Monday, August 23, 2010


I. Love. Montreal.

The only two complaints I have about the whole city:

1. The roads are no joke. They will eat you alive.
2. Everything's closed by 5:00 in the evening.

But everything else is pretty cherry. It's such a cool city. I'd describe it as a mix of Europe and New York. It's kinda grimy and visceral like New York, but it's got a modern cobblestone feel to it too. Plus the people here are incredibly friendly and genuine.

We got here last Thursday after about a 12 hour drive. We didn't do much the first night other than stop by Subway for dinner. We all crashed pretty early.

Friday, we walked around the Latin Quarter during the early afternoon and ate lunch at a cafe called Julienne & Chocolate. First good choice of the day. Mary Alice got the biggest Nutella crepe I've ever seen in my life and the rest of the food was ex-ce-llent. After lunch we headed over towards the Quays by the waterfront- which is gorgeous. We stopped to watch a crazy street performer for about 30 minutes. Second good choice of the day. The man was literally crazy- walking on razor sharp knives, lying on nails, juggling fire, eating fire, juggling knives, whipping cigarettes in his mouth in half. Crazy. After that we walked around the streets for a bit looking at shops. It felt a lot like Soho, but...if Soho were in Italy or something. I wish we could've stayed there longer. There were so many cool shops and performers and restaurants to see. That night we went to see the Russian Cozack dancers at Place Des Arts. The dancers were abso-friggin-lutely incredible. They were doing stunts and kicks I didn't think were humanly possible without a trampoline. Or a lot of vodka.

Saturday, we spent some time in Old Montreal. We ate lunch at a Spanish restaurant called Koka Loka. Mom got chocolate chicken, I got mango Salmon, Mary Alice got Cajun steak, and Lark got a salad. After lunch, though, is where it got ugly. We stopped by this place filled with dried/ yogurt-covered/ chocolate-covered fruits and nuts, with a million types of candy and cookies. We walked out of that place happy. OH BUT WAIT, then we went to this bagel shoppe that Mom read about in one of her travel books. We got some bagels and a slice of cake, all of which were delicious. AND THEN we stopped by a bakery that Mom had heard about from my Aunt. We got chocolate croissants, fruit tarts, some chocolate cake, probably a million other things that I've blocked out of my memory...and then we just sort of sat there and gormandized. It was a feast that will never be repeated, for my stomach's sake. After that we walked town and visited a few cool stores- some clothing stores and a record store (with a row filled with about 80 Frank Zappa records and a section dedicated to eight-tracks). After all that we walked through Parc de Montreal and ended at the top of the city with an amazing view. The whole day was pretty perfect. It was cloudy and drizzly which added another dimension to the city. It made it feel a whole lot more whole, and a little more gothic. I like walking around rainy cities in general, but Montreal looked particularly cool.

Sunday we stopped by Notre Dame which was breath-taking. That sounds cheesy, but there really is no other phrase to describe it. It's huge and open and dark and warm and intricate and inspiring and classic and bold and humbling all at the same time. Afterwards we went to a Greek restaurant for lunch. It was probably my favorite meal of the whole trip (so far)- Souvlaki, Poutine, and Baklava. Plus the woman who owned the restaurant. She was exactly how I pictured a Greek grandma- constantly offering us food, making sure we were well taken care of, complimenting us and talking about how important family is. She came from Mount Olympus, Greece to Montreal when she was about 20 and started her restaurant with her two daughters thinking she would make enough to go back to Greece one day. She was a truly lovely person- you could taste it. After lunch we stopped by a small gallery for Jenny Holtzer. It was pretty interesting- it centered on Iraq and Guantanamo Bay. She's got a wicked aesthetic, and definitely knows how to get her point across. Check her out. From there we went to Montreal's Science museum and then back home where we crashed for the rest of the day.

Monday, we stopped by the Musee Des Beaux Art. They've got an exhibit on Miles Davis that I've been dying to see for a while. Surprise! It was closed. So now we gotta wait until Wednesday. We got to see the outside of the museum though...which was pretty cool? From there we stopped by the Biosphere on Jean Drapier, an island off of the shoreline. We learned allllllll about pollinators, water conservation, and toxic chemicals. C'etait hyper bien! The rest of the day was spent on the Subway, which is my favorite part of the city. They're a whole lot cleaner than New York's, and more substantial than D.C's Metro system. It's like a whole other city. They've also got a lot of talent down there. I think I've spent more money on Subway street performers than in actual stores. Today we walked by a man playing the most hauntingly beautiful Japanese instrument. It echoed through all the corridors or the station. It actually made it feel a lot like Tokyo felt- not that I remember it too well, but I remember how it felt.

Crashing again. Seacrest out.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Good Vibrations

Good things:

1. I have 1,500 new songs in my iTunes library courtesy of Taylor, with more to come. My favorites so far (new stuff and old favorites)- Atlas Sound, Yo La Tengo, Lee Perry, No Age, Animal Collective, The Eels, Ruby Suns, Wilco, Lou Reed, Jack White, Son House, Khonner, Dan Auerbach, and I rediscovered "My Darling" by Wilco. Mmmm....

2. Doing the dishes- Makes me feel at home faster than anything else can.

4. The Road- Still reading it, still loving it.

5. The gym- Treadmill, I missed you.

6. Giant runs- Mary Alice and I went last night and bought literally everything we wanted. I felt like a kid in a candy (grocery) store.

7. Humidity- This one borders on being a bad thing, but since I've been home I haven't even touched lotion, and my hair is silky AND manageable.

8. Forever 21 men's section- Who knew?

9. Canada is the new Europe- The fam decided not to go to Europe and decided to go to Montreal instead. We were disappointed at first, but whatcha gonna do? I've never been to Canada, and I still get to practice French, AND Montreal is gorgeous.

10. Paul Simon- I love, love, love Paul Simon. Ever since I was a kid, he's been one of my favorite singers. Every time I listen to him I'm instantly 10 times happier than before I pressed play.

11. New albums- Arcade Fire's new album is pretty darn catchy and Weezer's coming out with Hurley on September 14th- which means my crushes on Rivers Cuomo and Scott Shriner are back in full effect.

12. September 2nd- 4 days in Los Angeles with muh BFF. I'm really not seeing any down-side here.

13. Time- I got a lot of it. And it's free.

14. Fall semester- I worked out my class/work schedule for Fall semester, and I'm pretty psyched for it. Online classes are the best thing choice I've ever made.

15. S'all good.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Have you read the red book?

I don't even know why I'm writing this right now. I'm completely and totally exhausted. Literally ever part of me is tired, and knowing that this week is gonna be crazy is making it worse.

We (the fam and I) got home around 5:30 this morning from Utah. I've never been more glad to get out of a car in my life. We've driven from Utah to Virginia before, but it's never been 5 of us in a Toyota Corolla. Looking at cars makes me want to hurl. Waynes World- style.

It wasn't all bad. I got a lot of reading in, which felt so good. The past few weeks, actually, I've been able to read some good stuff. Some of it for school, some of it for myself, some of it at the recommendations of others.

I finished The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz which was lent to me almost 3 weeks ago. It's a crazy book, but I highly recommend it. I didn't know what to expect when I first started reading it, other than a brief synopsis from the lender, and I think that's part of what made it so crazy. The way Diaz tells the story is so captivating. He has this insane voice and an incredible combination of storytelling techniques that make the novel like nothing you've ever read. At the same time, though, while you're reading it it's so obvious that that's how the story had to be told. And the ending, oh my gosh, the ending. I re-read the last section of the book maybe 10 times. I won't quote it or spoil it. It has to be read with the rest of the book. Anyways, it's a crazy, bombastic, ghetto-fabulous kegger of a book.**

** Credit goes to Jeff for recommending it. For future reference, if Jeff White tells you to read a book (or really, if he tells you to do anything), read (or do) it. It will probably change your life.

In other news, I started reading Cormac McCarthy's The Road. I've seen the movie and I've been told by tons of people (including Mr. Jeff White) that I've "got to read this book" for something like 3 months, but I've never had time to read it until now. About 5 days ago I got an email from my English 495 teacher with a list of suggested reading for a future project and it included The Road, so it's now school reading. I started it Wednesday night around 11:00 and couldn't stop. With all my notes, though, I only got through about 50 pages. Looking back, I'm glad I saw the movie first; it's helped to keep the story more fluid. So far I love it and I'm pretty psyched to write about it. The way Cormac McCarthy writes is surprisingly simplistic. When I say simplistic, I don't, by any means, mean 'simple,' I mean he doesn't add flourishes to everything, which I like. Every once in a while, though, he throws in a sentence that blows my mind- partially because it's so profound and partially because he has a way of deriving totally abstract concepts from really simple actions/situations**

** I'm not explaining it as well as I wish I could. The man is a genius, I'm not.

Also on the list of books is A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers. I've been a fan of Dave Eggers for a little bit. I fell in love with his short stories a while back, but lack of time/life kept me from reading any of his longer stuff. I attempted starting the book last Summer before I left for school, but only got about 25 pages in before I had to start reading textbooks again. Picking it back up again (again, because of Jeff) was one of the best things I did all semester. Dave Eggers has, in my extremely limited opinion, one of the best voices as an author that I've ever read. He's really clear about his intentions as far as what he wants you to get out of what he's writing, and sort of shoves it down your throat, but in a good way. Reading him is like getting into a heated discussion with someone, and having them get louder and louder as they make their point. He's also got a really solid way of balancing the 'heavy' with humor. Parts of the book are heartbreaking, and other parts made me laugh out loud (not small guffs of suppressed laughter either, we're talking laugh-ter). Anyways, if you're looking for a mini journey/wake up call, read it.

This semester I got to read a lot of Russian literature for one of my classes. I've always like Russian history, so getting the chance to read the literature was pretty exciting. We read stuff from Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Gogol, Lermontov, Chekhov, etc. There were a few highlights here and there, but my favorite pieces ended up being Chekhov's short stories. I don't know why I'd never read them before, or why they're not more widely-read in America. The man had a wicked sense of humor, and an even more wicked sense of suffering. My favorite of his stories is one called Misery. Without giving too much away, it's about a coach driver who's son has just passed away, and all he wants to do is talk about it. It's a perfect story. Period.

Right now I'm in the middle of Reading Lolita in Tehran. I'm about half-way through it, and I haven't really formed an opinion on it yet, partially because I've ended up breaking up my reading of it over the course of about 3 months now. It's got a lot of historical/ cultural background on the Middle East, though, which is pretty tight. Ever since Dad started working in Iraq I've wanted to learn as much as I can about the Middle East. Even if the book itself weren't amazing, I think getting a glimpse at the Islamic point of view of certain issues would be worth it.

Next on the list:

In the Name of Honor- Mukhtar Mai (look her up)
Things Fall Apart- Chinua Achebe
Half the Sky: Nicholas Kristof
My Name is Asher Lev- Chaim Potok
Life of Pi- Yann Martel
This is Your Brain on Music- Daniel J. Levitin
The White Album- Joan Didion
The Shipping News- Annie Proulx

Anycrap. That's all I got.

Reading's pretty cool, kids. A-wink.