mercredi, août 20, 2008

mardi, août 19, 2008

technicolor city

yes. I ran away a little bit.

vendredi, juin 20, 2008

shoeshine girl

The light is beautiful this morning.

I woke up to the incessant clamour of an unfamiliar alarm, courtesy of having two pints too many and deciding not to cycle home. The owner of the alarm was already in the shower, and, as I groggily stumbled around in borrowed pyjamas trying to source and eliminate the beeping, a shaft of sunshine grazed my cheek and stopped me in my tracks.

This city's been grey for weeks.

I waited for water to boil in a rarely-touched saucepan. My gracious host, leaving for a business trip at 8:30, ran out to pick up drycleaning. The morning was off kilter. There was tea in the cupboard and milk in the fridge but no kettle or teapot. English breakfast steeped in a stein. When my host returned, it was with half a suit: somehow his trousers had been misplaced.

All of a sudden there were not enough minutes to pick out a different suit, iron trousers, decide upon tie, collect papers, shine shoes. Ironing abandonned, I found myself sitting on the kitchen floor, armed with an old toothbrush and a dishrag, shining a pair of well worn shoes.

I can't remember the last time I shined a pair of shoes. I can't remember not knowing how to shine a pair of shoes.

My mind flicked from past to present as though I was looking through a viewmaster. The drawer in the back hall stuffed with plastic bags and rags and pucks of polish in various hues. Flecks of sticky black on white kitchen tiles. My dad's voice reminding me to make sure I really worked the polish into the seams. My host's incredulity at this hitherto unnounced skill.

I've spent this month grasping for my father - simultaneously aching for and terrified of catching a snippet of high resolution memory. I worry about forgetting. I worry that by the time I can revisit all of the days from before two junes ago and still remember to breathe, the memories will have faded from lack of exercise.

There is a vast literature on grief, most of which I have not read. I think I don't want to find, in what is to me a vastly a-typical situation, that all of my feelings are textbook responses. So I don't know which stage I am in. I'm not keeping a "personal journey" journal - other than this oft abandonned forum - nor am I in therapy - though I'm considering it.

Instead I'm hanging on to what I know is true: I can shine a pair of shoes in 3 minutes. The light is beautiful this morning.

mercredi, juin 11, 2008

death by cerrano

It was the ham that did me in. Slivers of scarlet sliced off the bone in front of my eyes, melting on my tongue. It tasted nutty and creamy and like the smell of warm, damp pine needles.

An hour into Toronto Taste and I'd lost my heart to a 3000 dollar leg of meat.

The event of the year for Toronto foodies, Taste is a gustatory extravaganza. For those who can afford it, forking over $225 for a ticket, guarantees face time with the city's hottest chefs, the chance to brush shoulders with local celebs, and the satisfaction of having contributed to a very worthwhile cause. To the uninitiated (which includes your faithful scribe) perambulating around the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre for a few hours on a Sunday afternoon feels a food fair designed by cirque de soleil, with the additional benefit of copious amounts of free alcohol.

Much as it was during my 9th grade food fair, the most popular kids tables were swamped.

As I stood quietly in a corner of grill tent, munching pig's ear terrine on home-made crackers, Marc Thuet and his crew flung ribs to a salivating and sycophantic crowd that never seemed to dissipate. A master of charcouterie, Thuet was instantly recognizable by his tousled platinum coif, as were his family members - presumably there's a household bottle of peroxide, or else they are universally blessed with the fantastic hair gene. Watching Thuet's brigade chatting amiably with prada-loafered nobs I thought how apt some recent research relates to commercial kitchens. Thuet is a burly, bulldog of a man. So are his staff. The three men on the front line were built like the proverbial loo and had accessorized their whites with bandannas and baseball caps. Compared to their fresh faced and crisply starched colleagues, the Thuet crew wouldn't have looked out of place at a Nascar rally or as extras on The Sopranos.

Meandering out of the tent, I picked up a glass of Cave Springs Sauvignon Blanc (crisp! fruity! dry!) and promptly abandoned it for Mistura's mint and pea shooter topped with light mustard foam and garnished with a single succulent prawn. For a few brief seconds I contemplated making off with the tray of shooters, but decided not to when I realized the inevitable conclusion: discovered slumped in a corner, covered in pea puree, suffering a prawn induced coma.

In the main ballroom, Mark McEwen took time out of bestriding the room like a colossus to chat to the doyenne of spicing. Plate of biryani in hand, he paid his respects and then, flunky in tow, resumed his tour. Later, I marveled at his contribution to the festivities: a sweet potato pancake topped with a mint and crab cake wrapped in cured trout garnished with corn salsa, creme fraiche, and greenery that I would have identified had I not immediately gobbled the edible architecture.

There was more, so much more* but my taste buds were overwhelmed and the backs of my eyelids filled with dancing canapes.

I pulled up my bootstraps and headed back to the center of the center of the universe, munching pickled carrots (thanks Mr Kennedy!)on the crowded subway.

*to wit: mini kobe burgers, potato/pea/salmon sushi, souffle, trifle, pate, carlo rota, colin and justin

vendredi, juin 06, 2008

Things I am afraid of, Vol 1


Particularly the cracking streaks that light the thunder clouds cerulean blue for a second before exploding into a flash of white light.

Especially great bolts streaking across the sky whilst I am cycling.

Good thing I decided not to wear my tin foil hat this evening.

lundi, juin 02, 2008

Colour Theory

It is no secret that the east of Canada had a rough winter. When the snow eventually quit piling up I heaved a sigh of relief and began dreaming of spring, completely forgetting about Canada's fifth season: the grimy thaw.

The grimy thaw extends from the last snowfall until mid-May. It's as though the trees and lawns and citizens are holding their collective breath, waiting for the final blizzard of the season. In a stunning example of brinksmanship, Canadians and their flora refuse to tidy themselves up for spring before the warm weather hits and the weather gods refuse to grant warm weather until we sweep the winter's accumulated gravel off our streets. I think the only reason Spring actually occurs is that a day or two of the paralyzing curb-side stench of thawing dog shit galvanizes all parties.

The upshot is six months of existing in monochrome.

Though I am not by nature a colour fiend - I'm pretty sure the divine Miss N's moratorium on the purchase of black shirts still stands - its almost total absence from my life caused me to rebel in small ways.

As March eased into April my daydreams started to resemble a Robert Doisneau montage, except with less kissing and worse hair. I bought a red coat and yellow rain boots.

Salvation came early in May when a friend let me dive into her closet and fish out old bolts of marimekko fabric.

For the past month the floor of my room has been covered with puddles of vibrant prints while plans for projects gestated. I drew. Calculated yardage and seam allowances, and paid close attention to sidewalk fashionistas.

Outside my window, the cosmic game of chicken seemed to have stopped. One fiery tulip bloomed beside my front steps. Daffodils and magnolia trees followed suit. Time sped up and suddenly, weeks later, I had a free morning to play with fabric and draft patterns.

Fueled by copious amounts of tea, I swatched and pinned and snipped and measured and re-arranged and made notes and sat back on my heels and chewed my lower lip and thought really hard about what I wanted to make.

And when I figured it out, the giggles started way down in my belly and, like effervescent prosecco bubbles, spilled out into the sunshine and jazz-filled bedroom.

Apparently, I'm just contrary.

samedi, mai 31, 2008


On one of his very last days in Toronto, I managed to get in the way of the master while he was buying bananas at Dominion.

My Saturday is complete.

vendredi, mai 30, 2008


Today it is overcast and spitting enough rain that the grass and lilacs and tulips and apple blossoms shoot smell out into the breeze that winds through the brick and gabled Victorian mansions along Brunswick street.

Spring is not something I thought about when I decided to move to this city which is so famed for its winters and sweltering smoggy summers.

While I was sleepwalking through May the front gardens sprouted and drank up all the rain and grew and grew into lush front stoop oases that beg me to sit with a cup of tea and absorb lilac essence through my pores.

Spending a morning pedaling along one way side streets in the Annex and catching raindrops and maple tree pods in my hair causes my thoughts to run together in swooping arching sentences completely devoid of punctuation.

mercredi, mai 28, 2008

I hear your cries in the desert...

There isn't any good reason for the month-long blog hiatus.

May seems to have disappeared in a flurry of cycling, sleeping, smelling like curry, drinking wine professionally, lunch and coffee dates, birthday parties and orange juice. Not a bad way to lose a month.

I had a visitor, (who posts far more frequently than I do... so scroll down for his take on the center of the universe) and I had...uh well I don't exactly remember, but it seemed important at the time.

I'm hoping to get my act together in June. I will endeavor to establish more of a routine - writing, running, eating - and maybe this feeling of fragmentation due to centrifugal force will abate.

lundi, avril 28, 2008

I was so fat...

A few weeks ago, in between attending sports matches, I was asked to participate in a piece of choreography that would open the second night of Toronto Alternative Arts & Fashion Week. This was amusing for two reasons: my dance career is long over, and I am far from fashionable* Nevertheless, I found myself in the Distillery District's Fermenting Building on a Thursday night surrounded by beautiful hipsters.

The hours leading up to the show became progressively more frenetic. When I arrived, there were a few sound techs on seemingly permanent smoke breaks, random dudes in skinny jeans listening to ipods, and dancers rehearsing.

Gradually the models trickled in. Through the door of the hair and make-up room drum and bass was underscored by the whine of hairdryers. Racks of plastic-sheathed garments created de facto dressing rooms. Along the back wall sat a row of stoic models - the bored centers of a cyclone of brush-wielding make-up artists.

The dancers were also subjected to the brushes.

There was a flurry of styling (both hair and clothes) and the bass got louder and the audience babble rose, and the stage manager's headset crackled constantly. The washroom was filled with nervous pee-ers and delicately painted lips were bitten.

The dancing was over in a second. I wasn't nervous so much as incredulous that I was actually performing again. Feeling my body lift and fall and be caught and spun. Glimpsing audience faces reacting to my presence, my performance. Suddenly thinking with my whole body. Breathing down to my coxis.

After, I stood in the wings watching the spectacle. I'd never been to a fashion show before,** and the progression of beplumed bodies reminded me of the elaborate marionettes sold under the bridge in Prague. In the hands of master puppeteers, the strings disappear into a blur of colour and angular limbs.

There were moments when I wondered if I'd somehow fallen through the rabbit hole into a world where gin and tonics flow like water, and everyone is well lit.

But, like the ballet, the glamour stays on the runway side. Once behind the curtains, girls break their languid gaits and scurry to the wardrobe room, shedding clothing and hairpieces with every step. Faces resume normal expressions as models gasp for breath and wince as they slip out of towering stilettos.

I had a blast.

*unless you count a wardrobe of jeans, cons, black tees and hoodies fashion.
**unless you count the one in the children's section of the Orchard Park Sears in about 1987. I rocked that runway.

vendredi, avril 25, 2008


I am eating lunch at my favourite cafe. (Actually: caffe.)

My bowl of udon soup is underscored by a plate extolling the virtues of Camembert, "creme fine de Normandie."

vendredi, avril 11, 2008

Wholesome Sunday

There was sunshine and crowds and people with brooms. There were kosher dogs with honey mustard, corn relish, and sourkraut. Peanuts in the shell, cracked open and eaten without taking our eyes off the batter. Shell dust covering my knees. Shells crunchy underfoot.

A grand slam.

A center field collision.

We actually stretched during the 7th inning stretch.* And we rated the home team's at-bat music. You can tell a lot about a guy based on his choice of at-bat music.

Baseball cards wrapped in wax paper.

Nine dollars well spent.

*I always assumed that the 7th inning stretch referred to the notoriously long 7th inning. Are 7th innings notoriously long? I have no idea.

jeudi, avril 03, 2008

Ripe with surprises

Who knew a trip to the family homestead for Easter could be so illuminating? In five short days I learned that the soundtrack to the city of beauty is a 24 hour hit list of power ballads of the early 90s, that I still have the power to shock (and deeply piss off) my Harper loving relatives, and that finding a wireless signal is akin to tracking the elusive snow leopard.

I also learned that I deeply, deeply love minor hockey.

My dear friend R had a spare ticket to game five of the series* between the Rockets and the Thunderbirds, which he kindly forked over after I repeatedly threatened to tie him to a chair and read excerpts from Naomi Klein's latest tome. R watches live hockey games a lot. I have been to two: once when I was eight and once when I was eighteen and living in Wales, birthplace of ice sports.

We found our seats seconds before the game started and had barely gotten comfortable when the Rockets scored.

The arena erupted. Everyone was yelling. Two burly, bulldogish men beside us high-fived and man-hugged. Two rows down, a permed 40ish woman had, I think, managed t jump onto her chair while holding a beer and a bag of popcorn.

Then we all sat down again. By the end of the first period we were up 2:0 and I had learned what the blue lines were for and how hockey offside differs from soccer offside.

During the first intermission R and I headed to the concession stand to get beverages. There were kids everywhere, mini people in jerseys counting out quarters for twizzlers or dodging in and out of the queues for bathrooms or beer. More kids than I have seen in one place for a really long time. (Incidentally, where do Torontonians keep their children? I live up the street from an elementary school and I rarely see any human being under four feet tall.) On the way back up to the bleachers, I watched an older brother slip an ice cube down his sister's back.

A few goals by the Thunderbirds evened out the score, and, to the apparent delight of fans, some questionable checks turned into a small brawl.

According to R, my fountain of information, hockey fights last for as long as the refs think nobody is going to be severely hurt. Obviously, this decision can lead to problems, but, as you can see, our little interlude was well supervised. Serious injury, R assured me, is rare - most fights end because one player loses his balance on an overzealous swing.

The next highlight of the evening was the zamboni run.

Zamboni technology has clearly advanced since my childhood - these things were fast.

Later, at the pub I inevitably end up in when I am "home", R and I decided that hockey was far more fun than the Shock Doctrine. Perhaps not as good as the 80s and 90s nooner, but still pretty freakin' rad.**

*If you have to ask what series this was, your ignorance of high culture appalls me.
**Yes, in the land of my childhood, all things are judged based on their relative levels of freakin' radness.

mardi, avril 01, 2008

vendredi, mars 21, 2008

endurance art

I've been procrastinating this afternoon. My sole task, to re-jig one paragraph of a cover letter, loomed like the proverbial mountain and I spent the better part of four hours reading the interwebs.

There's been a lot of that the past month. After two years of nearly non-stop stuff I needed a break. And then I got one and realized that unemployment doesn't suit me. I'm too neurotic to relax and, when I finally do relax, I am too lazy to rouse myself or even just my mind.

However, there is only so much Gawker a girl can read before her eyes bleed, and I found myself listening to The New Yorker's podcast of Adam Gopnik talking about magic. Talking about David Blaine, Gopnik referred to him not as a magician, but as an endurance artist.

I like that.

Dealing with the unemployment and the uncertainty and the terror and the boredom? That's not coping. That's Endurance Art.

My inner twelve year old is less impressed with a kind of magic that relies on patience and a stubborn aversion to quitting. The twelve year old likes time travel.

And she got a taste of it earlier this week when I went back to Montreal for the first time since I graduated from university. Three years isn't very long in geological time, but enough stuff has happened since I vacated 88 Bagg Street that three days in the Plateau were challenging.

The little Chinese restaurant has closed. So has the tiny grocery store with the ancient cash register run by the (similarly) ancient Jewish couple. Otherwise, the universe was as it should be. Sort of. I guess I thought I'd just slip back into the city and it would fit, but what I thought I was slipping back into only exists in memory. (I can't remember if I've written here about my relationship with memory, and, unsurprisingly, I'm too lazy to check right now... suffice to say that I spend most of my time in the present - the past too full of pathos and the future unknowable.) Stomping through what used to be home, I kept slipping into scenes that only played out before my eyes. It was like suddenly becoming a reflective 93 year old man.

Fortunately, I was kept from total reminiscence by wonderful people who filled me with delicious food, wine, beer, tea and laughter. There were long walks to the pastry shop and midnight jazz and enough time spent at Thompson House to make up for the three year lull.

I could get used to such endurance art.

vendredi, mars 14, 2008


the national ballet performing "An Italinan Straw Hat"... Tallis Choir...lots of sudafed... Immaculate Machine... Jenn Grant... Wil... Sexually Attracted to Fire (didn't actually hear them but met one of them and he was a stellar dude.) ... more sinus medicine... The New Pornographers... Be Kind Rewind... totally incapacitated by flu 2.0

vendredi, février 29, 2008


I've got nothing to relate except that The Gladstone Hotel makes really good grilled cheese sandwiches.

lundi, février 25, 2008


The amaryllis is dying now. Paperwhites going strong.

(And go listen to Idan. He kept me sane today.)

vendredi, février 22, 2008


Ingestion of all sorts has been on my mind lately.

There is a nebulous plan afoot for serious writing about edible/drinkable things. If I get my act together, (read: if I do some research!) the plans should solidify early next week.

This time last week I was dragging a jet lagged boy to Fiesta Farms in search of dandelion greens and quail eggs. We found both eventually, and the rest of the weekend passed in a blur of eating and drinking. Street meat. Lithuanian beer. Omelettes. Ribs and rack of lamb...

When I tried to order a beer (Steamwhistle... it's good and local!) in the cafe at the top of the CN Tower, the server asked me for ID.

This happens all the time.

To wit:

Places I have been carded.*

1. Riley's Cold Beer and Wine Store, Westbank BC, age 19**
2. Some depanneur in North Montreal, age 23***
3. Sommerfield Supermarket, Llantwit Major, age 24****
4. Lufthansa flight 322, age 24
5. Sommerfield Supermarket, Buntingford, age 25*****
6. The CN Tower, Toronto, age 26

Later in the day, when we had descended to earth, we meandered into one of my favourite bars in the city. Smokeless Joe's. At some point the story of my recent carding was related. The bartender took a closer look at me and said "How old are you?"

"How old do you think I am?" I rejoined.


Yipes. Maybe I should start wearing makeup.

Bearing all of this in mind, I plan to sit at home tonight reading a good book and drinking a beautiful Cab Sav. Feeling youthful.

*with end notes. Also, this is not an exhaustive list.
**I had forgotten my wallet and the women wouldn't believe I was of age. Adding insult to insult, the previously served patrons were girls from my brother's grade 11 class who had fake ID.
***I must be the only person EVER to be carded in that city
****The same supermarket I bought beer at when I was at boarding school and actually WAS underage. When I hauled out my driver's license it was deemed unacceptable. I had to go back to the car for my passport which was grudgingly accepted.
*****Clearly, I should never shop at Sommerfield again.

mardi, février 19, 2008

this is not a plant blog...

but you are forgiven for thinking it might be.

There has been on day of sunshine in the last fourteen. The light was so bright and unexpected that we shuffled blindly through the snow in Trinity Bellwoods park, holding each other's elbows and skidding on the flashing ice.

When everything nature is dormant or dangerous, and everything life is upside down, I am surprised and delighted by my ability to nurture living things.

mardi, février 12, 2008

Snow Day

It has snowed all day, adding 30 cm to the 45 already blanketing (smothering?) the city. I'm dreaming of sun-dresses and sandals and gardening.



samedi, février 09, 2008


These are not for me, they're warming some beloved shins in Calgary.

mardi, février 05, 2008


My new phone takes pictures, has an fm radio, can surf the world wide web, and, if I ask really nicely, will transport me to the future while performing open heart surgery and brokering peace in the middle east.

The new house has a dishwasher, laundry machine, barbeque, insulation, and the interwebs.

An embarrassment of riches.

dimanche, janvier 27, 2008

notes on faith

I went to church this morning. It seems odd to write that sentence for two reasons. Until I moved out of my parents house eight years ago I spent almost every Sunday morning at Church. Since then, apart from a couple of Easter services and a chorister stint at a Presbyterian church during university, I haven't been back.

I never felt as though I'd left the church, eight years can dilute cradle Anglicanism, but it's not long enough to wash it away completely. And I had no beef with my faith: so long a part of my life, believing in God and understanding the new testament was as regular to me as breathing. Something I didn't think about much. Something that just sort of happened.

But there was a shift. Or there is a continual shifting. I'm not sure exactly. Perhaps my complacency made me spiritually lazy or maybe whatever faith I had was only ever a learned habit.

I don't think I believe in God any more.

I'm not sure when this happened, if it's permanent, or what to do about it.

A year and a half ago, when I organized my dad's and grandmother's funerals, I remember wondering how non-religious people dealt with death. At the time, I was thinking more about the structure of funerals, the processes of public mourning. I couldn't imagine organizing a "celebration of life" without any rules during the spinning teacup ride that is the early stages of grief. My family would have been paralyzed by the plethora of choices.

Now the question looms larger, like a guy looking for a fight in a bar. "How're ya gonna do it on your own? Huh? Huh? Wanna make somethin' of it sissy?"

I feel akin to the native Hawaiians, who, when forced to convert to Christianity, chose Anglicanism because they liked the pageantry of the "smells and bells" of the High Mass service. I take comfort in the liturgy because I know all the words off by heart and the music, particularly this morning, was excellent. But, as far as I can tell, there is nothing in me beyond a deep appreciation for the ritual, history and scholarship of the church.

Given all of this, is it ironic, that I'm considering singing in a church choir again?

Somehow, no. Singing would be no full court press to find God, rather, choral music is one of the more wholesome salves for my quarter-life crisis panic attacks. And I'm trying to spend more time in quiet, contemplative spaces.

dimanche, janvier 20, 2008

the city is at its best...

... on Thursday mornings between 8:30 and 8:45. When the light on Bloor street is luminous pewter and the grocers are watering the buckets of cut flowers that somehow survive the icy wind.

mercredi, janvier 09, 2008

The to do list:

1. Pay attention. Use my mind more. Float less. The statute of limitations on befuddlement looms.

2. Clean my desk. Last Sunday, a zen Buddhist teacher interviewed on CBC's Tapestry said people seeking enlightenment should clean up their kitchens. I'm neither seeking enlightenment nor do I have my own kitchen, but quick extrapolation led me to conclude: Buddhists seem to have their shit together. The Buddhist guy and I agree that clutter and mess is bad. My desk is a mess. I should clean my desk.

3. Eat breakfast. This has nothing to do with a morning egg-fest being the most important meal of the day. Rather, a commitment to morning eating has unforeseen positive externalities; I will get up on time and keep a reasonable amount of food in the house.

4. Stop procrastinating. An all encompassing task, as I seem to be able to procrastinate about doing laundry as easily as filing taxes.

5. Have more fun.

samedi, janvier 05, 2008

For Lake Simcoe, turn right...

On Wednesday morning I was in a hurry. I gave no thought to my attire* and forgot my ipod. I also forgot to bring something to read on the subway. Thus, on the 9:15 train, I found myself doing the shifting stare - five seconds on the anti-gambling advert above the door, three seconds on the business woman in the seat across the train, a glance at the floor, seven seconds studying the train map...

Two stops before I alighted, a man walked into my car. He was older, with scraggy, greying, brown hair and a quilted jacket that probably had a flannel shirt under it. He bounced a little as he walked, and, in marked difference to the comatose commuters around him, looked around alertly. Perhaps too alertly. A whiff of crazy or chemically enhanced floated around him.

He walked down the car and stopped in front of me. Close enough that there was no obvious alternative place to look. Swaying slightly (with the movement of the train? with beat of his own drum?) he looked down.

"Those are great boots... And I like your hat. You look great!"
"Do you fish?"

"Uhh... no" I stammered.

"Huh. Too bad." He rejoined, and carried on down the car.

I seem to have found my people in Toronto: crazy ice fishermen.

*I was decked out in jeans, Sorel boots, a down vest, and completely unmatching scarf, hat, and mittens. I probably looked like a homeless person who had robbed MEC...