Getting married in Ottawa

Okay, so now that I’ve more or less recovered from my vacation week/Labour Day weekend – though, to be honest, I could use a week off to recover – thought I’d share some moments from my time away. And, no, it was not me who got married in Ottawa.

The first part of my vacation was a celebration in Ottawa: my friend Lesley’s wedding to her guy Derek, in a cosy, intimate ceremony in the lovely Italian restaurant, Il Vagabondo: http://www.ilvagabondoottawa.ca/. I cab-shared with our friend Maria and her husband Brendan (who were also staying at the Lord Elgin), and we were greeted by the restaurant owners with drinks and tasty finger food. And, shortly after we arrived, the bride arrived – on foot! Don’t know how Les managed that walk (though their place is only minutes away) in those fabulous heels she was wearing. Damn! 

The vows were especially nice, chosen by Les and Derek from a selection offered by the presiding Humanist/non-denominational female minister. And then we partied! The food was amazing and our hosts were wonderful. Since it was an early gathering, a bunch of us retired to Les and Derek’s condo for more celebratory beverages (i.e., booze). And when things wound down there, it was only around 9 p.m. or so – so Maria, Brendan and I decided to go out to an Irish pub near the hotel that they’d been to earlier in the week.

So the three of us stopped by the hotel to freshen up (and so Maria could change into pants and flats) and headed out. We heard music playing down the street, so we went to check it out. Turns out, the music was coming from an outdoor stage over at City Hall – set up for Ottawa Pride! After inquiring about the beer situation there, we paid our cover and had a couple of beers. It was great fun – and a nice surprise to stumble upon Pride – and we managed to catch the last few acts (a burlesque troupe, and bands Apocalypstic and The Cliks) before they had to close at 11 p.m. (damn those noise bylaws!). Still up for a pub, we moved on to our original destination and had a couple more beers (with potato skins to soak up the alcohol). And the early wedding festivities turned into a late night of post-celebration for three folks from T.O.

Needless to say, I was a bit hung over the next morning for the next part of my trip. And I was seriously wondering if my flight to St. John’s was going to be grounded or delayed, as Hurricane Irene was heading toward the Maritimes.

More on my vacation adventures soon. In the meantime, here’s one of my favourite pix from the wedding (left to right: Derek, Lesley and Lesley’s son Chris):

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So I’m not crazy…

… and what a relief!

I always feel blue after a vacation and, compounded with the end of the weekend blues – and Labour Day weekend on top of that – I was feeling especially low-key yesterday. And, even though I know, intellectually, that fall still has a few more weeks to go, Labour Day weekend always feels like the end of summer. It’s that back-to-school feeling, even though I haven’t been in school for years.

On the upside, I know I’m not alone in this post-vacation/post-weekend/Labour Day downer of a mood. And I am, in fact, not crazy.

Here’s an interesting piece in The Star about the psychological effect of this time of year: http://www.thestar.com/living/article/1048552–that-feeling-you-re-feeling-today-it-s-the-fear-of-september?bn=1

Speaking of the vacation, I’ll be back with more on my Ottawa and St. John’s adventures this week.

Ottawa & St. John’s – where I stayed

Hey – Please bear with me; I haven’t been home much this long weekend, so I still haven’t downloaded any pix yet, but I thought I’d start with where I stayed and include the links.

In Ottawa, I stayed at the Lord Elgin Hotel, which has a very handy location downtown, across from Confederation Park and very close to several points of interest in the city. I only stayed there one night, so can’t tell you much other than it’s a lovely hotel and a great piece of Ottawa architecture – and the computer room near the lobby was super handy for checking my St. John’s flight status on Porter (with Hurricane Irene heading to the Maritimes and all): http://www.lordelginhotel.ca/

While in St. John’s, Newfoundland, I stayed at The Bluestone Inn B&B. Located within convenient walking distance of downtown spots and not far from other must-see locations, the Bluestone offers a comfortable, homey place to stay with tasty, hearty breakfasts (it’s like having brunch every day – and with all the walking up and down hill, you’ll need something substantial). Best of all is the host/owner Gerri, assisted this season by her daughter Sarah, who in addition to creating the amazing morning feasts, offers great advice on getting around and places to see. Plus you get to chat with other guests over breakfast (who come from all over), and you may even get a tip or two on cool stuff to do/see. The Bluestone is now officially my home away from home in St. John’s: http://www.thebluestoneinn.com/

“Dog” is “God” spelled backwards

Religious references abound in Judith Thompson’s play White Biting Dog, which I saw with my pal Tricia Brioux at the Young Centre last night. The Soulpepper production was directed by Nancy Palk, mainly known as an actor and a fine one at that, making her directing debut.

Palk has an impressive ensemble of actors on this show. Mike Ross as the extremely flawed – possibly sociopathic – protagonist Cape, a lawyer on leave and living with his father after he suffers a mental breakdown. Joseph Ziegler is Cape’s terminally ill dad Glidden, his internal organs rotting inside him and covering himself with peat as if to get a head-start on his own burial. Fiona Reid is Glidden’s estranged wife Lomia, oozing sex and singularly pursuing pleasure; she is joined at Glidden’s by her punk boy toy Pascal after their apartment building burns down in an act of arson committed by a so-called drug dealer friend of theirs who they recently kicked out of their apartment. And Michaela Washburn is Pony, the child-like former paramedic who quit her job and now works at fixing things instead of people. Pony connects with Cape in a moment of synchronicity, bonded by Cape’s experience of a talking white dog stopping him from jumping off a bridge with a solution to his problems: save his father to save himself. Pony becomes Cape’s ally, then lover, assisting him with her psychic powers – and in the process, both Pony and Pascal become involved in an incredibly complex and cruel family dynamic.

The design elements are incredibly effective at shaping this world: Christina Poddubiuk’s stark grey set (she also designed the costumes) and Richard Feren’s sound design – sharp, industrial, steely. There is no question that we’re entering a harsh, modern world. There is light, too – in this case, brought to the production by Louise Guinand. We never see the talking dog that Cape speaks with, but a light that shines diagonally downwards from above as the voice echos through it. When I worked on a production of Wit at Alumnae Theatre a few years ago, we had a similar light for the end of the play, for when Vivian walks naked into the light. We called it the “God light.”

And of course, there’s Judith Thompson’s script, full of brutally lyrical language – where everything is said and nothing held back – in this journey to redemption and grace. The background notes for this Soulpepper production quote the playwright: Grace, she says, “happens through penitence, though sight. Through seeing who you are and changing things. You achieve it through humility.”

Check out this Q&A with Michaela Washburn from NOW Magazine: http://www.nowtoronto.com/stage/story.cfm?content=182231

White Biting Dog continues at Soulpepper. For more info and tickets, check out the show’s page on their website (including photos and video): http://www.soulpepper.ca/performances/11_season/white_biting_dog.aspx

The power of words in The Help

Got out to see The Help yesterday – and it is an amazing movie. I haven’t read the book, but pals Tina McCulloch and Victoria Shepherd and I were talking about the movie when we hung out at Into the Woods on Friday night – and I hear it’s a good adaptation.

The Help has a stand-out cast of women, featuring Jessica Chastain, Viola Davis, Allison Janney, Octavia Spencer, Emma Stone and Cicely Tyson. Set in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 60s, Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan (Stone) sets out on a risky writing project, interviewing the town’s housemaids – all black women who not only do all the housekeeping, cooking and child care for their employers (for below minimum wage), but aren’t allowed to use the washrooms in the homes where they work. Maids Aibileen Clark (Davis) and Minny Jackson (Spencer) are her first two interview subjects, and more maids join the project, sharing their stories (good and bad) in secret with Skeeter, since questioning the rules of engagement between blacks and whites was socially suspect, and bringing up issues of equality was against the law. Meanwhile, Skeeter has her own personal take on the situation, having been raised by her family’s maid Constantine (Tyson) and returning home to find her beloved caregiver gone – and an unconvincing story as to why she left.

Go see this movie. It’s touching, funny – and the courage of these women and the power of words are inspiring. Check out the trailer:

p.s. – Just picked up the book during my lunch break. Some vacation reading for when I go to St. John’s next week.