in Toronto and performed a couple of songs at Karen's request. It was a wonderful evening, emotional and comforting at the same time. As someone who knew Lloyd through the filk community, it was terrific to see how he was loved and admired by the folk musicians of Toronto as well.

The Tranzac Club is a really nice spot, down at the corner of Bloor and Brunswick, near the University of Toronto. The memorial was in a comfortable room, with tables and chairs scattered around, a bar in the back, large sketched-glass windows in the front strung with little clear lights. By the time the memorial started around nine the place was packed with friends and family and fellow musicians who had known Lloyd. Besides UT, Eric Layman and Freddy Brown were there from the filk community (and Karen, of course). Scattered on the tables were two moving written memorials to Lloyd- a two-page spread from the latest issue of the U.S.S. Hudson Bay newsletter, Voyager, written by Eric and Karen, and a very moving memorial by folk singer/songwriter Norm Hacking (who ran the Tranzac tribute) originally published in "Taxi News". I've saved a copy of each which I hope to have at Sally's place next Saturday (if I get my report cards done!).

There were more than a dozen performers on the evening's schedule and the music ranged from old Van Morrison and Beatle tunes to an assortment of original tunes, many of which the performers said had been encouraged by Lloyd, inspired by Lloyd or had come about through collaboration with Lloyd. The three musicians from the filk community performed back-to-back. Eric sang a song about problems with his bike and recited a poem in honour of Lloyd. Freddy sang his song in honour of Lloyd that he first debuted at Sally's filk last summer and a song about his beat-up Chevy. Before UT performed, Karen gave a very touching introduction, explaining what filk was to the crowd and how when she and Lloyd first discovered the filk community they knew they were home, it became their passion. We performed "The Lady" and "TechnoNerdboy", as Karen had said they were two of Lloyd's favorite UT songs.

Of the folk musicians, I only recognized Bob Schneider, best known in Canada for his children's music, but there were many fantastic musicians, guitarists and keyboard players that had clearly been performing with each other and with Lloyd here in Toronto for many years. There were so many songs where I found myself saying, "Oh, wow, wish I could take that song to the filk community, they'd love it.". The three that come most readily to mind were songs by Norm Hacking called "Cats Everywhere" and "A Songwriter's Song" and another song sung that was written for another friend lost recently and dedicated to Lloyd last night called "The Miracle of You".

The musical highlight of the evening was hearing Karen perform late in the tribute. She got up with her guitar and performed Lloyd's "I Am Stardust" and a song she said has always been her favorite song and has even more meaning to her now called "The Dance". The song is about wondering if you would choose to change your life if you knew how events would play out. The answer within the song is no, for in doing so you might avoid life's pain, but you'd also miss the dance. Beautiful song, so moving to hear Karen sing it. After singing her two songs, Karen also played the CD version of "Pioneers Of Mars", explaining the history behind the song.

Late in the evening, Norm Hacking also unveiled a photo of Lloyd on the wall of the room as the first inductee into the Tranzac Club Spirit of Song Hall of Fame. A basket was also passed around twice during the evening to raise money to put together a CD of Lloyd's instrumental music. If anyone else would like to contribute to this worthwhile project, I'd strongly encourage you to contact Karen and donate what you can.

UT had to leave the club around 12:30 am and at that time the tribute was still going strong, with 4-5 musicians still lined up to perform. It was a great night of music, it was wonderful to see the love and affection Lloyd had inspired in so many people and we were very glad to have had a chance to be part of the evening.

- Allison

Today's Blatherpic:
Karen Linsley and Lloyd Landa, at Toronto Trek earlier this year. This was the last time I saw Lloyd.

Friday
Nov242000

downtime





Took this week off...much snoozing, reading, and general lazing about. Read two Laurell K. Hamilton books, Jerry Spinelli's _Star Girl_, and Michael Crichton's _Timeline_. Lots of movie watching and video rentals: 6th Day (yuk...I'm off Arnie movies for a while), Unbreakable (disappointing), Titan A.E. (also disappointing), U-571 (entertaining but scary!), Charlies' Angels (my second time, Ruth's first time). Pampered myself at the Spa at Elmwood...got a massage, tried a Moor Mud Wrap treatment. Went to a new sushi place (WOW sushi, a few blocks from our apartment), visited Fune for my salmon sashimi fix.

Hey, I was mentioned in the most recent issue of Maclean's magazine (Canada's Weekly Newsmagazine, Nov. 20, 2000) p39, in the Tech Explorer column by Danylo Hawalshka:



"GET IT WRITE Readers who would like to be writers can learn some of the basics at www.inkspot.com. There are tips on grammar and style, and links for writers at various levels of proficiency. The U.S.-based site, founded and run by Debbie Ridpath Ohi of Toronto, also has extensive information on becoming a freelancer, including markets for English-language articles and short stories around the world. A section called Young Writers has information and links for the under-18 crowd."

Thanks to Luisa for telling me about the issue, and to Jodi for being grilled by the Maclean's guy since I was in New York when he called.

Seeing Jodi and Allison tonight. Tomorrow we'll be attending a memorial for Lloyd Landa.

Today's blatherpic:
Sara at the Santa Claus parade, ready with her letter for Santa. She is sitting on top of Jeff's shoulders. Kaarel held Annie, and Andy held Elspeth. 'Twas fun, but pretty cold! We all went for hot chocolate and icecream at Movenpick's after the parade.

Monday
Nov132000

my book & nyc feast





My book arrived today! I was so impatient that I had to rip open the box of author copies while waiting in the lobby for the elevator. There it was. With my name on the cover. It seems like ages ago (January of last year, to be precise) that Writer's Digest called me up to ask if I'd be interested in writing the book. As if I'd say no.

L'espinasse

Jeff came to visit on the weekend, and we went to New York. It was great to see some old friends again. On Friday night, some friends took us to L'espinasse, one of New York's top-rated restaurants. Incredible food, and the menu was the kind that was almost as fun to read as it was to order from. :-) Courses had names like "Rouget Cuit Sure Peau, Ratte Cuite Au Four, Huile D'Olive" (Mediterranean Rouget and Calamari on Crushed Fingerling Potato with Black Olive and Preserved Lemon) and "Grits Aux Champignons Sauvages" (Stone-ground White Grits with Cantal Cheese and Wild Mushrooms). Dinner was US$145 per person, not including gratuity or alcohol. It definitely wasn't the kind of place that Jeff and I could afford if we were paying. Nor would we want to, even if we could afford it...this is more of a "once in a lifetime" sort of experience, to be appreciated that much more because of its rarity.

(I almost sounded convincing there, didn't I? :-))

Every dish of the ten-course dinner (I think it was ten courses; I lost count after a while) was a "tasting" portion, so artfully arranged that it was almost a shame to touch it (but we did). One of my favourites was the first serving, "Amuse Bouche", which was a surprise every evening. That night's gustatorial offering was a baked potato shell shaped into a delicate conch shell, on a bed of rock salt. Inside the shell was a small amount of caviar and a dollop of fresh cream. Yummmmmmmm...

As each course was served, one of the servers announced the name of the dish solemnly, as if he was introducing the next act of a tragedy. I managed to resist the urge to applaud. After each course was finished, servers appeared out of nowhere to unobtrusively clear used plates, replaced used cutlery, refill wine and water glasses. The service was excellent. The entire dinner took nearly three hours, but I didn't really notice the time go by. I did have trouble figuring out what some of the cutlery was for, but no one at our table cared whether anyone was using a fork out of order, so I ended up picking fairly randomly. :-)

feast of senses

Another high point of the weekend for me was staying in our friend Arline's apartment. Arline has one of those places where absolutely every thing in her place looks like it has been chosen with much thought and affection. Perhaps I've been dwelling in a beige cubicle-land too long, but I felt on the weekend as if my senses had been starved to some degree, at least visually. I found myself delighted and fascinated by a PILLOW at Arline's, for example. Egads, how sad is that? But I couldn't help it...it had such rich textures and colours (the photo does not do it justice), especially in the sunlight that filtered through the bamboo blinds, that I just sat and admired it for a while. Ditto for a chair downstairs, a china plate on display, a fountain outside in her small garden, a painting of a woman artist in her front hall.

I don't think we tend to make enough of this type of quiet time for ourselves. Or maybe I'm just weird, that I value it so much. By "quiet time", I don't just mean being in a quiet room. I mean sitting somewhere alone, not talking to anyone, not actively interacting with your environment. But just sitting and really looking at things around you, tasting things, making use of all your senses. These days, I tend to eat in a hurry, just shoving food into my mouth (not even particularly good food) to quell hunger pangs, rushing to fit more tasks into less time, moving onto the next thing before fully appreciating the last, never pausing, hurryhurryHURRY. No wonder I'm burning out.

Dinner at the fancy restaurant on Friday helped me slow down and appreciate the sense of taste. I don't think one has to spend $145 on a meal to do this; you could do it with an ordinary apple. Or hot dog. Or chocolate bar (mmmm, especially a chocolate bar....). Staying at Arline's helped me remember what it was like to savour things visually. Taste, too...she had interesting ginger-lemon "fruitwater" in the guest fridge, Belgian butter crackers in the snack cupboard.

Now to move onto my other senses... :-)

But enough rambling. This last paragraph has made me hungry...I'm going to snoop through the fridge for a late-night snack.

Today's blatherphotos:
Me and my book!
Arline's pillow
Harry & Jean's cat, Mackerel