31 May 2010

Rainy City, Shady Past.

Gassy Jack - our boozy, child bride marryin', cheatin' founding father.

Since becoming a tour guide for the Sins of the City Walking Tour, I have developed a passion for Vancouver’s heritage that borders on madness. I want to know it all – the details of every seedy story, the tawdry tales behind the burnt out neon signs, the whisper of tassels grazing flesh at the countless closed burlesque houses. This is the Vancouver that I am hungry for – its sordid tales replaying themselves through my voice under the mottled grey skies, skies dark and purple like a bruise on a junkie’s arm, like the shadow on the eye of a bawdy house girl.

The history that lies just under the cobblestone streets of this much-maligned neighbourhood is strangely present all around you, and if you start to listen and learn you can plunge your hands inside of it, all the way to the elbow and dig around, find the stories that interest you and connect them to the buildings in front of you.

The heritage buildings along Alexander Street - Vancouver's red light district circa 1910.

Take, for instance, the 400 block of Alexander Street, now a no-man’s land of halfway houses and factories. In 1910, it was the bustling centre of Vancouver’s colourful sex trade, women of all shapes and sizes hanging their heads from balconies and windows to entice passersby. The deeds to these house, and all of their original water and power records are in the names of the enterprising women, mostly Californian and escaping the ruins of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, who built them. Their names are even inscribed in the tile work of the doorways. Standing with mouth slightly agape at the corner of Dunlevy and Alexander, the history springs to life.

One of the only remnants of the Japanese community on Alexander Street, destroyed by the internment camps.

A lot of the areas on the first half of walking tour are eerily empty, the streets abandoned during the day with only the occasional factory along the way. But it is in these areas, down on the wrong side of Hastings St along Powell and Railway and Alexander – it is down here that the down and dirty early stories of this rough and tumble little town took place. The Hastings Mill that started it all, bustling Japantown and its tragic end, Gassy Jack and his barrel of whiskey – it all started right here.

Studying for and running this tour has opened up my eyes and piqued my interest in such a fascinating way. Every walk I lead, every step I take around this city feels like an exciting discovery and there is so much more beneath the surface that I want to scratch away and reveal.

So come and take a walk with me. There is nothing I would rather do.

This blows my mind - the wooden bricks originally used to pave Alexander Street 100 years ago are still intact!

28 May 2010

Vancouver Girl Thinks Aloud

A larger than life representation of a weaving spindle, at the Squamish Lil'wat Centre in Whistler.

It's easy to forget, here in Vancouver, that we have cultural riches at our fingertips that the world flocks to see. We grow up surrounded by totem poles and learn about potlatches at school but it never really seems to sink in. Perhaps because here in Canada our First Nations population suffers from so many social problems it becomes easy to overlook their current culture - we think of it as antiquated and archaeological, as arrowheads in museums rather than a changing and dynamic population of artists, athletes and regular folk.

Where I work, in the Downtown Eastside (DTES), it becomes all to easy to reflect only on the social woes of the First Nations population who are trapped there - caught in cycles of addiction learned by years in residential schools and foster care with no modeling of functional families to base their adulthood on. Day in and day out I am confronted with the desperation that hangs in the air above my beloved DTES.

That's not to say that it is all sadness - no, I am just as likely to have a smile smacked on my face as I witness the loving and caring atmosphere that the DTES community creates and nurtures. The fierce pride of the First Nations people living on the fringes of wealthy Vancouver is awe inspiring. The days though, the days when I see junkies overdosing or people in the crack dance, teenaged prostitutes with meth sores and old women begging for money - those days I am broken.

How can my country claim to be so advanced, and my city be heralded as having the highest standard of living in the world when this is what we have done to a race of people? Decimated their land, outlawed their language and customs, forcibly sterilized them until 30 years ago - this country is a monster, not a saint. And despite current good intentions, the statistics speak for themselves. How do I reconcile this with my patriotism?


Xstina is a cage, with a cannibalistic wilderness wildwoman looking on, part of a Squamish myth

I find it ironic that the first thing that North American travelers rush to see when visiting Asia are the "tribal" villages where you can purchase handicrafts, view carvings and artifacts and take pictures with the locals when we have such amazing examples of such in our own backyard. Again, for some reason we ignore the First Nations culture that permeates this land.

For a tourism challenge offered to museum workers in Vancouver I was given the opportunity to visit dozens of amazing museums and cultural centres, earning stamps toward an annual pass as I went. The final centre on my list? The Squamish Lil'wat Centre in Whistler. Xstina and I headed up the mountain last weekend, excited to earn a stamp and wander Whistler village, its vacation atmosphere always making a day feel special.

Singing a welcome song that moved me to tears.

We were not expecting to be moved to tears by the dance, the film and the exhibits that we witnessed there. The centre has been designed in a way that allows the visitor to see the Squamish and Lil'wat Nations as growing and changing cultures, highlighting their current successes rather than their past archaeological value. The Squamish Nation is of particular relevance to me, as they are the people that once inhabited downtown Vancouver and the DTES and have over the years been forced into smaller and smaller Reserves.

We tried on the ceremonial garb, ate bannock and salmon stew and entered the longhouses, a sense of hushed, guilty awe between us. Should we, the third and fourth generation daughters of European immigrants, feel guilty? We tried not to, instead choosing to relish the amazing display in front of us.


Today, while I was guiding a historical walking tour through the DTES, a First Nations woman overheard me say the word "alcohol" while telling the story of rum running during Prohibition and mistakenly thought that I was referring to current affairs. She accused me, in front of my 30 tour participants, of calling "all Indians drunks" and that I was telling "White person's lies" to the tourists. I wanted to defend myself, to explain to her that I was not and that I, of all people, understood better.

But do I?

It's something I struggle with everyday. There is no easy answer.

Cultural misappropriation or respect? You decide. It's like those HSBC ads....

21 May 2010

Taking the Pen from Paris - A Writer Wakes Up

At Cafe de Flores in Montparnasse, trying to soak in the inspiration.

If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.
-Ernest Hemingway

Eventually, I always thought, eventually I will be a published and praised novelist/poet. From the age of 14 this just seemed like an inevitability in my head, something that I wouldn't have to work at and would just one day, y'know, happen. "Live an exciting and interesting life, Dear, and you won't be able to STOP yourself from jotting down the next great novel!" As if it would happen absentmindedly in between rounds of vodka sodas, or on top of a cathedral in Europe, or perhaps even in the line for the washroom not used for sex at the Gay bar.

But the opposite is true.

There is a famous quote by Tallulah Bankhead: "Good girls keep diaries. Bad girls don't have time." And it is true. It's a catch 22 that the busier, the more exotic, the utterly fabulous stories that you acquire and rich layers of experience you gain - the less time you have to write it down.

Not that that is my only excuse for the last 15 years, the 15 years since I promised myself, a raccoon-eyed, Manic Panicked 14 year old, that I would be an brilliant novelist at some point. No, my main excuse comes back to complacency, to school essays and 9-5 jobs where you get home and just want to watch 6 hours of Arrested Development and pet the cats, not pick up a pen or a keyboard and weave magical worlds of complexity. I have been lazy. I haven't wanted it enough. I trusted, stupidly, that it would just happen.

And so of course it has not. This isn't some hilarious sitcom moment where I am going to find out I've been sleepwalking and fulfilling my life's passions while unconscious. I need to put time in, the put down the facebook and the news, to schedule my schoolwork more effectively so that I have the time to write.

BUT, and its a big but, it's not just about time, is it? It's not just about amazing, life-changing experiences and galavanting travels. It's MOSTLY about confidence, inspiration and gumption.

And I got me somma that in Paris.

Great writers have lived in Paris for hundreds of years , and while I am fascinated by the age of the Bohemians, by the characters depicted in Toulouse Lautrec paintings, by the earlier poets Balzac and Baudelaire - the era that fascinates me are the years between the wars.

The writers of the Lost Generation -American and British writers flooded Paris in the 1920s to soak up its rich artistic atmosphere and its relaxed social mores- spent hours in cafes and bars producing some of the most compelling writing of the twentieth century. James Joyce, F Scott Fitzgerald (and his crazy wife Zelda) Gertrude Stein, Simone de Beauvoir, Jean Paul Sartre, Ernest Hemingway, Henry Miller, Anais Nin, Samuel Beckett - that's just a sampling of the writers that I adore. And they all.lived.here.

As you get older it is harder to have heroes, but it is sort of necessary - Ernest Hemingway
Despite (and maybe because of) Hemingway's personal problems, he is one of my favourite writers. His sparse, clean style is what I try to remind myself of when I get overly verbose, and though this photo is all kinds of cliche I was truly happy at this moment. I am seated in the Cafe de Flores, where a coffee is the exorbitant 6 Euros and wannabe writers from around the globe flock to spend it.

Why? It is in this cafe that Simone de Beauvoir huddled during World War II and wrote The Mandarins. It, along with Les Deux Magots next door, is where every single writer listed above has sat and written in the worn wicker seats.

Best address ever.
Montmartre, Montparnasse, the Latin Quarter - neighbourhoods so steeped in lore and fairytale that walking through them feels surreal, like I need a good pinch (not on my rear, either - although S is happy to oblige) to really be able to absorb that I'm there.

No, actually? This is the best address ever.
As if fate stepped in, in our wanders we unintentionally stumbled upon a place that I had planned on seeking out a few days later - Shakespeare and Company. This place is truly legendary amongst young writers - a bookstore on the Left Bank of the Seine that opened in 1919 as part shop/part library and part hostel for aspiring writers. In fact, I found out that to this day there is free rooming upstairs for impoverished scribes - and I may head back next Summer to take them up on that offer.

Catching up on my literary smut in the Latin Quarter.

In the 1950's a competitor, George Whitman, took over the name and applied it to his shop, formerly called Le Mistral and also on the Left Bank. In this era the famous erotic novelist (and longtime paramour of Henry Miller) Anais Nin was a frequent visitor, and her quote is posted in the back room:

And there by the Seine was a bookshop, not the same, but similar to others I had known. An Utrillo house, not too steady on its foundations, small windows, wrinkled shutters. And there was George Whitman, undernourished, bearded, a saint amongst his books, lending them, housing penniless friends upstairs, not eager to sell, in the back of the store, in a small overcrowded room, with a desk, a small stove.
— Ana├»s Nin, Diary, Vol. 5.

I got goosebumps being there.

Yes, I rinsed my mouth. A lot. With wine. And more wine.

After an Edith Piaf walking tour, we ended at the Pere LaChaise cemetery to visit her grave. I then made a beeline for Oscar Wilde's tomb, and in keeping with tradition gave it a big lipstick smack while S looked on, horrified. "It's all for art!" I exclaimed, giddy with life and promise and, well Paris.

So maybe I have it now. Maybe I have that missing piece - the bone-soaking, encompassing inspiration that walking Paris' cobblestone streets gives a writer. I mean, if they could do it, why can't I?

And it's a good lesson, no matter what. Your dreams - especially if they are scary and bewildering and overwhelming - won't just happen. You make it happen. I make it happen.
And so it's time to grab life by the balls. Or, in this case, the pen.

16 May 2010

My Life as a Writer

I was about to start writing about my experiences visting the writer's haunts of Paris, then I realized that this short piece I wrote for an assignment in a writing class sums up my history as a writer quite nicely (and I hate reinventing wheels) so here it is - the Paris part will follow tout suite!
When asked to describe myself, I often use the word "writer." I like the way it sounds, the images that it conjures of a mad poet awake until all hours scribbling frantically into a notebook because what he has to say will vanish into thin air if he doesn't get it all out as fast as he can. This image stems from my romantic teenaged ideas about Bukowski and Baudelaire, authors posessed by inner demons that could only be expelled by putting pen to paper and living tortured and decadent livee. I am a poet at heart - I have examples of four line cuplets that I wrote when I was six years old.
But the word "writer" is nice because it can also refer to a journalist – an intrepid traveler scouting the globe and documenting her experiences one hairy situation at a time. I just recently was hired as a freelance journalist for a nightlife magazine - not quite the same amount of responsibility, but the situations could get just as hairy....
I write fiction as well – stories both long and short and I one day hope to finish a novel. It used to be very easy for me – as a child and teenager I was quite prolific, filling binders decorated with band names and logos with hundreds of pages of fiction. I have just recently started again, writing short character studies and even working on a script for a graphic novel for a friend who is a comic book artist.
When I write regularly it does something wonderful to my brain – I stop and stare at the most mundane sights, I listen to people differently, hearing new things in familiar voices. Words become play things, like children's blocks that I can move around and manipulate. At the risk of sounding pretentious, I feel somehow more myself, more alive when I write.
I have gone through long periods of writer's block. Throughout much of my twenties I have written little other than academic essays, with the exception of the last year. When I stop writing or slow down dramatically, it becomes incredibly easy to not write, a skill and a hobby that falls by the wayside as I choose to watch films or read instead. Ideas still pop into my head, but with less vibrancy and frequency. When I wasn't writing I certainly didn't text myself ideas when no paper was handy like I do now. Writing can be urgent for me.
Reading is like fuel for my writing. I was a voracious reader as a child, taking out the public library's maximum allowance of books per week and racing through them. Children made fun of me for using big words, but it didn't – couldn't – stop me.I still read fiction constantly. Studying does cut into the time that I have for pleasure reading but I still try to squeeze it in as every book I read changes the way that I write. I do have to be careful – at various times I have found myself imitating the styles of Hunter S Thompson, William Burroughs and others a little bit too much after reading their books.
Despite giving myself the moniker of "Writer" I have never been published. Part of this is laziness. The literary world seems so vast and overwhelming that I don't know where to begin. Even my website, with its twelve hundred readers, could be a lot more popular with agressive promotion. Part of me likes that my poetry and fiction is just for my friends and I to read, but the other part craves an audience, especially for the pieces that I like the most. I plan to get more serious about getting published once I have graduated.
Academic writing is a challenge for me – certainly more challenging than the random collections of pretty words that I churn out on a daily basis. The main reason that I am taking this course is to shave off the more casual, personal feel of my papers. After five years away from school, I also want to refresh my brain in the art of academic discourse, re-build my confidence and ensure that I am prepared to correctly write papers across the disciplines that I am taking. Who knows – maybe I'll even write a poem about it.

10 May 2010

Tarte Aux Framboises.

This doesn't even need a caption.

I promise that I will write about Notre Dame, about the Tour Eiffel and strolling the Seine, about Restaurant Chartiers and the Musee D'Orsay - but right now I only have 5 minutes and I can't get this tart out of my head. I ate it two days ago, near the afore-mentioned museum, and it was transcendent.

How did I even manage to choose?

The raspberries, in season here, were light and sweet and a bit tart - perfectly squishy and laid on a bed of delicate creamy custard. The crust was buttery and a bit crunchy, without being greasy, and tasted like it had crushed almonds in the flour. The whole thing made me moan "mmmmm" out loud as I ate it, and I spent all day yesterday looking for another of similar quality, to no avail. Just fail tarts in comparison. Sigh.

Today is my last day in Paris. Wish me luck on the tart front.

It made me re-tart-ed. Look at the madness in my eyes.

07 May 2010

Please sir, I want some more...

I elbowed a few young French girls outta the way to get at the cupcakes.

Admittedly, London has not been historically known for its culinary offerings. Meat and fish fried beyond all recognition, soggy vegetables and bland, flavourless meals are what comes to mind, but in reality the British food scene, with its stars Gordon Ramsay, Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson, is changing in leaps and bounds. No longer are you limited to fish n'chips and a fry up (although I had both and they were marvelous) and Indian curry - the world's food has come to London, and the old favourites are getting a dose of refinement. Here's a sample of what I ate:

They tried to make me go to Rehab, and I was like "hang on, lemme finish these eggs."

You've got to start the day with a proper British breakfast Fry Up. Now, if I ate meat, this already monstrous plate of food would be further laden with hunks of ham, blood pudding and bacon, but I think that this is still pretty divine. A forkful should consist of a little bit of every item, enrobed in the runny eggyolk and then schmeared with HP Sauce. Bliss. I got this one in Camden, at a pub called the Elephant's Head in Amy Winehouse's stomping grounds.

3 course meal.

Snack time! Pints of beer in London are not the delicious, creamy, delicious pints that I think of when I pop into a pub for a Sunday afternoon tipple with my pals - there are no delicious cream ales or dark honey lagers. The beer is half flat, and is served just above room temperature and has that sort of flavour that pissy American beers like Budweiser have. That said, there is something oddly pleasant about it, even though I had to keep telling myself that it was not last night's warm forgotten party beer. *Shudder* Before London, I liked my beer ice cold, fizzy and yummy - like Granville Island Winter Ale, or Belgian Heffweisen. I still do.

Hello Oyster. You horrify me a little bit. But in a delicious way.

Maldon Rock, French Prestige and Gigas Rock oysters.

For my birthday, S took me to a lovely gastropub called The Commander, an old pub that has been renovated to be a bit more light and airy and specializes in fresh seafood and raw oysters. I love oysters. I love their briny, fishy little bodies swimming in vinegar and garlic and slurped up with their salty ichor, half chewed and half rolled around in your mouth like a swallow of fresh sea. We had 3 different types, and they were all different; one was big and vulgar and abrupt, announcing his ocean-y flavour a little too loudly, and the other two were more delicate, like pretty little jewels. We followed the oysters with a great salad that included roasted shitake mushrooms (we had just watched this documentary, so I really enjoyed them) and then I had a pan fried Scottish salmon fillet served on a bed of dill and squash risotto. The whole meal was genius.

All four foodgroups: potatoes, sauce, pastry and cheese. Mwah!

Ahh, is there anything (other than fish n'chips, which I forgot to take a photo of!) that is so quintessentially British as pie and mash? We found a lovely chain called Eat that specializes in seasonal, fresh and organic food and rather than the stardard "steak and kidney" pie, they had these wonderful, homey sweet potato and goat's cheese pies with mash and veggie gravy. I ate this twice, it was so good. Although, if you served me a man's show with mashed potatoes and gravy, I would eat that too.....

You shouldn't leave me unnattended with all of this food. Like, for serious.

Tuna and onion salad in the foreground, cod and crab croquette in the rear.

Pintxos (peen-choes) are an phenomena that you find in the Northern Spanish Basque region, and famously in San Sebastian, a town I visited on my 18 year old "backpacking fail" trip. Little bites of savoury food, like canapes, are placed directly on the counter at all of the local bars (and there are hundreds, teeny standing room only affairs) the idea being that you pop in, grab a glass of wine of beer, eat a few pintxos and move on to the next bar, each of which specializes in a specific type. Walking down Neal St in Covent Garden, I noticed a tiny pintxos restaurant and we sampled six - all of which were good, and a few really great. I wish Vancouver had a Basque restaurant, but alas we don't. Business opportunity, anyone?


And finally, I will leave you with cupcakes. They are called "Fairycakes" here and these ones at Camden Market were so cute that I couldn't resist (not that I even remotely tried to...) I won't lie - they were a bit stale, but so pretty that I willed myself into loving them. It worked!

Everybody Must Get Stone (Henged)

Tours in the 19th century provided a little hammer so you could chip off some Stonehenge to take home.
Yet when I tried it they got angry.

Stonehenge is one of those things that I read about as a little girl in the musty smelling Childcraft encyclopedias that lined the shelf in our living room. Paging through the books I was always most fascinated by the chapter about ancient structures - The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, The Collossus of Rome, the Pyramids, to name a few - and Stonehenge.

Stonehenge is 5000 years old, an impossibly long time ago, and while I always imagined robe-clad Druids lighting candles and acting overwrought about Solstice around the stones, it actually would have been Fred Flintstone caveman types (Druids came about 1000 years later) building and using them.

And what was Stonehenge even used for? Despite claims that it was a burial ground, a calendar and/or a sacrificial altar, no one is sure. It always gives me a weird feeling to be standing at an ancient site and realize that in all probability, no one ever will know...

My friend Joanna told me last week that despite her recommendation to visit, "its just some rocks in a field" and I spent the morning psyching myself up to prove her wrong - afterall, I had my childhood sense of wonder safely stored in my brain. I would find it magical and amazing and cathartic.
Who's got 2 thumbs and likes Stonehenge? This guy!

And then my first glimpse from the motorway was a bit anti-climactic - we were in a large coach and we were kind of taller than Stonehenge and yeah, I had that Spinal Tap moment. But once I gathered my audioguide and walked through the underpass from the entry way to the actual field I regained most off my awe. It was windy and cold and my hair whipped around my face, but I just kind of stood there for a moment with a dumb look on my face. "Look S." I said as I poked him. "There's Stonehenge."

Ultimately though, as Joanna predicted, there were only so many angles I could stare at before my brain was like "OK. Let's go. It's just rocks. I believe there is a sandwich back on the bus." However, I did turn around one more time to stop for five minutes and just reflect. As the hairs stood up on the back of my neck, I tried to imagine the hoards of literally pre-historic people lumbering around and erecting this mystery.

Cavemen, apparently? Not so dumb. Druids are still assholes, though.

Stonehenge ahem...rocks.

05 May 2010

My Love Tate Relationship

Even the building is amazing! A converted power station.

Admittedly, I know little about art. Sure I know about the main movements, the big artists, some symbolism, but I can't tell you that "mmm, Oh, yes, well it is apparent in Krasner's work the pain over losing her husband, Jackson Pollock. oh, mmm. Yes. This squiggle here is, rawther indicative." Like, I'm not an asshole about it.

That said, I can immerse myself in (late) nineteenth and twentieth century art for hours. Even days.... S and I visited one of the world's greatest modern art temples, the hallowed (yet accessible - in Britain museums are free, and man - there were a lot of strollers and wee ones!) halls of the Tate Modern on the Southbank of London. After a morning at St Paul's Cathedral, a short walk across the Millenium footbridge, we arrived at 2 pm thinking that 4 hours would be enough. It was - barely.

With my new boyfriend, the Tate Modern Audioguide (it's like an ipod Touch! With extra pictures! And videos of interviews with the artists! And you can listen to commentary on almost all of the works in the museum! AMAZING!) I could have spent 4 more hours inside. Easily.

Now, I don't have the space to show you all of my favourite highlights (I took 100 photos. That'd be a loooooong blog) in my own words - no fancy schmancy art-critic talk! I will show you a few of my faves:

Venus of the Rags
Michaelangelo Pistoletto

Something so mundane as these rags coupled with the divinity of ancient Roman sculpture? From my photo it is hard to tell, but this statue is not made of marble or stone - it is a plastic garden version. Now, I have an affinity for Venus as I am a Taurus (my birthday was yesterday, matter o fact) and because she represents love and passion - does this common material cheapen her, and love itself? With her back turned to us, is she ashamed to be surrounded with something so mundane as what is essentially dirty laundry? This artist is from a school called Arte Povera (literally "Poverty Art") in which the artists use mundane materials to make their statements. I just love the colours and the questions it raises.


Glenn Ligon

As a self-professed Neon Sign historian (like really. I am obsessed lately. Ask my pals - they'll roll their eyes.) I have always liked neon artists (Keith Sonnier is another fave) and I love that this piece breaks convention by depicting the word "America" - a word that invokes so much imagery, good and bad - in black rather than the fruit-punchy colours that we expect. I want to see this lit up. Badly.

Andy Warhol

Oh Warhol, you will forever be linked to my teenaged coming-of-age, mixed in with memories of Candy Darling, Kenneth Anger, Jon Moritsugu, Robert Mapplethorpe and John Waters. How I love thee, and yet how cliched it can easily become to admit it.... Oh, screw it - despite your fame, you introuced the world to "pop-art" and for that I am thankful.

I love this photo, because there are actually two pieces of art in it. One is simply the wallpaper - Warhole designed this when a pal lamented that "no one paints farm landscapes anymore" and the other is the painting of 6 skulls. On its own, without context, this would be a bit of a boring piece, I mean, even then skulls had been done. But when I think of the other subjects that Warhol painted in this repetitive tile pattern (Marliyn Monroe, Elvis, the glitterati of Studio 54 and Max's Kansas City) it takes on a darker, more genuinely sinister meaning. Once celebrity has been done - what is left?

The Music From the Balconies
Edward Ruscha

Sometimes you don't have to get it. You just love it. This is a quote from a JG Ballard novel, he of sexual violence and depravity (don't worry, we'll get to Francis Bacon soon) and it is like a line of poetry, which is art itself, and so why not?

Nude Woman Reclining in a Red Armchair
Pablo Picasso
She's so chubby and sweet and a lot less "cube-y" than his earlier work! I'm actually a bigger fan of Georges Braque than of Picasso, but I really am drawn to this painting. I think all of her femininity and naked sexuality has been rendered non-threatening by this somewhat over-cutesy depiction - especially when I remember that Picasso used a lot of prostitutes as models and that this may have been his way of disarming their power over him.

The Carnival
Max Beckman

This was painted in 1920 and I think that it shows current artists such as Mark Ryden to be the self-indulgent, overly-derivative posers that they are *smiles sweetly*

Bacchus, Psilax, Mainomenos
Cy Twombly

Walking into this room (there is a third monolithic piece on another wall) was like wading into a warm bowl of pent up lust and rage and something I couldn't quite put my finger on. Despite these very serious emotions, there was also something homey and comforting about the way that the red and pink and orange blended together and it was kind of reflected on people's skin tones as they walked through and it was magic.

Study For a Portrait on A Folding Bed
Francis Bacon

Last but not least - my favourite: Francis Bacon. No other twentieth century artist depicted such chaotic, deeply layered and passionate emotions, all with an undercurrent of death, rot and metamorphosis. His artworks remind me of the body-horror of Bunuel, Dali and even Cronenberg - of things slightly not as they should be, askew in a way that recalls war and change and even sex. While this is simply a study, it evokes such strong emotions that I can't even imagine it completed. Bacon's personal life was just as facinating as his art. Oh you crazy thing!

03 May 2010

London and Paris and Lions and Tigers and Plans - oh my!

So little time to plan. In some ways that's good. (Right? Riiigggghttt?)

This week I have jetted off on what has to be the most last-minute trip I have ever taken. Thursday morning? Toast and tea and planning a weekend (and birthday) in Vancouver, making use of my amazing tourism passport and hanging out. Friday morning? Chaos and giddiness as S found out he was being sent to London for business tout suite, and oh yeah? Would I like to come, expenses paid? (F%$! yes) We left Saturday afternoon, volcanic ashcloud be damned.

It's lovely to be heading back to these cities for the first time since I was an eighteen year old idiot with my head firmly up my own arse (below are things I am planning on visiting, yes, but they are also things that I missed the first time when I was poor, ignorant and flighty.) So now, I have 6 days in London, 4 in Paris and then back to Vancouver to start my Summer job and head back to school for two classes. But in the glorious meantime?

My plans:
  • National Gallery - da Vinci, Michaelangelo, Raphael, Botticelli and Van Eyck all just off of Trafalgar Square.
  • Tate Modern - As much as I love Renaissance art, twentieth century art makes my heart sing, my pulse race and my head spin. That's passion, dears.
  • Stonehenge and Bath - on my birthday, no less! I just hope that this doesn't trivialize the experience too much...
  • British Museum - Oh, did this belong to you? Our bad.
  • Portobello Road - because I love Bedknobs and Broomsticks.
  • Fish n Chips and Bitter. Hit me. Again.
  • Musee d'Orsay - again with the modern art. A bit earlier, but still swoon-worthy. Toulouse Lautrec FTW!
  • Notre Dame Cathedral - S said he wanted to pet the hunchback. I told him that that was just a homeless man and he should stop going on Parisian peyote benders.
  • Montmartre - the historic artists enclave.
  • Edith Piaf walking tour - The Little Sparrow's small village, ending at her grave in the Pere Lachaise cemetery, also home to Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison and Balzac.
  • "Paris during the Occupation" walking tour - because we're both history nerds. Like, a lot.
  • FOOD AND WINE. Like, all of it. Moules et frites, sole meuniere, FROMAGE, pain au chocolate et beaucoup de vin Bordeaux. Beaucoup.
See you along the way, dears.
xo Violet Dear

S, peeking out from behind London.