Travelling to Europe with a Baby

I just spent a month in Greece with Clara. A few people have asked me how it went and what tips I had, so I thought I would collect them in one post before I forget. Clara was 7-8 months while we were away, so past the newborn napping lump phase, but not fully mobile yet either. She figured out how to crawl half-way through the trip, and also realized that she wanted to pull up to standing whenever she could, so things got trickier once that happened. She also sprouted her two top teeth — drool machine, but thankfully not especially fussy. Anyway, tips!

Untitled Continue reading

June, July, August 2015


Untitled

I’ve subscribed to various TinyLetters over the past few months, and there’s something really nice about getting random missives in my Inbox. I like the (artificial, I know) intimacy of it, the chattiness, and most of all I like how easy it is. I check my email way more than I check blogs. And then I realized that I do so much writing on my phone these days, enough that I can cobble together a little newsletter much more quickly than a blog entry.

I’ll still use this space to talk about my book and various events in the fall, but I’ll save the chattiness for email, at least for now. So, subscribe?

powered by TinyLetter

Ways to Cook an Egg

Eggs, garlic scapes, fresh herbs

I didn’t make many resolutions this year, but one of them was to work on other forms of writing, not just fiction. I especially wanted to practice writing about food. I’ve always loved a particular type of food writing – wordy, heavy on the personal side, not so much preoccupied with recipes or techniques. I often resisted writing about food because I’m not an above average cook, I don’t have the most refined palate and various other reasons that were really just excuses. So, I set up a new blog and have resolved to write one food essay per month during 2013. A place to figure things out and exercise a different writing muscle.

The site is over at http://waystocookanegg.tumblr.com, and my first essay is called Drawing Lines. It does not give any suggestions on ways to cook an egg, but I’ll get there eventually. I also use the space to post bits of food related marginalia I’ve found online over the years.

Bon appetit!

Summer vacation!

Milos, Agistri

It’s summer vacation time and I’m heading to California – San Diego specifically – for 2 heavenly weeks. Well, I’m assuming it will be heavenly, and given the concentration of beaches, taco stands and crab shacks in the area plus rumours of roadtrips to Las Vegas and Los Angeles, all of this spent with some of my favourite people? The odds are high.

I won’t be updating this site until I return, but in the meantime here are some things for you to enjoy:

  • Have you read all of my uninterviews?
  • Greece is going through another round of tough times and it’s easy, from abroad, to write off the country as being too unstable to visit. If you need a reminder of how lovely it can be, here are all the entries I wrote about it last year.
  • The Wire! I’m probably the last person in the world to say this about the show, but oh god, it’s so good. I can only vouch for the first 2 seasons, but I have no doubt the rest will be just as fulfilling (maybe not Season 5?). But, since you’ve probably watched The Wire twice already and spent too long discussing it with your friends, what about Peep Show, my other recent favourite TV show? It’s a British comedy about Mark and Jeremy, a pair of awkward/sarcastic/selfish best friends/flatmates/nemeses. Here, get started. It’s addictive.
  • Wait, it’s too nice to sit inside and watch television. Take a walk to the park and read instead. Some books I’ve recently enjoyed include Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton, Distillery Songs by Mike Spry and True Story by Mike Holmes.
  • Or just bring a bottle of cold white wine to the park. It’s summer.
  • I discovered Beth Wawerna of Bird of Youth while looking for performances of this song on YouTube, and was instantly smitten with her voice. Then her album came out in May (produced by Will Sheff of Okkervil River), and I’ve been listening to it non-stop for the past few weeks (Andrew can vouch for me on that one – sorry, dude.) Her songs are ultra-wordy and worth listening to closely, and there’s something about her lower timbre, almost flippant voice that absolutely bewitches me.

See you in July, friends!

Launches ahoy!

Party time

Montreal: Friday November 5, Drawn & Quarterly – be there! http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=660580223&v=app_2344061033#!/event.php?eid=101613523241948&index=1

Toronto: Monday November 8, Dora Keogh – be there! http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=660580223&v=app_2344061033#!/event.php?eid=164378236920509&index=1

And… Toronto: If you can’t make it on Monday or if you want to see me another night or if you just wanna come to a good party, Katie, one of the contributers in Rememberer helped organize a launch for it on Tuesday November 9. 107 Shaw Gallery – be there!  I’ll be reading at this too. http://www.facebook.com/#!/event.php?eid=103456643056575

Notes on NYC

New York City, you exhaust me. We rolled back into Montreal on Easter Monday close to midnight, sleep deprived, with sore feet – the markers of a successful trip. It was my third time visiting the city, but I only seem to visit for breathless weekends (the shortest being one and a half days, the longest being four and a half), so it still feels new, unexplored, uncharted. Andrew and I drove up with Nel and Mark and stayed with Shane and Heather in their loft in the Bronx. We walked a lot, we bought books and shoes and clothes, we went to galleries and ate a lot of food. It was good. Here are some of the highlights.

DSC03985
Nel and Mark doing explorery stuff

Favourite out-of-context sculpture: We arrived on Friday afternoon and while the light was still good, Shane took the four of us for a huge walk around his neighbourhood in the South Bronx. The thing about travelling with a bunch of urban explorer types is that I pick up all this random information about things I wouldn’t otherwise think about. Like, within my first hour in New York City I got a brief tutorial on the sewer system, how water is brought into the city (from the Catskills! The pipe is leaking! It’s been leaking for over 30 years!), the point of those wooden water tanks on buildings around the city, etc. It’s oddly fascinating, and it was great getting a personal tour of the Bronx. As for the out-of-context sculpture, there’s a shipping yard near the water where if you peer through the fence you can see a massive rusting metal sculpture created by Richard Serra (who just had a retrospective at the MOMA). It was slightly surreal to see it just sitting there, bleeding rust, out in the middle of a dead-end lot in the Bronx

DSC03972
Richard Serra: art, not scrap metal

We also poked around the Hell Gate Bridge and because it was low tide, crossed briefly over to Randall’s Island without having to use a bridge. Tucked into a corner underneath the bridge is a tag by a graffiti artist who gave up on spraypaint and turned to metalwork instead. His metalwork tags are scattered throughout the city and this is one of the more obscure locations.

DSC03994
I would like tags more if they were always cast in metal.

Favourite meal: Oh god, Sylvia’s. After a day of walking all over the city we wanted food that stuck to our bones and warmed us up. Soul food. So, we went to Sylvia’s and the meal was nothing less than completely satisfying and delicious. Miss Sylvia herself was at the door greeting the diners and my only regret is that I was so stuffed I couldn’t order a slice of Red Velvet Cake for desert. Such is life. Between us we ate: many slices of cornbread, fried chicken, ribs, collard greens, mac and cheese, okra gumbo and garlic mashed potatoes.

DSC04106
So much goodness in one photo.

Art exhibit best viewed while fully awake: The Whitney Biennial is perhaps not best experienced at four in the afternoon when you’ve been walking non-stop since 9 in the morning on 6 hours of sleep. It’s hard to feel engaged with the art when your mind is kind of blanking on what it means, and I found myself most tickled by the exhibits that I could interact with directly rather than just stand back and look at. So, I don’t know how I felt about it, to tell you the truth.

DSC04133
At the MOMA, not the Whitney. People dozing off.

Favourite Nabokov-inspired art piece: You would think the International Centre of Photography would have more… photography, but the first floor was devoted to excerpts from photographer/designer/ installation artist, Barbara Bloom’s collection, including a few Nabokov inspired pieces, like the cover of Lolita in rug-form or, my favourite, a butterfly box with tiny drawings of Vladimir, each one named by a different pseudonym used in his career.

Favourite unexpected public space: The weather was so beautiful in New York City compared to Montreal – over ten degrees, sunny, even actual flowers peeking out. We were pretty psyched about hanging out in Central Park and soaking up some sunshine, but before getting there it was a pleasant surprise to stumble upon Bryant Park, next to the New York Public Library, and eat hot dogs at a little table, the sun shining down, yellow taxis whizzing by in the distance.

DSC04080


Odds of someone quoting the scene from “Annie Hall” where Woody and Diane are in line at the movies while waiting in line to watch a Godard film at Film Forum: 100% maybe? Is it just inevitable? On Saturday night, after dinner and aimless wandering, we felt like sitting down and zoning out to a movie. We were in Chelsea at the time, and Godard’s “Contempt” was about to start playing, so we bought tickets. Within 10 minutes of standing in line, we listened as a guy explained that Annie Hall scene to his date. What is perhaps strange
r is that she had never seen the movie. Note: Like the Whitney Biennial, don’t watch Godard when you’re feeling sleepy. Oops.


Best hot chocolate ever: The City Bakery. With a homemade marshmallow.

DSC04052

Song you totally expect to hear at a peace rally, but also totally not expect to hear because it’s such a cliché peace rally song: Kumbaya. But we totally did. Note: I’m for peace and all, but we didn’t seek out the peace rally, we just happened to be sitting around Union Square while it was happening. But I was pretty cuted out by this old man with a dot-matrix printed banner for peace:

DSC04069


Favourite book purchased from a cute bookseller: Steinbeck’s memoir of driving around the U.S. with his dog, “Travels With Charley”. I had just returned a library copy of the book before leaving, and was charmed by Steinbeck’s ambling descriptions. I wanted a copy of my own, so when I saw it sitting on the bookseller’s table, I gladly forked over six dollars for it.

Most a propos poetry collection purchased from The Strand: Frank O’Hara’s “Selected Poems”. O’Hara’s New York is so vibrant and romantic, exclamation marks and orange-coloured things everywhere. His love poems melt me quicker than ee cummings. Whenever we had some downtime, his poems were the only things I could digest.
Excerpt:
I’m going to New York!
(what a lark! what a song!)
where the tough Rocky’s eaves
hit the sea. Where th’Acro-
polis is functional, the trains
that run and shout! the books
that have trousers and sleeves!

DSC04058

Three verities

The fun thing about living with a photographer is that I get access to books that I wouldn’t think about buying/borrowing myself – big, beautiful coffeetable books, certain art theory and criticism, etc. I was reading some essays in Robert Adams’ Beauty in Photography: Essays in Defense of Traditional Values and was particularly intrigued by an essay called “Truth and Landscape”, which tackles the question of what makes a landscape photography different from say, regular documentary reportage. It was timely because we had just come home from an afternoon spent poking around the little galleries at 372 Ste Catherine, and I had especially enjoyed the landscape photos of Lawrence Beck. I’ve also been recently thinking about Andrew’s photos, the types of landscapes he prefers, trying to contextualize them, I guess, explore different ways of understanding or appreciating them.

beck_cows
Lawrence Beck

athens
Andrew Emond

The truth is that I’ve generally been the kind of person who likes photos “with people in them”, who can’t always sit still long enough to drink up the hugeness and the detail offered by a landscape photo. But this is starting to change now that I’ve actually started paying closer attention. I was also recently flipping through my Virginia Woolf books (yes, I flip a lot through my books, especially when I’m sitting at my desk trying to write. I figure it’s better than e-stalking via Facebook). I came across that section of To The Lighthouse that is simply a description of the passage of time. And then there are those big chunks of The Waves which are pure written landscapes.

Anyway, this is all to say that when I was reading that Adams essay, I came across this really elegant description he gives of landscape photography, and realized that it applied just as easily to writing and stuff I’d been thinking about, that it helped me string together my meandering thoughts on landscape photography with naturey writing descriptions. And it was kind of satisfying.

Landscape pictures can offer us, I think, three verities – geography, autobiography, and metaphor. Geography is, if taken alone, sometimes boring, autobiography is frequently trivial, and metaphor can be dubious. But taken together, as in the best work of people like Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Weston, the three kinds of information strengthen each other and reinforce what we all work to keep intact – an affection for life.

Yeah.