Friday, August 7, 2009

my "coming home" to Newfoundland

One of the difficult aspects about growing up in southern Ontario is grappling with what some have referred to as the Canadian identity crisis. Endless books, blogs, essays (including this one) have been devoted to lamenting "just what exactly is a Canadian?"

There are some groups of people for whom this is not a problem: the Québécois is one of the more obvious that comes to mind. I would also imagine that different First Nations groups, such as the Inuit, don't really struggle with the Canadian identity either. This is because identity, to these folk, is attached to the Québécois and Inuit cultures, and not to an ethereal "Canadianness." What Canadians don't realise is that each of these are our cultures. Canadians should not be defined by qualities common to all citizens; Canadians should be defined by the celebration of the multitude of subcultures within our national borders.

Newfoundland is home to another subculture that emerged from a province late in joining Confederation (not "being Canadian" is still well within living memory), as well as a province that is removed, both geographically and (I think as a result) metaphysically. This relative isolation, alongside the special relationship Newfoundlanders have with the sea, fostered an intense amount of community-building and island-specific culture that survives to this day. Some examples I witnessed first hand on my recent visit:
  • an entire room will slowly tap their feet to a rousing mandolin performance
  • the colourful local language and turns of phrase
  • the flying of the "pink, white and green," the unofficial flag of Newfoundland
  • fishermen will hum along with the traditional songs that they can hear coming over the water
  • the art and crafts (even some of the local, non-tourist work) that reflects iconic Newfoundland images
  • the deep desire to "come home" back to Newfoundland after any time away on the mainland

So in response to that lack-of-identity instilled upon me in southern Ontario, I find myself compellingly drawn to Newfoundland because I'm discovering what I consider to be a piece of my Canadian identity. This was only my second visit, but I'm already looking forward to my next chance to "come home."

Monday, August 3, 2009


I've kind of disappeared, didn't I? And to tell you the truth, I'm not really sure when I'm going to be coming back. The thing is I'm no longer enamoured with this "daily" thing. It has lost its sincerity. But I *do* have things I want to tell you, about the people I've seen and the places I've been, and there *are* thoughts in my head that I would love to get out; I'm just currently struggling with the process of expressing myself.

So really what I'm saying is: I think there is more to come (less often, more substance). But when, I'm not so sure. Hopefully you'll still be around.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Toronto skyline (east view)

Toronto, I love you.

CONSUMED: 333 Adelaide St East; Moss Park

Thursday, July 9, 2009

photo/art by Thomas Allen

I know you've seen his work: vintage paperback covers X-acto knifed into melodramatic dioramas. I've been seeing them all over the place (here, here and most recently here). It was showing up so often that I became worried that someone was stealing his bit. But no no, it's all him. If I had the money, I would definitely purchase one of his stunning prints. In the meantime, I'll resign myself to lusting over my pirated self-made desktop wallpapers.

CONSUMED: various media, including the covers for (a) Laura Rider's Masterpiece by Jane Hamilton, (b) the May 2009 issue of the Walrus Magazine, and (c) Born Ruffians' most recent album Red Yellow & Blue

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Delancey "bike bus"

When my rear axle broke, that incredibly unlikely accident, it happened when I was coming down off the Williamsburg Bridge in the middle of Delancey. Thank goodness it happened when the traffic behind me had stopped, and not as I was dodging cars. The thing is there isn't a bike lane on Delancey, a straight and speedy through-fare that delivers Brooklynites into lower Manhattan. WIthout this little piece of infrastructure, cyclists are forced to weave in and out of the cacophonous car traffic coming off the bridge.

It was this, as well as hearing other less adventurous riders express their hesitation in riding in Manhattan, that got me riled up for this very simple demonstration organised by Marin with Transportation Alternatives. We started at the corner of Chrystie and Delancey, and once we had the light, we rode as a pack (aka a "bike bus") into the centre lane, where we coasted all the way down Delancey to the entrance to the bridge.

To our surprise, no one honked, the officers directing traffic smiled at us (we obeyed all traffic lights), and we picked up a few commuters here and there and escorted them to their destination. It was a really fun and positive awareness action, and I really wished I had more Monday evenings to contribute.

CONUSMED: Delancey Avenue, between Chrystie and the Williamsburg Bridge (Manhattan)


If you want to get involved, they are doing it the 1st and 3rd Mondays of the months in the summer. Just show up at the corner of Delancey and Chrystie at 6pm of afterwards. You can also in touch with Transportation Alternatives for more info.