Under the Sea

So I brought a boatload of shells back from Cuba. I didn’t really intend to but there was a storm one night and when we went for a walk the next morning all this amazing junk had washed up on the beach and there was just something inherently precious about it. Not “precious” as in “sweet” – “precious” as in “valuable.”

Basic tenets of economics aside, I’m amazed bits of shell and coral aren’t used as actual currency of some sort. When you (or at least, when I) see sea things like these sitting out in the open, there’s this involuntary thrill and gasp. I imagine it’s like what people seeing gold or silver or copper or rough diamonds or semi-precious stones felt the first (or second or thousandth) time they saw said object. It seems sort of impossible shells aren’t worth something. They’re too wild and beautiful.

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That said, though they’re no less amazing now that they’re in my home rather than the sea, they are significantly less functional.

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What can I do with them that isn’t some sort of ghastly shell sculpture of birds or elephants or mermaids or something?


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Islands in the stream, that is what we are…

Did I mention I was in Cuba? I was. A couple months ago Jane and Doug were planning on going and suggested Sean and I come. At the time, we said yes; at the last minute, we had crises of faith because we are poor, we kept thinking about how much work we could get done with a week off and because I’m the kind of beach-goer who wears SPF 70 and reads CanLit beneath beach towels. If I were a guy, I would get sand kicked in my pasty-white, bespectacled face by all the volley-ball-playing hunks.

In the end, a cheap price tag , minor cajoling on Jane’s part, and the promise of rum, cigars and Hemingway sealed the deal. Thank God because it was awesome once we got past all the hepatitis shots and flying.

I will admit – all the freebies (wine, snacks, champagne, dinner, movies) succeeded in distracting me slightly from certain death but I still HATE flying. Every sound the plane makes convinces me we’re going to die. Whenever the stewardesses look at each other I think it’s code for something. I spend half my time waiting for the engine to sputter and then to hear the high-pitched whine I’m sure a plane makes when it’s falling, and half the time focussing my psychic energies on keeping the plane in the air.

Good news – it worked. Again. We landed in one piece. Now where are our refills?

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First order of business was to buy some parking lot beers from a guy at the airport and then take a bus to our hotel in Varadero, where we explored the grounds in the darkness. Warning: skinny dipping ahead. I won’t Jane names…er, name names…

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The light of day was a different story (for us anyway, but we were the only two girls wearing one-piece bathing suits in the whole of Cuba).

Here’s clothed Jane almost winning a bottle of rum in a poolside music trivia contest. I think she won it fair and square but it was tough to pick a bare-knuckle fight with the “winner” when his kids were watching.

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Most of day one was spent in bathing suits – swimming in the pool and kayaking and paddle-boating in the sea. Day two we went into Varadero. It’s a hugely touristy city, but still worth seeing. The buildings are amazing and we stumbled into a super creepy and abandoned amusement park with a goat tied to the roller coaster. So that was pretty cool.

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Oh yeah, the cars! OLD. CARS. EVERYWHERE.

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Not to mention the vintage Triumphs and the number of bikes that had sidecars. We saw sooooooo many the day we rented a car and drove to Havana…or rather, the day Doug rented a car and drove us to Havana while we ran lookout so he wouldn’t hit the various things that line the sides and centres of a Cuban highway. Like what, you ask? Ooooooh, you know, people hitchhiking, kids playing tag, steers, horses, flaming barrels of gas serving as lamps while people fix their cars in the middle of the road. The uje.

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Havana was crumbling and beautiful and loud and wild and amazing. I have about 200 photos of buildings, but tried to narrow it down for you here.

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The above and below shots were taken in the Museum of the Revolution. It used to be the presidential palace and is pretty unbelievable, both in terms of a building and the story it tells now.

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Why wouldn’t this be built to code?

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We ate at Los Nardos and found a microbrewery…

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It was for sure the highlight. Other than Havana, we ate tonnes more food at places like…I forget the name, but the Buena Vista Social Club hung there. We went to a whack of cabarets, including this one at Varadero’s oldest hotel, which was built in the 20s…

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…we fell in love in all the designated areas…

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One night Jane and Doug went exploring this rusty, busted-down fortress with only the flash of a camera to light their way…

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We rode in some sweet old cabs…

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We saw tonnes of animals…

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And though we didn’t get to visit Hemingway’s Havana house due to a misunderstanding about its location, we did the next best thing, which was go Marlin fishing (see more here) with a guy who grew up in Cojimar – the place that inspired the setting for The Old Man and the Sea.


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Below is a photojournalistic account of Jane’s emotional reaction to the adventure…

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In case you can’t tell, it goes 1) Yeah, this is going to be awesome, reeling in a fish! Dun diddle un diddle un dun dun dun, BARRACUDA! 2) Shit, they have teeth… 3) Fewf, that was intense. Now time for a drink and some avasting ye mateys!

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After that we flew home through a ton of turbulence and watched all of our souvenirs break the second they hit Canadian soil – Doug’s rum, my ring, Sean’s bag. I know about the curse if you take stuff away from Hawaii, but does Cuba have its own? Quite possibly. Let me go back and test it out so you know for when you go. It’s a sacrifice, sure, but I’m a giver. Always looking out for others. No, don’t thank me…

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Whatta weekend

What a ram-jam weekend! Everyone decided to have their Christmas parties smack in the middle of the month. In addition to Art Crawl and the O’s Clothes party at Academica on Friday, we skipped around to four holiday parties Saturday night – Supercrawl at This Ain’t Hollywood, Ilya and Kathy at their house, Gravity at One Duke and Sonic Unyon back at This Ain’t. FEWF.

Before all that though, I spent Saturday’s daylight hours back in Toronto – because one weekend wasn’t enough. I dropped off some stuff at a new shop and went to the Frida and Diego show at the AGO. Afterwards I swung by 401 Richmond to have a Tintype Studio portrait done. Sean was supposed to be with me, but bike repair beckoned and I ended up solo in this shot.

I haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaate being in photos, particularly when there’s studio lighting and fancy equipment involved, so it’s quite a thing that I loved this experience. I credit this to the guys running the show at Tintype. They are rad and their product screams its own awesome. Observe:


Check their site for a full breakdown of the metal-made magic that is their photos.

I also found what’s bascially the quilt I’ve spent my whole life looking for. 25% off $35 for this steal. It’s mental and it’s made for my dream cabin. Now all I need is the acerage and the know-how to construct a building!

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I got this book at Swipe. I’ve been looking for it since Laura Marotta mentioned it when I interviewed her for this piece.

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A history of colour. Eras, efforts, everything. The shades behind certain times and the hues of many movements.

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Pretty sweet.

Finally, I may have purchased a ridiculous dog outfit but it’s badass and it was cheap and Memphis is a pansy about the cold. He lays, shivering, on the heated bathroom floor or directly in front of a vent all day long like he was some poor orphan from a Dickens tale. WHO’S COLD NOW, TINY TIM?


Aaaaaand finally, we saw Plaskett Sunday night. It was a last-minute decision, but a smart one.


Fewf, right? I’m tired just thinking back through all of it…





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Testing my metal

FINALLY. My necklace, featuring one of the many Crown Land logos Mike made for me, is finished.

It’s copper, it’s sterling, it’s been dipped in liver of sulphur and dragged across heavy-grit sandpaper to give it a more rough and tumble, beat-up look.

I didn’t take a picture of me wearing it because…it was difficult to do that in a way that didn’t feel overly porno due to the length of the chain and the V-neck shirt I was wearing. Maybe I’ll learn.

I also busted off these little bands to get used to the practice of ring-making – a copper one covered with a pebble-y stamp design and a sterling one. I tried to make it look like birch bark with the stamps the instructor had available. Kind of worked?

When I get back from up north I’m going to make a pair of earrings out of this Coleman lantern design I worked out a few weeks ago. Pret-ty excited. Pretty itchy for a saw and some more metal.

But first – Dryden. See you in a week or so, Internet!

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