Last night I popped by 401 Richmond, a gorgeous old restored industrial building that houses over a hundred studios, galleries and shops for local artists and businesses here in Toronto. It also boasts a rooftop garden, which I am determined to take a tour of one of these days.
My friend Erin and I had a grand old time strolling around and checking out some of the exhibits, many of which, looking back, skewed a little creepy. Behind a mysterious curtain reminiscent of that crazy curtain of death in Order of the Phoenix, a video taken from the viewpoint of a driver on dark country roads played under a recording of Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds. Creepy.
I peered through a series of portholes to view three black and white photos, one of a giant pile of discarded glasses, one of a pile of shoes. It was the one of the pile of discarded walkers, canes and artificial legs that raised the hairs on the back of my neck as I realized what I must be looking at. Reading the wall placard confirmed these were things taken from Holocaust victims. Definitely creepy and of course, horrifying to contemplate. Amazing how inanimate objects can tell such a powerful story.
I felt so spooked after viewing them that it took me a minute to get up the nerve to walk in to one of the next exhibits we came across. Though, to be fair, I think it would have given me the heebs and jeebs all on its own. It featured an empty bed covered with a quilt, gaudy funeral wreaths in the corner, and paintings of women’s hair and rugs and more funeral wreaths.
There were also some stunningly gorgeous giant charcoal drawings I’d have happily taken home were I in a position to cough up a few month’s rent. I bought these adorable cards at the rad book/gift shop instead:
The other night, Emma and I were chatting with a bartender who asked us about our work. We obligingly gave vague descriptions of our respective administrative positions. When he left, we started chatting about how boring that was, and how we really should just tell people about our blogging and photography instead.
Emma was way ahead of me. She and her roommate have both being trying to make a conscious effort to tell people who ask about what they do or what their jobs are that they are artists and only if asked how they fund their art, would they mention their day jobs.
I loved this idea of actively trying to change your own perspective through the words you use to describe yourself and taking ownership of the things you love to do.
While I do know a few people who are lucky/brave/hardworking/determined enough to be able to pursue their passion full-time, the reality is, that most people I know have to pursue their passions outside of their necessary 9-5.
I feel extremely grateful to hold the steady position I do (it was a SUCH a relief to stumble into it after months of unemployment when I left the small-town paper and moved to the city), and while I am lucky enough to work with really wonderful people, my job doesn’t have much use for any of the skills or creativity I actually enjoy using, and it has very little to do with who I am or how I view myself beyond the self-esteem boost that comes with being steadily, gainfully employed.
It doesn’t light me up, and set my brain a’ ticking the way writing does. The stories I share here, the things I create say so much more about me than my “official “, paying gig does.
I get so much out of it and I put so much into it and just because I’m not paid to do it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have worth, doesn’t invalidate it, doesn’t lower it’s legitimacy as an answer to the question “So what do you do?”
So, I’m going to try to start acknowledging it out loud.
And I think, if you don’t already, you should too.
Start calling yourself the thing you are in your heart, the thing your mind bends towards when you dream, the thing your fingers itch to do.
Start describing yourself in terms of the things you do from 5-9. Because we’re not defined by our 9-5s.
In an effort to remind people of this, I’ve decided to start a series here featuring interviews with and work of people who pursue their passions outside of their 9-5. If you or someone you know fits the bill, shoot me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear about what you do in your 5-9!
Spring sashayed her way back through the city this weekend, warm winds tousled hair, giggled sweetly and whispered promises of patios and open-toed shoes, reminding me I had seeds to plant if I want a summer full of fresh basil and dill and maxi dresses to purchase if I want to live my dream of never shaving my legs this summer.
With those critical items out of the way, I also popped out for a few meals with friends, including the very tasty gorgonzola gnocchi at Bocca in Baldwin village pictured above and some crazy-delicious tapas at Bent.
I also had a strange encounter with a woman outside one of the shops a friend and I were maxi-dress hunting in. She was clearly one of those souls who inhabits a slightly different reality than most, and she got a little in my face and asked if we were thieves. I assured her we were not, and she told me, “Ah sure, you’re a thief! You stole that neck!”
Whenever I have an encounter like that, I get all caught up in wondering what on earth it means and what it is that person sees or hears. What would convince a person that I somehow stole the neck attached to the rest of my body? And then I inevitably have this weird moment where I wonder if the person is somehow right, and I’m the one who can’t see reality. Did I steal this neck? I’d like to think that even in a reality where neck-stealing is possible, I was probably just framed.
Speaking of which, I framed a couple of prints I picked up last weekend from Sovereign State, a very cool little design studio on Dundas West. Joel, the designer behind the three I picked up was so lovely and accommodating in arranging a time for me to pop by and buy them in person when I was having trouble with their online shop.
I fell in love with these three on sight, partly because they had a sort of whimsical Beatrix Potter quality to them, but with a modern and very Toronto edge. I’d had my eye out for something local to hang on my walls for ages and I’m pleased as punch with these!
This past weekend saw parts of Toronto transformed in weird and wonderful ways as part of Saturday’s annual Nuit Blanche.
Nuit Blanche is a free contemporary art exhibit with installations set up from the usual galleries to the unlikeliest of parking garages that takes place from dusk until dawn once a year. I’ve always thought the idea was fun and magical and whimsical, but I’ll admit that the past two years I’ve attended fell short of my expectations for three very specific reasons:
- It was too damn cold to be out wandering the streets in search of art (or even food for that matter. And I’ll make a lot of sacrifices for food, my friends.)
- No one I was with felt strongly enough about any of the installations to be willing to stand in line to see them (especially not in the cold), so we were confined to checking out only the large-scale outdoor ones or the really unpopular ones.
- I wore high heels. Evil ones.
Still, I couldn’t help but get caught up with Jordan’s enthusiasm for the night. Having only been once when he was in town a couple of years ago, undoubtedly clad in some kind of pillowy sneaker or loafer, he had a fresh perspective on the whole affair. Plus he had a group of friends who were hosting a potluck beforehand. And well, food.
So! After frying up some scrumptious corn cakes and watching himself make some of the world’s most ridiculously enormous (but delicious) shrimp salad rolls, I dressed in cozy layers and declared that no matter what else happened, and no matter how long the lineup, we were going to see The Museum at the End of the World. After that I was happy to be a leaf on the wind or stand around while people texted madly and tried to meet up with every friend they’d ever made or see whatever anyone else wanted to see. But I’d be damned if I didn’t at least see one (hopefully) really cool thing this year.
And ok, despite Jordan’s dire predictions and my own memories of the bloody ankles of Nuit Blanches past, I still wore high heels. But comfy ones. And I tucked a pair of emergency flats in my bag.
The potluck was lovely, the food was incredible and it was the kind of balanced gathering of old and new friends that makes everyone feel welcome and included in the lively conversation and laughter. Or maybe I just had too much wine? Hard to say.
And then we were off into the night, a happy little zebra herd of all stripes. Ahem. Or maybe that’s just too much wine again.
Fortunately the plan went according to…plan and we danced our way through the night past drummers and giant projections of jellyfish, set up camp in the line, and a mere 20 minutes later found ourselves strolling through Douglas Coupland’s creepy/cheeky version of the results of the rapture in the parking garage below city hall.
As I stopped to inspect a lonesome walker next to a pile of hastily vacated clothing, I thought about the question my best friend has been asking me I swear once a month since this year began.
“What would you do if you knew this really was the year the world was going to end?”
It’s not something I like or see much point in thinking about. But if there was ever a time and a place, this seemed like it.
Would I quit my job? Travel the world? Gather my family and friends around me in the prettiest place I could find and picnic the time away? Would I do something grand and sweeping, bent on finding some way of leaving a legacy that would somehow outlast the end of days? Maybe.
Or maybe, I’d fry up some corn cakes, kiss my love, drink some wine, laugh with friends, and dance the night away to drums and the sing-song chant of a Hare Krishna Kirtan.
I guess one thing at least is for sure.
At the end of the world? I’ll be the one wearing inappropriate footwear.