Thursday, June 30, 2011

Les Bâtards de Bouche @ Toronto Jazz Festival

At David Pecaut Square. More "ashkenazy" and maybe not so "jazzy", but great harmonica group.

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Monday, June 27, 2011

a long, unillustrated thank-you post on equality for same-sex marriages

Remember this post?  "a long, (almost) unillustrated post on marriage"?  Well, this is the obligated, somewhat belated, but nevertheless happy, second part.

As I mentioned on that post, our marriage was one of "convenience":  after so many years of being openly together, there was no big news to break to the world, we had already built an emotionally rich life as a couple, and our wedding registry list would have been obnoxiously weird (after 9 years of living together in the Middle East, Asia and North America, it's not like a blender is high on your priority list, right? LOL).   

No, the luxury of worrying about the fairy-tale aspects of a marriage was beyond our reach (and beyond our interest, for that matter).  What we were after, though, was simple:  having access to the privileges (you may not like the word, but that's what they are) and benefits that all man-woman marriages* automatically get from their employers.  In our case, that meant health and life insurance for my husband and, very importantly, the end of years of migratory uncertainty (and you don't know how bad that is unless you've lived it yourself) as he would be able to reside, legally, as my spouse, wherever I was required to work.   We didn't want additional benefits, or special ones, just the ones all married couples at work enjoyed.

On December 14th 2010, as a same-sex couple legally married in Mexico City, we officially requested those benefits.  They didn't come easy:  During six months, much deliberation was said to take place at many (and very high) levels.  Many letters were sent, many calls were made, many questions asked (and many questions went unanswered).  And many people, most of which had perfectly accepted, opposite-sex marriages, or who weren't even married at all, stuck up for us, spoke out for us, let others know they supported us, comforted us when depression or anxiety crept in.   June 24th 2011, we finally received a simple, but very clear, positive reply to our request.

Wow.  Needless to say, I was elated.  Yes, the naïveté about things simply falling into place had been shattered by the wait and wrangling.  But we (and that's a very broad and inclusive "we") had done it!  The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico was recognising that our marriage was equal to any other, and so would treat us accordingly.  And, obviously, not just us, but the few others who had also applied, and any and all that may apply in the future.  The door had been opened.  I can't thank enough those friends and colleagues that helped make this happen.  Like I said, this is what changes lives; not romantic weddings, but this.

This a post to thank those who stood by our side.  To those who could have idly watched from a safe distance, yet who felt for us and decided to root for us.  That took courage.  That took conviction.  That took empathy.   We are lucky to have these people around and in our life.  Thanks.

*I prefer saying "man-woman marriages" to "straight marriages" since, after all, sexual orientation is never a requisite and all you need is opposite-gendered people, right?

Stonewall TO

Because the revolution ISN'T over.

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Saturday, June 25, 2011

The 25th Toronto Jazz Festival opens with Aretha Franklin

and David Pecaut Square and surroundings are PACKED! The wait seemed too long... until she appeared, of course!

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Monday, June 20, 2011

Modern, open, crazy, contradictory, beloved Mexico City

As every now and then, end of May I had to travel to Mexico for work.  Unlike the other times, I decided to take some extra days off to see and explore my city with new eyes.

When I eat a plate with many things on, I prefer to eat the bits I like least first, leaving the most delicious bits for last.  And I'd like to do the same here.  Here are the least savoury bits of my trip:

- The heat was horrid.  Totally horrid.  Many of my fellows from colder places may think that it's nice to have a hot summer, but what they tend to forget is that a hot summer in an urban setting with practically no AC anywhere, with the added fun of mosquitoes at night, is quite unbearable.   Fortunately, Murphy's Law kicked in and, as soon as we bought a fan, the weather cooled down noticeably.

- The attitude of taxi drivers.  I can't talk about all of them, but the vast majority I met had serious issues, from the one that warned me about not leaving "bad vibes" in the cab like other passengers because that always gives him a headache and a stomach ache, to the one that told me that once in a while he had "good days" when people forgot their mobile phones in the car, to the one that started driving away while my husband had one foot in the car and one on the street.   All I can say is that they probably barely make enough for a living, they have to put up with nerve-wracking traffic and, occasionaly, with insecurity, so no wonder they can't all be Mr. Nice Guy.

Now that I got that off the list, on to the good stuff!

The museums

To visit all the museums we wanted would have taken forever.  To talk about the ones we did see would take quite a bit, too.  So let me focus on the ones that were really special surprises:

The Museo de Arte Popular Mexicano (Museum of Mexican Popular Art), upon which we came across by mere chance, blew my mind.  It's got what one could only call an extremely delightful showcase of various colourful, creative and unique Mexican objects that draw their inspiration from popular art.   After a welcome wall with the word "welcome" written in 20+ native languages of Mexico, you're treated to a feast of colour and shapes (it sounds like a really cheap ad, I know, but it's the truth!).  I loved the Vochol (a VW covered with coloured beads by the Huichol indians), the Calaveras (Death in a number of costumes), the trees of life...

The Museo Memoria y Tolerancia (Memory and Tolerance Museum), a new, modern, well thought-out museum which guides you through various genocides (the Jewish one, the Armenian one, Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, Cambodia, Guatemala...) with chilling and eye-opening information on their origins and development.  That's the Memory part.  The Tolerance section has a number of interactive exhibits on the many ethnic groups that have formed Mexico during its history, on the value of diversity and the damage of stereotypes, and even a good video on the invisibility of people in poverty.  This one is a must, I'd say.

Finally, the Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporáneo (University Museum of Contemporary Art).  I must admit that the exhibitions they had on the day we went were... well, amusing, maybe, but not quite my cup of tea.  Nevertheless, the museum itself is designed in a really pleasant way, with an intelligent and bright use of space, and it fits nicely with its surroundings, the lava fields of Ciudad Universitaria (University City).

I must move on to the other two good things I found, but not without mentioning that we also went to the Soumaya Museum (where else in Mexico City can you get so close to so many renowned artists, for free?), the Dolores Olmedo Museum (have some peacocks and native Xoloitzcuintle dogs with your Frida's and Rivera's), and the Frida Kahlo Museum (also known as the Casa Azul, or Blue House).  And to think that we left without visiting so many more museums...

So, next on the list:   

Wow.  I ate so well.  I mean, SO well.  Scrumptiously.   Nothing fancy, you know, actually it was mostly pretty basic, home-style food, but it was so good!   AND vegan friendly.   I enjoyed mezcal with orange slices and spicy broad beans, tlacoyos azules (blue-maize bean cakes, which I had been dying to eat since forever), chilaquiles divorciados (tortilla chips with salsa and beans), a delicious broad dried pepper filled with cooking banana (granted, not so basic fare anymore, but simply fantastic), a number of cocoa frappés and spicy chocolate covered chips at Cielito Querido Café (the new Mexican equivalent of Starbucks), as well as nopales, rajas and home-made salsas courtesy of my sister and family...  In the end, I had had so much delicious Mexican food I couldn't eat any more and had to say "no" to what had become a tradition of mine: breakfast at the Mercado de Coyoacán before flying away.  I was, needless to say, VERY satisfied in the culinary department.

Queer life
Yes, Mexico is a mostly catholic nation.  And yes, according to a recent poll it also remains rather intolerant of sexual minorities.  But we should also remember that Mexico City modified its civil codex so that marriage would be open to all regardless of legal gender, and that there is a National Council for the Prevention of Discrimination, among other things.  And that has meant that being openly queer (read gay, bi, lesbian, etc.) is a lot safer now, people know the laws are on their side, and that's meant a flourishing of queer nightlife.  Discrimination still exists (hell, I'm living it first-hand!), but I was very glad to see there are big, important steps forward.  Kudos Mexico City!

In the end, being back home, seeing good friends (alas, time was not enough to see everyone), being (and eating and drinking!) with family, and seeing the good things my good old Mexico City more than compensated for a few tough sleepless nights because of the heat and a stressful taxi ride or two.  I leave you with a slide-show of an early morning walk of my absolute favourite street in the city, not far from where I used to live: Francisco Sosa.

Street art

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Summer, Grange Park, and the AGO

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Saturday, June 18, 2011

K. D. Lang drawing HUGE crowds @ Luminato

Unlike at the other events, this was the closest we could get to the stage!

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Vegan Winnipeg?

So, "Earls" in Winnipeg is not vegan, but the Kung Pao Wok IS, and it's ABSOLUTELY delicious:

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Friday, June 17, 2011

flooded Manitoba

the strange irony of the landscapes created by destructive nature...

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Bill's Sticky Fingers

Voted the "best pizza in Portage la Prairie", it was quite good. Plus, they made it vegan for me, and it smelled real good. So if you happen to be in Portage la Prairie one day...

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Yemen Blues @ Luminato

Yemenite music. Blues. Reggae. Tradition. The modern. In a superb mix. If you can, get to David Pecaut Square in downtown Toronto NOW. it's THAT good. Love this group!

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

"Broadway's Night Out"

Another great Luminato night: Broadway musicals! Jesus Christ Superstar, hilarious Meow Meow, Singing in the Rain and ABBA sing-alongs, My Fair Lady... it couldn't get any gayer. And it's damn good.

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Monday, June 13, 2011

Kronos Quartet

Kronos Quartet at the David Pecaut Square, as part of the Luminato Festival. One can say intense, beautiful, masterful, and still sell them short.

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Installation at the Allen Lambert Galleria, by Philip Beesley, as part of the Luminato Festival. Not my cup of tea; intricate and lots of work, no doubt, but?

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Monday, June 06, 2011

Blue and green

Lush green, cool blue, warm weather, welcome summer!

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Saturday, June 04, 2011

Chile ancho con plátano macho sobre salsa de tomate

More delicious, vegan, Mexican fare, this one from Corazón de Maguey in the centre of Coyoacán: chile ancho (a dried pepper from the State of Puebla) filled with plátano macho (cooking banana) on a tomato sauce. Absolutely delicious.

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Chilaquiles Divorciados

Another simple, very Mexican breakfast fare: chilaquiles (fried tortilla in salsa, with onion and refried beans), in the centre of Coyoacán.

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Friday, June 03, 2011

Corazón de Maguey

An excellent place for original brews, interesting mezcal cocktails, and conversations with old friends or loves in the centre of Coyoacán.

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Blue happiness

Finally! Tlacoyos azules con frijol (oval-shaped, toasted, blue maize cakes filled with black-bean paste)! From the Mercado de Coyoacán.

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La Casa Azul

The Frida Kahlo Museum (the Blue House), where Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera lived, or where anguished brush strokes flowed from a bed. Coyoacán.

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Museo Dolores Olmedo

Giant agave plants, peacocks, xoloitzcuintles (a Mexican breed of dog), an astonishing private collection with both indigenous and foreign art, and paintings aplenty by Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Another must-see, in Xochimilco.

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Thursday, June 02, 2011

La Botica

Relaxed, queer, karaoke-friendly mezcalería (place where mezcal is served) in Zona Rosa.

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El Ángel

Mexico City's symbol: the Angel of Independence (El Ángel de la Independencia).

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Life on lava

The Centro Cultural Universitario (University Cultural Centre) of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (National Autonomous University of Mexico) lies on old lava and basalt fields, upon which life and colour blossom:

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