The Great American Road Trip Part 1: Midwest

Somewhere in Missouri, en route to Tulsa

Somewhere in Missouri, en route to Tulsa

“Killerfemme, where have you been this summer?” “Where haven’t I been?” I think, at this point. I’ve spent the past three months visiting 17 states and 23 different cities on a book tour to connect with DIY and handmade business owners to promote my first book Grow: How to take your do it yourself project and passion to the next level and quit your job! Besides getting to meet rad creative people all over the country, I’m really grateful that Grow gave me a reason to travel to places I hadn’t been since 2002, the last time I took a cross country road trip, like Columbus, Ohio and Indianapolis, Indiana. It also took me to places I’d never been before (and hope to go back to) like Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Omaha, Nebraska.

Art changes everything in Minneapolis and everywhere.

Art changes everything in Minneapolis and everywhere.

In front of Mickey's Dining Car in St. Paul, Minnesota

In front of Mickey’s Dining Car in St. Paul, Minnesota. Open 24 hours a day for nearly 70 years!

The lure of the open road has been immortalized in American literature and culture, with John Steinbeck to Jack Kerouac being some of the most prominent. Of course, as an angst ridden teenager I was deeply influenced by the later and wrote a whole faux road trip novel at age 15 having barely left Maine or and only visited New York City once. This summer I was really excited to set out in mid-July to “middle America,” or “fly over country” as it is so dismissively called by some ignorant coastal souls. This trip was hardly a drug-fueled whim like those of my beatnik brothers (are you kidding? I was driving! I hardly had a drink!), but a journey with the explicit purpose of promoting Grow. I wrote about what I learned about DIY and craft business on the Grow blog, but of course, one can’t work 24/7. So here I wanted to share some more personal images from the lovely places I visited.

Nice neon! Madison, Wisconsin

Nice neon! Madison, Wisconsin

One of the best parts of the trip was the opportunity to connect with friends I had met through publishing zines and the underground, punk community over a decade ago. Some of them I had figured I’d never see again, but instead, here they were, living full, beautiful, inspiring lives. For me, seeing these women again showed me why the concept of DIY has remained so compelling: when you are committed to making something, adding value to your community, and forging a genuine connection with other creatives, those relationships last.

Zine Grrrl reunion at Quimby's in Chicago: Nicole Wolfersberger, me, and Rebecca Ann Rakstad

Zine Grrrl reunion at Quimby’s in Chicago: Nicole Wolfersberger, me, and Rebecca Ann Rakstad

Ohio river crossing, Cincinnati, Ohio

Ohio river crossing, Cincinnati, Ohio

I shouldn’t have to say it, but the Midwest suffers a bad wrap from those on the coasts, even though so many people living here are from there. It’s a diverse place and full of history. It contains key locations along the Underground Railroad (don’t think that walking across the Ohio River from Kentucky to Ohio didn’t give me chills), to battles fought in “Indian Country”  over questions of slavery versus freedom and Native sovereignty in Kansas and Oklahoma, to current events, as Detroit declared bankruptcy just days after I visited (it’s not my fault!).

Grow workshopping, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Grow workshopping, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Steakfinger House, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Steakfinger House, Tulsa, Oklahoma

The Midwest is also breathtakingly beautiful. Though it may not boast the drama of the Rocky Mountains or the Pacific Coast, it has a sky that stretches on forever, rolling green fields, and dusty roads that scream, “Take an adventure, America!” While I am a reluctant American, spending two weeks in the Midwest reminded me that I am very much of this country. I appreciate the pioneering and the “Can do, make to” spirit of the people I met in my travels.

Train crossing on the Oklahoma/Kansas border

Train crossing on the Oklahoma/Kansas border

Little Freshie, fresh slushie in 101 degree Kansas City, Missouri

Little Freshie, fresh slushie in 101 degree Kansas City, Missouri

Also, breaking news: Brooklyn, NY and Portland, OR are no longer so original or special. Do you think I had to give up fair trade, cold brew coffee or organic, local produce while I was on the road? Quite the opposite! Cities and small towns all over the US are bursting with local goodness and it’s exciting to feel like “local flavor” actually means something again.

Celebrating a tour well done, Omaha, Nebraska

Celebrating a tour well done, Omaha, Nebraska

However, I also found myself enjoying some mass produced pleasures, like the fact that you can get 20 different kinds of iced tea for under $2 at a “gourmet” gas station like Quik Trip (thought I just got black, unsweetened tea). I mean, thank you, America, this iced tea kept me awake through some long drives and was delicious to boot. So, if you ever think, “Should I visit Tulsa? Or Omaha?” the answer is emphatically,
“Yes!”

Morning, Omaha, Nebraska

Morning, Omaha, Nebraska

This tour brought to you by vats of Quik Trip Iced Tea

This tour brought to you by vats of Quik Trip Iced Tea

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Los Angeles You’re (Not Quite) Mine

Griffith Park observatory and downtown LA

Griffith Park observatory and downtown LA

There’s been a lot of debate about New York City versus Los Angeles taking place on the Internet right now. Perhaps I’m having a zeitgeist moment, because I never thought I would visit Los Angeles, but now I am completely smitten with the city. I thought I would add my two cents to the discussion. Growing up on the East Coast I was brought up to believe that LA was smoggy, dangerous, traffic chocked, and void of any interesting culture. When people would ask me where I wanted to travel I would tell them, “Anywhere but LA!” and claimed that my life would be complete if I never visited Los Angeles.

LA afternoon. Just chillin'.

Well, I’m happy to say that I was absolutely wrong. This year I found that I had a concentration of friends living in Los Angeles and in late fall found myself in desperate need of sun and a little perspective. Tickets between NYC and LA are fairly cheap, so in a moment of impulsiveness I booked a long weekend in the City of Angels.

I was excited about rock clubs, taco trucks, beaches, good coffee, walks in parks, juice bars and all the other wonders of LA my friends told me about. Then I read this article started to get nervous… what if all my friends flaked on me? Wasn’t that what I hated about living on the West Coast? What if I got lost and no one would return my calls and I spent all weekend alone on a crowded freeway? In a fit of nerves I even considered canceling my trip.

Hollywood California

I got over myself and booked a room on AirBnB in Silver Lake with a wonderful hostess named Stacie. I rented a car and consulted maps and driving advice (such as never, ever take the 405 freeway). I asked for suggestions of what to do and received a list long enough to last me several months. I packed all black clothes so people would be sure to know I was a New Yorker. I got the first manicure of my life so as not to look unkempt. And suddenly, right before I left all my friends made plans with me and the temperature in New York dropped to a wintery chill, which reinforced my decision to flee for a long weekend.

LA was everything I dreamed it would be, but even better. There were amazing rock clubs, like The Echo and The Satellite, and taco trucks galore (I even ate a burrito stuff with French fries… wow). I loved walking around the Silver Lake reservoir and and taking in the mountains that surround the city. I liked the proximity to nature and the fact that Griffith Park is a huge mountain in the middle of the city full of hiking trails and stunning views.

Griffith Park with Wallace the Lawless

Walking “Wallace the Lawless” in Griffith Park

I spent a lot of time loitering around Silver Lake and Echo Park and had two very capable tour guides in my friends Iris and Azad (joined at various times by Lil, Katie, Kabir and Erynne). Sunset Junction, in Silver Lake, has apparently been voted the hippest corner in the United States and I can see why. It boasts Intelligentsia coffee, one of the most coffee snobbiest cafes I’ve ever encountered (but delicious!), and a host of boutiques and cafes. Along Sunset in Silver Lake I soothed a combination of a hangover and jetlag with a coconut kale smoothie from Naturewell and found a beautiful dress that is going to be perfect for my New Years party at Ragg Mop vintage.  I also nursed a pint of local microbrew at Good and even dared to try LA pizza at Garage Pizza (it was tolerable… but I was also starving).

The Hippest Corner in the US

Rag Mop Vintage

Ragg Mop Vintage in Silver Lake

I did, eventually, venture out of Silver Lake, including a drive down the length of Sunset Boulevard bound for Venice Beach. Driving down Sunset felt like driving through every 80s TV show I’d ever seen. I shrieked as we drove down the strip, then was like “Whoa!” when we entered the leafy and posh Beverly Hills and then blurted out “No way!” when we passed Bel Air. I felt how people must feel when they visit New York City for the first time. To see places you’ve always heard about in popular culture and find they actually exist is a strange and exhilarating feeling.

Skate Park, Venice Becah

The famous skate park in Venice Beach

When we reached Venice Beach I took one look at the expanse of sand and declared Los Angeles to be next on my list of cities to move to. How could people not love it here? There’s so much beach!

Venice Liberty

Shirts at Venice Liberty… I bought the purple one!

I also poked around Pasadena and South Pasadena and got to fulfill a long standing dream of eating at In-N-Out Burger. You might say it doesn’t take much to please me and it’s true. Add a personalized tour of the massive Amoeba Records and some good hangouts at Cha Cha Lounge and the Red Lion (yes, back in Silver Lake) and brunch at Square One snickering at Scientologists across the street at their world headquarters, more brunch in the garden at the Alcove, and a farm to table dinner at A Frame in Culver City and… well, I’m pretty much sold on LA. I barely scratched the surface of all the cultural institutions there, but had a lovely visit to LACMA with my friend Erynne and managed to appease the natural history nerd child in me by taking in the La Brea tar pits (which are right next to LACMA in the middle of the city!).

Me and Kabir, Venice Beach

My friend Kabir and I in Venice Beach

So all of this to say that I haven’t loved a city this much since Paris. The weekend I spent in LA enabled a few big ideas about next steps in life that I have long been mulling over to fall into place. Stay tuned because I have big plans for 2013 and may well make Los Angeles mine.

Venice Beach Sunset Postcard

I’ll leave you with this song by Unrest and more photos on Flickr.

California All the Way

Sunset over the Pacific, Carpinteria

I’m prone to saying, “I don’t know anything about California.” It’s a bit wrong of me. My Aunt and Uncle live there, I’ve visited multiple times, and I’ve read Joan Didion and Rebecca Solnit and all those authors that capture the elusive golden state so eloquently.

Santa Barbara beach

I think it’s not that I don’t know anything about California, but that it is so outside of the realm of the geography and culture that I’m surrounded by that it feels foreign to me. Earlier this fall, while summer was still hanging on, we turned a Labor Day weekend wedding into a chance to explore the California coast. It was also a chance to realize one of my lifelong dreams of driving up the Pacific Coast Highway through Big Sur.

Santa Barbara beach. Build by Wendy chambray shirt, J Crew shorts, Nolita bag by Les Composantes, Converse sneakers, Jimmy Fairly sunglasses

We flew into Santa Barbara and not one hour after we had landed we were sitting on the beach eating fish tacos and staring at the pacific. It felt completely unreal.

On Santa Barbara beach

My Nolita and sneakers chilling in the Cali sun

California was everything I heard it was: sun and sand, the wild west and wild surf. Wine, oysters, farms, incredible landscapes, and fresh produce that was out of this world. The light, as the name promises, was bold and golden. The pacific was wild, turquoise, vast and cold.

Morning on the beach in Carpinteria

One area that I was glad to discover, which I had absolutely no idea even existed before, was the wine region just a little north and east of Santa Barbara in the Santa Ynez valley. It’s dry and hilly and fully of quaint small towns and vineyards and good food. It was the perfect place to spend a few days and celebrate our friends’ wedding.

My classic farm wedding wear: Brooklyn Industries dress, Nat et Nin purse, Ellips shoes at Tres Hermanas winery in the Santa Ynez valley

Winery wedding place setting

The morning after the wedding we pulled our heads out of post-celebration fog and drove into the actual fog to take the six hour drive up the coast to San Francisco. I’ve always wanted to drive on the mythic Pacific Coast Highway, which hugs the edge of the American Continent from Los Angeles to Olympia, Washington. I imagined hairpin turns and sweeping pacific views. There were plenty of hairpin turns, but due to the the persistent fog the pacific  resembled a white, endless void to our left as we crept north.

En route on the Pacific Coast Highway

Elephant seals lounging on a beach along the PCH

There’s a perceptible change of culture and geography between southern and northern California. As we drove I saw sandy beaches give way to rocky cliffs and meadows that rolled down to the ocean turn into dense forests full of evergreens. The fog and wind were constants though. We ended up in San Francisco, full of beautiful Victorian architecture, good friends, delicious food and strong drinks. We even waited for two hours to have dinner at the Anchor Oyster Bar, a classic seafood restaurant in the Castro that was worth every minute of those two hours. I felt my life reaching a new stage of completeness after I ate their crab Cesar salad.

Beautiful girls and best friends in San Francisco, Anchor Bar

Oysters at Anchor Oyster Bar

The next day we went even further north on highway 1 to Point Reyes to take in the forests, mountains and beaches. We also wanted to meet some oysters in person and our drive took us on a quest to find Hog Island Oyster Company, which was featured on Eric Ripert’s program Avec Eric.

Oysters fresh from the source at Hog Island Oyster Company

Hog Island Oyster Company is every locavore’s dream. It features an outdoor oyster bar where you can look at the bay where your meal was pulled from that morning, the beautiful view adding to the fresh brininess of the shellfish.

The Hog Island Oyster habitat

From sandy beaches to rocky shores, I feel like I packed a lot of the California coast into a short trip. Though I still can’t quite get my head around the idea of California, I think I can no longer claim to “Know nothing about it.”

Sur les toits de Paris

On top of the 11eme I

Bonjour mes amies! As we settle into fall in New York City I have finally finished looking through and uploading my photos from my summer trip to France. It was a magical two-and-a-half weeks full of friends and family and travels that took all around l’hexagon. The full set of photos is on Flickr, but I’ll be highlighting specific parts of the adventure here over the next few weeks. I’ll share my discoveries, shopping, eating, walking and biking adventures and a few of mes bonnes adresses.

Paris Roofs

Looking east over the 20eme from the 11eme

I love the geography of Paris and the rhythm and cadence of the city’s architecture. The slate grey roofs and round red chimneys inseparable from my mental image of Paris and my friend Leila offered me the opportunity to get a more personal rooftop perspective.

Paris Roofs

Looking west: les invalides, tour de Montparnasse, le tour Eiffel

It had been raining, cold and foggy when I first got to Paris, but after several days there was a break in the clouds and we seized our opportunity to climb a shaky ladder and haul ourselves onto the roof. I’m pretty wimpy when it comes to heights and was seized with a moment of dizzying vertigo when I first climbed out the skylight onto the gently sloping metal roof.  My fear subsided quickly when I saw the how the city unfolded around me.

Leila shows me her roof

My generous host and lovely friend Leila

Paris undulates gentle from west to east and north to south, rising to a crescendo at Monmartre and Belleville, but otherwise flat and gently sloping. I loved the how the rooftops around me unfolded gently, punctuated by those iconic chimneys. Paris doesn’t have to work hard to impress me, but the view from Leila’s roof made me fall in love with the city all over again.

On top of the 11eme II

Simple style: J Crew t-shirt and Mavi slim jeans

Paris Chimenys

The Summer So Far

Beach life, Fourth of July edition

Robert Moses State Park, July 4

It’s a cliche to say it, but can you believe how fast the summer goes? All around me I see announcements for “the last (your summertime activity here) of the season!” Already? I’m still sorting through my photos from France and there will be a myriad of posts coming soon, but in the meantime, here’s a little review of my summer activity so far. Enjoy and bon week-end!

Fireworks over manhattan (from Brooklyn)

Fireworks from a Greenpoint roof, July 4

Landing in Iceland with the midnight sun

11:30 pm “sunset” in Iceland, mid-July

Paris et ses nuages vue de haute

Rainy Paris, from le Ciel de Paris, Tour de Montparnasse

Prendre un apéro plus haute que la tour Eiffel... Check!

Cheers! With Byglam in Paris

Reportage direct de Paris: le temps de merde continue

Moody Paris skies, mid-July

Petit dej pour mon dej

Paris may have rain, but also, croissants!

Quiiiiick! Le soleil!!!!

And when Paris is sunny, there’s no where better!

Sète! Quelle belle ville! Merci @clumsy_maria pour la Tournée!

Escape to Sete and the sun in the south of France

Super déjeuner avec les fruits de mer et @clumsy_maria

Seafood feast in Sete with Clumsy Maria

A taste of the sweet life

Pool time in Provence

Beaux couleurs!

Exploring Provence by bike, mid-July

Merci mes amies pour le super soirée!

Back to Paris to wish our friends Au Revoir!

Made it to the farm in time for a beautiful ceremony!

…and directly to upstate New York for a beautiful farm wedding!

Mission of Burma hipster paradise

Mission of Burma, Ted Leo and Wild Flag for free in Prospect Park

It was a lovely beach day!

Back to Robert Moses State Park, early August

Chillin' with @easylovernyc

Corita played a show at Don Pedro’s with Easy Lover (above), Paper Fleet and Space Merchants

Now it's the ladies' turn! Let's go Brooklyn Bombshells!

Brooklyn Bombshells won a rollerderby match at Coney Island!

On a ferris wheel looking out on Coney Island...

… and after Corita rode the Wonder Wheel

Toasting a Brooklyn day well lived!

A toast to a summer well spent!

Simple French Travel Style

Parisian summer twilight, 2006

Everyone, I am so excited! Today I depart for mon voyage des reves to France for two and a half weeks! My trip is taking me to Paris and Provence, as well as Gent (in Belgium), Metz and Lille. I’m impatient to see new and old friends, eat lots of wonderful food, and spend my time walking around and taking in the sights I love and discovering new places that I will return to in the future. This blog will be pretty quiet during that time, though you can expect another Creative Money Maker and a few other posts. When I’m able to find Wi-fi I will updates Twitter and Instagram, and I will try to post some of those shots here as well.

Those of you who travel know that preparation and anticipation is part of the journey. I spent months planning the outfits that I would take to France. I knew I would need layers, because I’m going to be in both the north and south, and the summer weather there either seems to feel like November or a canicule. I also know I will be walking a lot, so I’ve left all my four inch platforms at home. When I travel I favor clothing made out of basic fibers like cotton with solid, neutral colors over anything too fancy. In addition, I never check a bag, so all of my clothes have to be adaptable and easily washable. Here’s a sneak peek at my travel style:

Pour Paris

Paris from the Tour Eiffel, taken in 2006

J Crew tank top, American Apparel skirt, Sam Edelman sandals (this outfit is being optimistic for summer weather in Paris)

Simple, big city style is what I have in mind. Casual and elegant – a look that can go from morning to evening.

Pour Provence

Roussillon, in Vaucluse region of Provence, taken in 2008

Jennifer Glasgow blouse, American Apparel shorts, Saludos espadrilles

Warm tones, bright sun, old stone houses and the mistral were in mind when I picked out this outfit.

Pour la plage et la piscine

Pool at the Provence vacation rental, 2008

Esther Williams swimwear bathing suits, Nine West sandals

Flattering, retro-styled swimwear to while away the sunny days in style.

Pour l’avion

Departing Keflavik

I’ll be flying Iceland Air and get to pass through a place I want to return!

Mavi slim jeans, J crew shirt, Converse sneakers, and a generic linen scarf

I always freeze on the airplane. I always wonder about those who are able to wear flip-flops while flying – every appendage of mine feels like an ice cub when in the air, so I have to layer up. In addition, this time I have to change planes in Reykjavik, so I know I’ll need to be able to walk quickly, as well as wear an outfit comfortable enough to try to nap.

Pour partout

Rooftops

Photo taken with the Digital Harinezumi

Nola bag by Les Composantes, Moleskine notebook, Muji pen, Plan de Paris par arrondisement, Matt & Nat wallet, Jimmy Fairly sunglasses, Origins “Silkscreen” pressed powder, Benefit “Nice Melons” eye shadow, Dior mascara, Staniac lip stain, digital Harinezumi camera by Power Shovel, Weleda lip blam and my favorite necklace. Not shown: my Canon DSLR, an essential!

I’m bringing very few extras. I only packed two books in English because my favorite activity in France is buying the newspaper, magazines and novels. aI like to keep my makeup and accessories even more minimal than usual when I travel. I’m not packing nail polish or lipstick because I hope to acquire some of the French Essie nail polish while I’m there as well as Bourjois lip and eye makeup. Nothing fancy, just basic French things that I love.

What do you pack when you travel?

Montreal – Ville de Coeur

Montreal, QC

Francophile that I am, I have somehow ignored the fact that a mere eight hours to the north of me is a city that is seeped in French history, culture and language, but also is a solid part of North America. I am, of course, speaking about Montreal. As you approach Montreal from the highway, whether in a car or on the Greyhound bus, the city rises above the agrarian plain of southern Quebec like a dream. It’s hard to imagine that this far north after traversing the mountains of Vermont and the fields and farms of Quebec, that a city so cosmopolitan and radical is there existing and waiting to welcome those of us weary of the United States.

Bonjour Montréal!

Bonjour Montreal!

While I’ve been to Montreal twice before (and loved it each time), my visit a few weeks ago was the first time I got to immerse myself in a Francophone community thanks to my generous French hosts who were living there for a year from France. I learned quickly that there are three overlapping, yet separate, communities in Montreal: Anglophone, Francophone from France, and Quebecois. Montreal exists at the intersection of these three  groups and fantastic things happen there linguistically. Quebec is a French-speaking Province, but English is a second language in Montreal. By law everyone must utilize French in public until you determine you are both Anglophone and then you switch. This means that everyone speaks some kind of French and no one judges you for your accent. My accent was called “German,” which I found exceedingly charming. Montreal is low-risk French speaking and the French that is spoken is generally tempered with a North American accent. Overall, everyone has a good feeling about Montreal, whether they speak English or French and come from other parts of Canada, the United States, or Europe and Montrealites are very proud of their city.

I count on Montreal for its refreshingly radical politics that always have a sense of humor and artistry

Montreal is a nexus of good eating. I skipped the gourmet options, like Au Pied de Cochon, and went straight for the everyday fare. My favorite by far was Depanneur Le Pick Up. A depanneur (or “Dep” for short) is the Montreal equivalent of bodega, corner store, convenience store, or epicerie, depending where you come from. However, in its magazine rack Le Pick Up carries zines and DIY albums, its coolers are full of natural soda (including a Pine Sol-like tasting Spruce variety), and it includes a lunch counter and outdoor tables and services a killer weekend brunch and huge, tasty sandwiches, including pulled pork in both authentic and vegetarian versions.

Thanks to Aurelie Letizia and Danisha, two lovely blogeuses mode et beaute, I spent a lovely, girly, brunch at l’universal, talking about WordPress, fashion week, and sharing news about other blogueses. The fast friendship and camaraderie reminded me a lot of meeting up with zine pen pals over ten years ago and it is a wonderful feeling to build an international community. The brunch at l’universal is also full of delicious eggs, home fries and comes with a side of fruit salad.

Passage obligatoire / bagel pilgrimage

Bagel breakfast at St. Viateur

Beyond that I couldn’t help but make a stop at St. Viateur Bagles (no one can come to Montreal and miss this!). Montreal bagels are smaller and less chewy then New York-style bagels. They have a lightness to them (for a bagel) that I love. I also had a coffee and sandwich at Le Caigibi, which offers great vegan treats, and sampled Montreal’s response to the cupcake craze at Petits Gateaux.

Petite souvenir douce de Montréal!

Artwork at Petits Gateaux

I also could not miss poutine, which is practically the national dish of Quebec, though somehow I did not eat this Canadian comfort food of fries, gravy and cheese curds the last two times I visited. For a gourmet, Scandinavian twist on traditional poutine we were recommended by one of my Instagram friends to try Cafe Ellefsen.

Poutine Norvégienne! Miam!

Poutine Norvégienne at Cafe Ellefsen

I got a poutine with Swedish meatballs and fresh, local cheese, which made it less heavy than the average poutine and served in a light, airy environment. We also had some lovely drinks at Notre Dame de Quilles, which is either a bar and restaurant that has a few bowling lanes (where you reset the pins yourself and they are candle pins, for all of you northeasterners out there!) or a few bowling lanes with a bar attached, depending how you look at it. “Quilles” is “Bowling Pin” in Quebecois, by the way.

Hmmmm... Bon question Elle Québec! #taco ou #poutine ?

Elle Quebec explores the important questions

Despite promising myself I wouldn’t shop very much, Montreal is a shopping paradise if you like handmade, quirky things and cutting edge fashion. I got my Canada-made fix at General 54 in Mile End, which features all Canadian designers, and has a vintage annex next door. It is owned by Jennifer Glasgow, whose designs I love and whose perfectly on-trend yet timeless shirt I showed off in my last entry. At the very trendy Bubbles Boutique I picked up a fancy vegan wallet by Montreal-based eco-couteuriers Matt & Nat, which I think will serve me well.

Nouveautés de Montréal!

Nouveautés de Montréal! Zines, books, wallet, tote bag and blouse!

While wandering around Le Plateau and Mile End I got my book fix in French and English when I dropped by the Drawn and Quarterly bookstore.  I’ve admired the comics and graphic novels they have put out for years and loved the selection of fiction, theory, graphic novels and cook books they had on offer at the shop. I also went to Librarie Le Port de Tete for art books, mini comics and livres en francais.

Sign for Drawn and Quarterly book store

Mon nouveau coup de cheveux lesbien pour n'importe de qui (j'adore)

Showing off my new “Lesbian Haircut for Anyone”

Montreal is a mashup between languages, people and cultures and because of that it is an extremely open, welcoming place. Identity is strongly asserted, but everyone is welcome to participate. For example, I booked a “Lesbian Hair for Anyone” (or “coup de cheveaux lesbien pour n’importe de qui”) with JJ, who is also a very talented artist and photographer. I also got a haircut from JJ on my last visit to Montreal in 2007 and both of these haircuts have been among my favorites! I also participated in a “Dance Workshop for Anyone” that combined yoga, modern dance technique and improvisation and will culminate in a dance video! Here’s a video of the first workshop and I will be sure to share the resulting video when it’s available.

Kawaii: Don’t the their name fool you, they are punk as f*ck

Finally, I couldn’t talk about Montreal without talking about the vibrant art and music scene there. I had hardly stepped off the Greyhound bus than I found myself at a house party listening to fantastic experimental bands and accidentally insulting a member of Dirty Beaches. There’s also a lot of French from France musicians and artists living in Montreal searching a vibrant artistic community. I was lucky enough to meet Minnie, the talented singer in Eliote & The Ritournelles and see my hosts band Kawaii play (despite their name, they are not cute, they are the punkest music you will ever hear made from toys). Finally, we went to Blue Sunshine, which is a soon to be ending cinema in an apartment building showing everyone from salvaged VHS classics (er, trash?) like “Ghoulies 3: Ghoulies go to College,” or (as we saw the night we went) rare shorts of historical and educational films centered around Montreal. They are closing on May 19, so if you love independent cinema in unconventional settings, go! Now!

I miss Montreal already and can’t wait to back. How did five years pass between my two trips? It hardly seems possible. Also, quick tip for New Yorkers: if you can’t stand eight hours on a Greyhound bus or the prices of flights to Canada try this: fly JetBlue to Burlington, Vermont and then catch the Greyhound to Montreal (it stops at the airport). There’s also an amazing diner, Arcadia, within walking distance of the airport if you have over an hour to wait. They serve real maple syrup with their pancakes at no extra cost. Montreal via Burlington is cheap, fast, and more relaxing.

The Arcadia (formerly Parkway) Diner, Burlington, VT

Breakfast at the Arcadia Diner counter in Burlington, VT

My pictures, sadly, look less than great and I learned an important lesson: even if it takes up a lot of space, if you are leaving home and want to take pictures do not leave without your DSLR!