Category Archives: Vacation
We had the good fortune of being in Toronto during the Toronto Fringe Festival. Several shows piqued my interest. The horror fan in me was tempted to Ask Lovecraft for advice. The comedy lover wanted to find out what would happen when/if Margaret Flatwood ever showed up.
Instead, we opted for What Mama Said About Down There and Andy Warhol Presents: Valerie.
What Mama Said About Down There is a one woman show performed by Sia Amma about what mothers tell their daughters about that mysterious place guarded by strong, unyielding granny panties (if you are a good girl).
From a Jewish woman recounting her hygiene journey (t’is funny) to a young African girl eager to go through a community ritual to become a woman (t’is dramatic), Sia Amma plays a wide range of characters and transformed into them easily with only a chair, a scarf and her fabulous dress for props.
In addition to being a playwright and a singer, Sia Amma is the CEO of Global Women Intact, “a non-profit 501(c)3 organization, dedicated to eliminating female circumcision and genital mutilation customs in Africa through education.” She uses her performances (solo and with The Voice of Africa) to raise money for GWI.
It was a great show.
And now, for something completely different…
Here’s the premise behind Andy Warhol Presents: Valerie – it’s 1968 and Andy Warhol is throwing a party in honor of his friend (protege? lover?) Valerie Solanas. When Andy offends her, the girly dress comes off, the combat boots go on and the party really gets started.
What was unique about this performance was that there was no stage–audience members are actually party guest and intermingle freely with each other and the cast. There was a snack table (Doritos for everyone!) and we played a variety of party games while waiting for the woman of the hour to arrive. At one point, Andy gave me a kiss (of the Hershey’s variety).
When an angry Valerie launched into her SCUM Manifesto, a few men got their feather’s ruffled…eh, whatever. History repeated itself–Valerie shot Andy. This time around, I was on hand to take a picture:
Fail Better Theatre will bring Andy Warhol Presents: Valerie to other festivals. I hope a performance in the US is on the horizon.
It turns out that I can still Ask Lovecraft a question or browse through those he’s already answered on Youtube. On this channel, the “celebrated and dead author HP Lovecraft offers his advice on such diverse topics as love, finance, cooking, and personal hygiene.” He’s been asked about everything from Miskatonic University to the Wu-Tang Clan.
Here’s HP’s advice for handling criticism:
We didn’t know it ahead of time but our Toronto visit coincided with Summerlicious – a two week special promotion where participating restaurants have discounted, prix-fixe lunch and dinner menus. (not including drinks, gratuity, etc)
In other words–cheap eats!
Okay, not really that cheap, but I digress. We tried three Summerlicious restaurants…
From our table, we had a close up view of Ganesha’s behind. This was not a good omen. The best parts of the meal were the very beginning (sun-dried tomato goat cheese stuffed whole wheat bread) and the end (strawberry kulfi in a chocolate cup).
Luma is located in the Tiff Bell Lightbox – where we saw the Queer Outlaw Exhibit. Dinner here was a very nice. I started with a fantastic soup–chilled cucumber and coconut soup (with Jonah crab, chili mint crème fraîche and toasted coconut).
My main dish was spiced roasted chicken supreme (with collard greens, birch-baked beans, cheddar biscuit and red-eye gravy). The chicken itself was great. Say no the the cheddar biscuit. NO. Everything else was okay… I didn’t take a photo but I’ll try to paint a picture for you. Imagine an empty plate. Now, put three or four tablespoons of Bush’s baked beans with chunks of maple flavored bacon on it. Toss a couple of pieces of wilted collard greens on top of it. The chicken goes on top of the greens and pour the pan drippins from the chicken on top.
For dessert: ontario stilton with niagara plum compote and spiced oat crumble. I have to give Luma props for including an after dinner treat that wasn’t sugar overload. How did I eat it? Take a forkful of the savory stilton (blue cheese) dip it in the tart plum compote and then roll it in the slightly sweetened crumble. I smile just thinking about it.
The Shore Club was awesome.
Short Rib Agnolotti (Stilton, Shiitake Mushrooms, Leeks, Red Wine Jus) – this was basically rib dumplings filled with tasty goodness. The grilled New York Striploin with sweet pepper chimichurri was tender and flavorful. I originally turned down dessert (sigh, no sorbet or cake for me) and would have been fine with that. Our waiter showed up with a bowl full of berries for me–even though it wasn’t part of the Summerlicious menu.
Martina started with the grilled calamari and had the pan seared atlantic salmon with citrus passion fruit emulsion. Everything was good and we paid a 2nd visit to the Shore Club.
Also had good experience at two non-Summerlicious restaurants:
Chez Cora – which is an Ihop like restaurant chain. Think crepes and fresh fruit instead of pancakes and sausage.
Yuzu No Hana – M was extremely pleased with the sushi here.
Had a relaxing week in Toronto and spent a lot of time looking at the skyline, water and sunsets.
Featuring Derek Jarman, Isaac Julien, Scott Treleaven, Ulrike Ottinger and Bruce LaBruce.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the death of Derek Jarman, a British filmmaker, artist and activist who was outspoken in his fight against the (anti-gay, etc) policies of Margaret Thatcher. The exhibition features one of his super 8/experimental films, Imagining October— a dreamlike meditation on art and politics in the final years of the Cold War.
Imaging October is a mixture of images and film clips interspersed with politically tinged slogans. For example:
English bobbies in the street
protect the rights of them they beat.
Dungeness by Isaac Julien and Picture Yourself In A Burning Building by Scott Treleaven were inspired by Jarman’s technique (tributes to him, really) but, for me, lacked the “rebel” edge of the other exhibits. Both Julien and Treleaven have done work which would have better fit an outlaw narrative.
The best part of QOC was being introduced to the work of Ulrike Ottinger. First we saw a short film, Superbia – The Pride (1986) – a political procession that is part parade, part military exercise and all corruption. One of my favorite (translated, of course) lines: “Only the banks can survive hari-kari.”
Inspired by Virginia Wolff’s Orlando, Freak Orlando traces the journey of the main character’s reincarnation and transformation through 5 points in history. There are lots o’ themes present:
- Outsider as side show attraction, for the amusement of others
- Outsiders relegated to a certain place in society or face destruction if they refuse to play the role.
- The attempt to annihilate outsiders through assimilation
- Outsiders living together in community–you’d think it would be a paradise but the effect of repression/suppression is there (with a tip of the hat to Todd Browning’s Freaks).
- What does it mean to be accepted/integrated into society if it’s the same establishment (who is still making the rules). Even in “freak positive” world the deck is still rigged…
- And lot’s more- sacred shopping! the bearded woman nailed to the cross! the self-flagellating army of leather clad Tom of Finland types! Outlaw beard stroking!
- This movie is just ripe for film analysis/social commentary essays.
We had no problem with the content, but we had spent so much time with the Ottinger rooms we were ready for dinner. 🙂
I thought I would give a play by play of my vacation via twitter. Then, I discovered that internet access on the cruise ship was 40 cents a minute. I went no where near twitter and only slipped online occasionally to download email. Instead, I jotted down a few thoughts here and there. So, I present to you, the tweets that could have been…
I look kinda sharp in a hat. Maybe a black fedora is next.
This deck is nice. Great view without leaving the room.
An in-room espresso machine. All caffeine all the time!
Two bathrooms! And M has claimed the big, roomy one-with shower and bath tub.
Yeah, two hours on the ship and we’ve already gotten the questions–are you two sisters? cousins? etc? I’m just introducing M as my wife from jump.
Tip: When you meet a gay/lesbian couple there’s no need to immediately launch into your political positions on lbgtq issues. When you met a hetero, interracial couple – do you go into how much you agree with Loving vs. Virginia? Just smile and say nice to meet you.
The Breakaway is huge. By the time I make it to the gym, I’ll have had my workout.
So much food…everywhere.
I spent $69 on a bingo package and won 3 bucks! Whoo!
Internet is how much on board? No. Okay, maybe a minute or 2 every now and then.
Acupuncture and Botox at sea? No thank you.
An easy listening version of Let’s Get It on is a bad idea. It should be a crime to strip the soul from soul music.
Friends of Dorothy is the daily meet up event for lgbtq people. It is such an out dated term–would young people even get the reference? Hint: not a reference to Golden Girls.
Ocean Blue is the best specialty restaurant here–hands down. However, this place could use a soul food spot. They’d have to market it as southern cuisine instead of soul food though.
Lemon sorbet drizzled with honey makes my tongue happy.
So…rum swizzle is THE official drink of Bermuda?
Editing on the beach: 1) Recline in beach chair, with bottle of water at your side. 2) Mark up a few pages. 3) Put manuscript aside, go stand in clear blue water. 4) Watch fish swim around knees. 4) Avoid stepping on snorkling pre-schoolers. 5) Repeat steps 1-4.
We were almost impaled by a runaway, wind propelled beach umbrella. I look up from my manuscript and it’s tumbling straight for us. Like an action hero, I reach out with one hand and grasp the harpoon-like wooden pole as it bears down on us.
After a morning at the beach, I am 50 shades of chocolate.
According to our tour guide/taxi driver, there are a lot of new condos being built even though there are still a lot of condos sitting around empty. Who can afford the million or so for a beach front shoe box?
Took a glass bottom boat tour of the Bermuda Triangle. Saw fish and a shipwreck.
Internet Break: Paula Deen? Slave Waiters? Stop and Fricassee? What the hell?
For the Name That Tune game, a young man did not recognize the opening horns of Celebration by Kool and The Gang. His parental units have failed him.
Had a couple of samples from the Bermuda Rum Cake Company and broke out in a sweat. Rum and Ginger cake is good stuff!
None of the excursions offered actually dealt with the history/culture of Bermuda. Scenic tours and beaches… I happened upon a postcard of Gombey dancers when I was buying post cards. We’ll have to go back–fly over next time–and carve out our own agenda.
The Asian Art Museum in SF is free on the first Sunday of the month–so I had to go. Taking pictures here convinced me that I need to bite the bullet and buy a new camera–this old iPhone can only do so much. So, I only took a few pics. Here are some of the highlights.
The museum is huge. They recommend that you start on the third floor and work your way back down to the main level. As the escalator reaches the third floor, you are met by a statue of the Hindu deity Ganesha. This gives visitors the chance to acknowledge/pay tribute before beginning your tour of the exhibits. There is a slot where you can leave an offering/donation — and a sign asking that people not put candles or other offerings on the statue itself.
The challenge of going to a museum–or exploring any kind of history, really–is remembering that you are not getting the point of view of the people from that time period. The information you are getting has been filtered through the education and biases of many others before it finds it’s way to your little gray cells. It would be nice if tidbits that were displayed nonchalantly as facts had an * to let you know a particular point has other interpretations.
This piece depicts the Hindu deities Shiva and Parvati (sometimes called Shakti) combined as the androgynous deity Ardhanarishvara. There are several different stories of how Ardhanarishvara came to be (many can be found here) which allows for many interpretations. As far as religion is concerned, I think seeing the masculine and feminine displayed together in a divine image underscores the importance of both of them within humans.
This is the Buddhist deity Simhavaktra Dakini, an enlightened goddess of the Gelug order of Tibetan Buddhism who clears obstacles from the paths of those who seek enlightenment and provides inspiration and knowledge. (Unfortunately, I couldn’t find much information outside of the museum’s own website.)
The placard in the museum describes the deity this way:
Her hair blazes upward with the fire of wisdom.
Her lion head indicates fearlessness in confronting all obstacles to liberation.
Her cape is made of freshly flayed human skin, signifying her transcendence of the limitations of the human condition.
The bone ornaments on her chest indicate that she has passed beyond the cycles of birth and death.
The tiger skin around her waist symbolizes victory over all harmful passions and deeds.
However, in the text on the museum’s website, the cape around her shoulders is said to be the skin from a demon. (If you listen to the audio on that page, the narrator sticks to the description in the museum.) I should mention that the museum provides (for free) and audio/video player that contains additional information about several exhibits.
Yesterday’s every day items is today’s art. This case contains a collection of snuff bottles. Below are some pieces close up.
Centuries from now, will the beings who interpret our culture think of mobile phones (and their various incarnations) as art to be displayed in fancy cases protected by flesh burning lasers? We have all of this digital documentation but what if all of our currently languages pass away–or get translated through the biases of entities without human experience? Oh well, nothing we can do about it if that does happen.
A couple of days ago, we met up with our friend Skye and went to Tomales Bay State Park. On the way, we saw lots of dairy farms, sheep, discussed “winter” in California, saw lots of lush landscapes and talked about Hitchcock’s The Birds.
We ended up eating at a place called Nick’s Cove. The decor was mixed – on one hand, there was the seaside motif . However, inside the restaurant, there were mounted moose heads. The food was extremely good though. if you like, you can eat inside the restaurant or take your food to a shack in the back. The shack has it’s own stove and a pitcher of water ready for anyone who wanders back there.
Also, there were a couple of artifacts around that–if you didn’t know any better–gave the area the look of long abandoned town.
This is me being silly (pretending to be a character in a horror movie who found the wrong phone booth…):
Day 1 in San Fran saw us waking up at 4am. Since stores/shops/attractions don’t open before 10 am we had a lot of time on our hands. Catching up with email, reading the news and just hanging out lead to us drinking lots and lots of coffee.
We had three or four cups before leaving the hotel–that’s not counting the latte from Starbucks. We took a walk up to Chinatown–looking in shop windows on our way. One place did catch our attention: the New Nespresso cafe in Union Square.
In a town with a Starbucks or a Peet’s Coffee on every corner, who needs another cafe? Turns out, the Nespresso Cafe was awesome. It’s basically a showroom for the Nespresso machine where you can have light fare while sipping on their fine espresso..and perhaps be enticed to buy a machine yourself.
So, you know we had to try it. Cafe Americano for me and a double espresso for M.
Also, we finally got around to seeing the movie Lincoln. There were no zombies, werewolves or killer turkeys–so I was skeptical going in. Turned out to be a great movie worthy of all of the accolades and hosannas it’s been getting. I’ll do a separate review of that experience. Here’s the conversation M and I had afterwards–
M: Well, we’ve been emancipated.
Me: It was touch and go there for a minute. I wasn’t sure the 13th amendment was going to pass.*
M: Now, to find the restroom.
Me: Don’t get ahead of yourself. We’re only equal before the law. It will take another movie or two before we can use public restrooms.
Before Lincoln started, we saw a special promo for Bates Motel – a new dramatic series on A&E. It’s a re-imagining of the relationship between a teenage Norman Bates and his mother but it’s set in modern times. I suppose it’s like Smallville but the premise is the making of a serial killer. I’m not thrilled about the modern setting (do we want to see a teenage Norman at a rave?) but I hope it’s successful.
Afterward, we had dinner at Straits – a Singapore Restaurant and Lounge. The food was only okay. The service was meh. Even if a place has great food, service has a great impact on a meal. For example, they didn’t bring out both appetizers together–one came out with our main dishes. While M’s main meal was sizzling hot, mine was only luke warm. Also, the waitress who came to get our drink order–only asked M. For a moment, I thought I was wearing The Ring and had turned invisible. When I was finally able to order a drink… Let’s just say the tea was not worth $4.50.
We ended the evening at a nightcap in a bar that overlooked the city. None of the pictures I took do it justice.
We are staying in the house once owned by Hungarian painter Eva De Nagy and it contains several of her pieces. This one is called Five Were Wise And Five Were Foolish and is based on the Parable of the 10 Virgins. To summarize the parable, 10 virgins were invited to a wedding party and were waiting for the bridegroom to arrive. The Five Wise Virgins had oil in their lamps, the Five Foolish Virgins had lamps but didn’t bring any oil. When the bridegroom shows up, everyone is supposed to light their lamps and join the procession. Guess who couldn’t light their lamps–and got shut out of the party?
In the painting (as in the parable), the five foolish virgins are hoping that they can share the oil/light of the five wise virgins but it’s impossible. It’s a warning for people who only pretend to be waiting for the bridegroom (Jesus): you can only get away with looking the part for so long…
The majority of the paintings here are religious images or depict fishermen in their daily activities. For example:
The painting on the left is Our Daily Bread. I didn’t see a title for the fisherman on the right, but isn’t he giving a Ben Willis vibe?
Oh, and here is the obligatory shot of the beach:
Past couple of months have been extremely stressful. M was extremely loving and patient. When the world is trying you, it’s nice to have someone on your side. But I’m on vacation now and it’s time to let all of it go.
I’ll catch up on my reading – I got a galley copy of Stories From Jonestown. Finish the Art of Murder series and start Sherlock vs Jack the Ripper or take The Journey Down. Maybe I’ll put shorts on and walk out into the water until it kisses my knees. Take in a movie or two.
This painting is in the living room of our summer rental. It is beautiful.
This relaxing thing may be easier than I thought.
What we did/saw/learned:
- saw an eagles’ nest
- played Bingo – won some cool cash; did not get the $10,000 jackpot
- ate fancy cheese with basalmic vinegar and honey
- witnessed a lot of ear-killing Karaoke
- participated in a group game of ear-killing Karaoke
- saw Dora the explorer and Diego. Did not see Sponge Bob or Patrick, though they were rumored to be around.
- saw a Star Trek Exhibit
- let a small bird eat a slice of apple from my hand
- learned what ammolite is
- saw lots of on-ship commercials for botox (Fine Lines and wrinkles on the face are horrible, terrible things that must be fiercely combated with Cosmetic Enhancement.)
- learned that duty free liquor is cheap! (to bad we don’t drink)
Video of Eagles’ nest hastily taken from Kennedy Center tour bus: