Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Lord of the Flies

I should perhaps be writing about the adversities in North Korea that strikes too close to home for my liking (being that half my relatives live practically next door to Kim Jong Il, considering he thinks he can hit anywhere between the White House or the kangaroos in Australia with his long-range missiles), but this is distracting:

ILY Barack.

ps. I'm nursing my first sunburn ever. Thanks, Provence!

eta: If I can sit at a computer long enough, I'll soon write some actual thoughts about the North Korea thing. I used to live right south of that border, and most of my family is still back home, and it makes me home sick.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


Hello from Provence!

I am toasting away to golden perfection in the sun here. My tan has never looked better. Currently I'm inhabiting La ferme de Noé, where it takes 50 minutes to walk to the nearest town. I look after potatoes, cucumbers, zucchinis, tomatoes, beans, and herbs among other plants, and some chickens, ducks and turkey. I know, right? And some crazy cats and dogs, too. I'm going to kidnap one of the wee little chatons and put him in a tea cup, because I can.

I want to show you my photos of the spectacular landscapes here, but computer use is limited (although Kitty is being very patient). I'm also speaking a lot more French than I would've ever thought, and I think I could survive here if I had to, despite the stifling language barrier.

So far, I've seen a day of Paris, two days of Marseille, some Aix and of course, Trets, the only town we can get to on foot before passing out in the Provence sun. Marseille, I was told, is dangerous and harsh, but my experience there was filled with kindness. Maybe it was my first view of the Mediterranean that rendered me blind, but I loved it there. Aix was also so, so amazing: Home to Cézanne's beautiful landscapes, and much of the subjects of his glowing portraiture. I wish I had more time in both cities, but it won't be my last time in Europe so there is always next time...

Among other things so far, I've sat in the back of a cop car (and spoke some fantastic franglais), and let some harmless but strange foreigners at a bar buy a round of Panaché (beer mixed with pop) for me and my colleagues at a tobacco shop (alcohol at a tabac is quite common here)... More adventures to come!

ps. Some of the best shows happen in Toronto when I'm not there: Ohbijou and Sunparlour Players at Soundscapes, Black Hat Brigade at NxNE... GET ON IT, TORONTO FOLKS.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Before I leave

This past Thursday I went to the Grizzly Bear concert, and I know you hear this from me, but God, what an amazing show. This time I really, really mean it. I was amazed by everything, even by how big Chris Taylor's mouth could get when he sings, but especially by Ed Droste's voice, and by how the ever-lovely Leslie Feist made a guest appearance. Observe and admire:

What a grand send-off (I leave for Europe tomorrow). When I come back I'll be seeing Amy Millan of Stars and my rainbow-endorsed imaginary husband Gentleman Reg at the Harbourfront Centre on July 25th, the Rural Alberta Advantage (the newest Saddle Creek addition, if you haven't heard yet) on the 30th, and St. Vincent on August 8th. I think that just about makes up for all the great shows I'll be missing: Beirut + the Dodos, and the Toronto Fringe Festival among others. My two former roommates are performing in two shows at the Toronto Fringe, Goodbye Rounds and Tim Buck 2 (scroll down a lot to find this one). I swear I almost considered going to Europe at some other time, but I'm really damn lucky to be living in this city. Dear Lady Luck, thanks for placing me here.

In a totally different news, my sister is now inhabiting the wonderful stad of Antwerpen (pronounced Antwerpuh), read her Euroblog here and her great story of how the name of the town came to be.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Vancouver: an observation

I've been in Vancouver since Saturday--actually, make that Coquitlam, a place where consumerism threw up yet somehow made a manageable place to live with green parks and bike lanes, in which my parents have decided to settle for the time being since their recent move from Ontario ("yours to discover") to British Columbia.

Today was my first day in downtown Vancouver, and probably my last, since I am leaving to go back home to Toronto early Friday morning (hooray check-in at 5 AM). And to be quite frank, I'm glad.

I'm probably being very close-minded and have seen very little of the city, especially considering my parents and I are stark opposites of human beings, and whatever they have shown me is not what's up my alley (except for the trails, the lakes and the hiking). But to be fair I did live here for a month way back when, and back a few years ago when my dad was trying to make business here I visited a few times. Unfortunately, the little that I've seen of the city makes me want to return to Toronto.

What makes me feel ill at ease is this: the streets named after shopping malls, or plainly called "Mall"; American big-power names like Starbucks dominating every corner; businesses far from local invading the "touristic" and "enjoyable" streets like Robson; the stark contrast of the rich and the poor, embodied by the men panhandling outside a Chanel boutique; and, this is just me and how I am, the lack of music stores or music in general (every store I went into today was playing house music). I think there is a point to be made when a city is built on support of the locals and the independent culture that they bring along--it's what makes me love a place. I want to love every city, and enjoy the excitement of waking up in a new place whenever I get off the plane. But I missed it with Vancouver.

Yes, Toronto is bedridden with mass production and American power names, too. And of course, all well-to-do urban cities have at least partially succumbed to that. But the cookie-mold condominiums speckled from the coasts to Coquitlam and beyond really hurt how a city is perceived. Little is left of the old, or what built the city in the first place. Everything felt stark naked and new. Vancouver is a wealthy city getting a make-over for the 2010 Olympics, but where did the charm of culture go, if it was ever here?

Of course, I may be misunderstanding everything. Maybe I just love Toronto and Soundscapes too much. But I want to see this place as it were before.

Still, I turn around and see mountains and rivers all around me, and my mind eases up a bit, and I even get a little bit jealous that Toronto is nothing but plains, plains, and the overpolluted Lake Ontario that's become more of a cliché. Also, the English Bay was beautiful, grass and sun and dogs. My favourite was still the Vermeer, Rembrandt and the Golden Age of Dutch Art exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery (am I allowed to call it Vag for short? Please?)--the Dutch genre paintings have always been a favourite of mine (along with Post-Impressionism) and I thought I knew much of it, but I left the gallery with fifty new favourite paintings. I took lots of notes, but my favourite, I think, is the one where I wrote: "I WANT TO BE FRANS HALS".

The liveliness of the eyes and the rosey cheeks are always my favourite part.

Anyway, I'm sure I can invoke a lot of rebuttal from what I've written, so I'm peacing out for now. I'm still getting ready for my European travels, and I started reading "Into the Wild" by Jon Krakauer. The world knows my attachment to the movie, so I'll probably become borderline obsessed after this. See you then!