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11th ave, the fifth-anniversary edition

April 11, 2014

Five years ago, I started this blog in part to give myself a regular deadline (which I, lately, have semi-regularly ignored, but never mind) and to shine a brief light on interesting things I find here and there, on the web or in the portfolios of my friends. When I have the time and inspiration, my fave entry is the Proust Questionnaire 5.0, which leans back to the old parlour game/personality profile and updates it with a few questions of my own. The original writing is a rarity, but all the more precious, not only to me but in that I can share it with you all. The first piece of my writing that I published on this blog was the following poem, which I must confess I love. I get to be proud and braggy, though just for today. Here is that poem and I hope you enjoy a rather good edition, if I do say so, of 11th ave for April 2014.

Elemental

Throw my ashes
off the pier
at the end of 11th Avenue
over the highway and
down the road from
where my parents
in the creaking honeymoon bed
of the old family cabin
rubbed and rubbed
against their fates
until a spark
flew up and out
the window, igniting
the cigarette
my grandmother
had been trying to light,
standing under their bedroom window
growing cold
as she waited
for this sign, watching
the lake waters rise
up the road,
up the steps,
up her bare leg
until that first drag,
her first breath of me
of a chain of smoke rings
that held, while she
tapped ash, tapped me
into the flood tide
now rushing back
to the shore
to the pier
where the rest
of my ashes are now
falling
home.

April 2005
– Denise Duguay

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the fine print: Mary Gauthier’s letter to a young songwriter

April 11, 2014

The music distribution platform called CD Baby has started a series of letters to young songwriters from established musicians. Mary Gauthier is the first to contribute. What I like about this letter is that while the advice does contain a few tips that are specific to music-making, it can also be read as a letter to a young or new maker of anything. I like this passage in particular:

You must learn how to reject acceptance and accept rejection. People’s opinions of you and your work are irrelevant. The search for love and applause has no place in the creative process. Here is what I know: thriving artists suffer from a feeling of inferiority, a feeling of reaching for something that keeps being just outside our grasp. We make contact with it, and then it turns to smoke. It cannot be held. So our work involves a constant striving.”

Click here to read the full letter.

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read, cook, eat: Mother’s magic macaroni, tomatoes and cheese

April 11, 2014

TV Dinner Time logo

Dec. 14, 2007 was the original publication date of this blog post, back when my late mother was a going concern (and going and going). One thing we never bickered about was macaroni and cheese. She was the queen. I was standing close by with a bowl to be filled. Bliss. On the fifth-anniversary of this 11th ave blog, of which she was a ridiculously generous supporter (still top commenter, four years after resting in peace), I repost her mac and cheese classic.

Nobody does it like mother does. Macaroni, that is. Unless you’re the boyfriend and you hate tomatoes or even the idea that tomatoes would play any part in that most sacred of TV food groups, macaroni and cheese. Maybe it’s a chick thing. But Mother and I know what we like. So whenever the wind blows me back home to Winnipeg, and we gather with Aunt Daisy and the gals for an evening of cacklin’ good fun, this is what’s cookin. Mother, this one’s for you.

Betty’s Macaroni and Tomatoes and Cheese (TM)

While you’re boiling the bejeesus out of a box of macaroni or some more frou-frou pasta (i prefer whole wheat fusilli: mother is shaking her head no), set the oven to 375 C and haul out the biggest and heaviest casserole dish you own. Bonus points if it’s cast iron. Into that casserole, toss a can of tomatoes, roughly chopped with the edge of the lid if they’re whole, along with a half dozen chopped green onions, an unwise amount of freshly ground black pepper (take the salt shaker from Mother; she knows she’s not supposed to) and a wee bit from the two or three handfuls of cheddar that your mother has made you grate by hand (and now you’re bleeding!) because she’s too stubborn to use the food processor sitting patiently below the counter. Call Aunt Daisy into the kitchen to help you load the casserole into the oven to cook for the duration of the pasta’s cooking time. You’ll know the pasta is done when it is waaaaay past al dente. Limp even.

Call Aunt Daisy back to help pull the too-damned-heavy casserole out and place it beside the sink, where Mother will add the strained, limp pasta to the tomato mixture while trying not to spill too many noodles into the sink. If I am not looking, mother will add a bit more butter before stirring it up very well. Only thing left after that is to add the generous, shaggy mound of grated cheddar.

Place back in the oven and cook for roughly three old family stories you’ve heard a million times before but that still make you laugh (some would say bray). It’s done when the cheese is browned. If Aunt Daisy is not too tipsy, call her back to haul it out. Mother, of course, will serve. You’ll all eat from TV tables and you won’t complain. And of course, you’ll be glad you wore your eatin’ pants.

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Proust questionnaire 5.0: jake moore, one degree of separation, repeated many times

April 11, 2014

I don’t have to go all the way up to six degrees of separation between me and jake moore. More like one degree of separation that kept multiplying: We both, though years apart, spent summers on Lake Winnipeg. As a Winnipeg punk dabbler in the early 1980s (I went by the name “Isn’t that Richard Duguay’s sister?”), I’d marveled at her fabulous, terrifying (in fairness, everything terrified me) stage presence, fronting the band Ruggedy Annes. Later, when I was writing about television at the Winnipeg Sun, I watched the birth of a TV specialty network called WTN (Women’s Television Network, RIP) and saw her host the short-film showcase Shameless Shorts. More recently and unaware of our new proximity, I was a student and she a teacher at Studio XX in Montreal, a multimedia teaching and exhibition collective. Along the way, a growing number of Winnipeg friends, including Linda English, mentioned jake to me as a fellow Winnipegger who’d decamped to Montreal, she an artist in the fine arts world of Concordia University and me hunched over a computer in the newsroom at The Gazette. Nothing happened until Linda, visiting Montreal on a business trip, put us at the same lunch table, because, “you guys would really like each other.” A shy start pretty much exploded into friendship right then and there. So I bugged jake until she did my newly tweaked Proust Questionnaire 5.0. Here she is:

Since we are conducting this interview via email, the world is ours for the inventing. If, as I some day hope, money is no object, in what city and establishment would you like this interview to be taking place?
Sel Rrose, an oyster bar in the Bowery.

Who and what would you be wearing?
In my dreams the clothes I wish for have no brand affiliation but they are beautifully made, clean lined, exceptional materials. I am obsessed by quality of materials and construction.

And, most importantly, what would we be drinking?
If it is summer, gin, Hendrick’s with Q tonic.
If it is winter, either a deep red, or Lagavulin, neat.

Okay then. What are the qualities you most admire in others?
Vision, intellectual capability, and kindness.

What do you like most about yourself?
How I see.

Least?
My fear/self loathing. Likely the same thing.

What is your greatest achievement?
Hasn’t happened yet.

What are you working on (not to be confused with What is your job/work? Although… fill yer boots on that one if you prefer)?
Articulating just what it is that I do,
Continuing to do it.

What is your more treasured possession?
This is difficult to answer for I have many treasures, but they are not of capital value.
My Opa’s handmade flour scoop.
MOMA machine exhibition catalogue 1968.
Big blue, a sweater my mom made.

What is your present state of mind?
Disappointed.

What is your first memory?
Being on the wrong side of the door to the basement in our house in [the Winnipeg neighbourhood of] Fort Garry and hearing my mother asking for me. I was exceptionally aware of the place I had gotten myself into, the kind of space – dark, slightly damp wood in humid Winnipeg summer, and the sound…. Spatialized and complex.
Her voice such comfort.

What was your worst job?
It might be my current one
As there is such a disconnect between its potential and its environment
Essentially anywhere you’re power doesn’t match your responsibilities

Your favourite colour?
Grey

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Warm light rain, mid afternoon, reading, he’s in the house but not necessarily right beside me, just in parallel, wine, (a very chilled sancerre), no plans for the evening.

Of misery?
When faced with overt cruelty.

If not yourself, who or what would you be?
A me with discipline and certainty.
I have no need to be other, just different.

If you could go back in time for one day, anyplace, but for just one day, when, where and with whom?
Paris, 1924, somehow I would know both Colette and Eileen Gray. Or maybe this is the answer to the last question – somehow I would be both Colette and Eileen Gray.

What is your favourite journey?
Summer, Manitoba, very, very, hot, midday heading to the water, either the pits or Whytewold.

What food, dish or meal takes you back to a special time?
Almost every one as I am cooking. Most things I cook are constructed from memories.

Name the person who influenced you most and how.
Overtly my mother Liz Moore/Elly Goring – she made me in so many ways.
But as far as someone changing you, Donald Lloyd McKinley.
 He was the studio master in the Furniture program at the School of Crafts and Design. He gave a 4 hour lecture on screwdrivers once that fascinated me.
Yes, screwdrivers. He talked about mechanical advantage, tools as an extension of the body, innovation, and nationhood all embodied in – or performed via – this everyday object. His ability to inform and expand on how our world has come to be changed my way of looking at every thing. He taught me to see that what is in front of us, is many things all together at once.

Name the film/song/book/art that influenced you most and why?
Just one? Impossible.
There have been so many and there continue to be new ones every year.
From my childhood, Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew changed my world, but did so simultaneously to the Jungle Book soundtrack and Jesus Christ Superstar. I would perform special contemporary dance routines that involved the couch for especially gymnastic rolls, the fireplace used as a barre mixed with various floor routines. Anything that had a lyric I felt I could sing, was sung into this very large, blown glass, decorative brandy snifter, the kind of which was often filled with commemorative match books or a cork collection in the 70’s. That would produce the kind of reverb and resonance that made me certain I was an awesome singer.
I would pay money to have footage of any of those performances. (and there were many). I want to see and feel that joy again.

In this or any time, which real-life figure(s) do you most admire?
Virginia Woolf, Eileen Gray, every day people that make the difficult choices to stay true to what is right.

Who is your favourite fictional hero?
Franny in John Irving’s, Hotel New Hampshire.
Almost anyone written by Alyssa York in her short story collection, Any Given Power.

What fault can you most easily forgive?
Almost anything really, if one acknowledges it as a fault.
Though inflexibility is my least favourite thing.

Not forgive?
Knowing you have a fault and not working to change it seems unforgivable, though maybe it is admirable to fully embrace oneself. Though not if it involves cruelty.

What is your motto?
“There is no try, only do.”

How would you hope to die?
Quick and clean with no witnesses.

Anything I haven’t asked about that you’d like to volunteer?
Not on paper, though feel free to ask me anything.

Deep dark secret?
Because I have told steve everything, I feel like I don’t have any secrets. No one else really needs to know.

Any last words?
Let’s do this in person soon, but you answer the questions : )

Admit it. You read those celebrity Q&As and you know you’re easily as worthy of being profiled. I know I do, but my friends are way more interesting. So, with nods to the “confession albums” of the late 1800s  made famous by the fabulous Marcel Proust’s answers, to French TV host Bernard Pivot who adapted the questionnaire, to Inside the Actors Studio host James Lipton who gave it another spin and to Vanity Fair, which uses its own elegantly spun version to anchor the magazine’s back pages, I submit for your entertainment and enlightenment, my own version of the Proust Questionnaire, re-retooled for a blog age.

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snap: beautiful city, ruined city — Montreal, Detroit

April 11, 2014

How do you think about where you live? Most of us, most of the time don’t think about about the city we call home any more often than we think about the air we breathe. It’s home. It’s there. But throw a little dust into that air and suddenly what’s taken for granted seems a little more precious or fragile or even gone.

In Montreal, having just come through a Quebec provincial election campaign that was unwanted, dirty and batshit crazy, AND being on the brink (knock on wood, fingers crossed) of spring after a season and a half of dull bone-cold winter, I’m feeling a big love for Montreal. Visiting student Stéphane Mong does too. He posted this Montreal love letter four months ago, on Vimeo, introducing it this way:

I lived amazing experiences while I studied civil engineering at Polytechnique. I’ve just graduated months ago and before I move on, I decided to make this timelapse to keep remember all the wonderful memories Montreal gave me. Memories… which wouldn’t be the same without my awesome friends, thanks guys!”

So that’s a happy thought about a city. But what about a place like Detroit, where bad decisions and bad people have left parts of the city in ruin? I’ve grown very curious about Detroit, compelled not by the stories of ruin but of resilience. Detroit: An American Autopsy is native Detroit son Charlie LeDuff’s memoir of his family, friends and city and an aggressive, often one-man fight to make city officials (and unofficials) DO something about it. Gorgeous writing that is funny, enraging and very moving. Then I spied this call out to writers, offering a house in exchange for living and writing on a street they hope to reclaim from abandonment, a gesture to try to write some life back into one house on one street. And here, below, is a photo homage to a mouldering, formerly vibrant school.

Click here to view Viral Forest’s photo gallery: Unforgettable: Then and Now in a Detroit School.

And then, when you’ve got time to click and browse, you might also enjoy Detroit Urbex’s Evolution of a City, a multimedia “interactive look at the growth, decline, and revival of the city of Detroit through historic and present-day pictures.”

So how do you think about your city?

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soundtracking with Robert Szkolnicki: The Mix Tape

April 11, 2014

Now, the making of a good compilation tape is a very subtle art. Many do’s and don’ts. First of all you’re using someone else’s poetry to express how you feel. This is a delicate thing.”
­­

Rob (John Cusack) from High Fidelity

Even though mixtapes do not physically exist anymore, the internet is doing its best to keep this form of expression alive. Or rather. It’s trying.

Sites like The Line of Best Fit, Portals Music, and The Maroon Cafe post many mixes. The results are however not always satisfying as the playlists are more of a music feature rather than an “expression of how you feel”. Even the new term “curated playlist” seems to have been invented to have mixtapes taken more seriously.

The current mixtapes that I enjoy are by other musicians. Not only is it music that they like but perhaps music that inspires them.
Here are three recent good ones.

Julianna Barwick on Fact Magazine …

Titled See You, it’s a lilting collection of soupy new age, rolling Americana, Arthur Russell, and the odd canonical classic too – it’s certainly been a while since we heard Dylan in a FACT mix.

And keep browsing the mixes on Fact and you’ll also find something by Damon Albarn

Titled Waves in Suyian and made in collaboration with Remi Kabaka and Suzi Winstanley, it spans US­-Cambodian psych-­rockers Dengue Fever to West Indian soul group The Guinness Casanovas, with Mulatu Astatke, Erykah Badu and Holly Golightly in between, plus a pair of unreleased tracks from Albarn himself.

Carmen Villain via Self­-Titled has a nice mix of tracks called Winter Ease.

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the fine print: Larry Levis’s The Poem You Asked For

March 17, 2014

This section of 11th ave., the fine print, is where I offer a “chapeau” to writing I find here and there that really touches me or grabs me or hey this is sounding a little rough for prime time. But you get my meaning.

Ordinarily, this would be where I would drone on a bit about why I was so moved or inspired or gob-smacked. But to be honest, I can’t recall. I generally bookmark lovely things I find here and there, sometimes I email them to myself. I am so certain, in the moment, that my connection to the writing will pretty much write itself into a blog post. What happens more often than not is that I find an email like the follow, which has its own lyrical beauty no it doesn’t.

11th

Gyrating bridge 1939

99 per cent invisible

Leek potato kielbasa soup

The Larry Levis poetry page, at Poem Hunter, that I bookmarked Jan. 9, 2014 was almost as mysterious as the above. But The Poem You Asked For fairly jumped up and begging me to click it again. However I found it, I am grateful. It casts the relationship between poem and poet like a love hate relationship, which of course it is.

beat me and took my money,

tore the faded clothes

off my back

Read the full poem here.

And if you like The Poem You Asked For, you might also try the great American poet Billy Collins’s Purity.

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