Wednesday October 8. Coming off a fraught court case (harassment, anxiety, stalker, good lawyer got rid of him/her (a transsexual coffeehouse person. Don't ask). Had to postpone flight a day because of that, and so had no turnaround time to catch my breath before flying to Toronto. Happily was on same flight as Los Angeles friends Carol Medine Moss and Lynda and Ken Hall, and it was great fun catching up with them. We shared a cab to the hotel (Le Centre Montreal Sheraton, where I had a very comfortable quiet room on a high floor, nice view, super efficient elevators so no tiresome waiting; however hotel food wasn't great and we were at its mercy a little too often). Then we hurried out for dinner, to Reuben's a couple of blocks from the hotel, where we found Nancy Gallagher and other friends. Very good Montreal smoked meat sandwich (tastes like corned beef) on rye with frites and a tangy coleslaw. Shared a really excellent piece of rich chocolate cake. Then to bed though still too flurried and anxious to sleep well.
Montreal Bagel #1, at Dunn's
Thursday October 9. Beautiful morning, cool and crisp. Montreal's 58 F highly preferable to L.A.'s 85. Craving Montreal bagel, got directed by the hotel to another nearby deli, Dunn's, for a toasted one with cream cheese, and then set off a-wandering, solo. Headed onward, north and up, past McGill and all the pretty Belle Époque mansions (or whatever they are) into the bosky leafery of Mount Royal. When I was here researching my book, in around 2000, my cousin Elizabeth and I, with Ph.D candidate (now Professor) Jean Lee Cole and her husband, walked up Mount Royal to the cemetery where my great-grandparents Edward and Grace Eaton are buried, along with great-aunt Edith Eaton (Sui Sin Far, 1865-1914), known as the godmother of Asian American fiction. The Chinese community in Montreal erected a monument to her and in Chinese characters it reads "it is right and good we should remember China." It's a wonderful thing to see, but oddly Mount Royal has got steeper in 14 years and I didn't get to the top this time. I saw a different part of the park instead, and it was lovely - a woodsy autumn walk, the trees turning red and gold. Never realized the park was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, who designed Central Park.
Grave of Edith Eaton (Sui Sin Far, 1865 - 1914) in Mount Royal Cemetery
Clockwise from left: Paul, Jean Lee Cole's husband Matt, my cousin Elizabeth, Jean, and me, @2000
In Mount Royal park
Walked back to hotel in time for Juliet McMaster's tea at the Atwater Club. The club was attractive but sadly the event was heavily overcrowded, people standing for ages in long, long lines for the buffet, with disappointing food. By the time we got our egg sandwiches and half cups of tea we had waited an hour; the event was supposed to be 4 - 6, and we had our rehearsal at 6:30. So Syrie and Bill and I had to leave; she had an elaborate costume to put on plus wanting to be early to set up the rehearsal. There was no possibility of Juliet's talk beginning much less ending on time, so we sadly had to miss it and take a cab back.
Our first rehearsal! Syrie was getting over a bad cold and was in danger of losing her voice, but no fear the trouper wouldn't come through and she directed the proceedings with her usual aplomb. She and Bill, Karen Doornebus, Miriam Rheingold-Fuller and her daughter Ellen Fuller, Edward Scheinman, and Fred and Natasha Duquette were there; absent were Peter Sabor, Juliet McMaster and Patrick Stokes (the latter arrived at the end). Rehearsal went relievedly wonderfully well, and afterwards I had to go to the "Fanny Wars" presentation, as I was asked to introduce Linda Troost and Sayre Greenfield. It went fine, but when the session was over it was past 10, everyone was exhausted, and we ate indifferent food at the hotel bar.
Linda Troost and Sayre Greenfield
Nora, Steffi and me - having bagels of course
Friday October 10. What a day! Too excited to sleep well. Met Nora Nachumi (family friend) and her friend Steffi at 9. Crisp cool but sunny day and we walked briskly to Old Town! The city was really not open yet, but we got to the central square and there was one sort of tourist restaurant with a covered patio and it was perfect for breakfast. We had particularly delicious cappuccinos and Montreal bagels, lox and cream cheese. And sat and talked a mile a minute, improving friendship with delight, reflecting on life's trajectories, women's choices, and our own vitally interesting life stories. Nora and Steffi are putting together an Austen anthology I'll contribute to, and we talked a lot about that and publishing too. Great time! On the way back we went to the maple shop that was the end of all maple shops and I bought a lot of stuff...maple syrup with Grand Marnier, blocks of hard maple sugar, maple sugar fudge...
Yep, another one...but who's counting
Maple sugar pie
Got back at noon just in time for rehearsal, tried on my Carol Burnett curtain rod costume and we assigned microphones and did a run through. A late lunch of bagel and lox and maple sugar pie at the hotel, visiting sequentially with Marcia Folsom McClintock and Mary Margaret Benson; then saw "our" actor Edward Scheinman and his mom, introduced self and made friends with him! After lunch, I went to my first conference session, and what do you know, it was another play, the Mansfield Park characters on a psychiatrists couch, written by Juliet Wells, very smart and amusing, but fortunately not much like our play, though there was, rather unnervingly, another Mrs. Norris! Then went to next door Italian restaurant with Alice Villesenor, JamesonYu (who'd been in the play) and Viki Barie, scarfed some cold meats, but was almost late and had to hurry to dress.
Reached the stage at 7:15 and dithered - thought I'd left script in room, ran up, came down and found it under my costume! Put it on with Natasha's help, then sat behind a screen with Bill and Patrick and listened until my turn to appear. Everyone gave it their all, with full weight, skill and accents; pace was great, no problems with microphones or movements. I won't describe the play, as I'll do that (with pictures) in my next post, but it was fantastic! Afterwards pictures were taken and we had such a good time basking in our success. We repaired to the hotel bar, I had more maple sugar pie, and chatted with Syrie and Patrick and Nora and Sarah Emsley and everyone to heart's content.
At the banquet with "our actresses," Miriam Rheingold-Fuller and Karen Doornebos
Bill and Syrie at the banquet
Me, Syrie and Juliet at the ball
Too excited to sleep well and I was to meet Natasha and Fred at 8:30 to go hunt for Montreal bagels. But they were anxious and had to do more work on their presentation (as one does) so we had a lovely breakfast at the hotel - Montreal bagels anyway! Then I went back to SLEEP. Divine. Got up for Natasha's session, another dramatic one (Mansfield Park seems to inspire drama!), she and Fred did a dialogue, "Fanny Price among the Philosophers," Fred doing all the philosophers, and being especially good as Johnson. Then I went to Jocelyn Harris's talk. I was curious about her, not having heard a talk of hers before. Many people say she's wonderful but I've heard the opposite view too, so I thought I'd see. Well, she's obviously a great researcher or has a great staff, her head is stuffed full of Austen family minutiae, almost on a Deirdre LeFaye level; but she delivered it all so fast that I, who after all am tolerably familiar with the details of Austen's life and history, was totally lost among the welter of Cooks and Cassandras. I would very much like to have heard properly about the research connecting the Austen family to Fanny Burney via the Cooks, but it was absolutely impossible to follow it enough to even take notes. My head was spinning; and then the speaker started delivering fanciful spurious theories and talking as if they were fact, which Deirdre does NOT do. I could see why Arnie is a fan, since fanciful theories do stimulate him, but me - no, no, no! If you once state as fact that Fanny Burney's lowly captivity at Court is what inspired Jane Austen to create the lowly Fanny Price, well then, that is enough to raise distrust.
Chopped liver on Montreal bagel...yum
Emailed her and said let's meet AT the concierge and she would then come with me to buy Montreal bagels. Took cabs both ways and she paid as I had no more Canadian money; the cab waited and I went to get bagels but it was CASH ONLY so she scuttled round corner to get cash and then I saw they did take American dollars! Well! Back at hotel we went to the bar and she had a drink (surely much needed after an encounter with me!) and I cappuccino; then I got some Canadian dosh in the cash machine, and we agreed to share cab to airport at noon Sunday. We talked and talked and made friends despite the mishaps. :-). My usual theme, Choices in Life, and tried to cheer her as she was away from her kids and hadn't had an exciting Play to thrill her. We talked about publishing and so on and had a jolly time.
Me and Patrick Stokes
My gown, made by C. Allyn (Carey) Pierson
Arnie Perlstein, Ellen Moody and me
Then it was time to dress for the ball. Another kerfuffle was with Carey Bligard who'd offered to help me dress for the play or ball but I didn't get her messages and was never there. Very confusing to find anyone in a 700-person conference! Carey had made my gown, the most gorgeous Royal blue satin, and it did look nicer than I ever thought I could look in a Regenncy gown. So I dressed, and did find Carey, and we promenaded together. At the ball I didn't dance but talked to her and Ellen Moody and Freydis Welland and Sarah Emsley) and more, also watched a little of Kim Wilson's and Victoria Hinshaw' presentation, but was so tired I hobbled in my fancy heels, along to bed.
Gail and Karen
Karen Doornebos, C. Allyn (Carey) Bligard, and me,
three members of the "Austen Variations" writers' blog
Sunday October 12. Got some sleep, checked out, stashed luggage downstairs, went to brunch banquet, sat with Kerri Spinnachia and Karen Doornebos, and listened to Patrick Stokes's superb lecture. He wore the same uniform of Admiral of the Red as his ancestor Charles Austen, and was extremely informative yet lively about the Navy in Austen's day, with some very funny jokes. Then I had to leave and joined Stephanie, and we shared the cab to the airport, happily chatting. I was bound for Toronto!