samedi, août 25, 2007


So I've learned that Toronto is really big. Things are far away from each other. For example: despite living 'downtown-ish' I actually live 4.25 km from work. My under-exercised body is still in shock that I expect it to traverse that distance twice a day on foot.

But the walk is lovely. Setting off southwards on my street, I admire the well tended front gardens of the Italian families, and compare architecture styles. No Montreal walk-ups here, Toronto is all about the front porches where people relax on easy chairs and watch the goings on of the sidewalk.

I cross College street at the heart of little Italy. The Sicilian Ice Cream Cafe is to my right and a sausage shop to my left. Instead of banners hanging from streetlights there are outlines of Italy in white chrismas lights. Complete with the islands. They look sweet and only mildly kitchy at night, but at 8 in the morning I barely notice them.

Further south is Dundas St, nominally Little Portugal. Crossing Dundas, I wend my way through a park and end up on Queen West. The park is usually quiet in the morning - some runners, pedestrian commuters like me, and occasionally an old man doing tai chi on the tennis courts. On my way home in the evening, the park is full of baseball teams, tennis players of varying caliber, and people walking their dogs.
Every day I ache for a dog. (Perhaps this is the overture of my hitherto non-existent maternal instinct...)

The final stretch is Queen St West. Slightly grotty shops selling clothing I can neither afford nor pull off - I was born without a hipster gene - are interspersed with restaurants, fabric and bead shops and the ubiquitous corner stores, their front steps festooned with buckets of cut flowers. Though I love the flowers, I carry an irrational grudge against the shops for not selling beer and cheap, bad wine.

(I think the archaic alcohol selling system could be ultimate reason I will never fully fall in love with Toronto. The provincial liquor stores are terribly stocked, the beer emporium bears a strong resemblance to Lordco auto parts stores, and the hours of opening are bizarre.)

As I continue east on Queen, the street gradually cleans itself up, such that, by the time I reach Spadina, I've passed a series of chain shops and at least two starbucks outlets.

And then it's into the featureless office buildings and the blacked out windows and heavy double doors that signal clubland. A quick turn south and I can see my office building, the neighbouring Corona bottle gently waving in the breeze.

dimanche, août 19, 2007

City: snapshot 1

Through the window of my new office I can see a two story high inflatable corona bottle on the roof of the next building.

mardi, août 14, 2007

the departure: moments of zen

#1. having coffee after pilates class on friday.

mum to the table of pilates ladies: "well, it's been remarkably un-fraught this time, probably because she isn't breaking up or hooking up with some boy..."

#2. having lunch with dear friend R (dfR) today.

R, after I briefly whined about my hatred of packing: "for someone who hates packing as much as you do, you certainly seem to put yourself in a lot of situations that require it."

#3. as I descend, yet again, to the basement of doom (aka: the packing HQ).

frere to moi: "Is that my wine you're drinking?"

samedi, août 11, 2007

Prague - a photo essay

May 22

Prague’s light this afternoon reminded me of Santiago’s haze and a lot of the buildings seem to have similar colours and styles. Also many churches.

Tomorrow we’re checking out the communist museum and finding a café with 60 types of tea.

May 23

Lots of walking today…

The Museum of Communism is housed in a large grand building between the casino and McDonalds – typical?! Lovely high ceilings and moldings. I think the rooms used to be an apartment, but they are now a very well curated chronology of the Czech communist experience. There is a lot of Soviet Realist art – all the workers and peasants had to be hearty and smiling – and a great explanation of the process of building a massive statue to honour Stalin’s legacy. First step: lengthy consultation of the ideological framework for the piece.

When it was eventually erected and unveiled in 1955, Stalin had been dead for 2 years and a few weeks (months?) later Brezhnev made his speech detailing Stalin’s atrocities. Rather embarrassing for the Czechs. It was finally (and expensively) blown up in 1961. Also interesting were the examples of anti-American propaganda. Firstly because it was all aimed at the US, Europe didn’t even figure, and secondly b/c it is so close to the rhetoric of imperialism leveled at the USA today. We got some lovely subversive postcards.

Now we’re sitting at a sidewalk table drinking beer (yet again).

He’s reading Borges – another one I don’t know – and getting excited about the good bits, reading them to me. I think he’s on page 20 and I am already plotting to steal it when he’s done.

Prague is immensely beautiful. The streets are all cobbled and the facades of buildings are decorated with purposeful purposelessness. Other than to bring smiles to the residents, I can’t comprehend the outlay of such design and construction energy. Mamet says the purpose of art is to delight us…

The city swarms with tourists, this café is in a stylish neighbourhood and most of our sidewalk-mates are speaking Czech, but mostly I catch snippets of English, German, Spanish, Cantonese…

I also feel I should have read Kafka, but I have read, an will re-read, Rilke. ~Live the questions now.~ Good advice.

jeudi, août 09, 2007

The most important thing I learned at university...

... was how to assemble ikea furniture.

I can't get a job in my field, but I can whip a set of shelves together in no time.

And they're level too.*

*(see previous post re: garage. The shelves are level because I can find the bloody levels. All six of them.)

vendredi, août 03, 2007

Summer: an gastronomic tour


These are not fish.



Marakesh tea.

Prague picnic.

moving forward, re-arranging

One of the conditions of my gainful unemployment this summer is that I 'lend a hand around the house.'

Before I arrived, mum sent me a list of projects she would like completed in and around the family farm. Most of it involved de-cluttering, and organizing. We are a family of packrats, chronic hoarders, and we are aided and abetted by the house itself which is extremely large with lots of little places to stash stuff that you don't need now but might need one day in the next 25 years. By which time you'll have forgotten where you put those welding canisters (if not forgotten that you had them in the first place) and you'll probably end up replacing them.

Over the past week I've been mired in the garage. A passing glance reveals that it contains two cars, 4 bicycles, two motorcycles, and a random engine on blocks in the corner. And about two tonnes of stuff I can't identify.

It is strange, this situation with my dad. Now, over a year after his death, I do not expect to hear the sound of his keys dropping into the drawer in the back hall, or hear his voice starting answering machine messages with 'hello family...' He is absent, he is away.

But, then again, he isn't. Pockets of the house and yard are so physically imprinted with my father, that they leave me short of breath. The garage is one such place. I'm pretty sure that a visual representation of my father's brain would look like the inside of our garage: the corners of military orderliness, the cupboards overflowing with screwdrivers and ratchet sets, the bits and pieces of projects, a battered but eminently useful radio.

It's tidier now. We can see the back corner by the vacuum tank, and I know exactly how many wire spoke MGB wheels we have.* The screwdrivers are all in a labeled jar, and most of the broken, unidentifiable, unusable in the foreseeable future stuff has been given a new home at the dump.

I guess now the garage has my brain's stamp - which could cause all sorts of problems - but, for the moment, my shoulders don't clench when I walk through, I can find a hammer if I need one, and I've got a new (ish) radio.

*Four on the car plus six extra. Thank you for asking.