Archived entries for Etceteras

Happy new year!

hanoi for blog

A brief look back at 2011

I love end-of-year lists! Here’s a quick look back at 2011:

High point: A jubilant New York Pride after same-sex marriage is legalized
Low point: The devastating goodbye to my friend Andrew Embiricos
Best concert: Sade (unreal!)
Best film: Incendies (even if you know no French or Arabic, you’ll be gripped.)

Countries visited: 13
Best day trip: Paris for Bastille Day
Biggest let down: Atlanta and Rome
Most surprising destination: Cambodia
Place I won’t be able to shut up about: Beirut
Best hotels: Raffles Phnom Penh and Louis Hotel Munich

Total flights: 59
Total airlines: 11
Total mileage: 114,619
Most flown airlines: Lufthansa (14 flights); JetBlue (13 flights)
Best flight: Qatar Airways New York-Doha
Worst flight: I’m not telling

1. From Beirut to Jerusalem
2. Persian Mirrors: The Elusive Face of Iran
3. Vancouver Special
4. Odessa: Genius and Death In a City of Dreams
5. Shut Up, I’m Talking: And Other Diplomacy Lessons I Learned in the Israeli Government
6. Justice on the Grass: Three Rwandan Journalists, Their Trial for War Crimes and a Nation’s Quest for Redemption
7. Dubai: Gilded Cage
8. The Shia Revival
9. The New Lion of Damascus: Bashar al-Asad and Modern Syria
10. The Invention of Paris: A History in Footsteps

10 GREAT SONGS (my iTunes most-played)
1. “Sirens of the Sea” (OceanLab)
2. “On a Good Day” (OceanLab)
3. “Heartbreak” (M’Black)
4. “Voyage, Voyage” (Kate Ryan)
5. “Wrapped Around Your Finger” (Police)
6. “The Edge of Glory” (Lady Gaga)
7. “The Unwinding Cable Car” (Anberlin)
8. “Million Dollar Bill” (Whitney Houston)
9. “Someone like You” (Adele)
10. “Sooner or Later” (Matt Kearney)

Happy New Year!

As the sun sets on another year, best wishes to all!

A few of my favorite memories from 2010:

• Going to Africa and visiting the pyramids
• My first time at Oktoberfest (and my last?!)
• A spectacular booze cruise with friends in Vancouver
• JetBlue’s JetPride flight with Pam Ann
• Surviving my fifth Vancouver Sun Run
• Istanbul…again! (It just gets better)

    I Be Weave

    One of the most brilliant YouTube videos ever…I can’t stop watching it.

    One damn good beer!

    I don’t usually write about beer, but… The other day I flew Virgin America from San Francisco to New York, and tapped (literally) into RED, their seatback ordering system, for a beer on my afternoon flight. The variety I wanted wasn’t available, so the flight attendant substituted with Black Star Beer. I was disappointed that my choice wasn’t available until I cracked open the can — it turned out to be a truly fabulous brew from Montana. Highly recommend it! Four cans later…I was home.

    A new year – a new blog

    I’m in the middle of transitioning my blog from one service to another. Please bear with me while I slowly bring the site back online!

    All 2006-2010 entries are back. Entries from 2003-2005 will be back soon!

    Please note this site is looking funky in Internet Explorer 6.0 — please try Firefox or Safari instead. It seems to prefer Macs for now (don’t we all).

    Help me out by emailing me if this site looks out of whack to you!

    Happy New Year!

    As the sun sets on another year, best wishes to all!


    My annual list of some of my favorite memories from the past year:

    Speed dating in Paris on the eve of Valentine’s Day
    Celebrating my birthday on an Etihad flight from New York to Abu Dhabi
    Celebrating the 4th of July at the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá
    An autumn afternoon running the carriage trails of Mount Royal with my friend Jeffrey
    Riding a public bus across the United Arab Emirates
    Seeing Dreamgirls at the Apollo Theater with my friend Andy

    Happy 2009!


    Pulpit Harbor, North Haven, Maine | Summer 2008

    Throw off the bowlines,
    Sail away from the safe harbor,
    Catch the trade winds in your sails.
    Explore. Dream. Discover.



    I generally avoid Amtrak, but in the past two weeks, I’ve taken them TWICE. This weekend I alighted at the “station” in Windsor Locks, Conn., which I had to snap a photo of because it was SO CUTE! They literally throw you off the train here, and hook you on the way back.


    Big bugs

    I’m no fan of bugs, but tonight I caught a few great shots of a hummingbird-like moth up in Maine. It was well past dark when I caught little sucker, thanks to modern flash photography. Look how huge!



    Jerome Liebling

    I recently stumbled upon this photo — perhaps the cutest one ever — and instantly fell in love. It’s Jerome Liebling’s “Butterfly Boy, NYC” (1949), on exhibit all summer at the Yale Art Gallery.


    The watch

    Those of you still shopping for the perfect birthday gift for me are really cutting it close! There is only 48 hours to go. A quick and easy suggestion is this watch from Birks, bargain priced at $995 CAD, which is somewhere in the vicinity of $23,000 USD. Call the Vancouver flasgship today and ask for Dan, who assures me he can somehow get it shipped, through customs, and on my doorstep by my birthday!



    Last week in Los Angeles I had the pleasure of stopping by a gargantuan grocery store, one with a massive parking lot and miles upon miles of food. Oh, how I miss those! It almost brought me to tears (of joy!). Living in New York, I’ve come to appreciate real grocery stores more than ever since what we have here leaves a lot to be desired. Fortunately, I live around the corner from Whole Foods, which has become my ‘basic’ grocery store.

    Some people poo-poo the cost of Whole Foods, but when you live in New York, it is the cheap grocery store. Case in point: Poland Springs fizzy water, a staple of my diet is $0.99 at Whole Foods, but $1.99 at the run-of-the-mill Gristedes. I’ll take the inevitable chaos of WFM over grimy Gristedes any day! The New York Times recently ran a piece on the slipping standards of the Gristedes chain, which currently offers 35 outlets throughout Manhattan.

    “Pre fix” / Lips

    prefix_menuI’ve had the good fortune of roughly 14 years of French classes, and I’ve learned astoundingly little. But I do know enough vocabulary to get me around a restaurant menu. And I definitely know the different between à la carte and prix fixe.

    Most New York restaurants don’t seem to know what the hell prix fixe is, spelling it out on street-side blackboards as a “pre-fix” or “prefix” menu.

    This morning at brunch at the crazy Lips restaurant in the West Village, I spotted this postcard offering up a “prefixe” dinner. At least it’s halfway right, unlike the variations above. Speaking of Lips, the place was hilarious. Although I live nearby, I’d never seen nor heard about this alleged institution of drag dining. After two hours of laughing my butt off today, I’m ready to go back next weekend. (Fair warning: The food at Lips is pretty ho-hum — especially compared to my fav eat-and-drag place, Zelda’s in Toronto — but the host at Lips was much funnier.)

    Happy new year!

    As the sun sets on another year, best wishes to all.


    A few of my fav memories of the year:

    • Running the Vancouver Sun Run, and not dying
    • Lauren Bacall’s reading of “Just A Little One” at Poetry and the Creative Mind.
    • Munich and Prague bar hopping
    • The Simpsons Movie premiere in L.A.
    • My France-New York flight diversion to Goose Bay, Labrador

    My top ten most played songs, according to iTunes:
    • “Castles in the Sand,” The Philosopher Kings
    • “Steppin’ Out,” Kaskade
    • “Irreplaceable,” Beyonce
    • “Lost (12″ Mix),” Roger Sanchez
    • “Not Falling Apart,” Maroon 5
    • “Day Old Hate,” City and Colour
    • “Happiness by the Kilowatt (Live),” City and Colour
    • “Like Knives,” City and Colour
    • “Save Your Scissors,” City and Colour
    • “Heaven is a Place on Earth,” Belinda Carlisle

    Dogs In Stores

    dog_in_store2I like dogs, I really do. It’s dog owners I can’t stand. They’re the only people I consistently roll my eyes at and give dirty look to in public. Lately I’ve been noticing an uptick in the number of dog owners who feel it’s appropriate to bring their dogs everywhere–stores, cafes, restaurants, and airport terminals. Having to put up with one dog in a store is bad enough, but just yesterday I witnessed two dogs — a whippet and a golden retriever — going at it in a clothing store as their owners waited in line to check out. The barks were not amusing, especially not to the clerk who finally yelled, “What is going on in here?!?” It’s your store, you tell me.

    This morning I noticed my neighborhood Tasti-D-Lite just added a polite reminder, “NO DOGS” on their door. I wish everyone would do the same, but I don’t think it’s going to solve the problem, which is the truly mind-boggling sense of entitlement many dog owners have.

    Greening the earth, one purchase at a time

    i_recycle_greenMy fav columnist, Margaret Wente, has a laugh-out-loud piece in today’s Globe and Mail about Lululemon and the culture of consumerism that has sprung from yoga, new-agism and the environmental movement. Lululemon, of course, is the trendy Vancouver yoga gear company that started in the once hippy-dippy Kitsilano section of town but that has become a popular brand everywhere (with outlets in Boston and New York, too!).

    Lululemon, like the best of brands, has succeeded in convincing consumers that when you buy one of their products, you’re not just getting more “stuff” to throw out later — you’re getting closer to living a centered lifestyle. Lululemon’s web site says that one of their company’s goals has always been to “train our people so well that they could in fact positively influence their families, communities and the people walking into our stores.” Oh my, and I thought I was just stopping in for a t-shirt made of the recycled soda bottle I tossed out yesterday.

    Wente points out, “Like Anita Roddick, the late, lamented genius behind The Body Shop, [Lululemon founder] Chip Wilson understands how to tap into the most significant retailing trend of our time – green consumer capitalism. The way you do it is to never, ever mention money. You are not selling merchandise. You are creating values. Your vision (according to Mr. Wilson) is to elevate the world from mediocrity to greatness, and your customers (a word you never use) are partners in that vision. They feel that when they buy from you, they’re becoming better people too.”

    So this afternoon I went out and did my part by buying the ironic t-shirt pictured above (that’s my new Angela Adams Mammy poster in the background, thank you very much).

    Canadian heiress, 107, lives in Cuban poverty

    greatexpectationsI thought this article was really interesting. It seems the once fabulously wealthy Canadian Mary McCarthy, whose assets are frozen in a Boston bank, is living Miss Havisham-style in Havana. While her friends fled for Miami during the 1959 revolution, she stayed behind, and today still lives in the home where, “Peacocks still strut the garden under royal palm trees, but the lawn is overgrown and the house filled with Napoleon III furniture, chandeliers and a Steinway grand piano is falling apart.”

    Reuters tells her interesting tale and reports that recently, at the insistence of the Canadian consul general in Boston, the U.S. has agreed to let her withdraw $96 per month from her frozen assets. “She is an unfortunate, albeit unintentional, victim of political circumstances,” the consul general wrote. “She relies on charity. She deserves to live the rest of her days in comfort.”

    My first Acela ride

    It’s been Planes, Trains, Automobiles and Boats on my latest trip. Yesterday I flew up to Boston, but today I decided I would give Acela a whirl on the trip back home to New York. Boy what a mistake the train was! It’s been years since I took Amtrak — back in the pre-Acela days — but I decided to give them another shot now that they have these supposedly fast, sleek trains. Fast turned out to be pretty slow. And while the train car itself was comfortable and airy and spacious, the ride along the rails was jarring and the company rather LOUD as they chatted incessantly on their cell phones.

    I realized this all in the two minutes that passes between departing South Station and arriving at Back Bay Station. I actually contemplated in those two minutes the possibility of exiting the train at Back Bay and flying home instead…but I persisted and in the end, the experience did have at least a few positive aspects: the views of Long Island Sound, and the Perrier and Terra exotic vegetable chips in the cafe car. And I was able to step off the train in Manhattan and walk home.

    Where parking doesn’t come cheap

    The other night in Los Angeles, as I walked past a $8 park-all-day lot, I was ranting to my friend about the embarrasingly low cost of parking there. A new survey out this week highlights the continents most expensive places to park, and L.A. is at the bottom. The top three are no surprise: NYC, Boston, and SF. But Calgary, at no. 4, surprised me.

    New York, Midtown $630.00
    New York, Downtown $500.00
    Boston $460.00
    San Francisco $350.00
    Calgary $329.00
    Philadelphia $297.50
    Chicago $285.00
    Toronto $284.00
    Seattle $275.00
    Montreal $246.34
    Washington $240.00
    Honolulu $209.42
    Sacramento, Calif. $205.00
    Charleston, S.C. $200.00
    Vancouver $196.00
    Los Angeles $192.00
    Ottawa $183.28

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