I hope everyone who celebrates Christmas has been having a nice holiday, and that everyone who doesn't is having a nice time as well! My boyfriend and I had our first white Christmas, and because we don't have any family over here and didn't have anything planned, we had a really relaxed day. We found a list of restaurants that were open and went out for breakfast and then walked home through Trinity Bellwoods Park, which looked really pretty all covered in snow. We Skyped our families and took it easy for the rest of the day and then went to an Aussie/NZ pub called Hemingway's for dinner. They have Pavlova on the menu so naturally we had to have it for dessert since it's such an Aussie summer staple.
Even though we had a chill day on the 25th, we've still had a really busy December. My boyfriend's parents came to visit for two weeks so we took them to all our favourite places for dinner and did lots of touristy things on the weekends. It was so much fun because most of it was new to us because we'd waited to do it with them when they came over. I feel like I've had so many Canadian experiences now that I'm becoming more Canadian than half of the locals.
We went up CN Tower, did Ripley's Aquarium (which everyone says is really good, and they're not wrong), went to the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum, which funnily enough I had my work Christmas party at the week before), and went to a hockey game. My boyfriend and I also went axe-throwing for our friend's engagement party, and had an awesome Friendsmas dinner with them where we all cooked incredible food and went ice skating. We also went tobogganing with some other friends and went in an outdoor hot tub in the middle of the night and then jumped out in our swimmers and made snow angels and ran back to the hot tub - that has to make me a certified Canadian if nothing else does!
Aside from all that, I'm still an Aussie and even though we don’t currently live there, my boyfriend and I were very happy to learn that our country voted yes in the Same Sex Marriage plebiscite recently. I personally find it embarrassing that it’s not yet legal, but I've read that it will be in January, which is fantastic news. It felt a little strange to be so far away from the conversation, but obviously social media meant we were kept pretty up to date, and of course we both posted back our yes votes as soon as they arrived in the mail. It’s beyond reason to me why anyone would object to anyone else’s sexuality, or why it’s taken so long to change such an outdated law, but at least we’re finally catching up!
At the start of November we went to Montreal for a long weekend for a Leonard Cohen tribute that his son put on and we had such a lovely time. It definitely gets colder in Montreal, and it's cold enough for me as it is in Toronto, but it’s a great city and we had a really nice time there. We’ve also booked our next trip as our Christmas presents to each other, so in March we’re heading to New York! Although it would have been smarter to go somewhere warm, we’ve got friends from back home who are travelling around the States, so we’re meeting up with them in NY for four days, and it’s going to be great! I spent a month in NY a couple of years ago, and I’d visited once before then as well, but it’s my boyfriend’s first time and we both know four days isn’t going to be enough, so we’re definitely planning on going back again. As well as that we've got a couple of weekends away booked in with friends in Jan & Feb. The thing to do in Canada is to go to a cottage up north, which I'm sure will be lovely, although likely 10-20 degrees colder than it is in Toronto! But it's all part of the experience, isn't it?
They've slowed down a bit now, but November was a great month for gigs. Aside from the Leonard Cohen tribute that I mentioned earlier, which of course was my favourite one, we also saw Jay Z for the first time and he was SO good. For whatever reason he never tours Australia so hardly anyone we know has had the chance to see him, so we were really keen.
We had pretty average nosebleed seats for the gig, but a couple of songs into his set the usher who showed us to our seats came over and gave us better tickets! I don’t know why he picked us, but we ended up 6 rows up from the floor, and because the stage was in the middle of venue Jay Z was basically at eye-level for us. The production was incredible and he just smashes through all the hits, which makes for an awesome show, I was so impressed and would 100% see him again if I got the chance.
Earlier in the month we also saw a guy called 6lack, but the atmosphere/crowd kind of ruined the gig for me because everyone was really young and obnoxious, and the sound at the venue wasn’t great.
Right at the end of the month I got some last minute tickets through work to see Steve Earle. I actually wasn’t very familiar with his music until I decided to go to the show and started listening to him, but I had the impression that he was blues/country and I just had a feeling he would be good. As soon as he started playing my boyfriend pulled out his phone and looked him up on IMDB because it turns out he played the character Harley in Treme, which is a show we both LOVE. So even though we kind of saw him by accident that was a great surprise!
In terms of TV there’s only one thing I’ve watched recently, which was the new Netflix Punisher series. After being obsessed with the Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Defenders series a few months ago, I was super excited for the Punisher to have his own series, since he basically stole the show in Daredevil Season 2.
I thought the final episode was a bit rubbish and they could have just finished things off in the episode before, but aside from that the series is incredible! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, whether you’re into comics or not (I’m not really) all of these shows are 100% worth watching.
Speaking of the Punisher, whose character’s real name is Frank Castle, there’s a train station in Toronto called Castle Frank! My boyfriend and I went past it on the way to the Steve Earle gig and they even had posters up advertising the Punisher which was very clever/cool!
I never normally talk about books on my blog, mostly because I have very particular tastes that don’t necessarily appeal to everyone, and I also constantly have a never-ending list of books to read, so I don’t tend to take recommendations either, which means there’s often not that much to talk with people about. But I figured since I’m reading a lot these days I might as well throw it in here in case anyone has read any of these books and wants to chat, or is interested in my thoughts, but if you’re not I won’t be offended if you skip over this part. I should probably also preface this by saying that when it comes to fiction, the way someone writes is far more important to me than the storyline of a book. So I tend to choose my books based on the author rather than the blurb on the back.
Heroes of the Frontier and The Circle – Dave Eggers
I read Dave Egger’s first book, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius probably close to 10 years ago, and I still think that’s where you should start with him, although I did enjoy both of these. I hadn’t been paying attention and he wrote several books in the last few years so I had to catch up. Although I didn’t find either of these as impactful as A Heartbreaking Work, I really enjoy his writing style. He has an incredibly natural flow and throws in really modern humour without ever feeling like he’s trying too hard. The Circle is literally the only book, TV or movie representation of technology I’ve ever read/seen that isn’t glaringly awkward and different from our actual experiences, which I think is a pretty big accomplishment. Although I did see the movie recently and they completely changed the ending so it’s definitely not as good as the book. Dave Eggers creates very human, believable characters and because of that he really stands out to me as a contemporary writer.
For Whom The Bell Tolls - Ernest Hemingway
I’ve read a fair bit of Hemingway and I think he’s great. So he’s one of those writers where I don’t care what the book is about, I’m just there because I like him and will eventually make my way through all his books. This was probably the first bigger novel of his that I’ve read and I thought it was excellent. It’s set during the Spanish civil war, which is of no personal interest to me whatsoever, but he’s a fantastic storyteller and I was in tears by the end.
Septuagenarian Stew – Charles Bukowski
I’ve also read a lot of Bukowski and, as with Hemingway, he’s one of those writers where I chip away at his body of work by reading one of his books every so often. He was a pretty awful person, but I do enjoy both his poetry and prose. He’s very bleak so if you like light-hearted escapism in your books, Bukowski is not your guy. If you haven’t read any of his poetry before I’d say Love Is A Dog From Hell is the one to start with.
Selected Letters: 1940-1956 – Jack Kerouac
I’m arguably the world’s biggest Kerouac fangirl, so this is just me working my way through his writing because eventually I’m going read everything he’s ever written.
Memoirs of a Beatnik – Diane di Prima
Anything vaguely to do with the Beat Generation and I’m there, although a lot of this was more like erotic fiction (maybe that’s what I get for not researching what the book was about). I found myself rolling my eyes in parts, but women were very underrepresented in literature in that movement so that’s a reason enough for me to give it a go. This book was probably pretty significant in its day because I doubt there were many women writing erotic fiction at that time, so that aspect is kind of cool, but I don’t think she’s particularly outstanding as a writer, and I’m not into erotic fiction, so this definitely isn’t essential reading unless you’re very into the movement like I am.
I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen
– Sylvie Simmons
Being a diehard Leonard Cohen fan, I read this before our trip to Montreal. Obviously the majority of people who read this book are going to be Cohen fans because I can’t imagine you’d be interested in it if you’re not. I thought it was fantastic and enjoyed every minute of reading it.
Beloved – Toni Morrison
I tend to have my blinkers on when it comes to my book choices and regularly go back to the same writers, who unfortunately all happen to be white men. I thought that women deserved more representation in my personal library so I decided to branch out, and this book came highly recommended given that it won a Nobel Prize. It’s a pretty heavy one because a major focus of the book is slavery, but the harder something is to read emotionally, typically the more important it is because those topics shouldn’t be ignored.
Origins – Neil deGrasse-Tyson
& Donald Goldsmith
I like to throw in a bit of physics every now and then, though obviously only the kind of books directed at the general public as I don’t actually study it. This was a fairly easy read and it offered some good background into the science of the origins of the universe, stars, life on earth, as well several other topics. I was pretty familiar with a lot of what they covered, but it doesn’t hurt to brush up on the basics, and it would be a good place to start if you’ve not read much on the topic before.
American Gods – Neil Gaiman
I have a lot of friends who are huge Neil Gaiman fans, and this was recommended to me as a good place to start. They recently made a TV series based on this book, so my boyfriend read this first and I decided to read it before we watched the show. Although I think the story is interesting, and the way he created the characters based on ancient mythology was pretty cool too, a lot of that was lost on me since I don't know much about mythology, and I didn't particularly love his writing style. So unfortunately I wasn't a massive fan, though my boyfriend enjoyed the book more than I did. Sorry if you love him – like I said I know a lot of people who do, but it wasn’t really for me.
Nick Cave: Mercy On Me – Rienhard Kleist
Along with Leonard Cohen and Jack Kerouac, Nick Cave is my other favourite person in the world, so as soon as I heard about this book it was obvious I was going to buy it. This is a graphic novel that blends together elements of Nick Cave’s real life, characters from his songs and books, and fictionalises the rest. If, like me, you’re ~intimately familiar with everything surrounding Nick Cave, then you’ll probably love it too. I thought it was utterly fantastic and I got a huge kick out of reading it and I’m desperate for someone I know to read it too so we can talk about how great it is.