Sunday, November 29, 2009

reflections while hiding from the cold rain

there is no ladylike way to eat french onion soup.

November in Paris

The Miles Davis exhibit at the Cite de la Musique, shopping in the guitar store district (YES THERE IS ONE HERE), checking out Martina Topley-Bird at the Elysee Montmartre for the Dub Festival... visiting Mel in Paris makes for a wonderfully musical adventure.

November in Paris

The Miles Davis exhibit at the Cite de la Musique, shopping in the guitar store district (YES THERE IS ONE HERE), checking out Martina Topley-Bird at the Elysee Montmartre for the Dub Festival... visiting Mel in Paris makes for a wonderfully musical adventure.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

i was kind of hoping it was the Freemasons

so there is this club that i pass by every day on my way home from downtown, and i've always been curious about what it is. it looks like a normal residential house, but there are hints that it is some sort of special place, like the fact that i occasionally see people getting out of taxis and going into the place, and also the fact that there is a big black bouncer in a suit that stands outside. yet it doesn't actually seem to be a regular club. you don't here house music pumping from outside, and there are never any lineups to get in, and there are no windows to peak inside, and also, it's in freaking Diemen, my neighbourhood, which is in the middle of nowhere and no self-respecting club that wants business would be located there. rob and i have hypothesized several times that it's probably some secret society stonecutters lodge or a Eyes Wide Shut-esque sex club.

well, it turns out it's a sex club. today as i biked home i squinted hard past the hired help smoking on the porch and saw that there was by the door a very discreet sign that read in very small letters the name of the establishment. and then i went home to google it. and yeah, really, it's a sex club. with free finger food and pick-up service from your door.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

southern france

a weekend in marseille with olivia and theresa...yes, we are playing a game of "how many racist comments will the Asian trio get in France?" you don't want to know what our scores are right now. we scored points within minutes of arriving in Marseille.

Marseille is charming in its own quaint, ghetto way. when we asked one of the locals for directions, he immediately, URGENTLY, told us the same thing five times, kind of like this:

attention a vos sacs
attention a vos sacs
attention a vos sacs
attention a vos sacs
attention a vos sacs...

okay then.

yesterday we had a lovely evening drinking french wine and eating french pastries while watching the soccer game between Marseille and Paris. Unlike last weekend, there were no riots. I have to admit I'm a little bit disappointed. there's always tonight though...

Thursday, November 19, 2009


"Ah, coke and whiskey," said Christoph as we sat down at the bar. "this is what preserves my faith in America, and humanity. There is nothing, absolutely nothing natural about this drink, neither the Coca Cola nor the whiskey. Yet it works so perfectly together. America invented it."

Christoph comes from the country that contributed the Jager portion of the Jagerbomb, also another concoction which has absolutely nothing natural about it. He's been living in Spain for about four years now though, and took it upon himself to kindly show us around his adopted town as the perfect tour guide.

at first i thought he was suspiciously taking us down an awful lot of narrow back alleys, until i realized that a large chunk of Barcelona's Gothic quarter is full of narrow back alleys. Both Christoph and our hotel dude assured us that Barcelona is perfectly safe, minus the odd pickpocket. i was relieved to hear that, until i watched a guy get stabbed with a guy holding a broken beer bottle in one hand and a belt buckle in the other. we decided to give him some space.

my Barcelona weekend was a pretty exciting adventure though, featuring:
  • a flamenco show, featuring an amazing flamenco guitarist that reminded me of Inigo Montoya, a singer that literally brought tears to my eyes, and this very very intense male flamenco dancer that scared the audience with his, well, intensity. the bar was totally packed with an entire cross-section of the local population, from the young hipsters literally hanging from the rafters, to the old Spanish ladies squinting to catch a glimpse over my shoulders. this is where i came to the sudden conclusion that flamenco actually does equal sex, and that there is nothing wrong with men who grow their fingernails long.
  • Tapas. one of the best concepts in the world. the only way it could be better was if it was free, which is apparently is in other parts of spain. my favourite part of tapas is the beer you drink with it. We also tried Basque tapas which was gluttonously delicious.
  • La Sagrada Familia. I have seen a lot of amazing things in my life (and i know that Leila thinks i overuse the word "amazing"), but this Gaudi-designed building is possibly the most amazing building I have seen in my entire life. it's huge. i'm also in love with the idea of it, this building that is taking almost a hundred and fifty years to build. because it's still not complete, you watch the building in progress. it is literally a story being told. the story of Jesus, in one respect, but also the story of, well, a building being made. because it's taken so long, it's got a really interesting blend of styles, from gothic to more modernistic styles, depending on what angle of the building you look at. i just can't describe it. here are some pictures.

  • Gaudi's Park was also pretty mind-blowing as well. it took us forever to climb the hill to get there, up the stairs of Gloria (i'm not kidding, that's what they're called). By the time we reached the very top, the sun had just set so we were treated to a beautiful view of the Barcelona cityline at dusk. it was very romantic for me and rob...and Christoph. exploring the rest of the park was no less exciting in the dark. one day i am going to come back to this park during the day time and i will shoot a music video here. the surreal structures will be so overpowering and beautiful that no one will notice my crappy music that is set to the scenery.
  • Strolling down La Rambla, where, to my satisfaction, i did NOT get my wallet stolen and also found tacky souvenir of the Shitting Shepherd. I loved the palm trees that lined this walk. Palm trees are essentially my Prozac.
  • We snuck into the backstage of a noisy outdoor Latin jazz concert. There's a heck of a lot going on in the Barcelona nightlife.
  • paella. much more satisfying for me when there aren't creepy prawns staring at me as i work around the rice.
  • We checked out the Market which Christoph warned me was not for the faint of heart. Spaniards, for whatever reason, don't like to cut the heads off their meat, whether it be chicken, duck, pig, or bunny. luckily i was practically raised in Chinatown so it did not bother me. What bothered me was one of the vendors throwing ice at us, accusing us of stealing her sole (yes i said sole, not soul). i wanted to explain to her politely in Spanish that i had no interest in her sole, but the only Spanish words i knew for that context were swear words.
Our crowning glory, however, was the last night, where we went to a bar where there were taps at each table and a giant TV screen showing how many litres each table is drinking, sort of to foster a friendly competitive spirit between tables. we were in the lead until twenty-five Dutch teenagers walked in. there was a moment of tension. i'm proud to say that even though there were only four of us, we still won.

(and the night was only beginning...)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

the Berlin Wall

i'd been excited for weeks about the celebrations for the 20th anniversary of Berlin Wall coming down, particularly for the long line of 1000 giant blocks set to fall like dominoes to mark the occasion, because, come on...even without the exciting political history, giant dominoes are pretty cool to watch.

as the final moment drew closer and closer, however, and as the rain kept coming down, and my feet got more sore and wet until eventually they lost all feeling, and also as colin got sicker and sicker, the idea started to lose its novelty. it seemed like the speeches (by famous folks like Hilary Clinton, Gordon Brown, the president of Russia, obviously the Chancellor of Germany, and even a video conference from Obama) and the music (including Domingo) were going on for hours - which they were. plus this'd think that living in the Netherlands i'd be used to it, but there was a particular cold bite to the Berlin rain that was especially disheartening when you had no chance of shelter, one that soaked right through your skin and made you feel like you'd never warm up again.

and then finally the speeches were over, and the domino walls came down.

i watched everyone around me celebrating, people coming in from all over the world, britain, france, russia, canada, poland, america, all cheering wildly. it was an amazing moment. you know, i could try as hard as i can, but i think none of us but the Germans will ever completely understand how November 9, 1989 must have felt for the people of Germany. to be divided and living as two peoples and then to suddenly have that gone. we watch the BBC footage of young people dancing on the wall and people flooding through the gates east to west, and we feel some of the excitement, but to be there, to have lived with and after the wall...that feeling i think is something that cannot be replicated by media or stories or anniversary celebrations.

can i tell you a silly secret? my secret dream is to one day see North Korea. i don't need to go there (i can't), but i would like to just get a glimpse of this forbidden land that where my roots lie. it's been so long, and south koreans don't even seem to want reunification anymore, and relations between the two Koreas have been deteriorating so much that sometimes i wonder if there is any hope at all. maybe i read too much Douglas Coupland, but some morbid part of me believes that one day we will wake up and North Korea is going to be gone, whether due to some unforeseen disaster or nuclear war or World War Z-like consequences. and even if one day that massive rift that is the DMZ does disappear, i think it will be too late to feel what the Germans felt twenty years ago, because everyone we knew and had any connections with will be long dead.

over half a century ago, both my mother's mother and my father's father traveled down to the south when the split happened, and found themselves on the wrong right side of a conflict that was not going to end, separated from their entire family and everything they had ever known in what is now North Korea. they were only eighteen years old. they have never seen or heard from their family since.

and that is why i want to see North Korea, even if it's just to stand on in a safe building along the DMZ. i want to look at where my ancestors came from, where i probably have cousins living a completely different life from me, family that we have never spoken to. and that is also why i found the events of the Berlin Wall so moving for me, because even if i cannot know how it felt to be a German when the countries reunified, i think i know what it feels like to want so badly for it to happen. i'm not sure if i'll ever be able to partake in the celebrations when, or if, it happens for Korea, so i was happy to share it with another country where this dream did come true.

Monday, November 9, 2009

then we take Berlin

i would move to Berlin in a heartbeat. if it weren't for the cold weather: average daily temperature is nine degrees) . If it weren't for my extremely poor German. I have been talking to store clerks in Dutch hoping that there are enough similarities in the languages for them to understand. but Berlin has now become my new favourite European city, replacing Budapest. there are just so many ghosts here.

i wandered into a random alley in East Berlin and found myself in an old junkyard that had been converted into an gallery exhibition for street punk art, curated by an underground free art school in Berlin. This city has all sorts of rabbitholes and mirrors like Alice in Wonderland, wardrobes like the Chronicles of Narnia, but only if Narnia and Wonderland were haunted by the ghosts of Fascism and Communism. i drifted into a workshop that smelled strongly of spray paint and rubber, decorated by radical punk slogan art, altered vinyls, and an old grand piano sitting in the middle of the room. i struck up a conversation with one of the artists, an ageless man with dreadlocks and no teeth but a surprisingly impressive command of English. we talked about Vancouver and the upcomig Olympics and the headache it is causing. he told me that he found Canada to be knee deep in colonialist culture, which was a perspective new to me, and scrawled on a piece of paper for me a list of things to check out, things not found in guide books. i bought some of his vinyl art.

we found the spot where Hitler died. it's been converted into a parking lot where nearby apartment owners keep their Audis.

we asked a German kid where we should go out, and he told us that on a Sunday night, there were only two parties worth going to: an old school techno rave or a sex club. there was no point in going to a sex club (seeing as how we live in Amsterdam), so we headed for the hard core techno club located in the dank, almost pitch black basement of an old power plant in East Berlin. it was a strange place for our senses, although maybe it should have been everything to expect from a techno club in Eastern Europe. the atmosphere was a cross between a bunker and a dungeon, with cages, long dark hallways, pipes hanging out of the ceiling, and pretty much no attempt to hide the fact that we were partying in a power plant. i dug it. documentary films have been made about this legendary club which helped fostered the techno scene in Berlin since the late 80s just before the Wall came down. The club had a peculiar loyalty to Carlsburg beer, which i found curious given the countless fine German brands of beer.

We spent a chunk of the night sitting in the upstairs bar, trying to guess the ages of the clubbers (were they actually old, or had the years behind the Wall aged them prematurely?) before we realized with through our glassy eyes that the clocks read 3AM. it seemed like the club had all sorts of secret passageways and corners - we watched guy after guy disappearing behind a particularly mysterious pair of red curtains. the last time i peeked behind a set of curtains in a club that looked like that, i found a St. Andrew's Cross and a sign warning me that i *might* come across unusual activity (that was in Toronto, by the way, and not Amsterdam). Colin and i threw back one more beer to get the courage to sneak behind those curtains, but all we found was a giant, heavy locked gate, as though nothing had ever been there. one day i'll go back there and i will know the magic word to get into Wonderland and find out what is so alluring there.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Waiting for kenny

Let's see how far I get in Berlin without any money.

On my plane ride here i've been reading Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse five. Rob says this is ironic to read while traveling through Germany. Our Berlin guidebook suggests not mentioning World War II here with a particularly arrogant tone (" out of two, eh?") but I can't help being struck by how different and removed the hardened, cruel Germans in WWII novels seem to be from the polite, civil, efficient yet down-to-earth Germans I have met in my life. I've not yet had the bad sense to bring this up to any of them, but the movies and books certainly seem to be talking about a different country. Which they are. Germany, and especially Berlin, and seen a lot of change this century-something I'm sure I will learn all about tomorrow when I watch the celebrations at the Wall, or what is left of it at least

pieces of Rome

Having Internet access only through my iPod means a lot of short quick updates.

"So what do you want to see in Rome today? Old stuff or older stuff?"
"Yeah, you'd think they'd do something about these old crumbling walls."

if the Vatican thinks that lack of a toilet seat will stop my from doing my business in the bathroom at St. Peters Basilica, they dont know that I am Canadian, I was conceived in BC and I was born knowing how to pop a squat in any wilderness.

"what's the first thing you want to eat in Italy?"
"You think I'm joking."

I saw more popes' bodies yesterday than I thought or hoped I'd ever see.

"Yo, there's all this art by the Ninja Turtles here!"

Sunday, November 1, 2009


when i was 3 years old, my parents took me to Toys R Us. I stood there, looked at the aisles of toys, and promptly peed on the floor in excitement. i might do this again next week when we go to Berlin for the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Wall. featuring celebration with the heads of EU states, a Morrissey concert, and a 2km line of giant domino blocks falling alongside the remains of the wall.