No one in my family – Canadian born and raised – served in the military, so I have no personal attachment to the poppy or its powerful association. But a visit in November 2008 to the Canadian cemetery near Juno Beach, in Normandy, left me weeping for an hour, stunned by the rows of maple-leaf-etched gravestones, the wet green grass carpeted by the reds and golds of the maples planted there.
There are places that bring you back to yourself. My friend’s house at the edge of a cold, clear Ontario lake does this. It is mostly window, a small, tidy shelter she designed and her husband built, filled with her artwork — a cocoon of creativity. Here, the silence is deep and healing, the only sounds water lapping against weathered rock, wind sighing through tall pines, the distant, lazy drone of an airplane, suspended high in the brilliant blue of an empty sky.
I was pimply, shy and didn’t know anyone – and they had all been attending the same area schools together since kindergarten. A group of boys decided to bark at me every day as I walked through the halls, left a dog biscuit on my desk, howled at me for amusement. They quickly gave me an identity I wouldn’t shed for the next two years – Doglin.
The pinkness of this annual drama annoys me. Cancer isn’t cute or cuddly, something to tame and prettify with a new lipstick or lapel ribbon. No amount of feel-good marketing can alter the fact that women are dying daily of this disease and all the millions, if not billions, of dollars already raised and spent to cure them, hasn’t changed this.
Americans happily blurt out the most private details of their addictions or surgeries or family dramas within minutes to total strangers — the sort of emotional revelations that, in many other places, are held private for years, or decades, and shared only with intimates.
Who could have imagined that a doctor would deliberately inject you with something dangerous – when their own Hippocratic oath begins with “First, do no harm?” Who could imagine a roommate so viciously homophobic that they’d tape you having gay sex and stream it live?
I hate the idea of being famous, which drives millions of people onto reality television so strangers can recognize them. It doesn’t, for most people, pay the bills. It won’t make your partner love you or safeguard your health, the things that matter most to me. You’re just…famous. The appeal totally escapes me.
I recently visited a museum that will soon close – the Liberace Museum in Las Vegas, which opened 30 years ago to celebrate the memory of Walter Liberace, the first pianist to make a highly lucrative career of parading the stage in ostrich feathers and sequins…