Paris on my mind

Eiffel Tower and Carousel
Photo by Sean X Liu,  CC BY 2.0

I’ve had Paris on my mind. Two serendipitous but separate events have sparked a sudden Parisian joie de vivre.

It started last week with a midday Facebook drive-by. My favourite discount travel blog sounded the alarm: $286 non-stop round trips from Toronto to Paris. An obvious pricing error.

Paris is always a good idea.

– Audrey Hepburn

Suffice it to say, this news short-circuited my wiring. Palms were sweaty. Emergency texts were sent. In true ride-or-die fashion (a title reserved for only my closest friends), it took  just 12 minutes to book a springtime rendez-vous in the city of lights with one of my best friends, Meghan. Not five minutes after that, the pricing error was corrected. Thank you social media!

The Facebook community later confirmed that Air Canada, in their infinite wisdom and generosity, decided to honour the rock-bottom price.  YES!

Tweet: I don't often do irresponsible things, but when I do I make sure it involves Paris
Processing the gravity of quickly-made decisions

While I have a bit of saving to do, I am thrilled to say my next Parisian adventure is officially in the books for April 3-11. Watch out!

Paris on the Street of the Toronto

A week before I ever thought I’d need my passport, I had just wrapped up a French mini-adventure a bit closer to home. How, you ask? A happenstance trip to Toronto’s premier purveyor of Parisian fashions, Canon-Blanc.

Located just west of the intersection of Bathurst and Queen, I’d passed this place many times before – it’s been around since 2012 – but foolishly never stepped in. This effortlessly chic boutique stocks  pieces that radiate the core principles of French fashion: simple elegance, quality craftsmanship  and an inimitable attention to detail. Unfortunately, my current budget ($0) does not allow for the purchase of investment pieces but luckily they do carry a bit of something for everyone in the form of Macon et Lesquoy pins, patches and accessories.

Macon et Lesquoy pins, patches and accessories
Yearning to collect them all

Macon et Lesquoy are a French female design duo who seemingly live by the Unix Philosophy of do one thing and do it well. They took the exceptionally elegant -if staid – art of military embroidery and enhanced it with their own colourful pop-art designs.  Their charming bijoux bordés range the gamut of cheeky to cheerful and never fail to please. Shop co-owner Matéo Masquelier informed me that the feel-good factor doesn’t end there.  The ladies of Macon et Lesquoy also make sure their goods are ethically made (one of the operating principles of Canon-Blanc) and work with a women’s collective in Pakistan to produce these alluring art objects in a Fair Trade environment.

Needless to say, I was sold. I welcomed a new pin into my life: a regal tiger in gold.

Silver Tiger Pin, Macon et Lesquoy
Photo via Macon et Lesquoy’s Blog

Incidentally, this pin was born from a collaboration with dream Parisian stationary store, Papier Tigre. Clearly, my mind was already Paris on Paris on Paris. Should you be feeling the same, I suggest you take a trip to one of Canon Blanc’s two locations or browse from the comfort of your own living room at http://www.canon-blanc.com/.

Going to Paris soon or know of I place I just shouldn’t miss? Please share your wisdom in the comments below. À bientôt!

A Room of One’s Own

Not quite here yet

Virginia Woolf once famously said that “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” A lot has changed since the early part of the last century, but I’m pretty convinced that to write anything it’s still really important to have your own room. Preferably, a quiet one.

A lot has changed for me since I last checked in.  I remember writing my last blog posts in the wee hours of the morning in the living room of that sacred place across from Trinity Bellwoods park that came to be known as Vidal House (called that in part to mask it’s actual location on Gore Vale Ave – a necessary precaution that can’t be taken too lightly in the internet age – and in part, to honour Gore Vidal, because, well, he was a badass.) It seems so far removed that I have trouble recalling the despair I felt when my bedroom flooded, months later.  Or the incredulity I felt towards the bold mouse who once visited me as I wrote, unafraid.  Or the basement cockroach incidents. But everything in that house, good or bad, felt like a badge of honour that would now read “I was an early-twenties, ungentrified Toronto urbanite and I LIVED.” I had the time of my life. In the last few years (oh lord, YEARS) my life has metamorphosed into full-blown theoretical adulthood.  Vidal House saw some lineup changes and then faded into just a blissful memory (miss you boys!) For almost the last year and a half I’ve been spending long stretches living, both literally and figuratively, at my boyfriend’s house.

Somewhere along the way, however, I finally got a room of my own.  Technically, an apartment, but a bachelor really is just a room.  And it’s all mine.  Although the money part is always precarious and somewhat questionable (student loans and a predilection for clothing will ruin you at any age),  I can presumptively say I’m living the Virginian dream.

So what do I mean to say with all this? I guess the point of all this proselytising is to, one, apologize for being absent all this time and, two, to tell myself, now you really have no excuses.

It’s time to blog.

Loss and the Meaning of Art

Beatrice
Beatrice

I’m finally finishing this blog post. It’s been a year since I lost my childhood dog, Beatrice, to cancer. As with most unpleasant experiences it came with a lesson and I’ve been meaning to publish something about it ever since, but sometimes it’s better to put things on the shelf until you’ve gotten a bit of distance and perspective.

For those of you that have ever euthanized a pet you know the experience is one of intense guilt, sadness, and loss. For 13 years my dog was a dear companion, a great friend and a constant source of wordless, non-judgmental support. In my formative years this unconditional love got me through many life-changing experiences. No, Bea was definitely not human and I’ve been blessed to have escaped that experience thus far, but she certainly taught me some of my most treasured lessons to date about the nature of love.

Now, before I get all crazy dog-lady rest assured this post isn’t intended to eulogize my dog. No, before Beatrice left she taught me one last thing: she taught me about my relationship with art.

July 2009

My sister had recently moved abroad and my family and I had been back from our visit overseas for barely a  week when I got the request to come home.  The 4 hour train ride from Toronto to Ottawa is no small commute, so I knew “the dog’s really sick” could only mean the worst.  Melodramatic maybe, but I packed black.

As I stared down the barrel of what would inevitably be an extremely uncomfortable journey on public transportation (I’m a crier), I was faced with a rather mundane but uneasy question: What was I going to do during the trip?

Movies might have been a good distraction and maybe I’d be a Rhodes scholar if it wasn’t for my penchant for getting lost in a maze of bad YouTube videos, but I didn’t want to just ignore the situation by loosing myself in something meaningless. This meant something.  It was my first experience with loss and I wanted some comfort and help with my resolve.  So instinctually and without hesitation, I reached for my art books.

My hand immediately drifted to Baroque & Rococo: Art & Culture.  I wasn’t sure why I did that (Rococo especially…not my favourite), but sitting on the train and leafing through the book, one phrase immediately popped into my head: Et in Arcadia Ego.

The Painting

Les Bergers d'Arcadie
Alternate Title: Les Bergers d'Arcadie

My fingers found it easily.  Index > Nicolas Poussin > Page 269. I set my eyes on the famous baroque painting.  The scene is set in Arcadia – the mythical pastoral paradise/idyllic land of endless summer where life is only about simple, fulfilling pleasures. It’s the place you’d want to run away to, especially if you were avoiding something.  But this Arcadian scene is different from most.  A few shepherds are huddled with resigned, contemplative expressions.  They have found a tombstone and one of them is tracing the inscription to make sure he’s understood.  Et in Arcadia Ergo – I too [death] am in Arcadia.

I let it sink in.  Three hundred and seventy years earlier a man put a paintbrush to canvas and created a scene that betrayed the heaviest of realizations – that life simply cannot occur without death.  Even in this fictional garden paradise where life is nothing short of perfect, death is simply inevitable.

If I have ever doubted the adage “a picture is worth a thousand words,” it was gone in that instant.  I sat there, with a few tears running down my cheeks (much to the discomfort of the lady beside me – sorry!), and in a split-second I silently accepted what my next two days was going to bring.  Yes, loss is heartbreaking.  Yes, it was going to hurt even more (oh god, did it ever) – but three hundred and seventy years had gone by since that painting’s creation and the realities of the human condition had not changed.

Grief can make you feel really alone, but staring at that painting gave me a sense of solidarity with this 17th century man from France and in a way, with every single person who came before and after him.  It was my turn to find my tombstone in Arcadia.  If those shepherds could be stoic, maybe I could try to be too.  In the end, neither of us had a choice.

“Paintings with a mood bring us into contact with, and allow us to respond to, other worlds – both those that are inviting and those that are frightening”  (pg. 19 Minor, Baroque & Rococo: Art & Culture)

Looking back on that moment, a year later, I finally learned what art and visual culture is (to me at least).  It’s learning what it is to be human.  From the noblest thoughts to the most frivolous trivialities, art is the ability to transcend the boundaries of space and time and step into those ideas or emotions in someone else’s head. It’s not constrained by words, it’s not roped in by reality.  Heck, it can even be just a line of colour.  But in it, you can find solidarity and strength when you need it, or a challenging dialogue, or sometimes even just find yourself supremely bored.  For me, art is a community where you are never alone and you’re always a glance away from going somewhere you’ve never dreamed of being.

In the end, nothing can ever replace the people or the living beings we come to love in this life.  However, my dog Beatrice, in the sunset of her time with me, reminded me that even though I was losing a good friend, at least I could find quiet support in another.

….I miss you B.

Scotch Whiskey or Why I Hate Bees…

…but Today, a Little Less or Thanks to Matchstick The Macallan is the Sweetest Revenge.

Second chances.

Allow me to tell you a quick story of love lost and re-found in 3 scenes.

Opening scene: mid-August 2008, Edinburgh Scotland.

Enter from stage left: Me.

Arrive at the bonny hills of Edinburgh after an incredible week in Glasgow with my lovely Glaswegian friend Marcello. The Glasgow School of Art and the Glasgow Four still running through my veins like a drug. Hungry for more adventure (and maybe some steak and ale pie….and oat cakes).

Met at the train station by life-long friend, sometimes troublemaker (in the best sense of the word), and then-Canadian expat, Jenn. Together we’re unstoppable. Edinburgh Festival shenanigans are bound to ensue. Plans include a solo and LONG-AWAITED Scotch Whiskey Distillery tour. Could the world be any grander?

END SCENE

Calton Hill, in happier times
Jenn & I


Scene 2:

Time: Fast-forward through a glorious 3-day intermission of Scottish hi-jinks.  Have my game face on: time for the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh Castle and The SCOTCH WHISKEY DISTILLERY TOUR before a very tired Pamela has to head home.

Scene: Edinburgh Castle, overlooking the empire.

Enter stealthily from stage right: BEE


DAMN YOU BEE!!! I demand repayment for the epi-pen.

Long story short(ish), I accidentally folded a bee in the crook of my arm that day. The ensuing swelling, pain, and feverishness put me in a Benedryl-induced coma for the better part of three days. My arm was completely mangled and left me confined to the city.  Alcohol was out of the question.

And that’s when I lost my love: I was leaving Scotland empty-handed. The Whiskey dream had died. END. SCENE.

Or so I thought.

Fast forward a year.

Time: Late October, 2009

Scene: One restaurant at the Hazelton Hotel

Enter from street: Me

Imagine my surprise when in October I received an invitation from Matchstick Inc. to join their The Macallan Scotch Whiskey blogger tasting event. First of all, with only ONE blog post to date (I’m not complaining….thanks Matchstick!) I didn’t seem like the most likely candidate and secondly, it seemed just as unlikely that almost a year after my bee-induced disappointment, fate would so freely gift me an experience I had crossed an Ocean to find AND HAD LOST.

AMAZING.

The Macallan.

What transpired over the next few hours was fascinating and, consequently, one of the neatest experiences I’ve ever had with alcohol (Feel the power of he pun. Feel it!).  Much akin to a wine tasting, I, along with a group of equally lucky Toronto bloggers, was lead through an educational taste journey by a lovely man named Marc.

To distill all the things I learned about whiskey from this absolute delight of a man would be extremely difficult (too busy writing puns, perhaps?) but some key elements are these:

  • Like wine, the wood used in a whiskey’s casket greatly contributes to it’s flavour.
  • Colour, if natural like it is in the Macallan, points to the wood used in aging and not age itself.
  • All good things in life have great legs. (Yes, this applies to whiskey too.)
  • Everything in life is better when it’s done with love (and an 100 year sustainability plan doesn’t hurt either.)

Over the course of the evening I happily tasted the 10 year, 12 year, 15 year, 18 year and 21 year-old varieties.  I was really shocked to see how different each year was – it’s an entirely different drink/experience with each vintage: smokey, spicy, fruity, you name it.

In the end, the 18 year old scotch was my favourite (“dried fruits and ginger”), very closely followed by the 10, on the rocks (“light, with hints of fruits and heather honey.”)  A brief look at my bank statement has informed me that I will only be buying the 10 year Scotch for special occasions but after I secure a new pair of winter boots, buy it I will.

Needless to say, I came out of the event with a new-found appreciation for a complex, smooth, and luxurious drink.  But what really opened my eyes about scotch appreciation is that water or no water, provenançe or not, the love of scotch should really only come down to only one thing: taste.  And I really like it.

Epilogue:

Scene: Living room of my new apartment

Time: Way past my bedtime, throat too scratchy to sleep. Reading Wikipedia to better inform my Macallan post.

When trying to ascertain where, exactly, Speyside, Scotland is located, I happily learn that the Macallan is actually one of the ingredients in the cheaper blended scotch I was going to try in Scotland.  And while there is nothing quite like a Scottish experience© I’m left feeling I got an amazing scotch upgrade, surrounded by great friends, all in the comfort of the Hazelton Hotel.

To you, my little bee friend, wherever you are : HA!

Sleepless in Seattle Toronto hence a Blog Post


So it’s been a little while since my last post….(Eeek!) Summer always seems to have that ethereal quality where it slips right through your fingers just as you become consciously aware it’s there in the first place. Next thing you know, you’re singing November Rain without the slightest bit of irony and wondering what the heck happened to the last few months. Luckily for me, quite a bit. My adventures took me to Switzerland, Italy, Boston, Montreal, Ottawa, and, more locally, to grand evenings at Toronto LG Fashion Week, TIFF, HotDocs (technically in spring, but whatever), a few art/club openings, and the Toronto International Art Fair. Some back-blogging may be in order, but if I’m lucky there will be plenty more adventures to come and to blog about. *Crosses fingers*

One thing I definitely learned this summer is if you miss your chance to do something once, sometimes fate will let you do it again. Case in point: Scotch Whiskey or Why I Hate Bees But Today, a Little Less or Thanks to Matchstick The Macallan is the Sweetest Revenge. Subsequent blog post to come in the next 24, I promise.

In case you are curious, here’s a series of randomly selected BlackBerry photos from Summer ’09: Click Me! I lost my real camera on top of a mountain in Switzerland so please excuse the pixelation…

Hello world!

Well here we are! After almost two years of hemming & hawing I’ve decided to bite the bullet and have my own little piece of real-estate on the World Wide Web. Like me, I envision this space to be a bit of a mixed-bag of art, tech, fashion, interesting goings-on, and personal anecdotes.

I chose the title “Wandering Aesthetic” because I’m a flâneuse at heart. I love learning about anything that crosses my path, particularly when it comes to people and the way they choose to express themselves. For those of you that follow my Twitter feed, you also know that I love to share what I discover. Consider the flood gates opened!

In an obscure and convoluted way, “Wandering Aesthetic” is also a bit of a word play on the buddhist term wandering ascetic but I groan in writing “Appreciating art and communications is my path to Nirvana,” even if it’s true.

Ohhh, see? Right now. *Groooan*

As I’ve mentioned, I’m not quite sure yet how this blog will evolve, but I’m really grateful you’ve taken the time to pop in and see what it’s all about. I look forward to sharing with you my little joys and discoveries.

Much love,
Pam