Patti Smith: Camera Solo

After a couple of years filled with frequent trips to New York City, I developed much love for the Big Apple. A good (and very thoughtful) friend bought me a special present to help deepen my appreciation for the (rock & roll) history of NYC: Patti Smith’s memoir titled Just Kids. Admittedly at the time I didn’t know much about Patti Smith. I knew she was a legendary rock star and that other musicians, old and new, spoke highly of her talent and success. Just Kids was an eye opener.

I learned so much from reading Patti Smith’s self-penned memoir. I learned that Smith’s first artistic expressions came in the form of painting, sculture and poetry. I learned about her intense love affair and friendship with famed photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, and got a glimpse of the struggles of trying to make it in NYC in the late 1960’s/early 1970’s. There were also Smith’s interactions with Andy Warhol and the artists associated with his Factory that were fun to hear about. Just Kids ends just as Smith’s music career is being propelled and the rest I had to learn on my own (wikipedia?).

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Beyond my interest in Smith’s rise to fame and learning about NYC’s Lower East Side, I took away a sincere appreciation and respect for Smith as a writer and artist. Her ability to recall the details of her early years evocatively and with beautiful emotion paints a clear picture of a semi-charmed life through rose-coloured glasses.  More than a memoir, Just Kids is poetry highlighting Smith’s intelligence and artsy disposition.

Why blog about Patti Smith now? On February 9th, 2013, the Art Gallery of Ontario will present an exhibition of Patti Smith’s work for the first time ever in Canada. The show, titled Patti Smith: Camera Solo, will feature over 75 pieces of work, including photography, objects and film and will highlight her interest in poetry and literature. There will be free a audio guide to accompany the exhibit, and if that weren’t enough, Smith will perform two live musical performances at March’s AGO 1st Thursday on the 7th. Ticket prices remain $8 for members and $10 for non-members and go on sale on February 8th.

Patti Smith, live in concert for $10. Did you get that?? This is not a small deal, folks!!! Put it in your calendars and tweet it to the world – all those Bonnaroo/Coachella/Lollapalooza/Glastonbury concert-goers everywhere are losing their shit.

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Introducing: Trout Rainwear

The thick, wet layer of filthy grey slush currently covering Toronto has me in the mood to be writing about things that are NOT awesome, but Robyn has a strict awesome only policy when it comes to the blog.  Thank god for my recent discovery of Trout Rainwear – a new line of stylish rain gear made in Vancouver and designed right here in Toronto.

The ladies behind Trout – sisters Ashely and Jennifer – obviously understand this type of damp, dismal weather and have designed a line of coats that facilitate looking fashionable and professional while staying dry.  The collection consists of three distinct looks: the sporty “Humbolt” with its bright pink cord tips; the classy “Gila” trench; and my favourite, the reversible “Biwa” which combines the best of both worlds.  All three designs come in a variety of colours, are made with a 100% waterproof Italian double face cotton blend, and feature hidden interior pockets, hide-away hoods and contrast accents.

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As an added bonus, these coats would solve many a female traveler’s dilemma: what to pack when traveling to damp or unpredictable climates.  No one wants to be cold and wet while site-seeing, but if you’re anything like me, your MEC raincoat is reserved for the type of travel that also involves your MEC backpack.  Trout coats are lightweight (i.e. easy to pack), waterproof and versatile – as appropriate for an evening out as they are for museum hopping during a downpour.

Trout will be available at Holt Renfrew mid February and the on-line store is set to launch this spring, just in time for the rainy season.  I can’t wait to check them out in person.

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Red Fish

This may sound ridiculous, but as much as there seems to be an infinite list of places to eat brunch in this fair city, I’m growing tired of them. As a relatively health conscious eater, there are only so many egg white omelettes and eggs Benny with hollandaise sauce on the side that I can take. While fried chicken & waffles and bacon pancakes tug at the heartstrings of many, to me it’s a caloric minefield that just isn’t worth the damage.

Enter Red Fish:

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I came across the suggestion to try Red Fish in a random Chowhound message thread about brunch in the city.  True to its name, Red Fish is a fish and seafood restaurant.  Located in the Corso Italia neighbourhood along College Street, Red Fish uses only sustainable and seasonal fish so to promote guilt-free dining. And guess what? They take reservations for Sunday brunch! Unreal!

As soon as I arrived at the restaurant, I was warmly greeted by the staff by handshakes and a perfect americano. Lucky for me, I was brunching (yes, it’s a noun and an adjective – but only in Toronto) with a friend with equally adventurous taste buds and a penchant for sharing. We landed on the daily special and our waitress’ house favorites.

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Winter Fitness Fun

Last spring I ran my first (and only) 10 km race.  As a non-runner, it felt like a big deal and necessitated what I considered to be fairly serious training.  Although I’ve never much cared for running, I much prefer being outside to in a gym, and as a person who often struggles to make exercise a priority, committing myself to goals (like a race) has always worked particularly well for me.  But now it’s cold.  Like really, really cold.  And the lure of my fireplace and hassle of schlepping to the gym in the snow has resulted in some slowly atrophying muscles.  When discussing today’s post, Robyn suggested looking into races and fitness events in the Spring for some motivation.  Great idea, I thought, but spring is still months away.  I need to find something to do now.  Enter the winter race!

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Turns out there are actually quite a few options for organized outdoor physical activity in Toronto and the surrounding area, from serious triathlons to fun/freezing group bike rides.  I won’t event pretend that I’m about to become a winter runner, but I’ve already signed up to become a member of the Toronto Outdoor Club and if I didn’t already have plans this weekend, I’d be all over Ottawa’s Carlton Cup.  If, like me, you need some motivation to get moving during the cold months ahead, check out some of the options below to get your blood pumping while enjoying the great outdoors.

Toronto Outdoor Club:  The TOC offers a wide-variety of outdoor events year-round, from advanced overnights in Algonquin to early morning urban hikes for dim sum.  The club is free to join and costs to participate are kept as low-cost as possible.  A majority of events take place in and around southern Ontario (with lots to do right here in Toronto), but occasionally the club offers trips to neighboring provinces or travel further away from home.  Apparently the club’s events fill up fast and often result in a wait list, so check out the event calendar now and get yourself signed up!

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The Carleton Cup, aka “The Ultimate Canadian Triathlon” (Skate – Run – Drink), is an annual race held in Ottawa on the Rideau Canal.  Racers in the Carleton Cup collect pledges to raise money for Cystic Fibrosis Canada, then SKATE the canal, RUN through Byward Market to the Aulde Dublinder and then DRINK the beverage of their choice.  The 24th Annual Carleton Cup is scheduled for this Saturday January 26th, but you’re in luck: there is no pre-registration for the Carleton Cup, so if you can make it to Ottawa, simply show up at the Aulde Dubliner on the 26th between 5 and 630 pm to hand in your pledges, register and to receive your race #.  The race starts at 7:45pm.

If you don’t consider drinking beer a sport but otherwise like the sounds of the Carlton Cup, the Winterlude Triathalon might be for you.  Also in Ottawa, the Winterlude Triathlon starts with an 8 km skate on the Rideau Canal, followed by a 5 km cross-country skiing leg, and concludes with a 5 km run.  Early bird registration has already started, but the race itself isn’t until February 2nd, so you still have lots of time to register.  Mandatory race kit pick up is Friday night, Feb 1st between 5 and 8PM.

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Toronto Temperance Society

My travels in search of adventure and fun in American cities like New York City, San Francisco and Chicago have brought me to unique, 1920’s-inspired (and often themed) speakeasies tucked away in secret nooks and crannies. I’ve entered one through a phone booth with a wall that turned out to be a hidden door and I found another by being lured into a closed barber shop that revealed a rum bar serving punches out of intricate silver bowls and teacups once I climbed a hidden staircase. Sometimes I’m given a specific address only to arrive at a nondescript, unmarked door or with an inconspicuous light and am told to knock until I am welcomed inside. Whenever I stumble upon one of these gems, I always feel like I’ve found the golden ticket to the cool scene in a city that I’m  trying to get to know.
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Unless you consider heading to Chinatown past 2:00 a.m. and ordering ‘cold tea’ an uber cool speakeasy, Toronto more or less lacks these venues.  We had Goodnight Bar for awhile, but it fell victim to yet another sky-rise condo.

Around the incarnation of Goodnight Bar in 2010, it was announced that a membership-only drinking establishment would be opening in a secret location in downtown Toronto. It has been 3 years, and the Toronto Temperance Society (TTS) is still going strong. Probably the closest Toronto now has to a 20’s inspired watering hole, I recently gained access to the TTS and am excited to give you a glimpse into it.

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Located above Sidecar restaurant at 577 College St. in Toronto, we were welcomed through a hidden door at the front of the restaurant disguised as part of the restaurant wall. Once opened, we walked up the staircase and were brought back in time.

Jazz music filled room at that perfect level: audible enough to listen, but not so loud as to make it difficult to talk with my company. The only interruption to the tunes was the sound of the bartenders at work with their cocktail shakers. A gorgeous dark mahogany piano was a centrepiece of the room, no doubt used on other nights to entertain.

The gentlemen bartenders were all dressed up in ties and vests and the servers were no less formal. Groups and couples were all quietly enjoying one another’s company at separate tables and on stools at the bar. There were no rambunctious, overly inebriated patrons in sight.

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