Sweet Sixteen

I love this Rock Glam Musical and, in particular, this song Midnight Radio.

Hedwig is an angry, selfish, cruel and fabulous almost-Diva, but ultimately a human who finally accepts that life throws, fleeting and unpredictable, both joy and pain.

While the story definitely uses gender as a fulcrum, the action, music and lyrics vibrate with the angst, anger, disguise, exploration, recognition, revelation and acceptance of identity or the meaning of one’s life.

I dedicate this to all the sweet sixteens of the world who will not get this until they are 30.  Happy Birthday Blue Eyes.

A European Traveling Adventure with my Teen Boys

I’ve done several trips with just one child sans husband and they were all memorable.  The first was with my son to Bermuda.  We were a walk from the beach with lots of restaurants and at age eight he was surprisingly not bored once.  The second was with my daughter also at age eight to B.C.  Another beach and more good food.  We were joined at the hip for tandem biking in Stanley Park, singing lustily on the drive from Nanimo and kayaking in Tofino.

For my son’s 16th birthday I invited his best friend, also turning 16, and we experienced the Netherlands, more specifically Amsterdam, and Paris and Biarritz, France.

Some people like to tour on buses or boats, some like to create their own schedule, some like to wing it – I like to find small personal operators and “experience” somewhere in between.  For the French part of this trip I hired Evelyne Dufau, a neighbour of mine from Toronto.  She owns and operates Expérience Authentique

After two consultations, Evelyne designed an experience to please both myself and the two boys in France by connecting unique accommodations, transportation, food, shopping, outdoor activities, French language and art. Here were some of the highlights from this memorable 2006 trip.

We took the train from Amsterdam to Paris and a taxi to The Marais section, one of Paris’ oldest and most visually stunning areas with it’s narrow cobblestone streets and gorgeous French men.  There we stayed at the Hotel de la Bretonnerie which is gently loved, well priced, quaint and wonderfully located.

The Marais reminds me of SoHo with lots of dining along narrow streets, very different than the wide avenues of central Paris.

The Marais reminds me of SoHo with lots of dining along narrow streets, very different than the wide avenues of central Paris.

Of course, immediately after I paid for dinner on our first night, the boys ditched me.  I reassured myself that with the hotel’s card in hand, a map, their rudimentary French and charming smiles, they could find their way back and they did.  The boys breathless arrival was accompanied by a story about their walking into a “sports” bar and finding it entirely male.  They weren’t sure why everyone was staring at them or why they were having such bad luck finding any teenage girls.  I had not bothered to mention that the area in which we stayed was the “gay/hip” area of Paris, but it appears that they found out.

While they had their own Paris adventure, I stumbled across a film festival within five blocks and enjoyed an evening of free short films on a balmy Paris night.   It was no matter that my French is pretty pathetic, the films were all subtitled.

Stumbled across this free event complete with deck chairs and emcee Charlotte Rampling

Stumbled across this free event complete with deck chairs and emcee Charlotte Rampling

Our visit to Paris was brief and beautiful, including my bribes to visit the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay in exchange for surfing lessons later on in Biarritz.  Like the trip to Amsterdam, we mixed equal parts of Anne Frank House and Dine with Dutch with Coffee Shops, the Cannabis Collage and a graffiti walkabout.  It all worked to expand all our Cultural minds.

These Canadian boys were a fascinated and a little freaked out by the gendarmerie who were smiling broadly while carrying automatic weapons.

These Canadian boys were a fascinated and a little freaked out by the gendarmerie who were smiling broadly while carrying automatic weapons.

My triumph was seeing a brief look of awe with the sheer scale of this painting.

Triumph was seeing mouths agape and a brief look of awe with the sheer scale of this painting.

Instead of climbing the tower, we decided to sit and watch the tourists and mess with the gypsies who tried to mess with us.

Instead of climbing the tower, we decided to sit and watch the tourists and mess with the gypsies who tried to mess with us.

We had been advised about the swarming rampant at tourist attractions like the Eiffel Tower and Sacré Coeur [Sacred Heart Church].  It’s so easy to let fear itself be the thing that ruins your travel experiences.  I’ve done that to myself in the past and found the best antidote is be prepared and use humour whenever possible.  I discussed this with both boys and we managed to sidestep the bracelet-making circus at the Sacré Coeur, but under the Eiffel Tower my son was approached by a group of women who proceeded directly with their scam.  My son, ever the polite Canadian, decided instead to mischievously pretend he was psycho and began gibbering and laughing maniacally.  The women were shocked and unsure of what to do.  As they backed off, my son trailed them and I, with ice cream cone in hand, watched from a nearby bench with some concern.  At the point where I was sure the husbands or a Gendarme would appear – it was over.

Traveling with teens can be as challenging as living with them.  They are not yet adults and clearly too big to put in a time out.  2006 was before the day when every child had a cell phone and I was glad as it forced me to do things differently.

First I had to trust that they were able to make good decisions and second they had to agree to make them.  I worried, but the entire point was that I wanted them to have the experiences.  To see that there was a different world out there that they could navigate and to plant the seed about equal parts of curiosity and responsibility being the best part of being human.


The people in Biarritz reminded me of Canadians. It was cool and windy, but everyone was out in their bathing suits.

In Biarritz, Evelyne had booked us into another spectacular place overlooking the ocean, which included breakfast on the terrace, in Villa le Goeland.  We walked everywhere including to the beach where she had arranged surfing lessons for Colin and Mike.  While the boys surfed I managed to get in some shopping, mostly table and bed linens which my sisters and I are addicted to.

The staff and the surf kept the boys engaged physically and mentally and they dropped into bed contentedly having only grumbled once.  Apparently the gaggles of French teenage girls disappeared at night and the only people they ran into were the gendarmerie who teased them about Canadians lax laws concerning pot smoking.   What?

Evelyne’s specialty is South West France, particularly the Basque Regions that straddle France and Spain.  My sweet sixteen year old boys were excited about what I told them would be bar hopping, but they were in for a cultural surprise.  Our driver regaled us with stories of the Basque people and history [comparing it to Quebec] and we soon arrived to the beautiful City of San Sebastian.  We parked in the port section, cleverly not dominated by condos and whose medieval architecture was home to a large number of bars in close quarters serving beer, pintxos or pinchos and tapas.

Having ordered a selection of small plates of hot and cold food to share, the beer arrived and eyeing it my son whispered that they were ripping us off because the glass was just one third full.  Our guide laughed and said yes, but since we had four more bars to go there was no use filling up in one place.  Pace yourself he said, enjoy the food, the beer and the company.


I can't say enough about how adventurous the boys were about eating.

I can’t say enough about how adventurous the boys were about eating.

If you didn’t already guess, food is really important to me as a travel feature, heck as an everything feature.  On the last night  in Biarritz, however, the boys were ready for some comfort food and ordered fresh shrimp, “French” fries and Coca-Cola – I could not believe at last that the novelty of ordering wine or beer had worn off.  The night’s finale was a fisherman beside the roadside restaurant who swung his catch, a wiggling squid, around the crowd, the screaming girls, and the catch discharged to be someone’s calamari.  Welcome to France!

Dinner with Colette

Inevitably you find yourself pondering about if you had a dinner party, who you would invite.  I’ve decided that meeting Colette would be most satisfying.  French novelist and performer Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette [1873-1954] lived through an amazing time of change from wars, slavery, suffrage to the emergence of technology which would change everything from manufacturing and domestic labour to the exploration of outer space.   Colette was also ahead of her time, a confident precocious human who explored her, and women’s in general, sexuality through writing, performance art and in relationships with men and women.  What dinner conversation would be had with this amazing person.

Source: Moulin Rouge Tectum Publishers /       Moulin Rouge Private Collection

Source: Moulin Rouge Tectum Publishers /Moulin Rouge Private Collection

Chéri and Gigi, both books written by Colette, and later adapted into movies respectively with actresses, Michelle Pfeiffer and Leslie Caron, are fascinating looks at social Culture, love, wealth, women and youth.  In the case of Chéri, Pfeiffer plays an aging courtesan in a mad love affair with a young man called Chéri [dear].  In Gigi, Caron plays a girl on the cusp of womanhood navigating family pressure to abandon hope of romantic love for security as a courtesan.  I’ve always wondered what Colette would have to say about the adaptation of her novel, Gigi, into a musical.  There are lots of prostitution movies that are either gritty or become romantic comedies like Disney’s Pretty Woman, but the movie Gigi always made me feel uncomfortable particularly with what became a beloved song sung by Maurice Chevalier, Thank Heaven for Little Girls.

Spoiler Alert.  One interesting note is that in the Chéri novel, the final act shows the young lover leaving the courtesan because she has “aged”, but in the Chéri movie the novel and it’s sequel [Fin de Chéri ] are merged.  The courtesan ends the affair when Chéri’s to be married, but sometime later he returns to the courtesan who while she says she loves him, it’s too late, she’s turned into an old woman and she asks him to leave permanently.

In the movie a narrator says Chéri leaves feeling relieved, but later understands that he loves only the courtesan and he reacts by killing himself?!?  There must be more to it than that and I am longing to read the books AND grill Colette over a hot Cassoulet and wine from the Madiran region or maybe an inky Cahors.

If you could invite someone, living or dead, to a dinner party, who would it be?



Teen Crushes and the Undiscovered Gyrl


Cover Art by Ellie Manos Source: Soundcloud

I met up with a friend last night for drinks and learned that her daughter is now producing films in, where else, L.A.  One of the things I am looking forward to upon the release of her film, Undiscovered Gyrl, is the original music on it from several young female musicians.  Maybe the writer-director, Allison Burnett, couldn’t afford to pay for the rights of songs from established bands, but in any case he held a contest.  This brilliant idea led to the introduction of new talent including Niki Black.  Her song, Until You’re Mine, struck me immediately of a time when as a 15 year old I suffered relentlessly from a crush on a boy who did not return my affections.

He was not the first crush I had, nor the last as I was a bit boy crazy.  Out of curiosity I looked up this same boy at age 21 and *shudder* after meeting him briefly was very happy that I had let that crush go.

Do you have a favourite crush song or movie?

The Meaning of Objects and the Dagobah Frog Habitat

I overheard somebody the other day dragging on Star Wars.  What bad acting, what bad storylines, bad scripting, blah blah blah.  I wanted to smack them.

They clearly don’t get it about movies or “films”.  It not how they are made, although that’s fun to discuss endlessly over dinner, or whether they are good or bad [this is actually just how some people earn a living].  It’s about how the movie makes you feel.  If you don’t feel joy, anger, fear about a particular movie that’s perfectly acceptable, but you don’t have to slag it.  As my mother said, if you can’t say something nice …

Anyway, I loVe Star Wars.  I remember the first time I saw Part IV Star Wars: A New Hope in the spring of 1977 with my sister Cori.  I was just about to graduate from high school and was feeling very optimistic about my future because I was working, had a car and was about to move into my first apartment with my BFF, Sandy Penman.


Cori [aka Catherine Pentland Design] and I exited the theatre skipping and humming the theme song.  It was a day that stuck in my memory so that when I see objects reminding me of that day, I get a rush of pleasure.  Like last fall when I was cruising Value Village and came across an AT-AT for $15 bucks.  As an adult, even as a huge Star Wars Fan, I could never justify spending $130 on a “toy”, but for $15, SOLD. Very quickly my three year old granddaughter showed me all the buttons, lights and gizmos and another fan was born.

I wouldn’t say that I’m a pack rat or a collector, but there are enough objects in my house to create an eclectic theme.  Art.  Books.  Movies.  Rugs.  Arts and Crafts Furniture.  Lots of things with texture.  As an anthropologist, though, I have noted that it is not the objects themselves that have meaning.  It is the meaning itself.  What we endow the objects with.  As a elderly person moves from the family home into a hospice, we see a momentary flush of pain.  It’s not loss of objects causing their pain, but the meaning of a place and of a time in our lives that we grieve.  You might note how that elder can let the house go if it’s going to a family he or she likes.  It honours and gives value to their memories.


Yesterday, I found this Death Star Planetarium for $5 bucks.  I didn’t know whether it worked or not, but I thought it might make a lovely table chachka.  It only took three new batteries to light up the Star Wars galaxy including familiar planets like Endor, Naboo and Princess Leia Organa’s home planet of Alderaan.  This is strange since the planet Alderaan was blown up by the Death Star and shouldn’t be there at all.  One of life’s little contrasts.


I was struck with wonder thinking of who had owned it and how they were ready to part with it?  Then, how it might be of comfort as a night light for my granddaughter’s sleepovers.  It’s now very difficult, having found two film treasures, not to be skulking about at Value Village when I should be working … but I am really hoping to find a Dagobah Frog Habitat.  Something else to help me pass on my memories, my loVe of nature and Star Wars, to a new generation.

Have you ever found a film treasure?