Goodbye Montreal…completing my bucket list

I am finally on the road and have officially said goodbye to Montreal and my friends there. Before I start off on my adventures in Quebec City, I thought I’d do a post about working through my Montreal bucket list. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to complete everything on the list, but I guess that means I shall just have to come back soon!

What became one of my favorite places in Montreal, the Botanical Gardens, I actually visited a few times since my resolution to check it out. I loved the Japanese and Chinese Gardens and even walked all the way up to the “Tree House” which, much to our dismay, was just a museum about trees and not something built by the Swiss Family Robinson. My friend Sung visited me halfway through August and accompanied me to the garden, where we found an exhibit of artwork by Taiwanese sculptor Ju Ming. The sign mentioned there were 12 pieces in total, each displaying a person performing a different Tai Chi move. Sung and I decided to try to find them and create our best imitation of their poses. Check out some of our attempts below.

Unfortunately, we were unable to find all 12 of them. Granted, we didn’t exactly search for them, but we were a little disappointed nonetheless.

Strangely enough, when I on the way to spa Bota Bota with my friend Kim for two-for-one-Tuesdays, we came across another four statues that had to be by the same artist. Funny thing is, they weren’t anywhere near the Botanical Gardens! They were actually in a little park in the Old Port.

Ju Ming Tai Chi Sculpture

Just another beautiful day in the Old Port on the way to the spa…

Ju Ming Tai Chi Sculpture

…mimicking statues’ tai chi poses, as you do…

Ju Ming Tai Chi Sculpture

…doing my best not to fall over…

Ju Ming Tai Chi Sculpture

I’m not sure if these are four additional statues, or just the four that seemed to be missing in the gardens. Regardless, they were pretty cool.

I also completed a few other things on my list – among them trying the flying trapeze, checking out the cemeteries (pics below), and attending the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit at the Musée des Beaux Arts (I’ll be posting something more extensive on this as soon as my camera starts functioning properly again and I can upload the pics).

Cemetery Montreal

At the cemetery, Kim and I encountered a very nice security guard who gave us a ride to the bathrooms down the hill (“didn’t your parents tell you never to get in a car with strangers?” he said) and pointed out the oldest, most interesting parts of the place. People here are so nice!

Cemetery Montreal

Kim and I noticed a trend: headstones that are also benches. Personally, I think it’s quite nice. If you’re going to come spend a quiet moment with a family member, may as well have somewhere to rest while you’re there, right? Ok, maybe it’s creepy, idunno… Cemetery Montreal

After the cemetery, we checked out the view of the city from the Observatoire (and later from the Summit in Westmount). Will post more pictures later if I get around to it.

Check back in a day or so for more updates on my travels! Will likely write more on Mtl Bucket list, then Quebec City, then Maine, etc… I have also started a new tumblr: “Read the Sign”. It’s a photo blog of funny, stupid, or ridiculous signs (mostly road signs) that I’ve seen out and about. You can follow those updates here.

Please stop emailing me, Katrin Leblond

Following this week’s trend, I am writing a post other than a Travel Thursday for two reasons:

a) I don’t have anything good to say about travel this week because I haven’t been anywhere interesting lately
b) I do have a lot to say about Boutique Katrin Leblond (the boutique in which I sold my jewelry)

My relationship with the boutique started off as pleasant as could be. I brought in my jewelry on the appointed day and Erin, the manager, selected fifteen pieces to be displayed in the store for sale. She explained that these fifteen seemed most cohesive as a collection. She told me to create tags for them (“out of colorful paper or something similar”) and bring them back the following week. The tags I created were less than beautiful, but they got the point across, and I figured if they weren’t adequate I would be told to use something else.

Just to give you an idea of the timeline, according to my agenda (where I write all of my appointments), my original meeting at Katrin Leblond was Monday, April 25th at 10:30 AM, and I dropped off the tagged earrings the following week – Monday, May 2nd, according to my inventory sheet. My parents came to visit me the weekend of the 14th of May and we went to the store just to see how things were going. It took me a while to locate where my jewelry was hung but I eventually found it hidden behind a big rack. They were quite out-of-the-way and some of them were no longer in pairs. Still, though, I counted them and got 11. Four appeared to have been sold.

I got a little busy and didn’t make any more jewelry until June 9th, and I decided to walk in that morning on the off chance that Erin would be available. As it turns out, she wasn’t working that day, so I called the store the day after and set up an appointment for two and a half weeks later on Tuesday, June 28th. I was a bit put off that I had to wait so long but understood that it was the busy season and so didn’t complain. Two weeks go by and I show up at the store 10am on Tuesday. Erin isn’t there. I wait around for a bit, have the store girl call Erin, but no luck. She leaves my name and number on Erin’s voicemail and says that she will get back to me soon to reschedule the appointment (and perhaps to explain why it was missed in the first place). In the meantime, I check out my jewelry, which seems to be more in disarray than before, and I count them – the same 11 pieces are there. It’s been nearly a month and a half since I walked in with my parents, and not a single piece more of my jewelry has been sold. I’ve had better luck selling them online.

jewelry for sale

new pieces soon for sale! Sorry for photo quality!

A few days go by, and I still haven’t heard from them. July 2nd, a friend and I are walking to a restaurant two doors down from Katrin Leblond, and I decide to peak my head in just to see if Erin’s around so maybe we can solve this mystery of why she missed the appointment I made two weeks in advance.

Now, just to give you an idea of how I was feeling that day, the day before was July 1st – Canada Day – and I had gone out with a friend to have a few beers (literally about 3, nothing crazy) then headed to the Old Port to watch the fireworks show with 3284932 other people all crowded in to watch literally a 5 minute show. Afterwards we fought the crowd to get a couple of beaver tails and then head on home. I was back and completely sober by about 11:30pm.

Canada Day Fireworks

Canada Day Fireworks

SO, it was not the spins that woke me around 4am and made me sick all morning. Personally, my bet is on the beaver tail (elephant ear we Americans call it), but it’s also possible I picked something up from one of the hundreds of people packed into such a tight space. I really don’t know, regardless, I was sick and then I had to go to work. I couldn’t keep any food down so I didn’t eat all day. I finished work around 6 and, weak and hungry (to the point where I physically could not raise my voice and sharp noises pained me), I met up with my friend and we headed to the restaurant. That is the condition I was in when I walked in to Katrin Leblond.

I spotted Erin immediately and walked up to her (“a bit brashly,” my friend said), and said outright, “Hi Erin, I think I’d like to pick up my jewelry,” or something to that effect. She followed me up to where my jewelry was displayed. I’ll admit I don’t remember everything that was said, mostly just me saying I’d like to pick up my jewelry and that I didn’t understand why she’d missed the appointment earlier in the week and hadn’t managed to even send me a quick email explaining why. She said something about personal issues, and I insisted on taking my jewelry home. About that time Katrin herself came over and asked what the deal was. I’d teared up a little because I was not feeling good, and I was frustrated with the boutique and not sure what to do. “You seem like you’re getting emotional,” Katrin said.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “I’ve just had a bad day.”

“You think you’ve had a bad day!” Erin chimed in, “I haven’t been at work ALL WEEK! This has been a VERY TOUGH TIME for me!” she practically yelled. She and Katrin then went on a short condescending rant about how hard things have been for them lately. As far as I could tell, I didn’t say anything to deserve such a tone. In fact, I had just apologized! The two of them just yelled at me (literally – their voices were raised) and made me feel like complete shit. My friend said afterward that she wanted to butt in but didn’t feel it was her place, “I was so angry for you!” she said, “You shouldn’t have been the one apologizing!”

Finally, I told Katrin I just wanted to take my jewelry home. She fingered the earrings, which were still in disarray – some mismatched, some missing pairs, “Oh, but they’re so cute! Are you sure you don’t want to leave them a little longer!?”

“Well they don’t seem to be selling,” I said.

“Why don’t you make us some more, then?” Katrin said frivolously, turning her back on me.

“Well I did!” I said, “That’s why I made that appointment two weeks ago for this week!” But I was talking to her back. Katrin was retreating to the back of the store. On the verge of tears, I turned to Erin, “I just want to pick up my jewelry as soon as possible please. Can you email me when they are ready?” She nodded at me, and my friend and I left the store. As we walked out, I realized that neither Katrin nor Erin ever apologized to me or tried to patch things up – or even offered a real explanation for the missed appointment.

A week later, July 9th, I receive an email from Boutique Katrin leBlond titled “because we love you.” This is the first correspondence I’ve received from them since I walked in July 2nd. I look at the title and think, “Oh, wow, how nice. I guess they are finally going to apologize and try to make things right!” I open the email and it’s actually a promotional mass-mailer.

Boutique Katrin Leblond Promotional T-Shirt

Boutique Katrin Leblond Promotional T-Shirt

The worst part about the mailer was the “deal” they were offering – Buy $500 worth of clothes, receive a Katrin Leblond t-shirt. Sorry, what!? Ok, let’s think about this – I’ve had t-shirts printed before, and I know that, depending on quality and quantity it costs about $5-$10 per shirt. So what you’re saying, Boutique Katrin Leblond, is that you don’t even have the class to offer your customers who spend a whopping half a grand in your store something worth more than 1-2 percent what they spent? And secondly, what are customers who go into a store and drop that much money going to do with a t-shirt?

This ridiculous “deal” that I thought had been an apology coupled with the fact that a week later I still hadn’t heard from them – not even about picking up my jewelry – led me to send them a frustrated email with an ultimatum. Otherwise, I told myself, they were just going to continue walking all over me.

Here is the string of emails that followed, starting with my response to the deal. Emails are here in their entirety. If there are no greetings, etc, that’s how they were sent. I did, however, remove Erin’s last name from her signatures.

Me, July 9th

Erin – Please have my jewelry ready for return as well as my check for what you’ve sold ready by Tuesday at 10:30am. I will be by to pick them up then whether or not you have prepared them, and if you have not prepared my check (or do not have time to) I will select an item in the store worth the amount that you owe me.

See you on Tuesday at 10:30.

Hayley

Erin, July 10th

NO.  It does not work like that. your items will be returned to you.  A document must be prepared that records that the return happened so we are not liable for costs.  We did not make an arrangement for exchange of goods.  I am not supposed to be working today.  If a return is prepared and ready on Monday then you will receive an email.


Your life is your most powerful art.  See you at the boutique.

Erin —
Boutique Manager

Me, July 10th

Erin, I am simply letting you know that I am tired of waiting for you to “get around to it.” I feel I have been mistreated as a supplier to your store – I have felt nothing but bad feelings from you and Katrin (though your staff have been more than apologetic). I was stood up for my appointment that I made TWO WEEKS IN ADVANCE with NO explanation, and when I came into your store to figure out what was going on, you and Katrin verbally attacked and belittled me. I do not intend to take anything from your store, but I feel that this demand is the only way to ensure that I actually get what is owed me and to let you know that I am serious. The earrings do belong to me, and I expect them to be returned Tuesday morning by the latest so that I can return to selling them on my own since it seems I have been more successful than your boutique at getting people to buy them.

I will be by on Tuesday at 10:30.

Hayley

Erin, July 10th

Clarity.  Patience.  Understanding

I am sorry you feel “mistreated as a supplier”.  That was not anyone`s intention.

Let me be very clear that we did not in any way verbally attack you.

We want to make peace with you and resolve this in a joyous loving way.  You are projecting your own misery and commitment to conflict.  It is you who is catagorically unwilling to accept that we are trying to make this better.

I don`t feel like you even heard us.

Katrin said your stuff was nice and that if it was not selling fast enough maybe you should bring in other pieces.

 I apologized to you for the fact that there was no one to greet you on the date of your appointment. I asked you what you would like me to do about it.  You said you wanted to take out your things and I said I would prepare a return.

I told you there had been personal difficulties that had come up that meant you had not been taken care of in the regular manner. 

Clearly you would have liked for things to have gone differently.  So would have I. 

I can`t change that you did not get to have your meeting.  You were not the only designer who had a meeting missed during the week in particular.  You are however the only one where moving forward has proven difficult. I am trying to deal with things as they are now.

It is absolutely untrue that there have been any ” bad feelings” harbored by Kat or I.

 Only that at this point I do consider you to be committed to being accusatory, unable to hear apologies, inflexible in the face of other peoples difficulties, generally defensive and high maintenance and costly to our time.

  Reflect on the number of emails, phone calls and meetings required to manage 10 pairs of earrings.

 I will not reply to any more e mails regarding this matter.   I have apologized.  You said you wanted to take back you things.  I said I will prepare the return.  What else is there for me to do.

You are insisting on a meeting time (tuesday 10:30) that has already been booked by another designer.  Please make sure you have received an e mail confirmation before coming by.  Do not come by without receiving notification.  I will see you when your return is ready. Be prepared for a very short and sweet exchange.  If everything is already prepared you should be able to come by and have everything picked up and signed out in 10 minutes.  

I understand that might seem funny to you considering you already booked an appointment that was missed but let me say it again that is not standard procedure here.  We manage over 75 designers, lots of which are consignment designers.  try to see that there is a big picture. 

I am trying to move forward smoothly as much as is possible.  There is no question that you will get your earrings.  Let`s try and end this pleasantly.

Thank you for your understanding.
Good luck with your future projects.

Erin —

Notice there is still no true apology. And no, she did NOT apologize to me at the store the day I walked in. Not to mention, the emails that you see here (all four of them) as well as four more that were exchanged when I first dropped off my jewelry in early May are all the correspondence we had outside of one appointment (that wasn’t missed) and two times I walked in the store and talked to them. I also spoke to her on the phone once, the day I called to set up an appointment – the appointment she didn’t come to. So, what Erin is saying in her email is that 8 emails – in total, not 8 threads – and one phone call in 2 1/2 months is too much hassle for her. Let’s not mention the time I’ve spent in making the jewelry and in coming to the store, and in hounding her to get things done.

Personally, when I do business I feel that everybody involved – no matter how large or small a part they play – deserves equal respect. Bottom line here is that Boutique Katrin Leblond completely disrespected me. I know that I wasn’t a huge supplier to their store, but if they are mistreating me, I can’t imagine how they treat customers who don’t want to spend $500 every time they drop by. If your business is hurting, Katrin Leblond, maybe you should reexamine how you deal with the small fry.

As a PS, my jewelry will soon be available once again on Etsy.com. You can check it out at the link in the top navigation bar. I’ll write a post as soon as I open it up again!

— edit Aug 7 —

As an addendum, I feel I must mention a few things. First, I wrote this blog as much to give an idea to the store managers how I felt at that time as to have a bit of a mental release from the event. I recognize that it is in the past, and that it’s time for me to let it go, but I recently received another promotional mass-mailer from Katrin Leblond, and it spurred the feelings I had from before.

Second, aside from the one time in the store, I dealt solely with Erin and not Katrin, and even when Katrin spoke to me in the store, she seemed very upset due to – I assume – whatever else was going on in her life at the time.

And finally, I forgot to mention that I did in fact return to the store on the Tuesday I requested to pick up my jewelry (which involved the exchange of 2 more emails I also forgot to mention, but they were formulaic in nature and not worth quoting here).  Erin was completely civil to me, and the whole process took about five minutes, as she mentioned in her email that is quoted here.

Please note that I am not trying to boycott Boutique Katrin Leblond or in any way prevent people from shopping there. I am simply trying to recount my encounter with them with as little bias as possible, which is why I posted the emails in their entirety – mine included – and an accurate timeline. Mostly, I hope this post can act as a form of release and closure, and I ask that you, the reader, take it only as such.

Flying High…on a Trapeze!

So I know this isn’t a Music Monday post, but I couldn’t think of anything super interesting to say that was music related, and I don’t want to waste your time. Instead, check out these cool videos of me trying flying trapeze for the first time!

While you’re at it, go to the Trapezium website and register for a class or two! I got my class on Groupon for a pretty sweet deal of $20 for a 2 hour class, and it was worth every penny! I kind of ended on a bad note, though – missing the catch because I didn’t leave the platform in time – so I am actually considering paying full price for another lesson. We shall see! And if I do, you’ll definitely hear about it!

[travelthursday] My Montreal Bucket List

Okay, so you may or may not know that I have been living in Montreal for a little under a year now. During my time here, I have gotten to experience a number of things: I have been ice-skating at Parc la Fontaine, I have been to the Biodome, the Insectarium, Parc Mont Royal (a number of times), several art shows, fashion shows, indie shows, electronic shows, bars, pubs, clubs, I’ve checked out the famous places – Schwartz’s, Fairmount Bagels, La Banquise, PatitiPatata, I’ve been rock climbing, biking, jogging, yoga-ing, participated in fashion shows, photoshoots, promo events, I’ve been a dog-walker, a painter, a carni, done reno work, tried to start my own business, helped other people start their own businesses, taken drawing lessons, sewing lessons, guitar lessons (well, starting this week anyway), I’ve marketed my product (jewelry), I’ve marketed other people’s products, and I’ve done just about everything in between. BUT I still have not done and seen everything I’d like to do and see in Montreal.

SO, having been inspired by this post by Kate Going Global, a fellow travel blogger, I’ve decided to write a Montreal Bucket List – basically just a list of things I’d like to do and places I’d like to see in Montreal that I haven’t already done or seen.

So, here goes:

1) Hike the trails in Parc Mont Royal
2) Use my “flying trapeze” class groupon
3) Go to the Botanical Gardens
4) Visit Notre Dame Cathedrale
5) Go to Piknic Electronik
6) Go to La Ronde Amusement Park
7) See the Jean-Paul Gaultier exhibit
8) Visit St. Joseph’s Oratory
9) See a concert in the Bell Centre
10) Visit Mont Royal & Notre-dame-des-neiges cemeteries
11) See Cirque du Soleil
12) Spend a day photographing the city
13) Go to the McCord History Museum
14) Check out the Maisonneuve Market
15) Eat at Dagwood’s Subs

Any other suggestions? Leave ‘em in the comments!

[travelthursday] Vacation in your backyard

You may or may not have noticed that I didn’t put up a Travel Thursday post last week. I was also more behind than usual on my Music Monday post, which held me up on the Thursday one, sorry about that! (Since I know all of you are just dying to read my blog, I apologize for ruining your entire week by not writing one post!)

That said, this post was supposed to be for a contest that ended last week (so yeah, not winning that one) but the theme was “Vacationing close to home.” So yeah, I know I live in Montreal and all, so I do feel a little cheap because of all the options the city gives me, but I’m pretty sure this is fairly original. Read on to see, and feel free to give me feedback in the comments!

This year, budgets are still slim from the economic downturn, and as a result many people are cutting back on vacations. Instead of going to far-away destinations, they are opting to stay close to home – going camping, staying with relatives, etc. In my search for the best vacation close to home, I came upon an interesting site in Parc Mont Royal.

On an overcast Sunday afternoon, I bypassed the Tam-Tams and the first hill to take a stroll deeper into the woods.parc mont royal tight rope walkers The trees were sparse but shady, and as I approached a large clearing, I saw tight-ropes strung from tree to tree, and people practicing circus tricks. I felt like the little boy who sneaked into the Teddy Bears’ Picnic.

I ventured further into the woods, past the first clearing and the circus-folk and into what looked like a dirt arena. To my surprise, contained within this arena were a couple dozen grown men dressed as knights and pirates and villains. Each had some sort of foam weapon and shield, and was decked out in a variety of home-made armor. Some even carried big flag-poles. I sat and watched for a minute as the men pummeled each other. Eventually I discovered their system. There were two teams, one on either side of the arena. As soon as the signal was given, they rushed at each other and started hacking mercilessly with their foam swords. After a minute or so, there were a handful of guys squatting, and a handful left fighting. In another minute, the whole thing was over.

Close by, two men sat under the shade of a tree next to a blanket covered in foam weapons and armor. I walked over to inquire about the game. “So what’s going on here?” I asked of the tall, broad-shouldered man with the flame-red beard, “What are the rules of the game?” He looked a bit taken aback and was reluctant to talk, but eventually he explained that the rules were quite simple: there are weapons for larp at mont royal parkgenerally two teams. At the signal, the two teams rush each other and the team completely eliminated first loses. A blow to the chest or back is fatal, but if you get hit on a limb, you simply have to stop using that limb. Short swords can be used one-handed, but if you have a longsword, you must use two hands – which means that if you lose an arm, you can only use your longsword to block, no longer to strike. The cost for playing this game? “It’s free to play,” my informant explained, “but if you want to rent a weapon, it’s $5. Well, $5 for guys, $3.50 for girls, and $2.50 for kids for the whole day.” Talk about a cheap vacation!

Now, I know this isn’t really a vacation in the traditional sense – there’s no overnight stay in a scenic area or big city. You don’t have people waiting on you hand and foot, and you still have to go home at the end of the day. But, it is a way to “escape from it all” even for just a day. Somewhere deep in the woods of Mont Royal Park, you can be a warrior, a pirate, or just a kid for a whole afternoon. Sounds like a vacation to me!

[musicmonday] Winnipeg’s a small place

Recently, I have hit a wall with my guitar playing: I love to play, and the simple things are getting easier for me. I am improving at singing/playing simultaneously, and I’ve learned a new blues chord progression (thanks to my friend Kevin). But I keep coming back to the same problem: I don’t know any theory. So, as you can imagine, I was quite pleased when I came across Montrose Music Studio through Dealfind – $20 for 6 group lessons and one private – talk about a deal!

Soon after purchasing the lessons, I contacted Jason Bernstein, owner and instructor of Montrose Music Studio, and I met with him today to assess my skill level and decide which class I should be in. After playing him my pieced-together rendition of Third Eye Blind’s Motorcycle Drive By (you thought it was going to be Semi-Charmed life, didn’t you?), we struck up a conversation.”My rates are very competitive,” he said, “because I’ve been here only a year, and I’m trying to build up a client base.”
“So where are you from originally?” I asked.
“Winnipeg, actually,” he said, letting out a breath.
“Oh, hey, I saw a band from Winnipeg a few months ago…my friend and I showed them where to get the best poutine in town.”
“Oh really? Maybe I know them, music scene’s not too big there…I was in South Africa once, chatting to a friend. He mentioned he’d met a guy from Winnipeg. Turned out it was my best friend from high school!”
“Hah! No way! Well the band’s called the Liptonians, ringing any bells?”
“You know, I have heard of them, but I don’t know any of them personally. Music in Winnipeg’s different, though. There aren’t separate cliques like there are here. You’ll likely see the same people at a Jazz show that you saw at an Indie rock show the day before.”

This might explain the diversity in the Liptonians’ album, “Let’s all March Back Into the Sea.”

The thing about this album is definitely its diversity. The Liptonians are not a one-size-fits-all band. They can do keys-based pop, they can do heavy sound-effects reminiscent of Panda Bear, they can do Man-Man esque percussion, horns, and shout-singing, they can do emotional acoustic, they can do Death Cab. The problem with this is that they do not have a defining sound. Certainly, it’s nice to be able to play diverse music, and when it’s done well (as I feel this album is), it’s an overall enjoyable listening experience. But it is simply not memorable. When I listen to a band or musician, I listen because I know what to expect. I’m not going to listen to Spoon when I feel like listening to Against Me! You could easily call both these bands “indie rock” bands, but each has its own very unique style. A defining style. That is what the Liptonians are lacking in this album. It is not cohesive as a body of work. Individually, each song is well thought out musically and lyrically, each is well-mastered and well rounded. But after listening to the entire album and seeing the band’s live show, I still can’t really tell you what their sound is. It’s a little of this and a little of that.

Personally, I think they need to ditch the acoustic-y sappy sound – there are a million and one singer/songwriters out there with an acoustic guitar and a microphone, it’s easy to get lost among them. Instead, I think they should steer more towards the big horns, big keys, and big percussion that they’ve displayed in a few of their songs. And from the looks of things, they do seem to be kicking it up a notch.

[musicmonday] Keren Ann’s Trumpet Player

Before I begin, I just want to apologize for the tardiness of this post. I went to see Keren Ann at the Montreal Jazz Festival (more on that next week) this past Monday night. I had intended to write about her for Music Monday – you know, do what I usually do, write the post a day late and then pre-date it – but instead I got tied up with my sewing lessons (naturally, I thought I could pull a few strings and get everything done, but I was stretched in every direction and there wasn’t a thread I could grasp). Regardless, I didn’t get the post done in time, and for that I apologize.

BUT you should have seen them! Keren Ann and her two musicians came to two guitars (an electric, and an acoustic electric) and a trumpet, but if you closed your eyes and just listened, you would have thought they had more instruments than the Arcade Fire (okay, maybe not that many, but you get the point). Never have I heard such smooth, heartfelt music. The two guitars complimented each other, and the trumpet stood out when needed, but mostly blended pleasantly into the background, providing depth to the music and, through the use of an effects peddle and mute, emitting sounds I never knew could come from a brass instrument. I was not the only one who appreciated the incredible skill of Keren Ann’s trumpeter (whose name I have been unable to find). The bearded man (who, disregarding the beard, I think looked a lot like Matt Smith) received resounding applause after some particularly poignant solos, and he smiled shyly at the crowd, unwillingly to flaunt his talent. Keren Ann, for her part, graciously shared the stage with her two backing musicians, applauding both of them herself and even giving them center stage for their solos. It was an incredible experience watching the three of them work together – worth every penny I paid of the reasonably low $32. And at the end of the night, the crowd responded – giving them not one, not two, but three standing ovations – one after their initial performance, one after their encore, and one more after Keren Ann had l’Astral (the venue) turn off all the lights in the place and she sang a Capella into the mic for her final chanson. It was a magnificent performance.

Now that I’ve finished my rant on how incredible Keren Ann and her band was, I should mention the opener. Chris Garneau “just got here 25 minutes ago from Los Angeles” he told us, after jumping right into his emotional performance on the piano, “I’m sweaty…and don’t really know what to play.” Someone from the crowd interrupted him, “You’re incredible!” a few others chimed in, “You’re amazing!” “Beautiful!” This sums up the crowd’s general feeling towards Chris. He walked on stage wearing a brown ribbed tank top, looking disheveled and a little lost, but the moment his fingers touched the keys of the shiny black Yamaha Grand, we were in for a treat – I knew it, and so did everyone else. With a voice reminiscent of Colin Meloy of the Decembrists, Chris sang about lost love and serial killers, and the audience lost themselves in his performance. I was fortunate enough to sit where I could see his fingers on the keys, and I felt hypnotized by them throughout his performance. Every person in the room was disappointed when Chris Garneau left the stage, but then, as he said, we got an incredible replacement: “The Beautiful Keren Ann”.

See Chris Garneau’s whimsical Ocarina of Time-esque video, “Fireflies” below, as well as a live version of “Hands on the Radio” and pictures from the concert I saw on Monday.

[travelthursday] Lachine, QC: Parc René Levesque

The other day, my friend Chelsea and I left busy Montreal on a mission to find the Montreal MegaReuse Center and some used furniture to repurpose. A few wrong turns, and some very confused pedestrians later, my SC-plated car pulled into the warehouse parking-lot, and we descended on the place like lions on a gazelle. Well, something like that anyway…

After we’d done as much damage as our wallets could handle, Chelsea and I decided to go exploring around quaint and quiet Lachine, QC. I quickly pulled up Yelp on my Android and noticed the presence of a Dairy Queen not too far down the road. We decided to head that way and then come up with our POA.

As it turns out, the Dairy Queen overlooked a rather charming pier, playing host to a number of characters – men fishing, kids walking their family dogs, a retired couple looking out over the canal, just enjoying the scenery. After a few minutes, we noticed a park across the canal and decided to go exploring. Turns out that park was Parc René Levesque – home to a number of sculptures, a tree museum, and the terminus of the over 85 km bike path from Montreal.

We found a number of interesting things in the park, including giant wire statues shaped like legs filled with huge stones, the “story rock” that described an alternate universe (the start of scientology?) a ton of trees, each with a little label and explanation, as well as a fairly puzzling sculpture garden reminiscent of Alice and Wonderland.

Check out my pics below!

PS did I mention they call KFC “PFK” here? heh heh…

[musicmonday] Singer with a mission: Auresia

This past weekend, I helped clean out the back storeroom at my new place of work, Yoga-à-Porter, which has recently moved to a new location with much less storage space. In cleaning out and organizing the space, Caroline and I found all sorts of things – old labels, unused fabric, old pieces of wood, etc. We also came across a handful of CDs that had been dropped off by a local reggae artist named Auresia.

According to her website, Auresia takes “inspiration from Montreal’s unique pop sensibilities, the soul of Reggae, and with her vast worldly flavors, she remains grounded in the best parts of her musical tradition while keeping herself free to innovate and inspire. A singer, songwriter and guitarist out of Montreal, she was nominated for Favorite World Artist at the 2010 Independent Music Awards and for 4 Awards at the Canadian Reggae Music Awards.”

She also works to raise awareness about victims of domestic violence, to which her mother succumbed during the production of Auresia’s first album. She has dedicated that album to her mother’s life.

A mixture of reggae and soul, Auresia’s first album expresses her love for life, music, and family. Read some reviews here.

I have a handful of these CDs, if you’d like a copy for free send me an email, hincanada@yahoo.ca, or just post a comment below.

Heels and Heart FASHION WONDERLAND Show

I recently modeled in a fashion show in support of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada, organized by Heels and Heart. This is their second annual show, and the theme was Wearable Art inspired by Alice in Wonderland. As you can imagine, there were a ton of incredible designs (and some super crazy ones as well!). The show included a design competition, and the top three designs were announced at the end of the show. There were as many as 35 paparazzi in attendance and A TON of blog posts written about this event. Of the 10 or so that I read, very few expressed serious opinions one way or another, or called into question the winning design (which I found to be extremely boring, thrown together, and lacking a connection to Alice in Wonderland). Having modeled a different outfit in the show, I admit a certain degree of bias, but even though the design I sported did not win, I would still be able to appreciate the innovation and workmanship of the three that did had I felt they truly deserved to be up there.

Cutler's Winning Design (right) Photo Credit: Boutique Onze

Before I continue on this rant, I do want to add that I recognize this competition was to benefit a charity and that truly there should be no hard feelings. That having been said, from a competitive standpoint, I seriously question the judges’ choices for the ‘top designs’ of the evening.

Of the three designs, I felt that Alexis Johnston Bénamou’s design was the only one that truly deserved a top-three placement. And I could have lived with Mahrzad Lari’s design((s)…how did that work?) in third place, but Samantha Cutler’s unfinished chicken wire trashbag of a piece in the top three? Let alone in first!? Come on. You don’t have to know fashion to know there had to have been some other factors going on here. First of all, the outfit at its base is a black skirt/tank top combo with some lacy black thigh highs and black jewelry. Original. The remainder of the costume was an unfinished piece of blue fabric tucked into the back of the skirt and chickenwire and trashbags covered in a boring white fabric rubber-banded at the back. The bulky turtle shell creation covered 3/4 of the outfit and lacked shape and purpose. Alice in NYC? More like Alice if she was a Ninja Turtle. That or the model is doing the walk of shame after a night out – wearing a party dress from H&M and trying to cover herself in a bolster pillow while dragging the sheet that accidentally got caught in her skirt.

There is also no clear correlation to the theme, Alice in Wonderland…oh, wait, the sheet is light blue like the color of Alice’s dress…but then, so are these socks.

My conclusion is that a stray studio light was accidentally pointed directly into the judges’ faces as this design came down the runway. This caused the model to be lit by a glowing halo of light, which led the judges to conclude that she was a deity and therefore could be the only winner. Because there really could be no other explanation for such blatant favoritism and disregard for any sort of fair judgment.

In case you’re curious, here are my personal picks:

Photo Credit: Elle M

Photo Credit: Vigilant Fashionista