What can I say about the opera? We had never been to a Wagner before, in part because it was not something I was expecting to entirely love. I’ve heard enough of the music to know it’s not my favorite: I like Mozart, Puccini, and Verdi. But this is the glory of the Met in HD–you’re not risking kabillions on an experiment.
The results of this experiment were mixed. These broadcasts sell out fast and our seats were painfully close the screen. We could see the pixels at times, and they had a glitch with the satellite right at the beginning. But the Rhine maidens were very sexy and weird and the staging was ambitious. And I really heart Bryn Terfel, who sings Wotan. So I walked out saying “Yep, I suspected that might not be my cuppa.”
I was glad I went, though. One can’t love all operas (or all anything) equally, but I always enjoy going. And it was a perfect activity for what turned out to be an incredibly rainy day.
The other thing that was very sad about the adventure of Saturday was that once again we planned to eat at Nuba, only to get there and discover they’re not open. This is the third time, I think. I had been looking forward to that lovely wonderful spicy cauliflower all morning. I had brought snacks, but you cannot sit in an opera munching noisily away, and when we left the theater we thought we might as well get to the restaurant. The blood sugar got a tad low.
Plan B, as always, was to hoover up the food I’d brought and haul ass through the downpour to Memphis Blues. Why are they the go-to place? Because they bring your food in five minutes, dammitall, they don’t care if you eat with your fingers, and I’ve never shown up there and found a locked door. They gave me a barbecued lamb sandwich and a salad, and equilibrium was restored.
MB is right next to the Santa Barbara market, so on the last leg of the journey home, we went apple shopping. Only when we were safely home and ready to dry off did Kelly realize I hadn’t bought enough onions for the holiday perogies. So she went back out into the rain to buy some more, along with something else I had forgotten. I curled up by the fire with a book.
Kelly gets invited to a lot of wine-themed gatherings at this time of year, by people hoping she’ll mention their products in her Chatelaine column, and I’ve gotten to tag along once or twice. They are fun, bubbly crowd scenes, and the food is amazing.
Thursday, though, was the first time I got invited to a full-bore, five-course tasting dinner–and the host was the maker of my favorite beer–Innis & Gunn Oak-Aged Beer from Scotland. I have been looking forward to going to CinCin for this for weeks!
As you can probably deduce from their name, Innis & Gunn age their lovely, lovely beer in bourbon, Scotch, rum, and other boozy-type oak casks. We first encountered its wonders, improbably enough, at a Real Canadian Superstore liquor outlet in Airdrie, Alberta. The 20-something at the cash register raved about it… with cause, as it turned out. From then on, it has been the beer I actually make a point of getting and drinking on my 3-4 “Must have Beer Now!” days of the year.
The way these dinners work, it turns out, is they bring out each course of the meal, and the chef tells you what he’s made. Then one of the drinks experts explains which beer is paired with the food, and why. Then your brain explodes with the yum. They’re opulent affairs. The appetizer was salmon and beet root salad with a foamy beer zabaglione, and the main course was venison with chocolate sauce. Dessert was panna cotta, paired with the Canadian Rye cask beer–which was the sharpest of the bunch, and less a fave of mine. I lost my heart, on the other hand, to the Highland Cask beer, which was the drinking equivalent of a perfect day at the circus. It is a limited edition, alas! They won’t make it again. Fortunately, their Rum Cask is almost as mind-blowing, and is about to be available in Canada, hopefully forever.
This whole thing was hosted by the master brewer and owner of the company, Dougal Sharp, and I ended up sitting next to him and a young woman who was dressed like a librarian. It was a disguise, it turns out, as she’s actually something of a sporty adventuress: a helicopter-skiing, white-water rafting, hiking, biking, hunting, fishing rough and tumble woman from the Okanagan. The two of us asked Dougal many questions about beer making, and I’m thinking my next book has to feature some of the lore. Luckily, I have a planet on the drafting board that has infinite room for passionate little subcultures.
It was a delicious, extravagant and tipsy evening, and a great kick-off to the holiday weekend.
Sunday morning after I hit the cafe for some writing time, Barb and I went for a walk through Coal Harbor to Lost Lagoon, and it was like the wildlife of Coastal B.C. was lining up for us. Here’s a small sample:
After three happy hours in the baking, blazing, sharp-shadow-casting sun, we returned to East Vancouver, where I hooked up with Kelly for coffee and a panini. Afterward, we decided to hit a sale at Cotton Ginny that Faith had mentioned… and it was like the pretty, price-slashed clothes of Vancouver (okay, Burnaby) were lining up for me. I got a couple of allegedly, organic, sustainably farmed, farmer-friendly cotton tops and a pair of jeans, and then we went next door and stocked up on socks for winter. (The socks, I admit, may have been made from baby spandexes whose parents were taken away in the night by very unkind people.)
Then we puttered home, or meant to, and ended up in Tierra del Sol, where the other clothes were waiting. A dress and a cute, cute, CUTE! top later, we were ready to go. Then we heard a cheerful-sounding “I need a hug!” and Lotus was standing behind us. Eeeee!!! Lotus lives in Edmonton now, so her hugs are rare and precious things. She had somewhere to be so we walked her back to the Skytrain station, chattering all the way, and then turned back for what could be counted as my fourth attempt to return home in the six hours since I’d left. This time we made it as far as Falconetti‘s new deck. Kelly had a Caesar and I had an Innis and Gunn; we shared a plate of calimari and all was right with the world.
Then, finally, we went home, so I could wash off the sunscreen and chortle over my photographic treasure. That, and telling you all about it, is what I’m up to now.
It doesn’t get hot here as often or to the degree that it does in much of the U.S., and as a result comparatively few Vancouverites have air conditioning at home. When it’s hot, we turn on the fans, we run our clothes through the rinse cycle and wear them damp, we open the windows, drink iced drinks, and go outside. We sleep badly and swear we’ll get A/C for next year, and some of us actually do. If things keep heating up, everyone will probably install a chiller.
(My house tends to get five to ten degrees hotter than ambient, which is one of many reasons why I didn’t invite a bunch of people I’m meeting with tomorrow to do it here. Melting one’s friends is so gauche!)
Imagine, now, if you had fur! Rumble spends these days lying beside his friend the toilet. I stuck my foot in Minnow, a.k.a. jumpiest cat alive, the other morning, and she did not twitch a bun. And on the one day a couple weeks ago when it was absolutely scorching, I found many of the neighborhood cats snoozing in the shade, lying on lawns, and otherwise keeping cool by just damnwell getting out out. Here’s one:
So, heat. That particular searing day, maybe two weeks ago, K was wrapping up a project at her office and I spent the day in mine, drinking tons of water and sweating like crazy. I find a good bake, once in awhile, to be very gratifying, even healthy-feeling. It was a good day. And since then, it’s been a temperature many would find perfect: hot, but not too.
As we head into this weekend it looks to be heating up a bit more, back into the less comfy range. I probably won’t go out in search of more toasty felines, though–I have that day-long meeting Saturday, a hike with Barb on Sunday morning, and some work that’s crept up on me like one of those cartoon naturalists with a butterfly net. I dealt with as much of the pile as I possibly could today, but I don’t feel as though I’ve got very much think left in me for this evening.
What I do have in me is blueberries. My favorite local farmers have once again set up a booth in the Commercial Skytrain Station, and are selling cherries and blueberries for $2 a pound, or 3 pounds for $5. I shouldn’t be telling you this. I should be keeping it a carefully hoarded secret. I want all the blueberries, which are damn near as big as my thumb, and bursting with archived sunshine. But hiding this information from all of you, when several tens of thousands of commuters stream past these guys all day throwing money at them, would be silly. Go. Eat. They’re delicious.
Slightly related because it touches on my neighborhood and photography, I am thinking of sending a few pictures to the This Is East Van project. It wouldn’t pay, but as far as I can tell they aren’t one of those “you pay us to publish you!” scams that I’m more familiar with from seeing scammers pounce, hyena-like, on young poets. If anyone knows whether these guys are legit, I’d be interested. I haven’t published any photos since I was in some (electronic) Chicago-based Art magazine a few years back. This is because I don’t throw much effort at it. But if these guys aren’t crooks it would be nice to try. You’ve probably all noticed I’m really into my neighborhood, and if you’re not sure on that score, “The Cage” comes out on TOR.COM next week and should remove all doubt.
I will have the next Journey interview for you all early next week. In the meantime, here’s another cat.
On Monday morning I was closing up the house when I noticed an especially stunning dragonfly on my grapevine:
Most of my day had been set aside for fun with Kelly–fun of the strolling about taking pictures variety, no less!–so this was an especially welcome visitor. Sometimes dragonflies are quite twitchy, and won’t let you get close. This one sat quite still and let me snap it for about twenty minutes, from all angles and just inches away. It was still there when we left the house.
The rest of the day was spent in self-indulgence. Coffee and a panini first; then we went to Maplewood Flats and ambled around for awhile, admiring the everything. We were particularly taken with some immature robins who were having a go at the berries in a big tree overlooking the beach.
From there we went to Lynn Canyon, puttered across the suspension bridge, and joined a seething mass of humanity on the trail. We didn’t stay long: crowds and day camp groups and many many screaming toddlers didn’t make for a relaxing soundscape. It was neat to go from the salt marsh ecosystem to BC cedar forest, real Emily Carr terrain, in fifteen minutes flat. But the jostling and screeching were aversive; solitude was what we both wanted.
So we fled to Au Petit Chavignol, where we were the only people besides the wait staff. We had a little plate of cheese (including goat gouda with nettles!) and charcuterie, an heirloom tomato salad, some white wine (Joie Farm, A Noble Blend) and a decadent little brown sugar and butter cake with cooked cherries. I managed to shoot it before it got devoured; usually it would come with whipped cream too, but I had them leave that off.
I have to tell you that if they’d brought twice as much of this cake, I’d have finished it. If they’d brought ten times as much of this cake, I’d have finished it. Fifty, even. It was that good.
At that point it was time to go home and loaf within easy reach of our book and DVD collection.