Breaking the Berkeley Spell: 1980
In Nova Scotia, for the most part, women in self-scrubbed kitchens cut their own bread - soft, white slices, devoid of oat bran, zucchini, wheat germ, cilantro or fennel.
They make sandwiches for their windburnt children; bologna, without avocado, alfalfa sprouts, pesto, artichoke hearts, roasted garlic, nasturtiums, cajun spices or kalamata olives.
Lettuce, they give to the rabbits huddled in cages by the woodpile, waiting to be dinner.
Outside, rigid with April frost, a regiment of diapers snaps on the line, partially obscuring the outhouse.
Wintertime, they use chamber pots. But "April ain't winter", they say.
The women rub the diapers into compliance as they haul them in like sails, gossiping in various volumes, according to subject and wind.
Overhead, the gulls whip and call in imitation - conspiratorial, echoing, shrill.
Legitimised by activity, sandwiched between the diapers and the deer carcass in the shed, the women enjoy an invigorating exchange, brief recreation before the blood and the meat, and before the auxiliary meeting at six.
"C'mun'ty work" it's called, and is. Tangential, adjunctive to the men.
Along the Eastern Shore, the auxiliary to the Kinsmen is called the "Mennettes" and nobody minds.
Not even the young Halifax women, two months out of Musquodoboit Harbour, who think they've changed.
They call themselves "career girls"although the California custom of exchanging "girls" for "women" is catching on. Along with the long discarded Dress for Success just appearing in the chain bookstore windows.
Blue pinstripe suits, pink blouses with enormous, distracting, circus-like bows.
In their big city "junior" apartments, scrunchy acrylic afghans cover their sofas in oppressively pale colors: mustard, beige, lavender,turquoise.
Hope chests too, suffocated in afghans, filled with coyly half-embroidered monogrammed tea towels sit stolidly in these bachelorette flats with their modern, "California - style" kitchens.
Anything Californian is okay. Anything American is not.
Driving their Chevys to MacDonald's after Smokey and the Bandit, they seriously talk about Canadian identity, almost like grownups, in sophisticated departure from their mothers, at this late hour having Red Rose tea and biscuits in the cold Kinsmen Hall.
There are no beggars on the streets.
They're all "up the Home" to which the women take "pans of squares" mammoth stews and shoe-like winter socks.
Lesbians are party jokes. (Gay men are an outrage. Not mentioned.)
Parties are corn boils, lobster feeds, rum - and later, descent into song - tearful elegies about sunken ships and farewells.
When a girl-friend's husband slaps them on the "bum" the women laugh indulgently. "He's some bad," they say, gathering in the kitchen to wash up plates.
They remain in the kitchen, for the rest of the party, preferring their own jokes.
The newspaper advertises no classes in astral-Gestalt-crystal-vegetarian Zen-multicultural body awareness therapy by Ragneesh Trumpana.
No Icelandic prenatal ritual dance either, though there may be macrame or pottery. But usually, auxiliaries are enough. The men don't like them gallivantin' anyway.
And according to surveys, fruitlessly feminist, concocted by the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women, the represented women don't much like gallivantin' either.
Coming home to California was all I wanted. And did.
Only, sometimes, walking through Berkeley, dodging cokeheads, madmen and spit, I remember that once, in Beaver Harbour, a woman unravelled her favourite sweater, to knit me a pair of Christmas gloves.
Causes Harrison Solow Supports
Lupus Foundation of America
Museum of Tolerance