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Letters From Rona (blog)

Where I tucked that post about Holden Caulfield

Have you been scouring this site for my post about rereading The Catcher in the Rye after more than 40 years? Did you think I destroyed it for some mysterious reason? It’s been right here all along, an old post deserving better signposting. Here’s where to find it, with apologies to anyone who’s feeling understandably frustrated.

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A head of radicchio for the road

Think of your must-have consolations for a marathon road trip. Do I hear any takers for coffee? Trail mix? Freshly loaded iPod. Someone’s bound to mention chocolate, and Tim-bits must have a champion or two. But I have yet to meet another living soul whose survival kit for a three-day drive—Toronto to Sarasota, in deepest, darkest winter—included a head of radicchio. And damned useful it turned out to be.

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Choosing death at 37

It’s been a good many years since I was 37 and had just figured out that not only did the state known as happiness actually exist outside sappy greeting cards and over-orchestrated love songs, I had as much right to it as anyone else. My second life—the one that followed my treatment for chronic depression—was in its first astonishing months when I felt as green and tender as a newly unfurled leaf.

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Kate McGarrigle on my mind

Kate MGarrigle, the singer/songwriter who died of cancer this week at 63, was so wholly and happily bound up in my mind with her sister and partner Anna that in 30-odd years of loving their luminous harmonies I never bothered to distinguish the two. But any fan can tell that “Matapedia” is a story from Kate’s life as daughter, mother and middle-aged woman contemplating mortality. I couldn’t get Kate off my mind tonight. And so on the elliptical machine, where I usually pump away to hard-driving stuff, I couldn’t stop playing “Matapedia.”

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The truth about impressing your grandchild

In the eyes of our 13-year-old grandson, who flew home yesterday after four days with us in Sarasota, the full-body scanner is neither an invasion of privacy nor a prudent concession to the new risks of air travel but an incredibly cool and brag-worthy device from which he had the bad luck to be excluded. Which just goes to show that to entertain a grandchild is to learn how little you know about what currently qualifies as cool.

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The voyeuristic pleasures of grocery tourism

You can tell quite a lot about a place from what’s on offer—or is not—by way of groceries. In the Dordogne countryside, every second driveway sports a hand-lettered sign advertising homemade foie gras, but just try hunting down a liter of milk. In Sarasota, where we’ve rented a condo next door to Publix, it’s a less toothsome story. I’ve never seen so much packaged food you couldn’t pay me to eat.

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Surprised by travel, for better and worse

If you’re not game for glitches, don’t travel: something always goes wrong. Then again, other things go right in unforgettable ways. For instance, our detour to the history-drenched town of Trier, where the most extraordinary sight was the one we didn’t expect—the venerated and debated local treasure that skeptics debunk as a medieval hoax and the faithful revere as the holy tunic worn by Jesus the day he was crucified.

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Wife of the legendary writer and drunk

The difference between Raymond Carver and your typical bad-boy writer, boozing and bedding his way to premature decrepitude, is that Carver, pushing 40, got scared enough to dry out—a decision that rekindled his sputtering creative fire and made him a grateful man who viewed each day as a gift. His last poems credit a late-blooming love affair with a fellow writer, Tess Gallagher, as the emotional centre of this extraordinary transformation. Yet Carol Sklenicka’s new biography clearly shows that if not for the selfless devotion of his first wife Maryann, Carver would have drowned the gifts that made his name.

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Rewards and wrong turns on the road to Sarasota

Toronto, where we live, and Sarasota, where we’re spending this month, share a bond right now: in both cities the cold has everyone grousing. I headed out today in a cashmere sweater, a wool jacket and leather boots (so much for sandal fantasies). But if I’d been stuck at home, I’d have reached for my long johns and bear-paw gloves. And then, much as I hate to join the weather wusses, I’d have vented with the best of them. Bottom line: I’m in no hurry to get home.

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A snowbird in spite of myself

Every year around this time, as winter tightens its grip on Toronto, my husband pointedly draws my attention to the various people we know who’ve decamped for condos in Florida and won’t be back until the crocuses sprout. “I like my routines here at home,” I’ve always said. “Besides, winter in Toronto is pretty tame stuff. Think we’ve got it bad? You should see winter where I come from!”

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