Nuit Blanche: Installment the First

It looks like I’m just going to have to get used to the fact that every once in a while my laptop will need a vacation from my apparently toxic presence.

A few weeks ago I was sure it was dead – not just “oh here we go with it’s quarterly crash, better set aside a few hours this weekend to reformat it”, but full on “holy crap, reformat isn’t even an option on the startup menu anymore – and is that the blue screen of death? OH CRAP EVEN THE BLUE SCREEN CANT LOAD!!!NOOOOO!!!STOP MAKING THAT NOISE!!!” sort of dead. So off it went to my geekiest friend for her professional opinion. It seemed a lost cause, a victim of my apparent EMP genetics as well as succumbing to hard usage – too many long,  motherboard-fryingly hot hours of webcamming and multitasking is more than this little thing was built for. The verdict? “It just sort of works when it wants to now.”

Well apparently it wants to now, having taken a few weeks off. But rest assured I will never buy a new laptop again – a year max is apparently all I can squeeze out of these things. So for now I’ll web when I can, avoid leaving it on overnight, and await the next inevitable tantrum. If I disappear again, you’ll know this machine has suffered a swift, Office Space-esque death at the hands of whatever blunt instrument is most handy.

Anyways! Here’s what I’ve been meaning to talk about all this time, but instead may as well have been hanging out in a soggy, webless cardboard box.

Nuit Blanche! Yes, it (was) that time of year again when Toronto busts out with its free, all-night, contemporary art ‘thing’. Birthed in either Paris, St. Petersburg or Berlin (apparently there’s still somewhat of a bitchfest over its origins), it has spread to the worlds cultural centres as a means of artistic expression, both individually and en masse, themed social gathering, and urban identification. In layman’s terms: look how cool we are.

Last year was an unplanned, last minute tagging along to a series of fantastic albeit sometimes inexplicable installments, with poor caffeination/sleep logistics resulting in an early night. Anytime prior to midnight is a poor showing for an event lasting until sunrise, and frankly I was annoyed at myself for lack of planning.

This year was different! I went on my own, plotted ahead and mapped my course, determined to catch everything from the Inuit film festival at the Habourfront Centre to the peep show tent in the Casa Loma stables. Unfortunately the whole shebang is now so popular that many of the exhibits had lineups over an hour long. And so, I was forced to whittle in the moment, having to quickly choose between secret waterfall gardens and giant bouncy wedding cakes, post-apocalyptic tribal installments and giant pools of vodka. In the end some choices were good, some choices were blah, but I’ll let you decide for yourselves with a look at what I saw and a list of what I missed.

Here’s the first dose, just steps away from my door and through the annex, on my way to the subway through the core. Filled with museums, institutions, and galleries, my own back yard made for an interesting start.

First up! ‘Through a Glass Darkly’ at St. Thomas Anglican Church featured an interesting co-display of religious environment and song, set to the background of Galilean artifact, intended to draw visitors into the dynamic between science and soul. Or something like that.

Next we had ‘Where Have You Been In These Shoes?’, a collaboration with Diaspora Dialogues at the Bata Shoe Museum. Basically you got to walk in, have pictures taken of your shoes, tell random passerby a story about where you’ve been in them, and have on the spot poetry created by dialogue artists to share your experiences with the crowd. The display grew as the night progressed and more participants added their shoes and stories to the collection.

‘Music Inside Out’ was a ton of fun. Crowds wandered through the ornate entrance to the Royal Conservatory of Music, down the lush gardens to the newly added Telus Centre for Performing Arts, contrasting the old world look of the original building with the modern glass structure lit up in neon for Nuit Blanche.

There were a number of installations here, but my favourite was the haunted piano. It was nothing highly advertised, no signs pointed the way, just an unobtrusive volunteer who would tug at your sleeve as  you passed an elevator, inviting you to go on up – by yourself of course – to take a look. The elevator doors opened to an empty rotunda, a dark ballroom at the end of the hall with eerie music floating quietly, and you had to walk alone through the room to see the keys operating themselves in a disjointed, arythmic song.

Next up was the Institute for Contemporary Culture at the Royal Ontario Museum. The ROM recently underwent a somewhat controversial addition of a crawling, crystalline structure to the more traditional architecture of the main building. Many think it an eyesore, but I happen to like it.

The lineup, however, was not so enjoyable. At least the surroundings outside and on the way in were entertaining.

The installment here was a display of photos from the years of Vanity Fair 1913 – 2008, opened to the public with waived admission for the nights event. It was nice, but not worth the hour long lineup – I had more fun outside than inside! I didn’t personally take any pictures of the photos themselves because it seemed discouraged, but here’s a look from others’ points of view.

image from blogto.com

image from styleblog.ca

Since I spent so much time here, I decided to skip the ‘Overture to Parallel Nippon’ at the Japan Foundation across the street. Apparently it was some sort of architecture fest mixed with sound and visual, and it seemed like quite a party from across the street. But as for me, I headed down into the subway at this point, at the renovated Museum station, southbound for the downtown core.

Next up – City Hall, Yonge Street, the Financial District, and the busiest hours of the night!

Winter Wonderland

Okay, it’s not *quite* Wonderland out there, especially because to us Southern Ontarians, Wonderland is a place with a lot of fun rides and over priced chili fries.

This would suck covered in ice

This would suck covered in ice

But somehow, I’m not super pissed about the snow this year. I’m actually sort of….well I’m afraid that if I say I’m enjoying it I’ll get skewered by a foot long icicle – ’tis the way of the winter justice. I am surprised, however, by how minimally pissed I am at this most recent dumping of chilly, frozen flaked water all over my city.

It could be for a number of reasons:

– I have purchased, for the first time in many years, a ‘sensible’ pair of boots. Wedge heel. Fuzzy. Muklukish without being ugly. On sale. None of this ‘winter heel’ business for me anymore.

Fashionable, yet not retarded

– I have a nice coat. Not just a warm coat, but a nice, long, extremely pretty and in-style coat that makes me feel like I’m in Casablanca. Except, you know, with ice.

coat

Not this nice, but pretty close

– Up until this morning when I had to take a $5 taxi ride two blocks to the subway station, I had the transit schedule all figured out. This one might take some readjusting, but generally speaking I am able to leave my apartment right before the bus pulls up to the stop just across the street. Less than five minutes outside in the mornings? I can dig it.

Boourns!

– Indoor shopping. Toronto is used to the cold, and so there are a myriad of ways to get your shopping done, even grocery shopping, without ever having to step foot outside. Malls connect to the subway system, and once you get right into the core of the city, the PATH winds through most of the major buildings and transit, all without even looking towards the doors outside. Now if I can just find an indoor laundromat…

This is indoors, suckers! Mahahaha!

Toronto's PATH system: because the outdoors is for losers

– In the event that I do not find an indoor laundromat, I have discovered one that is even closer to my apartment than the one I’ve been using hitherto. I don’t even have to cross any intersections, which can be kind of dicey on my street. It’s a little more expensive and frankly not as nice, but it’s smaller, not as busy, plays classical music, and has no attendant. You’d think that would be a downside, but I prefer to not have people around when I’m out running errands or washing my undergarments.

– Toronto does have some rad winter stuff going on. And by the time I’m back here I’ll have someone who’ll actually be excited to attend such events even though we do, as Josh puts it, “turn everything into some weird abstract art thing.”

Cavalcade of Lights

Weird abstract art - still pretty!

 – I have a new weapon against the frozen, treacherous tundra that will be my sidewalks within a few weeks. It’s a phone number. You call it and tattle on all the lazy fucktards that didn’t shovel their snow, letting it instead be compounded into frozen footprints that are out to break my ankles every year. Seriously, I have developed this ridiculous fear of breaking my ankles. I will call that number fifteen times a day if I have to. I’ll call it on my own damn landlords. My ankles are grateful for my city’s well-spent tax dollars.

OW MY ANKLES!!! AND POSSIBLY KNEES!!!

– It’s a white Christmas! Surprisingly enough, we almost never get snow in time for Christmas. It shows up right at the beginning of January and clobbers our asses until Easter. And given that with a little luck this should be my last Canadian Christmas for a couple of years, I’m very pleased that the weather is going all storybook for me this time around.

My place does not look like this...but up the street it does!

– Money has been okay this year. I didn’t have to carefully plan each and every gift according to how many groceries I’d have to knock off the list. I was able to go out and buy exactly what I wanted without a second thought. Which does wonders for those last minute items, especially when Christmas is distressingly close to the rent cheque.

Damn expensive holiday!

And now the big reason:

– I told the Family to fuck off this year. Well not really, but I’ve never enjoyed the whole family holiday thing. And this year I said so.

Last year was a big deal. It was the last year my grandparents would be around before moving to Quebec, and my long lost cousin flew in with his fiancee from Vancouver. So for the first time in….possibly ever, that entire side of the family was together for Christmas. I went, even though I was ridiculously medicated and probably an embarassment. It was a big deal to me, and I went out of my way to get a little something for everybody, even the fiancee I’d never met. This year, I’m doing my own thing.

This year, I am going to a friends house for a Christmas Eve visit with her and the wee ones. I’ll wake up by myself – seriously, how is this some kind of tragedy? I don’t get it. I’m going to make sure I have a super clean kitchen the night before, and will make myself a really nice breakfast with mimosas and eggs florentine. I’ll say Merry Christmas to Josh if he’s around, and then make my way to the same friends house for a big gathering with her and her awesomely Greek family for what she is dubbing “Orphan Christmas.” There will be food, drink, and a related assortment of merriment. And since they’re Greek there will be more festivities for Orthodox Christmas later on. I’ll see my actual family in small, quiet doses on Boxing Day.

It’s not that I don’t like my family. I just don’t understand why every year we all rush through our Christmas mornings to haul our asses out to the suburbs in ridiculous holiday traffic to get to The Big Family Event by 2pm. Everyone bitches every year because the same aunt/uncle always show up late. I adore this aunt/uncle because they do their holidays their way. They open their gifts slowly and take the time to appreciate them, and show up to The Big Family Event when it suits them. The rest of us are usually in mid-crisis by this point. There is screaming and frantic organizing, paper thrown to and fro, gifts exchanged between cousins who don’t even know each other in ‘real life’. Food shovelled onto plates. I usually fill up on carrots and potatos. Every year I leave exhausted, cranky, shaky, carrying buckets of stuff that someone less fortunate could use far more than I, and I usually don’t remember who got me what. Then we all drive further into the frozen suburbs to visit even more extended family and stand around awkwardly. Everyone else seems to know how to do this, but I’m still lacking the ability to care about people I only see once a year. So I leave even more cranky, sleep deprived, with the general feeling of having been poked and prodded unpleasantly, and the lingering fear of “am I the only one who doesn’t know how to do this shit?” I do not enjoy these excursions.

Like this but with more panic and no Cousin Eddie

Also, I know you don’t really have to be religious these days, but what is this need to cram ourselves together in a room to celebrate what amounts to not much more than a giant shopping spree?

a christmas exegesis

As far as I’m concerned, if you’re not into the religious aspect of it, then the spirit of Christmas is more about little kids. Seeing them get all excited, hear stories about reindeer and gingerbread things. I’ve got one age-appropriate cousin that I never see, and all other cousins/siblings/etc. are well past the age of Santa. So I don’t see the point, especially when the little one has no idea who I am. My friends kids, on the other hand, run to the door when I visit! “Auntie Em, yaaaaay!!!” I am so all about that this year.

So!

I’m thinking that Christmas and winter in general is stressing me out far less this year because I finally feel like a grown up. I’ve got my shit together, I know what I’m doing, and I’m not overly concerned with how I’m expected to celebrate. I’ve got awesome friends this year and an awesome boyfriend next year (and this year, but especially next year.) The coming months are already filled with plans of adventure and I’m really looking forward to it. 2008 started off a bit rough but is ending fantastically. 2009 should kick even further ass.

I’ll see y’all there! And until then, I’m going to keep doing it my way.