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Cokebaby and I went to see Doubt: A Parable at the Neptune Theatre this weekend. It was a fantastic show, well-acted, and with a really cool stage design. The play was wonderful and I’m looking forward to checking out the film when it comes out on DVD.

Now, I don’t consider myself a hoighty-toighty kind of person even if I have, in fact, been to the opera. TWICE. Three times if you include the 10 minutes Measha Brueggergosman performed at the Royal Nova Scotia Tattoo one year. But that’s besides the point.

I was floored by the astounding number of people who had no clue about theatre etiquette. To be honest, I think many of these people thought they were going to see Doubt in the movie theatre rather than, you know, the theatre theatre.

For those people who are wondering, here are some clues to help figure out the difference:

  • were you handed 3D glasses at the door?
  • are the floors sticky?
  • were there movie ads playing while you wait for the lights to dim?

If you answered no to any of the above, then you’re actually in a theatre with live actors. Yes, this would explain how “real” the experience is in the absence of those 3D glasses.

So, now that we’ve established that you’re in a theatre for plays, here are some tips on etiquette:

Just because someone in the house coughs does not give you license to do the same. That goes for the next person, and the person after that, and so forth. In fact, try to stifle your cough. And if you’ve got a dry heaving cough that you haven’t been able to get rid of for days, you’re better off seeing a doctor about it than attending the play at all.

If someone does happen to cough this should not also be considered the prime opportunity to open your box of candies, bottle of pop, or packets of gum.

For that matter, you should keep your food products and resultant belching in until you’re back at home or in another suitable environment.

And bathroom breaks? In most cities you’re not permitted to leave until intermission unless you’ve got some kind of personal emergency. Once those lights dim, consider yourself in prison lock-down. Come on, it’s only an hour and a half people. Plan your bowel movements like the rest of us and use the facilities beforehand.

And for goodness sake, don’t snap your gum throughout the performance (or ever, really but in this scenario in particular) or try to take notes (!) on loose leaf paper.

No word of a lie, all of these things happened to the point of distraction. And if I was hearing it, how do you think the actors were feeling? Yes, maybe they’re trained to ignore it all. But frankly, you weren’t invited to watch your friend perform in your living room. You and I paid money to see and hear a live play, not the sounds we’re most accustomed to hearing in a dining room.

Kthxby.

As those of you who follow me on Twitter know, last week was the busiest week in the year for me in terms of work. Thus, the East Coast Guest Posts to cover for what would otherwise have been my slacking off on the blog. (Thanks, again to my guests!) Well, here’s a little insight into what the combination of stress and lack of sleep result in for me.

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Brides in space.

After coming off of a crazy work day I found myself electronically stranded on my bus ride home. I was already overtired but I tend to stay connected to the web until I get home. On this sleepy ride home after a long day, my iPhone battery died so I had nothing better to do than daydream.

Somehow, I got into my mind that a great business of the future would be called:

Cosmoknot.

That’s right, weddings in space.

Richard Branson, call me when Virgin Galactic would like to buy the name. Come on, it’s better than Virgin Weddings, isn’t it?

Of course, having a Bridezilla in space might be reason to reinstate talks of the Star Wars strategic defense initiative.

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The power of Isaac Mendez compels you.

Oh, please don’t hate me for posting a full dog-related topic here. I know, save it for the dog blog, right?

Well, this one was just too weird.

Anyone who has ever kept the company of a cat or dog knows what I’m talking about here. It has to do with their sleep and the fact that they have a third eyelid.

Yeah, you read that right. I thought about posting a picture but didn’t want to gross you out.

Oh, alright, if you’re really that interested go here.

Gross, right?

Well, combined with sleep deprivation last week while staring at Tofu’s third eyelid I imagined him having the powers of Isaac Mendez. You know, from Heroes? No? Then I’m not really sure why you’re reading this blog. No, it’s technically not a Heroes fan blog but…sigh. Just don’t judge me.

Anyway, I totally digress.

This is all to say that my brain works in mysterious ways. Can my dog see into the future? Only opposable thumbs would tell.

[To wrap up the 902 Style Files, here's a very special guest: the Hep Kitten herself! Thanks to all the guests who filled in for me during this hectic week. If you missed any of them, check out the rest of the East Coast Guest Posts.]

By Áine (aka “Racquel Valencia”)

“Fashionable is what one wears oneself, and unfashionable is what other people wear.”

I wonder if Oscar Wilde ever envisioned that one day some chick from the Maritimes would take one of his witty little barbs and turn it into a criticism of the cookie-cutter skinny jeans and scarves hipster set. But here we are, and, like Morrissey in “Cemetery Gates”, Wilde is on my side.

Personal style is just that–personal–and maybe that’s why it eludes so many people. Clothes not only shield us from the elements, but allow us to let a bit of ourselves shine through. And why would you want to look like anyone else, much less everyone else? Without further ado, let’s take a tour of my closet.

Like what you see?

Like what you see?

Like what you see, home slice? Lotta black in there. In fact, I think I maybe own half a dozen items that aren’t black, and two of them are dark gray. Why? Equal parts deep-rooted body insecurity, Johnny Cash homage and affinity for Bauhaus and Joy Division, I’d wager.

I’ve been called “Funeral Fun Barbie” by my friends, a designation that I’m never sure exactly how to take. I like black and black likes me, which brings me to Rule #1: KNOW THY BODY AND WHAT FLATTERS IT.

Guys, this goes for you, too. Un-pop that collar, mister. It never did no one no favours.

Black DressThis is possibly my favourite dress ever. If I thought I could get away with it, I would wear it every day. It’s black, it’s lacy, it’s just the right amount of goth and cheerleader…and it attracts kittens, as evidenced by the small white kitten in the foreground (hi, Salty Bob!). I spent more on it than I have on pretty much anything else in my wardrobe, but it’s been so worth it, especially considering how much I’ve worn it.

Remember: the most expensive thing in your wardrobe is the thing you never wear. I don’t care if it cost three dollars or three hundred. Same diff, really. Rule #2: IT’S WORTH SPENDING MONEY ON SOMETHING YOU LOVE.

[photo: kimono]

Let’s get real for a second: ninety-five percent of the time when I’m home, I’m not remotely dolled up. Hells no. Ask anyone (friends, roommates, family, milkman): I’m almost always in a kimono. No ratty bathrobe for this Hep Kitten, and as far as I’m concerned sweatpants = I’ve given up on life.

Hep Kitten

Hep Kitten

Who doesn’t love being lazy and slothful? But you can still look good doing it. Legend has it that, when she went to answer the door, Marilyn Monroe would just toss a sheet and some Chanel No. 5 on. While I’m not advocating public nudity, I think there’s something to be said for Rule #3: DON’T LET YOURSELF GO. NOT EVEN FOR THE CATS.

And now, for the most important part of all, the key to beauty, style, and ass-kicking hotness: a sense of humour. As much as I delight in the dark, there’s beauty on the other side, too. Hell, if I’m only going to have six items of clothing in a colour other than Death, I may as well go the whole hog:

Fuhgeddaboudit!

Fuhgeddaboudit!

Yes, it’s a tight Kelly-green minidress that say “JAMAICA” on it. I bought it for two dollars at a Goodwill store. I swear that thing gets more infamous every day.

Some of the best fashion advice I ever got was from my friend Teddy, a curvy, husky-voiced Italian from Bloor/Ossington. Her two words changed how I look at myself both physically and emotionally, and make up Rule #4: OWN IT.

Whenever I was having a fat/ugly/emo day, Teddy would remind me to own it. If I screwed something up, she’d laugh and say “own it and fuhgeddaboudit!” I find myself repeating those words on a daily basis, and I swear I’ve gotten prettier in the past two years.

Own whatever it is you’re wearing. If it’s Feed Bag Friday, rock the shit out of that burlap dress! Suit-and-Tie Monday and you’re stuck in Paisleyville? Live it up, brother, and make that paisley wonder look as awesome as chains on T-Pain. I’ve seen Teddy rock everything from Timberlands with skirts, to sweats with heels and she always looks like she was born to do it.

Racquel

Priceless

“Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.”

That may very well be, Oscar, but the right attitude is priceless.

Racquel Valencia is the nom de plume of a North End chick with an inexplicable love of Top 40 hip-hop and a well-documented obsession with 1990′s teen heartthrobs and girly men. This is what she actually looks like. Visit her at Smell the Glove.

[When I put out a call for guest blog submissions, my goal was to get a variety of East Coast perspectives on the topic of fashion & style. This next post certainly delivers a unique view on the subject. Please give a warm welcome to one of my fave local Twitterati, a man who will un-friend you on Facebook faster than you can click "send request."]

By Joel Kelly

*Disclaimer: The advice you’re about to read was written by a man who went through a phase (he was a child at the time) of dressing like Ace Ventura, and was convinced (again, as a young child) that by dressing in black sweatpants and black sweaters he looked like Batman and would one day become him.*

The longest I’ve ever been able to force myself to abide by a dress code was about two months. I wore dress pants/khakis, and a button-up shirt. And dress shoes. You know, “business casual.” Which, of course, means, “clothes that make you feel uncomfortable and self-conscious all day.”

The degradation started with simply switching to jeans, but tucking in the shirt. You know, balancing it all out.

Then the shirt came untucked.

Then the dress shoes became sneakers.

Other employees observed the slow and calculated descent into comfort. But more importantly they observed management’s complete disregard for my outright disobedience. It was as if the dress code never mattered in the first place. Never actually affected productivity. It was as if it had been instituted because someone suggested there should be more rules and why not make it about clothing?

So for my “902 Style Files” post, I’d like to talk to you about dressing for work in an office environment where everyone else dresses nicely, and like grownups.

Photo credit: JasonTromm from Flickr

Photo credit: JasonTromm from Flickr

1) Footwear. This is the most important bit in any outfit. They say that it’s the first thing women notice when looking at a man. They also say that women look at men, but I’ve had no firsthand knowledge of this so I’m utterly unconvinced. Anyway, the point is wear very, very comfortable footwear. You have to wear them all day, after all! So get yourself some OdorEaters insoles and toss on your rattiest sneakers. You’ll feel confident and comfortable all day. And if I ever got close enough to women to find out for sure (I get nervous and run the other way, typically) I’m pretty sure my bright blue shoes that are falling apart will turn some heads! (Direction of turn to be determined)

2) Jeans. Notice I didn’t says “pants,” or “bottoms.” This is non-negotiable. If you’re not wearing jeans don’t whine about not being comfortable: YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG. Jeans = comfort. Except if you accidentally buy jeans with a button-fly at the Gap because you’re terrified of clothes-shopping and store clerks and dressing rooms and taking your pants off. If that happens (I have this friend who says it can happen and that you shouldn’t judge him!) then you’re in trouble and you’ll only wear them when your other jeans are dirty or something, or you can’t find them because they’re lost in the pile of dirty clothes and sadness somewhere on the carpet of your bedroom floor. Where was this going?

3) Shirts. I recommend plaid button-up shirts. Mostly because they’re timelessly classy. But they’re also like ten bucks at Wal-Mart.

4) Hoodies. These are basically your go-to sweater when you’re preparing for a long day at the office where your coworkers are likely dressed in expensive, “fashionable” clothes. I recommend hoodies with cute visual flairs like dinosaurs or yetis. Ladies love animals. The great part about hoodies are their ease of removal when you work in an office where the temperature is apparently dictated by some sort of fire lizard attempting to acclimate all the employees to its native volcano-clime. Of course, if you’re going to remove your hoodie, check your pits! Wearing a hoodie all day when it’s super hot can only compound the issue of being sweaty and gross (a common problem for almost everyone, and not just me), so make sure you’re good before you take it off. If not, keep that sucker on! It’ll help you sweat out your Tuesday morning hangover, too.

Well, I hope that helped. My name is Joel, by the way, and I’d like to be your friend.

Joel Kelly bills himself as a vegan nerd and marketing asshole. He works for a Halifax-based advertising agency where everyone dresses up for work. His blog about internet marketing can be found at Ingenioustries and you should follow him on Twitter.

[Welcome to another edition of East Coast Guest Posts. This week while I'm eyeball deep in work, some local bloggers will be talking about what I'm calling The 902 Style Files. I have to admit that I love shoes. While I'm not one of those women whose collection could rival that of Imelda Marcus, I do have my share of fancy footwear. Here we have a woman who's serious about shoes and we can all take a few lessons from her expertise. Did you just tune out because you're a guy? Well, focus, mister because it's imperative that you go to point #7).]

By Sarah Semark

porcelaingirlc2b0-josie-grossie

Photo credit: Porcelaingirl° {josie-grossie} from Flickr

There’s something about a pair of heels. They’re instantly classy. They work with everything, they make your legs look great, and they can turn the scrubbiest ensemble into a kick-ass outfit. A beautiful pair of shoes is a magical creature that will transform you into a sophisticated lady-about-town, even when you’re just running out to the grocery store in your pyjamas and bedhead.

But when you live in a climate that changes every hour, and the sidewalks are almost always covered in ice (or snow, or rain, or some combination thereof), wearing heels can be hazardous to your health. As a girl who never wears flats and rarely suffers for it, I’ve picked up a few tricks and tips along the way.

1. Calculated risk.

Using the table below, add the activity (a) to the conditions (c), then multiply by the amount of alcoholic drinks consumed (b is for booze).
Risk = b(a+c)

Activities
Walking: 1pt per km
Dancing: 2pts per half-hour
Attending a wedding, party, or social event: 1pt per hour
Kung fu: 50pts

Conditions
Ice: 10pts
Snow: 2pts
Grassy lawn: 1pt
Areas with decks, grates, or lots of stairs: 5pts
Rocky mountainsides: 30pts

If your risk value is over 20, you can be forgiven for wearing flats. If it’s over 10, perhaps it’s best to go with a practical, heavy-heeled boot. If it’s under ten, a lady can handle it.

2. Avoid hazardous materials.

Suede boots are for cowboys. Have you ever seen it rain in a cowboy movie? In a town where it rains every other day, I can’t understand why anyone would brave wearing suede boots.

Satin can be tricky. Mud and salt will cling to it, but can usually be washed successfully. Stick to darker colours.

Leather is good so long as you protect it. Vinyl will often survive more trips through the salt.

Patent is ideal–you can wear white patent shoes all winter and they’ll always look pristine. Generally speaking, the shinier the shoe, the less likely it is to stain.

3. Length isn’t as important as width.

A kitten heel may seem easier to walk in, but often isn’t. Kitten heels also lack the awesome traits that longer heels offer: making your legs look great, giving you a sexy walk, looking gorgeous.

Instead, look for a heel that’s wider and blockier. You’ll have more stability, and won’t be prone to falling into the cracks of a deck or sinking into the grass.

4. Put your toes away.

Wearing stockings with open-toed shoes is utterly unforgivable. You may be able to get away with a colourful pair of knee socks under a solid black peep-toe pump, but I’ve never tried it.

Stash your open-toed shoes during the snowy season, or be prepared to have very, very cold toes.

5. Keep your ear to the ground.

Or rather, your eyes. Years of walking barefoot has taught me to instinctively watch my footing everywhere I go. This doesn’t mean staring at the ground all the time, it means keeping an eye on it to see what’s coming up.

Venturing onto an icy sidewalk in a stiletto is like wandering through a minefield, and requires absolute vigilance.

6. Always have something sticky on hand.

I once broke my heel falling down a set of stairs at a party, and had to walk home in my fishnets. It was November. A little shoe goo may have made it a much less painful trip.

Quick tip: if the whole heel’s come off, coat the spikes & the heel itself with glue, then slide together. If the heel’s snapped, glue the two pieces back together, then secure by wrapping with tape–try clear packing tape or black hockey tape. Chewing gum can work if you’re desperate.

7. A gentleman is your best accessory.

Any gentleman worth his salt should be more than ready to offer you his arm as you walk. It’s rather like walking with an extra leg: he’ll offer support, stability, and emergency rescues when you hit a patch of ice.

I had a gentleman on hand the night I broke my heel, and he was kind enough to give me a piggyback ride all the way home. Bring one with you whenever you can.

As a final note, if you find heels just too excruciatingly painful, invest in a well-made pair. (Naturalizer tends to be comfortable and often has more stylish varieties.) Peruse the orthopedic section of the drugstore: “heel huggers” prevent your heels from slipping or blistering, and ball-of-foot cushions reduce foot pain.

And never be too shy to kick ‘em off to get down on the dance floor.

Sarah can often be found wandering about in impractical footwear. In the winter, she wears stilettos, and in the summer, she goes barefoot. She makes pretty things for a living and one day hopes to make enough money to afford a pair of Louboutins. You can find her work at Triggers & Sparks.

Remember the scene in The Simpsons where Homer is daydreaming about the land of chocolate? Well, that was me in the south of France only it was with foie gras. Um, wait a second. That sounds kind of gross on a lot of levels. Well, even though I only had it twice in the nine days we were in France, it was equally as glorious as it was horrendous. But, like they say, when in Rome do like…Hedonismbot.

Here are some gastronomical highlights from the trip:

cwbuecheler from Flickr

Photo credit: cwbuecheler from Flickr

Picnics—By far, our favourite thing to do when travelling in Europe is checking out the fresh local produce and putting together meals to go. In Nice, we frequented the Cours Saleya Market & Monoprix, while in Avignon we enjoyed the offerings at Les Halles & 8 à Huit. Things we looked for included sundried tomatoes, olives Niçoise or en herbes de Provence, fresh baked bread, and, of course, fabulous cheeses. Whatever you do in France, if there’s an open display of cheeses that aren’t pre-packaged, for goodness sake don’t touch anything. In Paris, Cokebaby got his hand slapped for reaching out. Just remember, cheese is like a religion here. Don’t sully the alter. There are also plenty of pâtisseries and chocolatiers to go around for dessert.

Wines of the region are rosé and Côtes du Rhône which you can purchase for incredibly reasonable prices. Even champagne is dirt cheap here. For special treats we tried Muscat de Beaumes de Venise (a sweet fortified wine) and pastis (an anise-flavoured liqueur usually served on ice with a pitcher of water that you can use to cut it to your liking). In Nice, we found a great wine shop called Côté Vin where the young shopkeep was keen to speak English and gave us some great recommendations for local (and organic) wines of the region without an ounce of pretension.

Le Atmosphere (Nice)—On opera night, we tried finding a recommended restaurant called Chez Palmyre. Finding no signs of life there on that night (or any other) we wound up on the very touristy Cours Saleya Strip where we were reeled in by an employee. Yes, yes, tourist trap antics. But we were running late and it was literally a two minute walk from the opera house. We went with the formule which got us a starter, main, and dessert for 13,50€. Each of us had a fish soup (served with croutons and rouille), grilled sword fish with roasted vegetables in rice. For dessert I had a creme caramel while Cokebaby opted for chocolate mousse. For the price, service, and quality of food we weren’t disappointed.

Maison Nani (Avignon)—We kind of hit the jackpot with this little gem of a restaurant. The atmosphere is warm and homey, the service impeccable, and the food was everything we wanted it to be (and then some).  On our first day, we arrived close to the end of lunch service so we missed out on the specials but after our meal we vowed to come back early to check them out. Both days the place was filled with locals and the owners were around greeting everyone personally. Our meals ranged around 8-12€ and you could purchase a 75cL Cotes du Rhone wine for about 4€. The wine came in unmarked bottles that brought the term house wine to new meaning but who can argue for the value? I indulged in a foie gras salad served with toast. Simple but delicious. For dessert I couldn’t resist the café gourmand: a cup of espresso with a sampling of Chantilly cream, a cake that tasted like homemade Ferrero Rocher, crème anglaise, and a raspberry crumble for under 4€. On the next visit, I was very happy to get the special tart of the day made with broccoli, onions and olives, with a side salad, and vegetables (potato salad, cucumbers, tomatoes, mustard fennel, lightly salted and boiled string beans).

jenny downing from Flickr

Photo credit: jenny downing from Flickr

O’Neill’s (Avignon)—At supper time many of the restaurants along the main strip were closed, we assumed, due to it being low season. Back alleys turned up international cuisine for very reasonable prices. It probably would have made some sense to have Chinese food for the lunar new year but, frankly, we didn’t come to France for the Chinese food. So, we stopped in at O’Neill’s Irish pub. Um, yeah, that didn’t make much sense, right? The thing is they had a bunch of French items on the menu. While Cokebaby enjoyed his pizza Alsace (ham, olives, mushrooms and Emmenthal) and pint of Kronenbourg blanc, I was happy to receive the yummiest (and biggest) salade Niçoise with a goblet full of vin chaud (aka Glögg or mulled wine).

Le Courtois Café/Pâtisseries (Nîmes)—A family-run business since 1892, this gorgeous spot is situated in the same courtyard as a palm-tree and crocodile fountain (the city’s emblem). The dining room had crammed seating but elegant Old World decor. Cokebaby and I felt like the veritable bulls in a china shop and if the weather had been a bit warmer we probably would have enjoyed the experience more on the patio. That said, the food was delicious and the service both pleasant and efficient. This was my second and last foie gras salad. Not quite as delicious as the first but it came with a tasty side of scalloped potatoes. Cokebaby’s poulet Basquaise (chicken served in a clay pot with peppers and smoky spices) was not the most memorable meal but he enjoyed it nonetheless. On the way out we passed the display case of pastries and, although incredibly tempting (and probably where they excelled in terms of food), we passed them up in order to move on to the sites of the city.

Restaurant du Gesù (Nice)—This was a quaint little Italian restaurant situated at a cobblestone square across from a church. We opted to dine outside in the enclosed patio next to a heat lamp. The food here was simplicity at its best. We shared plates of gnocchi (potato pasta) with Gorgonzola, and ravioli with pistou (basically, pesto without the pine nuts). On the blackboard they had featured a wine of the month which we tried out for 14€ (this time it came in a corked and labelled bottle). By the time we were served our meal the place was packed with locals and students.

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Our last day in Nice was spent trying to cram in as much food and drink into our faces before we had to fly back. We had croissants, café crème, wine, cheese, beer, pastries, and more. By the end of the night I was wholly and truly satisfied that I could indulge no more. Thankfully, vacations do have to come to an end sometimes. Otherwise, I’d be the size of an elephant. That or I’d have to take up smoking as an appetite suppressant which I’m convinced is the only way everyone stays so thin in France. Kidding..!

I’m not by any means a culture vulture. At least by some standards. Sure, I like watching some indie or foreign films, am passionate about world food and wines, listen to a wide variety of music, and am fairly well travelled. That all being said, when it comes to things like ballet or opera performances my experience is pretty limited. By that I mean mostly through secondary school field trips. (For the record that’s a long time ago).

It’s not that I don’t enjoy these types of cultural experiences. It’s mostly because a good deal of my adult (and therefore able to afford things) life has been spent in a small city. Frankly, since moving here it seems to me that the options are fairly limited and I’m not about to repeat the brutally uncomfortable experience at the Halifax Metro Centre when we went to see the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo with Cokebaby’s family and accidentally heard some beautiful opera performed by Measha Brueggergosman.

In fact, outside of that experience, one of the few others I’ve had with opera is through a very small collection at home that includes safe bets like Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman. However, on our trip to Italy last year we made it to The Barber of Seville at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice and were so amazed that we wanted to repeat the experience. It was an opulent opera house and overall wonderful performance which I enjoyed immensely despite undergoing the early stages of a sinus infection that would make the flight home almost unbearable.

At the market

At the Cours Saleya Market

This is all to say that we had some high expectations of the Opera de Nice on our recent trip to southern France. So, on our first day on vacation we took in a day of walking around Old Nice, stopping by the opera house to find out that all the main tickets were sold out and that we’d have to come back at 16:30 (not 6:30 as I almost made the mistake) to purchase last minute tickets in the upper tier. It was to be expected so instead of being disappointed we spent the rest of the morning touring through the market stands where we picked up some souvenirs and the best sun-dried tomatoes ever made.

Eventually we made it back to the opera house where I’m pretty sure I asked the ticket agent in French if he wanted two seats at the opera. To his credit he didn’t laugh at me and continued to converse in French without switching to English. As the assigned seating was sold out he lamented that the only tickets available presented poor to no visibility. But they were also only 8€ each.

From where we were seated we could see only part of the stage and that was only when standing. Although there was an overhead with captions to follow, that too was half obscured. It seemed that I understand all but every fifth word but it also seemed that every fifth word was the most important.

The opera itself was one that we’d not heard of: Les Contes d’Hoffman. Not Le Comte Hoffman as we originally thought while listening to the performance. A somewhat important distinction. You see, one of the main characters sounded like he was the Count from Sesame Street and every time he entered the stage with that distinctive laugh I thought we were about to get a lesson in French numbers (which actually would have at least been educational in some way). The unmistakable laugh only further confused my understanding of what was going on because I naturally assumed he was “Count” Hoffman when, in fact, he was actually the “nemesis” Lindorf.

From the set of Les Contes d'Hoffman

From the set of Les Contes d'Hoffman

Then, at some point—no word of a lie—a giant baby’s head emerged on the stage. For a little while it was all we could look at. We were transfixed and beyond perplexed and losing the plot line with every passing second that we weren’t paying close attention to the words or overhead.

That’s when it got really weird. A bald-headed robotic woman sprang out of the head. All bets were off at that point. It felt like we were watching a live-action episode of The Simpsons. I imagined Lenny and Carl standing by the enormous tête asking, “Ain’t you never seen a bald chick leap out of a giant head before?”

Even after the automaton proceeded to sing the very beautiful aria, Les Oiseaux Dans La Charmille, we couldn’t put the oddness out of our minds. Yet we persevered.

Then, the stage was flooded with identical blind couples tapping their way with white canes across the stage. By the time Act II came along Cokebaby and I were entirely lost.

Apparently there was an Act III but we never saw it.

For us, the opera didn’t end when the fact lady sang. In fact, there was no fat lady at all. And maybe in the absence of one, it ends when the bald chick leaps out of the giant head. I’ll have to test that theory out on our next operatic excursion.

A typical Air Canada flight

A typical Air Canada flight

I know you’re all probably thinking that this is a post about the trip itself and all the food, wine, sites, and wonderful weather that was had. Well, that’s not what this post is about. No, we had to try and get to our destination first. And by try, I mean, battle it out against Mother Nature, time zones, Air Canada, and a possible gremlin. Here is our story:

3:54 p.m. AT: We arrive at Halifax International Airport as light snow begins to fall. Having checked in electronically online the night before, we simply pass our bags in to an Air Canada attendant and head over to the departures section.

4:01 p.m.: With limited options we decide to have dinner at the Molson Ale House. Perhaps as a bon voyage reminder of the good food to come, we are promptly served the most mediocre bar food we’ve ever tasted alongside a glass of beer that is the size of my dachshund.

4:52 p.m.: We are screened through security by the friendliest people in Halifax. I immediately suspect something is up. In the departure lounge, we watch snow accumulate on the wings of our plane. Cokebaby develops a sudden headache and self-medicates with coffee. It does not help.

5:45 p.m.: We board the plane. On board, the stress accumulates at a rate that grows exponentially in relation to the amount of snow that is falling. Although our original direct flight to London would not have left for another several hours, that flight was cancelled and we were forced to take this earlier flight in order to make a connection in Montreal. The connection time upon arrival there is a mere 50 minutes. With every moment we are delayed, we are eating into that connection time.

6:10 p.m.: The captain announces we will be slightly delayed due to waiting for passengers on a connecting flight from Sydney. We quietly curse them.

6:20 p.m.: Five minutes late from departure time, the delayed passengers finally board the plane which is sent to de-ice for what seems like an eternity.

6:35 p.m.: We finally depart. Our stress does not.

7:15 p.m. ET: We land safely in Montreal but our connection is scheduled to leave in 25 minutes. A flight attendant assures us that connections “usually wait” for passengers. That does not sound reassuring.

7:17 p.m.: The chief steward announces that passengers with connections to Fort Lauderdale, Paris, and London (us) should deplane first. Everyone and their sister piles into the aisles. By this point, Cokebaby’s head is about to explode.

7:21 p.m.: We are guided to gate by an Air Canada employee and make it to the plane with 10 minutes to spare.

On board we don’t even care about the snarky Francophone staff who are inexplicably rude to Anglophones considering the flight is going to London (England) where the primary language is, well, English. We’re just glad that we’re finally on our way to Europe.

9:57 p.m.: At least that’s what time I think it is because by this point we’re probably flying over Halifax again where the time would now be 1-hour ahead of Montreal.

As promised, approximately an hour and a half into the flight, we are served a small meal. This is the part of the flight I always look forward to because I’ve listed myself as requiring an Asian vegetarian meal. In the past I’ve had things like couscous salads, hummus sandwiches (I’m honestly not sure how that’s Asian either but it was tasty), and Channa Masala. So, I cannot tell you how disappointed I was when the flight attendant rolled over with her little cart and had to explain to me that not only did my special meal not make it to the plane but that in the future I should call ahead at least 24 hours.

Excuse me? You mean I should pick up the phone while on vacation to stay on hold for who knows how long just so I can say, what? “Hello. Yeah, I’m just calling to confirm that you’re going to do your job in the next day or so?”

The following choices are then offered to me: chicken or beef. Seriously. Thankfully she had the good sense to say she’d check in first class to see if there is a vegetarian option. There is. And it was a spicy roasted vegetable pasta dish with chewy globs of half-melted cheese. Did I mention this is what they were serving in first class? It was even served on a real plate.

The time is now…What time is it over the Atlantic? Atlantic time?

Having lost track of time, the rest of the voyage is spent dozing in and out of sleep. A much needed sleep. At one point, I look out into the pitch black of night. The plane’s wing by my window seat is only briefly lit by a blinking red light.

For future reference, this scenario is not the time to be thinking of the episode of Twilight Zone with the gremlin. As a child, that episode scared the bejesus out of me. However, I think back and believe that William Shatner was in that episode so that makes it more funny than scary. But then I second guess myself. Or was it Charleton Heston in which case it makes it the reverse?

7-ish a.m. GMT: Breakfast is a cold muffin with a side of bitter caffeine and aspertane-filled yogurt. I note that the Dairyland creamer is labelled “creamo.” This point becomes inexplicably funny to me as I imagine a cartoon character named “El Creamo.” Clearly, the crazy from lack of sleep is starting to set in.

Time?: In London we play the waiting game. We have arrived with something like five hours before we board our connection. At this point I’m so tired I feel sick. But we have to wait it out for at least two hours before checking in to the departures section. We have coffee at Costa Coffee (basically a British Starbucks). The wi-fi connectivity confounds us.

Some time later Cokebaby forces a couple sips of some energy drink down my gullet. Rocker or Superstar or some other marketing genius offered up by Big Guarana. As a result, I almost spew the contents of the last 12+ (?) hours.

When we finally check in we wade our way through the high end shops and find a place called Giraffe Restaurant. Think Disney Theme Park restaurant integrating The Lion King with Putumayo World Music in real life. Had a veggie breakfast including sausages that tasted like they were made out of stuffing.

12:20 p.m.: We board the plane to Nice.

3-ish p.m. CET: We check in to our hotel where I promptly try to take a bath in the world’s smallest bath tub. Failing this task, I shower and manage to get sprayed in eye by a malfunctioning shower head.

4-ish p.m.: We stroll the main strip and pick up a picnic dinner from the local Monoprix including olives, cheese, sliced meat, bread, and champagne.

6-ish p.m.: Censored. Hey, we were there to celebrate our 10 year anniversary.

1-ish a.m.: I wake up to the sounds of people seemingly rather close at hand and realize that the walls are paper thin.

[Next up this week: find out whether or not we enjoyed the rest of our trip.]

(Spoiler alert: we totally did.)

[What defines you in this big, wide world of ours? Is it your obsession with Battlestar Galactica, your dogs/cats, your fetish for shoes? In an attempt to find out what makes my readers tick, I'd like to offer this meme to be sung to the tune of Madonna's (no not Hilary Duff's) Material Girl. Post in the comments on on your own blog at your will.]

DeclanTM from Flickr

Photo credit: DeclanTM from Flickr

I like Twitter and Flickr
They’re my fave ways of talking
Then there’s LinkedIn and my own blog
So I’m in the loop

Pics that make me look too fat
Made it to Facebook
But I don’t care, oh that’s alright
I can just untag

‘Cause we are living in a digital world
And I am a digital girl
You know that we are living in a digital world
And I am a digital girl

[Yeah, I know. Stick to the day job, right?]

The view from my front door

The view from my front door

OK, we get it, Mother Nature. Yes, while we’re all busy with our workaday lives, you’re still relevant.

We understood that when you decided to close out 2008 with a big bang. Kudos to you. After all these years, you’ve still got it in you.

But seriously. Don’t you think you’re going overboard? Frankly, you’re coming off a little desperate for attention.

Maybe you’re ticked off because all these scientific types are saying “Global Warming” is behind all this crazy weather we’re having. If it makes you feel any better, there are lots of other people who don’t even believe in climate change.

All I’m saying is that you need to get a grip. People are starting to talk. And no, not all publicity is good publicity. Please don’t think I’m telling you this to hurt your feelings. I’m saying all this as a friend.

Also, you’d better get this out of your system before I head to France in 10 sleeps time. Because if I find out that you’re in cahoots with Air Canada, I swear, I’m breaking up with you, too.

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