Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Atrium of the VAG
This city is so lovely, so beautiful in so many ways. I woke craving a strong coffee so made my way to the ubiquitous Starbucks nearby. Time to read, write, text my loved ones. Later I walked all the way down Granville (north?) to the water and took photos. I know that I’m in a high end part of the city when I pass Holt Renfrew, Tiffany’s, Sephora…

Harbour Centre
I love the architecture here. It’s mostly very modern but appealing – the Harbour Centre for example which looks like a space ship atop a building but there is also the older Sinclair building, the Hotel Vancouver, the Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG to you neophytes!) which is across the street from my hotel.

I don’t spend much just a little secret something for J. I wander into the monster Chapters on Howe Street and am horrified to find a whole merchandising section on … how can I phrase it … accouterments for reading? It had boxed “Jane Austen candles”, incense, “reading throws”, and specially designed editions of Austen, Poe and other classics which matched in color with the merchandise… WTF - can’t we just read the damn books, why is there merchandise that is colour coordinated with the books?

Vancouver Art Gallery
Feeling slightly drained but happy today I go back to the hotel and rest. In the early aft, I go to the VAG and check out a photo exhibit by Robert Adams – all b&w photos of very haunted landscapes for the most part. The photos are depressing but beautiful as if these landscapes have been scoured free of humans.

On the heated terrace of the VAG, facing Howe Street, I am happy to have my coffee and listen to the woman behind me cheerfully sing Christmas carols at the top of her lungs as well as comment on the overheard conversations of the other gallery patrons. Possibly a street person but it is uncertain...

Christ Church Cathedral
Across from the hotel is a pretty church called Christ Church Cathedral. I go inside and light a candle for the old man for whatever place he is in now, hoping that this candle will warm him. I take a few pictures of the stained glasses images. One is of St. Michael I think (or perhaps I imagine it to be so).

As I leave a very disheveled but well-spoken man approaches me with a map claiming that he is an American who has lost his way. Obviously, with camera in hand and a dazed look, I also appear to be a tourist and unlikely to be able to help him until he tells me that he was recently mugged and lost a tooth. Uh, unfortunately, this man has lost many teeth many moons ago and the story is not plausible but he still touches me up for five bucks.

Hotel Vancouver
Back to the hotel to prepare for the reading – to read a comic or moving section? Sometimes merely reading about Seraphina the mother in the book (or worse still Turi, the father) completely undoes me. I opt for the scene where the three Pentangeli children try and concoct a magical meal for their father’s cousin Cristofero, a despised dinner guest.

The Istituto Italiano di Cultura where the reading will be is not far … on West Hastings and a few minutes away by cab. It’s in a grand old building which reminds me of those older buildings on the lower part of Bay Street in Toronto. When I buzz the ringer at the door on the 5th floor, a suspicious looking man surveys me. “I’m here for the reading," I squeak out. “Writer?” he asks gruffly. “Yes,” I meekly answer. “Come in,” he orders. Later I see is that he is our impromptu bartender.

Two of my colleagues are already there and we await two more. I meet the charming Alberta Lai, the director of the Istituto. We test the mikes, set up our books. The last thing to decide is sequence. I really dislike this part. I always feel that a disinterested third party is the best person to decide as every writer has his/her own agenda. Alphabetical? That would be to my advantage I point out to the group as my surname begins with “A” – is the group comfortable with that? Someone suggests girl/boy/girl/boy. The writer Genni Gunn who will also read with us quips, “What is this a dinner party?” Finally the order is decided: Michelle, Michael, Caterina, a break, Pasquale and then Genni. Ten minutes each.

Caterina Edwards reads
The crowd is small but appreciative. The readings go well. But again, two things perturb me: where are the young people and why is no one buying books? How do we preserve Italo-Canadian culture if we don’t write about it and how can we write about if we are not fairly compensated? This an issue I raise at dinner afterwards.

People seem more relaxed tonight. The crowd is friendly and intelligent in the brief Q&A.

Afterward Genni takes us to Robson St. for Japanese - Ebisu. I go from being famished (with no lunch or dinner) to being minimally hungry. Suddenly I feel very lonely, missing R and J. Is this how traveling business people and artists feel – the excitement of a new place, new food, new people and then an unexpected plunge into sadness because all you want to do is curl up with the person(s) you love?

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