Monthly Archives: August 2012

My New Chicago Accent

I’m a bit of an accidental accent chameleon.  When I travel somewhere with a regional accent my speech automatically morphs to fit the style.  Embarrassingly so.  I can even tell that it is happening and am powerless to stop it.  The effects are just wearing off now after nearly 24 hours back beyond the 49th parallel.  There isn’t anything necessarily *wrong* with the Chicago (aka general midwest) twang except that my A’s just generally aren’t this nasal or as front.  To get a feel for the difference pronounce “speech pathologist”.  When I say it in my “general Canadian” accent the first “o” sounds like the /a/ in father.  In my new found midwest accent that first “o” sounds is much more like the /a/ in cat.  See the difference?  I just went with it this time and enjoyed hearing it coming from my mouth.

Why would I have a Chicago accent?  I was in Chicago, of course!  A quick 5 day trip for a conference, a couchsurf and a hang with the lovely Hi-C.  The famous J.Lo aka Logi (not Jennifer Lopez – J.Lo of the speech-pathology research royalty) hosted a 20-person conference in dysphagia at NorthWestern University Hospital.  This intimate setting allowed for plenty of discussion and revealed that J.Lo is one feisty and opinionated SLP.

Team Canada and Logi (not to be confused with her band:  Logi and the Parkies)

Instead of shelling out the big bucks for a hotel we traveled the awesome way and couchsurfed!  Our host was extremely welcoming and accommodating.  Although his profile says he’ll take “only” 5 surfers at a time we found him routinely packing up to 11 extra people into his one-bedroom flat.  And were we ever lucky to score a space in his living room – we found out that he is fully booked until October!  Good thing Hi-C is a keener and emailed him mucho in advance.

As for the city, it truly is fabulous.  The same size as T-dot (the actual city – the great chicago area trumps the GTA by nearly 3 million people) it has a much more impressive sky line and hopping downtown core although I’ll still give Toronto wins for food culture and cutesy neighbourhoods.  That great Chicago fire of 1871 really did the city a favour by destroying the crap and setting them up for a well-planned downtown with a great architectural culture.  I have never seen a place so dense with incredible architecture and was definitely worth the hour long boat tour through the rivers.

Highlights of the trip (I’m too lazy to rotate the photos – you get the idea sideways):

Cultural cuisine.  It was the first stop!

Some of that fancy architecture plus the pretty wicked Chicago flag.

Legendary Chicago bean
Me, Hi-C and DeDeb reflectin’ our hot selves in said bean

Maturity from Hi-C (Band:  D’Hilary and the SLPeeps)

We took the long was so we could walk under this very apt sign!

 The most amazing view in the city and all I had to do was buy a $7 tea.  Thanks, Hancock Tower.  Still cheaper than the $18 elevator ride at the Willis.  Pssh.

 Deep Dish – of course we had to deep dish.  Unexpected:  they put the sauce ON the cheese (which was about 1 cm thick) and the crust was made with corn meal (hence the yellow colour).  A little dry for my liking but worth a taste test.

If you haven’t tried couchsurfing you probably should.  Go ahead, make a profile.  I’ll even give you a reference (if you’re nice to me).  

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Very First Folkfest

It seems like the only thing I have been doing this summer is attending festivals around the theme of food.  Not that I am complaining.  I’ve tried many scrumptious foods but it was nice to attend something where food wasn’t the focus.  There has to be something else to celebrate, right?

There is and that something is folk music.  Not that I have any idea how to define folk music.  A while ago, if you asked me, I would have imagined something with fiddles.  Fiddles = folk music, right?  Folk can be a bit of a general category but, after attending 2 days of festivities, I have no idea what folk music is.  In fact, I’m not even sure what it isn’t except maybe pure rock/metal nor top 40 pop hits nor classical music.  I had ruled out hiphop until the last main stage act Saturday night.

Perhaps the point of folkfest isn’t music that fits the right definition but music that brings people together and promotes a sense of community.  This definition I found online seems to most closely encompass the four days of music togetherness in Edmonton:  “Folk artists today are experimentalists who dabble in different genres, integrating various musical influences into their narrative songs.

The festival itself is 4 days of music from Thurs-Sunday.  During the day there are 7 stages with various artists and groups of artists playing 1 or 1.5 hour shows and in the evening everyone gathers at the main stage for the “big” names.  This year’s headliners were Corb Lund (Thurs), Arlo Guthrie + Family (Fri), Emmylou Harris (Fri), Mary Chapin Carpenter (Sat), Bonnie Rait (Sun).  I made it to Friday and Saturday.

It really is an incredible community.  A huge park packed with tens of thousands of people and everything just worked.  The lines were long, the spaces were crowded, children whined/cried but everyone everyone just respected each other and enjoyed music together.  You just squish in and listen.  The way the festival works is that someone in the group (Thanks, ShanWow!) shows up an a terrible hour, often before 7am, and gets in a giant corral.  Those in the corral are given tickets and a lottery is drawn allowing groups of 50 or so at a time to enter the festival grounds and place a tarp “in front of” in main stage.  By the end of this there are about 4000 tarps bumping up against each other covering all but a few square inches of grass.  The first lucky few groups get the flat land in front of the stage and the rest spill gradually up the hill.  Perceptibly sliding down the tarp is a constant foe during the main stage event.  We’re considering velcro pants next year.

People bring various kooky puppets, flags and home made crafts posted on ski and garden poles throughout the tarp grounds to help one locate their blue tarp in a sea of blue tarps.  Then everyone leaves all of their things on their tarp for hours and hours and nomadically wander from stage to stage.  I never heard of anything going missing.

The two best things about folkfest:  friends and discovering new music (at least, new to me!).

Royal Wood – a Peterborough native, I saw him twice…partially because he’s not too hard to look at.  Plus his music is catchy.  His LP is rotating on my telefunken right now.

The Dunwells – a band that is big in their UK homeland but had yet to set foot on Canadian soil.  They are all very genuine people on stage and played along when Bahamas whipped out an American classic that they didn’t know but tried to sing along (the class was “You Don’t Know How it Feels” by Tom Petty).

Bahamas – another Ontarioite, this time from Barrie, but with a fabulous mustache.  This guy was the most regular-guy of everyone I saw.  He was more interested in jamming with the two other bands (mentioned above) during the workshop* that promoting his own music.

Andrea House – a local singer-songwriter that couldn’t be found on youtube.  She has a very mellow vibe but didn’t truly stand out until she pulled out something a little more 50s and upbeat.  Very kindly but perhaps a bit mistakenly, was overshadowed when she opened the stage to her keyboard player to play one of her own original tunes.  Too bad I missed her name because I’d like to see her on her own stage next year.

Valdy – an apparent Canadian treasure that I was unaware I should be treasuring.  It was like Fred Penner but a little nuttier.  But you could tell the over 50 crowd knew the words to his songs.

A few other notable artists were Jayme Stone and his recreation of folk tunes from all eras and areas of earth from 1700s eastern Europe to African folk.  New Country Rehab.  The Barr Brothers.  Lindi Ortega who did a strong rendition of Dolly’s song pleading for a a colour TV.

*Workshop is what they call it when they jam 3+ bands on stage together and then let things take their course. 

Heritage Days (Day 2)

After a disappointing first day of food I returned with ShanWow to try again.  I’m glad that I did.

Finland – pirakka – Hoping for something sweet and ending up with something savoury.  A very Finnish treat with rye bread in a thin, soft crust with rice paste in the centre and egg mush spread on top.  Sounds not so great but I’d eat it again.

Serbia – baklava – The serbians definitely know how to create a flaky honey pastry.  Baklava wasn’t anything new but a rare treat.

Eritrea – alicha – basically Ethiopian food and therefore the way to my heart.  This was a stew of potatoes, carrots and cabbage on a nice, grey, tangy injera bread.  Some of the best things in life are vegetarian.

Ghana – plantain – roasted in 7 (seven!) Ghanaian spices these were easily the BEST PLANTAINS I HAVE EVER HAD.  A little burnt.  Kinda sticky.  Sweet.  Lots of flavour.  Ghanaians know how to take a lame banana wannabe and turn it into something great.  Plus, they have moves.

A few tents stood out in the marketplace of kitsch.

Scandinavia – I was a bit disappointed that Finland teamed up with Norway, Denmark and Sweden instead of holding its own.  This was made up for by the actual learning taking place in the tent.  They had two exhibits, living dioramas, of life in Scandinavia 1000 years ago.  A woman in (mostly) traditional clothing demonstrating how to make sinew and cook with heated stones.  A man with a plethora of tools actively carving a canoe.

Peru – best original menu. One of the few countries that put in the extra effort to offer things that no one else was offering and that was distinctly Peruvian.  Yes, empanadas are great but does every Latin American country need to feature them?  Peru had their, albeit revolting, mazamorra morada or purple cord pudding (and the juice, too!).  They had their papa rellena and choclo (corn on the cob sort of Peruvian style).  Good effort, Peru!

Israel – good effort at realism.  Festival goers could walk through fake stone tunnels to learn more about Israel with a very realistic heat index 10 degree above the sweltering Hawreluk park.  Minus points for giving out free fortune cookies with only a tourism website inside and no fortune at all.

Zimbabwe – thank you for showing up.  This was another country offering something different from other booths however it scores as one of the most disappointing because their food wasn’t ready for lunch so I never did get to try any.

Surprisingly missing:  Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Spain (I see a trend).  If little dudes like Bosnia, Borneo and Sudan can do it, so can you!

Heritage Days (Day 1)

This is one of Edmonton’s BEST festivals.  And a euphemism for “eat yourself around the world” or “78 countries to obesity”.  But what a glorious way to go.  Not too many other countries could drum up a festival with over 60 countries represented in a city of less than a million people.  This festival was MASSIVE.  I even used up all my tickets the first day only half way through in desperation because I thought that it had to be over by then.  Nope.  I had to go back a second day for Africa.

Sidetracked.  The festival is hosted in a large park (Hawreluk to be precise) in the heart of Edmonton.  Countries set up anywhere from 1-3 booths and sometimes a stage.  The booths sell food, souvenirs and sometimes even educate patrons about said country/culture.  The stage features dancers, musicians and martial artists specific to that country.  Let’s be honest, though, it is all about the food.  Many of the Muslim countries were kind enough to serve all of us while continuing to fast for Ramadan.  The cultural information was generally a bit lacking (with some notable exceptions), there was a definite push to sell tacky objects of little usefulness and smothering crowds.  And smothering heat.  But it was all worth it.

What was a bit disappointing the first day was how difficult it was to find foods or cuisines that I had never really sampled.  No, I hadn’t really had Nepalese cuisine before but it was very similar to the Indian food I am used to.  Most middle eastern countries served the same general dishes and the Eastern Europeans pulled out the sausages and the croatian/romanian/serbian do-nuts, Latin America represented with tamales…you get the idea.  Perhaps I am just too cultured 😉  So the first day was a bit of a bust but not entirely.

Day 1:
Philippines – Halo Halo – a schizophrenic concoction that starts with beans (red and chickpea), add coconut jellies, syrup, shaved ice and topped with vanilla ice cream.  Enjoy!  It was not unpleasant.  Not recommended to anyone who has texture aversions as you never quite knew what you would get.  Definitely one of the most unsual and unlike-anything-I-had-before items of the festival.

Nepal – chicken curry – basically a chicken tikka.  Nothing new but also not disappointing.  I love Indian food so I could definitely love Nepalese as well.

Nicaragua – nacatamale – this must translate as the mother of all tamales.  It was huge and, ultimately, a big waste of my last tickets.  A big glob of bland corn mush with a chicken leg cooked right inside.  A few hidden gems of peppers or an olive but overall boring and bland.

Where day 1 lacked in food it made up for with entertainment.  A barefoot, crooning grandmother at the first nations tent, some traditional Romanian folk dancing and Irish folk dancers who stole their wigs from a drag show.

OMG, I’m a Hipster

I was minding my own business, listening to an original LP of Billy Joel while sipping some rooibos and wearing some moccasins when it hit me:  holy Christ, I’m a hipster!

It wasn’t something I saw coming.  Hipsters are annoying. They’re pretentious.  They aren’t quite sure what irony means but use it ALL.THE.TIME.  And slowly, without realizing it, I’ve become one of them.

The evidence:

1.  New glasses.  No explanation required.

2.  A 1960s telefunken stereo cabinet to play some sweet LPs (that I pick up a a thrift mall and garage sales).  It fits with the decor of my apartment which consists mainly of teak from the 60s and not a single couch yet.  ShanWow is an awesome friend and helped me fetch this from a random person’s house.  My record finds include Duran Duran, Elton John, Billy Joel, U2 and Boney M (Rasputin!) to name a few.

3.  Kicking horse coffee and a french press.  Did I mention that you have to grind the beans yourself???

4.  Card-carrying member of the NDP

5.  A mustache tattoo on my finger. I’m not even sure where it came from.*

6.  I subscribe to The Walrus magazine.

Evidence against:  No iphone/instagram, no clothes from American Apparel, no beer drinking (craft or otherwise), no converse shoes

For good measure I took some extremely reliable internet quizzes and all say that I’m hipster.  How can this be???  All of the music I listen to is mainstream – you would have heard of it all!!!

So what do you think – is the evidence for or against me being a hipster?

*Haha, joking.  I would NEVER do that.

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