CBC News Online
No sex, please!
CBC News Online, 2004

When I opened an e-mail from a friend in Arizona that started with the question, "Can you believe how Sex and the City ended?" I refused to read further and deleted the message, pronto.

I changed channels when I saw actress Sarah Jessica Parker on a talk show, reflecting on her character's contribution to the Zeitgeist.

I even wheeled my shopping cart out of an express checkout line when two women in front of me broached the topic of Carrie's relationship with Big.

The show's finale had been broadcast on HBO on Feb. 22, but I was determined not to find out how it concluded before it aired on Bravo on March 26. I wanted to wait, along with countless other Canadian viewers.

My anticipation grew as time passed and I started hearing about Sex and the City viewing parties. (Envision a Superbowl party with no men.) But I stayed the course, resisting the urge to enter the phrase "Sex and the City," or even the separate words "sex" and "city," into an internet search engine.

Driving into work on March 25, I congratulated myself for being strong. I would soon be rewarded. In a mere 41 hours and 30 minutes, I would find out if Carrie chose to spend her life with one of two suitors (both of whom I thought were no good for her!) or continue on her own. I would watch events unfold in all the characters' lives, and I would savour every moment.

Or so I thought.

While eating lunch that day, I leafed through the pages of the National Post. A headline caught my attention: The end of Sex as we know it. I began reading the column, thinking it was a setup piece for my favourite show's finale, similar to pieces sports sections run before the final game of the World Series.

But midway through the piece, the writer, without a spoiler warning, revealed major plot developments of the final episode. I read the information and processed it before realizing what had happened. I stopped reading the story. I stopped chewing my food. I fought the urge to let the deli meat drop from my mouth to the table.

I was upset.

For the next hour, I ranted to colleagues, friends and complete strangers about the transgression. The Post writer had ruined much of the surprise for me and, probably, for thousands of other fans. What kind of columnist would spoil the final episode of a popular television show?

Why had he done it?

I considered the possibilities. He was seeking to even the score with an ex-girlfriend who loved the show and was looking forward to the finale. He wrote the column while fasting for a blood test and was feeling irritable. He was evil.

After some consideration, however, I decided his transgression had been an oversight. The writer, a man in his 20s, couldn't empathize with the show, its characters or its viewers.

That was obvious in his description of the characters as "loose, decadent, selfish and immature princesses.” It was obvious in his great attention to their footwear (Manolo Blahniks, of course) rather than their unshakable bond.

Hell, the writer probably didn't realize the show was about the single woman's search for romantic love and a celebration of platonic love. In fact, I thought with forgiveness in my heart, he probably thought Sex and the City was a show about sex.

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A patio in Israel, a man with a pizza box

CBC News Online, 2003

On my second day in Tel Aviv, a dozen of us left our hotel and ventured into the city. We walked along Shenkin, a narrow street that borders a bohemian neighbourhood, before choosing a cafe. We sat at a table on the patio and placed our orders. Someone noted the streets were nearly deserted. It was true, and it made us uncomfortable.

The drinks arrived while we were in an animated discussion about Sesame Street. Was Grover a monster or a bird? Dan argued the muppet's a bird. "Come on! He has feathers!" he insisted.

That's when I noticed a man on the street. He was tall and thin, with dark features. I couldn't tell if he was Israeli or Palestinian. He could have been any nationality. He could have been from Winnipeg for all I knew.

My mind raced back to the week before my departure. A colleague had asked me if I was nervous about visiting Israel. Nervous? Why? No sooner did he pose the question, than I recalled a news feed from Haifa, an Israeli port city, earlier that month. It was about a suicide bombing at a restaurant. Nervous? A little, perhaps, but not enough to stay home.

The man walked by our table and dropped a pizza box into a garbage can. While my companions debated Grover's place in the animal kingdom, my mind raced. Why had the man looked at us so intently? What was in that box? Who was that man?

I excused myself and visited the washroom. Standing at the sink, I told myself I had seen too many news feeds. I was being ridiculous. I assured myself all would be well, then returned to the table and re-joined the conversation.

In the following days, we visited a school for students with special needs, a fire station and other organizations supported by the Toronto Jewish community, which organized this trip. I got caught up in the stories of the people we met. I was fascinated by everything around me, the people, the life on the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

I nodded politely as a Jerusalem cab driver told me, in broken English, how he would solve Israel's economic woes. I shared an Israeli friend's excitement about a national soccer star's debut with his new team. I shopped. I considered buying a lottery ticket. The man with the pizza box faded to a dim memory.

Midway through our trip, truck bombs exploded outside two of Istanbul's largest synagogues, killing 25 people and injuring more than 300. Images of death and destruction flickered on the television screen in my hotel room. I had seen these images before. But this time, Jewish targets were being hit while I was in the Jewish state. Now my concerns about the man with the pizza box didn't seem ridiculous.

The remaining four days of the trip were booked solid with seminars, visits, tours and the General Assembly of the United Jewish Communities. I went to the scheduled events and got caught up in the excitement of engaging new friends in conversations about topics that interested me. Was Ariel Sharon the right man to negotiate a peace deal? Yasser Arafat?

One afternoon toward the end of the trip, I walked through Jerusalem's Old City and paused in front of the Wailing Wall. A few women stood facing the wall, their hands on the large, weathered bricks, their heads bowed as they recited their prayers.

I remembered attending synagogue as a girl, braiding the tassels on my father's prayer shawl as the rabbi recited the High Holiday prayers. I remembered sitting at the Passover table as a teenager, rolling my eyes when my mother scolded me for wearing ripped jeans on a holy day. I remembered that Passover, like every other, ending with the exhortation: "Next year in Jerusalem!"

As the women prayed, I walked up to the wall and put my forehead against the bricks. Tears rolled down my cheeks.

Three days later, I walked into the CBC newsroom. A colleague approached me.

"So, were you nervous in Israel?"

"At times," I told him.

"Would you go again?"

"In a heartbeat."

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