Friday, November 30, 2007

Eaton Auditorium

i was planning to see american poet Susan Howe read this afternoon at the Eaton Auditorium. so much about this auditorium intrigues me--first, it was originally designed by a Parisian, Jacques Carlu; second, its art deco interior was completely restored in 2003, including its Lalique fountain; and third, Glenn Gould made his recital debut here and recorded here (as the only person using the nearly-abandoned auditorium) all through the 1970s. The accoustics have suffered from various modernisation schemes, and I'm sure Gould would eat his gloves at the corporate events now held here...but i was really looking forward to seeing the space.

Unfortunately, what i didn't realize is that the Eaton Auditorium isn't where it used to be...the auditorium now seems to be part of a new Ryerson building. And the original Eaton Auditorium is now called "Carlu" (after the architect--fair enough). I spent a while trying to get to "Carlu"--getting into & out of elegant Art Deco elevators that wouldn't go anywhere. And then I gave up. Now I'm home again...listening to Glenn Gould's 1981 recording of the Goldberg Variations.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Berton House Gala

the fundraiser for the Berton House in Dawson City is tonight. visit their recently-redone site to find out more about the amazing writer retreat...

Monday, November 26, 2007

Hemingway the tutor

I’ve always been curious about where Hemingway actually lived in Toronto. Always assumed he'd come here as a journalist. But in fact, after World War I, while he was barely recovered from the injuries to his legs, he was sometimes hired by small civic organizations to give talks about the war. Visiting Torontonian Harriett Connable (whose husband was a Woolworth’s executive) saw one of these lectures in Michigan, and she hired the young Hem as a tutor for her invalid son. Hemingway lived in their house, above, on the edge of one of Toronto’s legendary ravines, and it was the boy’s father, Ralph Connable who introduced him to the editor of the Toronto Star Weekly. Which led to Hem’s meeting fellow-writer Morley Callaghan, and also gave him an excuse to move to Paris, to be the European correspondent for the Star. So really, you could argue the whole thing spirals out of this rather tony address, which has since been cut up into apartments…

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Psst...wanna buy the Eiffel Tower?

Okay, the strikes in Paris have gotten out of hand...part of the Eiffel Tower is going on the block.

Well. Actually it's not that dire: 24 sections of staircase between the second & third levels were removed to create space for elevators in 1983, and this is the final section to be sold--I have no idea what it's been doing for all these years, in storage somewhere? Anyhow, there are 20 steps in this particular section, whichweighs 700kilos (so you better have that apartment reinforced before you buy it...). But think of the history here: Gustave Eiffel actually walked up this staircase during the inauguration of the Tower in 1889. And this is the last section...your last chance to own a piece of the Eiffel Tower. Come your opening bid at the Hotel Drouot--the most traditional auction house in Paris, where anyone can wander in off the street & peruse what's for sale.

The opening bid on the staircase is expected to be upwards of 20,000 euros.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Union Station Revitalization...again

i was in the Great Hall of Union Station, listening to Toronto Mayor David Miller talk about "Canada's most important transportation building." the station is certainly the country's busiest...more people go through here in a single day than go through Pearson airport. and yes, the station really needs a facelift. the plan sounds great--all the hallmarks that were such a success in New York's revitalization of Grand Central or in the Paris revamp of Gare du Nord. Access points are supposed to be improved, the station is supposed to connect to the new condos towards the lake, retail space will be opened up in a brand new underground concourse, GO transit will get some access through the beautiful upper hall, and most important (from a historical point of view) the station itself will be brought back to its former grandeur.

But...much as i want to believe Miller when he says the new plan will "bring life back to Union Station...get people out of their cars...[and form] the natural gateway between downtown Toronto and the waterfront" I just don't know if the City can do it. Last year, the City was going to sell the whole kit & kaboodle to the private sector; now, the City says that it will somehow find 180 million dollars (or 190 million, depending on which bureaucrat you listen to) over 20 years to develop the station into a more functional, more beautiful, retail & transport hub.

i really want to believe him, but i feel a bit like he's asking us all to click our little red shoes together & make a wish...

Sylvia Beach (1887-1962)

i made a pilgrimage recently to the grave of Sylvia Beach, founder of the famous Shakespeare & Co bookshop in Paris. Beach was the first publisher of Joyce’s Ulysses, and she’s the woman who introduced Ernest Hemingway to Gertrude Stein (she even managed to remain friends with all of these notoriously tempermental writers until their deaths). Some have argued that she made expat Modern literature possible in the City of Lights in the crazy 1920s. Beach wrote one heck of a memoir called (logically enough) Shakespeare & Co—pick yourself up a copy the next time you’re drifting by the shop of that name in Paris. Her sense of humour and appreciation for the bizarre flukes of life are as vivid today as when she wrote them.
She’s buried here in Princeton, in the family plot. And while it isn’t Paris, I like to think that Princeton is a sufficiently literary place that her ghost isn’t bored…

Thursday, November 01, 2007


All Saint's Day, one of the best days in Paris (when the weather's good, anyhow)...and I was missing the place a little this morning. So I took myself for a gorgeous walk through the Annex to find a cafe run by a guy named Ezra Braves. I'd run into him at dinner a little while ago, and found out that he makes croissants--real croissants--at 6 am every morning in his Toronto cafe on Dupont Street. Sounded too good to be true, but when I walked in--somewhat after 6am, i admit--there was Braves, with fresh croissants on the counter.
He opened the cafe not even a year ago, called the place Ezra's Pound, and included various scales & coffee-weighing contraptions in the decor, to round out the "pound" pun. And--most appropriately--the cafe is near a subway stop, to commemorate Pound's best-known poem (see below).
It's only a two-line poem, which apparently started out being more than a page long. Good lesson in editing. I spent a lovely half-hour drinking marvellous coffee--better than the coffee you get in most cafes in Paris, gotta say--and I decided to take a quick look at Pound's bio (to find the exact punctuation for the poem below). Discovered, strange serendipity, that today is actually the anniversary of Pound's death, in Venice, at age 87.

"In a Station of the Metro"

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

Ezra's Pound [238 Dupont Street, just east of Spadina, open Tues-Sat]