Wednesday, July 31, 2013

of water, ice, and rock: an intro

(some) ingredients for a memorable anniversary:

  • landscapes (preferably beautiful and/or unique)
  • a handful of surprises (of the cool and unexpected kind)
  • years of accumulated good memories (12 is a good amount)

In other words, we've just spent our 12th anniversary in a place I had never given much thought to at all:  Alberta, a province of Western Canada.  If you're old enough, you'll remember the Winter Olympics of 1988 took place in Calgary.  Which lies in Alberta.  And if that's all you know about the province, that's fine, 'cause that was the case with me.

But what we saw... what we saw was moving, gorgeous, surprising, fun, quirky, dramatic and, according to a friend, almost postcard-perfect-kitschy...  

And yet, a place (or a string of places) is not everything there is to an anniversary.  Building a relationship takes time.   Takes effort.  Takes determination and compromise.   Takes arguments, and patching up, and changing.  And though a 12th anniversary doesn't sound like much (10 is a landmark, so is 15, but 12? what is 12? the "meh anniversary"? LOL), I can say this one felt like one of the more loving, mature and rich anniversaries we've had.  

Thanks, my crazy Butohka, for the accumulated goodness of 12 years of evolving love, for the adventures in Alberta, and for an exciting future (yes, still exciting! woohoo!) together.

For the rest of you, this means a short series of posts about this trip to one of the more beautiful of Canadian provinces.  ;-)

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Matsuri @ Toronto

Toronto's multiculturalism at work:  yet another cultural festival!  This past Sunday:  Toronto's first Japanese Summer festival, or Matsuri.  Lost of people, traditional and modern Japanese performances (including Yosakoi), and plentiful food, including refreshing soy ice-cream.   It made me miss Japan!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Skeptic Bitch

I love how easy it is to find in Toronto in your average bookshop magazines with articles about thin privilege and the obsession with fatness, about the phallocentrism of bachelorette parties, and the almost scientifically ungraspable and Heisenberg-principle-esque gender differences.   What a fine and rad Sunday read.  

Monday, July 15, 2013

The damsel and the Ai Weiwei dragon

Wandering around enjoying a sunny summer Saturday we came across these Ai Weiwei (艾未未) sculptures in Nathan Phillips Square: Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads (动物圈/十二生肖头).  And wandering towards the dragon, very fittingly, a damsel.  ;-)

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A summer day of madness

When in Toronto, you better make good use of the short summer, and as usual, our good old Queen St. West provided one fine Saturday summer walk, whether you were aiming for...

... a bazaar as part of Mad Pride.  Yes, mad as in crazy (apparently, like the LGBT community has reclaimed the word queer, so labelled "mentally ill" people may be reclaiming mad and crazy).  And Pride as in a festival for art and culture by psychiatric survivors, mad people, and others the world has called "mentally ill".   I had never heard of this, I know next to nothing about this movement, but I saw fit to support at least a young writer there by buying her book "How to talk to crazy people".  And I may end up expanding my awareness, right?

... an exhibition by Louise Bourgeois (you can see her amazing gigantic spider in the L'Art slideshow of this post of mine) where some of the sculptures were clothes she had worn, twisted and coalesced into shapes that would be cast in bronze and painted white, a sort of Butoh of the personal object.  An exhibition after which we spent a long time gazing at intense flowers with bright insects under the splendid sun...

... which later led to a stroll around Trinity Bellwoods Park, full of sun-worshippers and not a few young future tight-rope-walkers...

... finishing with a cold Japanese cherry treat, to combat the sun, and give a sweet end to the Queen St. Walk.

This is definitely one street I've come to appreciate greatly.   And it's got its fair of madness.  It may turn out, some madness is good for you, especially in summer.

A good stout, a good pizza slice

It seems I've finally found a new place to enjoy a good, rich stout or porter: Bar Hop, on King St. West, East of Spadina.  With a gazillion options, both tap and bottle, we ended the night with two superb tap stouts: Charbonnière and Libre Échange, both by Dieu du Ciel, from Montreal.   Mine was smokey, but not overly so, not thick but smooth; my flavour vocabulary is too limited to describe it except as simply delicious. 

And they rotate their tap selections regularly, and they always make sure to include a broad selections of types of beer, so this is definitely a place one must come back to again and again...

And, being still a bit hungry before going to bed, we happened upon... VEGAN pizza slices!  I had never seen this.  Vegan pizza, yes, but slices to go? Never!  And this piece of goodness was packed with spinach, mushrooms, zucchini, peppers, tomatoes and good olive oil.  This was at Pizzaiolo on John and Adelaide.  Perfect end!  

Monday, July 08, 2013

Another side of Toronto

For yet another, interesting view of Toronto, head to Ashbridges Bay Park, to the tiny peninsula jutting off the southwest end of it.  Not only do you get to see the skyline from a different angle, but it's just so quiet, calm, with small paths and the occasional semi-hidden pebble beach or picnic table with views of the lake.  This was quite the discovery for us.  I wonder if I'll try it a different time, maybe with a bottle of wine?

Friday, July 05, 2013

O Canada

It started with me just wanting to listen to Tanya Tagaq live.   As part of the Canada Day celebrations at the Harbourfront Centre, she was part of an event called Commemorating Canadian Women in Song.  As a singer whose incredible Inuit vocalizations I had first heard in a Björk album (Medúlla), I was not going to miss this opportunity!

It all very easily turned into a very O Canada evening...

Diversity galore

If you had been suddenly dropped in the middle of the Harbourfront Centre, you would have had a hard time pinpointing which city (or country) you were in just by looking at people.  Probably over 80% of the people there were anything but Caucasian.   And I mean ANYTHING.   And that was just incredible.  Go Canada!   

Beaver tails!

These simple and delicious bites of plain goodness are not normally found in Ontario except Ottawa, so finding a stand that sold beaver tails just made my day!  What's a Beaver Tail?  Since some people who haven't had them actually think they could be real ones, let me clarify they're not a Canadian delicacy that leaves beavers maimed, but long, oval-shaped, flat pastries covered with, for example, brown sugar, cinnamon and some lemon drops. Nom nom!

5 super women

Lastly, I got to see Tanya Tagaq.  This woman, an Inuit from Nunavut, is one accomplished throat singer.  I can't quite explain how that sounds like (you should try visiting her website)... primal? earthy? powerful? alien?  What I can say is I had heard her sing, but I had never seen her, and seeing her performing was as intense as her singing was one experience I won't forget.  It makes me so want to travel to Nunavut!

Anyhow, frankly, I had thought to myself "Cool, I've seen her, now we can leave if we want", but the women that followed were no less unique:  Jane Bunnett, comfortably leading the rest with her clarinet in the deliciously jazzy way they would accompany each other; Kiran Ahluwalia with her piercing Punjabi rhythm; Jackie Richardson, who exuded incredible strength; and Lorraine Klaasen, who literally had everybody on their feet dancing.        

And how did this all end?  Well, with these amazing women signing the Canadian anthem O Canada:

I hear the party is much bigger in Ottawa.   But I was sure happy with how my beloved Toronto celebrated! Thanks for a great Canada Day, Toronto.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Be Proud, Be Loud

Toronto Pride is one enviable exercise in civility.   Along eight pedestrianized blocks you see all sorts of people mingle.  Older people, younger people, transgendered people, transsexual people, differently abled people, gorgeous people, not-gorgeous people, naked people, fully clothed people, Sikhs, Muslims, orthodox Jews,  queer people, feminine men, butch women, straight people, kinky people, fetishists, monogamous people, polyamorous people, people with children, people with lovers, single people, partying people, very politically oriented people... 

Basically, you have an example of what we all want life to be:  a place where we all can be ourselves, respecting those different from us, being respected by those different from us, allowing everybody to legally and freely be themselves in as much as they don't harm others.  Pride is about being proud of being yourself, about not being ashamed of who you are, and about respecting the right of others to that same pride.  And that it's so palpable in Toronto's Pride is what makes it one amazing event.  Plus the million or so in attendance.  

This was one happy SUPERQUEER (this year's theme) Pride, and this city has surely earned hosting next year's World Pride.  Happy Pride Toronto!