Being 69 – Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016: Life is a cabaret

This evening’s Cabaret for Limmud Vancouver ’16 was full of magic moments. More than 200 people gathered for the entertaining evening at Congregation Beth Israel, the new venue for this third annual edition of Jewish learning, which continues with a full day Sunday. There was music, spirituality, philosophy, debate, a quiz and door prizes.

Music co-ordinator Charles Kaplan did an amazing job to make it possible for all the singers to sing: organizing, communicating, charting, transposing, leading the band and singers in creating the arrangements.

In bringing the evening to you, I’m feeling like a reporter-photographer again, what we used to call a two-way man. I’ll let my photos and captions tell the story, beginning with the havdalah ceremony ending Shabbat (above). Sharna Searle holds the havdalah candle while Harley Rothstein on guitar and Debby Fenson sing the blessings.


Rabbi Laura Duhan Kaplan sings “Adon Olam” backed by guest artist Elana Brief on violin and the Sulam band.


Wendy Rubin (right) sings with Sulam.


Dancers spontaneously circle the ballroom to a klezmer tune.


The Vancouver Jewish Folk Choir sings “Yomervokhets,” conducted by David Millard, who wrote the music to this Yiddish adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky.”


Rabbi Hannah Dresner sings. “Ela Mistateret” is a product of her synthesis of two of her passions – making paintings, which were projected on big screens, and singing niggun, which are wordless melodies.


Singer-songwriter Myrna Rabinowitz sings in her beloved Yiddish.

Friday, Jan. 29, 2016: A day in the life

My Thursday began unusually early, just after midnight. Here’s how the day unfolded:

12:30 a.m. – Began watching Canada’s No. 1 tennis pro Milos Raonic play against British star Andy Murray in a semi-final at the Australian Open in Melbourne. First player to take three sets wins. Milos was up two sets to one when he asked for a medical timeout. In the AP photo above he’s showing the tournament trainer with his right hand where his adductor is injured. Murray went on to win the fourth and fifth sets and book his spot in the final. “It’s unfortunate – probably the most heartbroken I’ve felt on court,” Milos said after.

4:00 – Crawled into bed and set my alarm for 7:45 because I was due at 9 at the tennis centre at the University of B.C. to play doubles.

9:01 – Woke up groggy and shocked. I had set the alarm for 7:45 p.m. on my iPhone. Called one of the players, jumped in the shower, grabbed two bananas and headed out the door.

9:30 – Arrived on court, apologizing profusely. Pam said I should use a real alarm clock. Had fun playing until 11.

11:15 – Shopped at Save-On-Foods for key ingredients for the triple-chocolate brownies I’ll bake for Sunday’s Chanting & Chocolate: Callebaut semi-sweet and milk chocolate chunks.

12:30 p.m. – Reheated a bowl of the organic split-pea soup I made the other day in the crock pot.

1:00 – Caught up on some of the sleep I lost.

2:00 – Did my brief daily practice of chanting, meditation and yoga.

2:22 – Sent a text to Marcie-Ann in Toronto that I’d done my practice. She’s a fellow graduate of the Kol Zimra chant leadership training, which fosters “spirit buddy” relationships for mutual support. So Marcie-Ann and I are spirit buddies for our daily practices.

3:51 – Drove to Yaletown to the office of our development manager. As a director of our development company for Vancouver Cohousing, I signed a cheque for construction work.

5:02 – Called my cousin Esther in Winnipeg and chatted for going on an hour. My mention of the late Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi in a previous blog post prompted her to tell me about a sermon he delivered in Yiddish in Winnipeg years ago. I said I’d send her a photo of me and Reb Zalman (below).

6:39 – Replayed CBC’s newscast “The World at 6” on my iPhone while I prepared a quick solo dinner. Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup is one of my guilty pleasures. I added organic broccolette, and chicken and cilantro mini wontons, mushroom stir-fry sauce and Japanese shoyu.

6:57 – Sent an email to a young woman in England who inquired about my sublet that she saw on the UBC Rentsline.

7:30 – Responded to a woman on with whom I’d exchanged some messages. Tried to diplomatically ask when her profile photos were taken, because they seem to be from different eras. I caption my photos with the month and year. Truth in advertising.

8:30 – Worked on a client’s website that I update, failing to solve how to restore the testimonial slider that had disappeared from the home page. Yes, I know it’s Shabbat. I can be pretty loosey-goosey about when that kicks in for me. Often, when I’m alone on Friday night, my Shabbat really starts when I arrive at Or Shalom for Saturday morning services.

10:00 – Writing this post.



With Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi at his Boulder, Colorado, home in 2004.



Thursday, Jan.28, 2016: The joy of publishing

Tonight I published the latest monthly edition of the Vancouver Cohousing Newsletter for our community, perhaps the last issue before we move in February into our 31-unit complex in East Vancouver on 33rd between Knight and Victoria Drive.

The newsletter is one of my newest babies in a lifetime of birthing publications. The absolute newest is this blog, Being 69, coming to you daily since Dec. 30, 2015. I have always loved every part of the process of publishing – the writing, photography, editing, design and production. Not so much the business side. I even had a comic strip, Wry Lines, for a while.

The cohousing newsletter is digital, created online with the MailChimp app. That’s a mind-blowing technological leap from the hot-lead era of 1964, when I was a 17-year-old first-year student at the University of B.C. editing the freshman newspaper The Odyssey. I was working with the president of the freshman class – Kim Campbell, later to become, briefly, Canada’s first female prime minister.

Hot lead refers to typesetting systems used in letterpress printing. Men known as compositors operated large, clanking devices with keyboards that cast lines of type out of molten metal consisting primarily of lead.

When I launched the first student paper, The Tartan, at the opening of Simon Fraser University in Burnaby in 1965 I went really simple using a mimeograph machine. Within two months there were three student newspapers. The surviving one emerged as The Peak, which embraced the phototypesetting technology called cold type. Machines generated text printed on photographic paper.

My next baby was Discovery Passage, a biweekly newspaper I started in 1970s hippie days on Quadra Island. We began with electronic stencilling, soon upgrading to cold-type paste-ups that we sent by bus to Port Alberni. They came back as printed newspapers.

Most of my working life was in daily newspapers. As well, over the years I’ve produced newsletters on a volunteer basis, most recently for the first two years of Limmud Vancouver, the festival of unexpected Jewish learning. The third edition of LimmudVan is this weekend and tickets are still available.

Earlier this evening, Yossi and Debbie Havusha came over with their son, a fellow fan of Canada’s No. 1 tennis star Milos Raonic, who plays at 12:30 a.m. Vancouver time Friday in the semi-final of the Australian Open against Andy Murray. Yossi produces Yossilinks, Vancouver’s online Jewish community, and Debbie blogs on the website. A recent post highly praised her experience at December’s Chanting & Chocolate. On the last Sunday of every month, the January event is this Sunday at Or Shalom at 7:30 pm. I get the word out with a digital newsletter.


That’s me, lower left, with the staff of my newspaper on Quadra Island in 1972.


Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016: What am I doing on Tinder?

Tonight I had a Tinder date at a local cafe. Tinder is the dating app where users see one or more photos, first name, age, sometimes a short description, plus any common Facebook connections or interests. And then we either swipe left if we don’t want to connect, or right if we do.

L. and I had both swiped right and then chatted through the app. We had some mutual friends and when we met it turned out our offspring may have been at camp together. L. is a very nice person and we talked easily, but there was no spark. Ironically, a few tables away was a woman, chatting with friends, to whom I’ve been attracted for years, but I’ve never registered on her radar.

I wished L. all the best in meeting a wonderful partner. In any case, she may bring a friend to Chanting & Chocolate this Sunday evening.

It will be a special evening – 7:30 p.m. at Or Shalom Synagogue – because of our special guest, Rabbi Hanna Tiferet Siegel, our great band and my yummy triple-chocolate brownies, baked from scratch and served with tea after the chanting. Hanna Tiferet – a co-founder of Or Shalom – is a poet, mystic and singer-songwriter through whom song and inspiration flow. She weaves together prayerful melodies and inspired lyrics in a web of spirit and celebration.

But back to Tinder. I check it three or four times a week on my iPhone but there are seldom women close to my age. When I researched Tinder on Wikipedia today, I found the chart you see above. L. is 55, part of the 55-64 group that registers only one percent of the estimated 14 million users in 196 countries. My age group is right off the chart.

I’m better off continuing to do the things I love and may meet someone there, and focusing on the dating sites that have been more fruitful. I met my last girlfriend on I also use Plenty of Fish, OKCupid and JDate, the site for Jewish singles for which I will let my subscription lapse in four days – just not enough new people joining. I also must admit to checking the personals on Craigslist, which is similar to Tinder in that there are few women close to my age. Quite honestly I’m not looking for a much younger woman.

Some years ago on CBC Radio I heard a story on dating later in life. A Halifax bartender interviewed said it was a double whammy – you get less attractive and more picky.


Being 69 – Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016: They don’t call it practice for nothin’

Since New Year’s Day, I’ve been doing a daily spiritual practice of sacred chanting, meditation and yoga – a goal I’ve never been able to sustain since my early days as a seeker in the 1970s. (Full disclosure, I’ve missed twice this month.) To help make the practice achievable, I’ve begun with five minutes of each, with the idea of adding a minute a month to build up to 20 minutes of each. I feel this work is essential for spiritual maintenance.

For the first part of the practice, I’m chanting along to an iPhone app called Flavors of Gratefulness created by my chant leadership teacher, Rabbi Shefa Gold (in the photo above). There are 36 different versions of chants for the morning prayer that begins “Modeh ani l’fanecha” (I am grateful before you), so it never gets boring.

For the meditation, I follow my breath, paying attention to the inhale and the exhale. When I get lost in thought, I come back to the breath. I’ve had some amazing Jewish meditation teachers over the years, including Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Rabbi Naomi Steinberg, Rabbi Jeff Roth, Sylvia Boorstein and Norman Fischer. And Shefa, who told us in her training to spend 20 minutes a day in the silent presence of the Divine. Another iPhone app, Meditation Timer, helps with the timing.

I do simple Hatha postures for the yoga portion. For years I took classes with Evelyn Neaman. More recently I’m taking classes with another excellent teacher, Karen Heaps at Vancouver’s Jewish Community Centre twice a week. When I told Karen about my practice today, she said she could tell that my body is getting less tight. That’s very encouraging.

I’ve taken workshops with Rabbi Andrew Hahn, known as the Kirtan Rabbi. By the way, kirtan means “praise” in Sanskrit, and it commonly describes devotional chanting, often in the call-and-response style. He’s made it clear that chant leaders need a daily practice.

But not only chant leaders. Kirtan luminary Krishna Das – originally Jeff Kagel, who says he was “born to Jewish parents” – prescribes it for everyone. As Brenda Patoine wrote on the website for The Bhakti Beat: Kirtan News, Reviews and Interviews:

Krishna Das has said it in so many workshops: “When you leave here, you’ve still got to pay the bills.” His advice? “Practice.” He doesn’t care if you chant, meditate, do asanas…whatever;  just do something. “There’s a reason they call it practice,” he always says. You’ve got to do it. As in, every day.


With Andrew Hahn, the Kirtan Rabbi.


With Krishna Das.


Monday, Jan. 25, 2016: Hedging my bets

On a clear day, you can see forever. That’s true of the view from my place in Kerrisdale. But as for living in Vancouver Cohousing, I can’t see that far ahead. So I’m hedging my bets by looking to sublet my apartment for six to 12 months from March 1 while I give cohousing my best shot.

I love my cohousing community. We’ve been meeting monthly – making all our decisions by 100% consensus – working in committees and hanging out at social events for almost four years. I feel close to many of our members. But we haven’t lived together yet. Will it meet my needs for a balance of privacy and community? Will all the benefits of living in community outweigh the serenity of my current home?

If you know anyone who might be interested in my place, please let them know. I’m leaving it furnished because very little of my furniture will fit my new home. Here are some of the details:

Spacious 800+ sq. ft, light-filled, eighth-floor apartment with sweeping southwest ocean views from the large balcony and every window in the suite. Perfect for one person or a couple.Features:
• Kitchen: Stove, fridge and microwave. Dishes, pots and utensils
• Bedroom: Bed, dresser, desk and chair. Pillows, sheets and down duvet
• Living room: Leather sofa, coffee table, easy chair, bookcase, bookshelf stereo
• Dining room: table and four chairs
• Bathroom: Tub/shower combo
• Very quiet concrete building on a quiet, leafy street
• Underground parking for one vehicle
• $1,490 a month, $745 security deposit required. Hydro, heat & hot water included
• No TV. Wifi not included – arrange your own service
• No pets
• No smoking
• One block to buses

Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016: Photo opportunities

I am not God’s gift to photography, but all my working life I’ve used my camera to supplement my writing. Today was a great chance to use those basic shooting skills. As part of the communications committee at Or Shalom, my Jewish spiritual community, I’m helping develop a series of promotional posters we’re calling “Jewish With Feeling.”

This afternoon, I photographed our Rabbi Hannah Dresner, in the foreground of the photo above, leading several members of the congregation in singing a niggun, a wordless melody. The idea was to capture the joyful spirit of our Shabbat prayer services where almost everything is sung.

I remember reading a primer on Judaism that said in North America very few Jews know the meaning of the Hebrew words they’re singing but find spiritual connection simply by singing them in community.

What helps make Or Shalom services compelling for me is that they are largely led by the members. I love that spirit of participation and the variety it brings to Shabbat mornings. The next time I’m leading will be Feb. 13.

This coming Saturday will be a mini-Shabbaton with Or Shalom’s co-founders Rabbis Daniel and Hanna Tiferet Siegel. They’re both teaching the next day at Limmud Vancouver, and Hanna Tiferet will join us that evening to sing at Chanting & Chocolate.

Also this afternoon, I photographed our Bnei Mitzvah class who are young students preparing for their Bar or Bat Mitzvah. Today’s theme was the environment. While I was there, the students were learning about bees and looked very engaged in the topic.


• • • • • •

A moving experience

In a follow-up to yesterday’s post about my new sofa, I’d like to suggest MCP Services for your moving needs. Amir and Murad did a great job for a minimal cost. They also do cleaning and painting. Contact Amir through their Craigslist ad.



Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016: Beauty of form, function and the deal

I whined in an earlier post about how little natural light I will have in my new home at Vancouver Cohousing. I’ve been particularly unhappy with the prospect of always needing to use electric lighting to be able to read in my living room.

Then a week ago I was inspired by Anna, who has the same layout as my apartment across the courtyard. She’s going to use the bedroom – the brightest room – as her living room. But Anna’s plan to use the tiny storage room for her bed did not appeal to me.

I want to use my bedroom as both a bedroom and living room and last weekend started researching wall beds and sofa beds. My space doesn’t work for a wall bed. I found two manufacturers of high-end sofa beds and zeroed in on American Leather Comfort Sleepers.

Last Sunday, I went to Industrial Revolution on Granville Street and tried one of their floor models of a Comfort Sleeper. It’s very comfortable and designed to be a bed that can be used every night. Instead of saggy springs, there’s a sturdy hardwood platform, and instead of a mattress with coils it’s high-density foam.

The price for a fabric sofa was $4,000, and for leather well above $5,000. I wanted leather, looking ahead to visits from grandchildren with sticky fingers and spilled foods. But it was way out of my price range.

Later that day, I searched Craigslist for “American Leather sofa” and was surprised to see a gorgeous, new-looking Comfort Sleeper in off-white leather for $1,400. It had just been posted that day. Turns out it’s a 2010 model that had hardly been used by the owner, who has been transferred to San Francisco and needed to sell his stuff.

I negotiated the price down to $1,300 and today took delivery of the sofa, which has pride of place in my current living room until I move into cohousing next month. I’m celebrating the beauty of the form and function, and the beauty of the deal.


American Leather photo of a Comfort Sleeper as a bed that can be used every night.


Friday, Jan. 22, 2016: Comfort food

(Alert: not for vegetarians) This morning while I was playing tennis at the University of B.C., my crock pot was bubbling away, slowly cooking a favourite winter comfort food: 18-bean soup with organic beef bones.

What’s most comforting is not the beans but the bones – the marrow, to be exact. My mom made soups with beef bones and we all prized the marrow, the fatty, jello-like stuff in the core of the bones that we called “mock”. Just like those days, for my Shabbat dinner tonight I scooped out the marrow, spread it on bread and added salt. Delicious.

Today while preparing this post, I googled bone marrow and was surprised to find there may be health benefits. A University of Michigan-led study shows that the fat tissue in bone marrow is a significant source of the hormone adiponectin, which helps maintain insulin sensitivity, break down fat, and has been linked to decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity-associated cancers.

What a bonus. But that’s not what attracts me to my comfort foods. One other has the same key ingredient as bone marrow – fat. For several years, when a close family member came to the end of a visit and I saw her off at the airport, I went straight to the Yaohan Centre in Richmond for a serving of Chinese barbecued duck. Very soothing. There are Chinese meat shops in my Vancouver Cohousing neighbourhood, so I can see more duck in my future.

Other fowl comfort foods include chicken soup with matza balls, and the very salty roast chickens from Safeway.

As a carboholic, I also find comfort in bread, to the point that I never buy loaves of bread, except when there’s company for Shabbat. Leave me alone with a loaf, and it quickly disappears. Same with poppy seed squares, ice cream and peanut butter by the spoonful.

The Huffington Post lists the 25 best comfort foods. What are your most soothing foods?



CLUB 69: Charlotte Rampling is so wrong

I’ve always had a thing for British actor Charlotte Rampling. But the fellow member of Club 69 (born Feb. 5, 1946) lost my admiration today. The Oscar nominee for best actress for “45 Years” said the campaign to boycott this year’s Academy Awards because the nominees are all white is “racist to white people.” She’s stuck in the social attitudes of a very different era. “One can never really know, but perhaps the black actors did not deserve to make the final list,” she said.



Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016: Dental work bites

At my dentist’s I was remembering asking him more than four years ago to do a holistic review of my mouth. My idea was to take care of everything that needed work then or within a few years s0 I could pay for it out of my earnings from editing contracts and not wait until I was older and forced to take it out of savings.

Dr. Bill Rosebush examined every tooth. The verdict included four implants. Yikes, that’s about $5,000 a tooth. My gold-plated group dental insurance was chopped the moment I walked out of The Province at the end of 2006. I can honestly say that’s what I miss most about working there.

Bill sent me to an oral surgeon for the implants, which required extractions. Later the surgeon inserted posts and healing abutments. When I discussed with Bill about getting the crowns made, he said my situation was rather complex and arranged for me to get into the Prosthodontic Clinic at the University of B.C., where he teaches.

One advantage of getting into the clinic is that while the lab costs are about the same as private care, the work is done by graduate dentists in a three-year residency for their specialization. They charge general dentistry rates, instead of specialist rates. I saved about $2,000 per implant. Extractions cost me less than $100, compared with $400 at the oral surgeon.

And I did need more extractions because I ended up with eight implants in total and a bridge. The extractions at UBC were not only cheaper but much less painful. The oral surgeon used a short-acting anesthetic and yanked out the teeth while I was briefly out cold. I was in agony after the freezing wore off. At UBC, the residents teased the teeth out of their ligaments. I felt almost no pain after; steroids for a few days helped.

The most painful part of going to the university clinic is the time it has taken. It’s now almost three and a half years since I first went there, and the work is finally over except for a little tweaking. I graduated a couple prosthodontic and periodontic residents during that time. They all took excellent care of me and the clinic will follow up on me for several years.

Four years ago I began paying for extended health coverage, including a limited range of dental work, such as fillings and cleanings. I’m about to cancel the dental coverage because it is so limited and is really prepaid dental care rather than insurance.

Why don’t we have dental care covered with our universal health care in Canada? Many European countries do it. In 2014, a blue-ribbon panel released a report called “Improving Access to Oral Health Care for Vulnerable People Living in Canada.” As the Globe & Mail reported, “it said that publicly funded dental care programs need to be broader and more coherent and provide essential care to those most in need, including children in low-income families, seniors living in institutional care, people with disabilities, the homeless, refugees and immigrants, aboriginal peoples, and those on social assistance.”