Matisse, Marshmallows and Me

I am back on track! Way back on the eve of my birthday I decided to become a tourist in my own life. I have made fair progress, maybe better than average progress. I am back at school, I took risks at work, I have traveled halfway around the world! 4 months later, and when I see it written out like this, I guess I am doing fairly well in achieving my goal! I have always been a little disappointed in myself for letting my art fall by the wayside.

Back when I was in Jr. High, I was rabid about cartooning. I did political renditions of people in the news. I loved to draw, sketch and copy art to get a feel of other people’s work. I paid attention to detail to improve my work. I spent countless hours researching other artists work. At the time, I loved the animated art of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. I just couldn’t get enough. As I entered into college, my tastes expanded to include modern works of art and Renaissance paintings. The more I searched and admired, the more alone I felt in my passion. I had no one who shared in my interest. I would drag people with me to exhibits and galleries and felt I was being rushed through it. It was frustrating. People would comment, “what the hell is that?” “Why would someone buy that?” or the ever popular “I don’t get Art”. I felt pressure to stop. That alone is one of the biggest regrets of my life. The world of The Arts is such a huge part of my life, I cannot believe for one moment I let it disappear from my view. Everything from Theatre to Paintings from Photography to Architecture. I missed every moment.

When I was in Paris, I had the tremendous good fortune of spending 2 hours in the Louvre. I wish it could have been longer. I wish I was able to spend time on my own, but none the less, I saw some of the greatest works of art ever created. It was one of those “best moments ever” parts of my life.  I often buy pieces I love on vacation, but have guilt about spending the money on having them framed. So there they sit, in the tubes they come home in, waiting for the day I have the courage to dig them out and spend the cash to frame them. When I came home, I decided that art was just too important for me to ignore. The prints I bought still sit in the tubes. I guess I can’t justify the money yet, but I was driving behind a bus one day when I decided what I should do to feed my passion.

The bus ad said “AGA, Matisse”. MATISSE! Matisse was coming to my home town of Edmonton! I was not letting this pass me by. Picasso thought Matisse was his only real equal and rival. His fluid curves move my soul. The importance of his work in print making was second to none. I had to go.

I was reading further about the different exhibits at the Art Gallery of Alberta. Different collections that are coming. I wanted to go to all of them. Then I remembered. I am a student. I get a student rate! Even better, I could get a student membership for $35 and go as often as I like!  I told my family I was doing this. I was buying a membership and I wasn’t including them. I didn’t want them to join me. I didn’t want to feel rushed, or guilty that I could be doing something they rather be doing. This was for me. I wanted to look at art for as long as I wished, feel the emotion of the piece, and cry if I wanted too. I wanted to do this alone and for me.

Today I wandered down to Churchill Square and walked up to the AGA and bought my membership. I walked up to the Foote Gallery and spent 2 hours looking at Matisse’s work. I was moved to tears by his charcoal smudges. I was struck by the beauty of his fluid curves and boldness of strokes. I loved it. The best part is, I can go as often as I wish BY MYSELF!

Today was perfect! A little Matisse, a bond fire in the square, and hug from Santa and roasted marshmallows. What more could this tourist ask for? Life is good.

Lets Go Visit Huncha My Back!

My Chatterbox and I traveled downtown on the weekend and decided to take the LRT (Light Rail Transit) or Subway for the rest of the world. Edmonton has to have the smallest subway line of any major city ( a million people or more). When I say “subway line” I mean LINE, as in singular not plural. We have ONE LINE starting in South Edmonton, traveling to North Edmonton for a total of 15 stops. Simple to use. All you need to know is the direction you are going, North or South.

As you likely know by now, I am a traveler. When I visit new destinations, I like to use public transit. I first rode the London Underground at age 10, and have used many other systems, including the London Underground, since. For me, the London Underground is the benchmark of efficient well planned out public transportation. It is easy to use, the stations are laided out in a logical manner. I love the London Underground! The Paris Metro was more intimidating for me.

The Muppets stayed quite a ways from central Paris, but incredibly close to Paris Disneyland. This, for various reasons that I will explain in the coming weeks, was a good thing. The Staff at the hotel desk were English speakers, THANK GOODNESS! (I am eternally grateful to every single English speaker in Europe! ) I can speak excellent cereal box and hockey french, but am far from fluent. The kind people at the desk drew a map and explained how to find the Metro station. Excellent! Honey and I took a little visit to see the lay of the land. We looked around, asked a few questions and felt fairly confident we could find our destination in the morning. Besides, my mom was a seasoned pro when it came to the Metro. Just a month earlier, Mom and my sister adventured on it without a hitch.

The next morning we rise with the sun, eat a continental breakfast downstairs, and walk 4 blocks to the Metro station. It was rush hour. At home that means 5 or 6 people must stand on the LRT. In Paris it means THE ENTIRE POPULATION OF PARIS stands right beside you. You get to know what kind of shampoo they use, or don’t and what brand of deodorant they use, or don’t. I have NEVER seen more people smashed into a such a tiny place before and only one teeny tiny window that opens. We thought Mrs. Stadler was going to hurl her breakfast on the lovely fragrant riders of Paris. Luckily, she survived. This was quite the culture shock for the younger Muppet Clan.

We arrived at the station where my mom determined we must vacate. Riding the Red Line, meant we were in the bowels of the Metro. Lower than rats, half way to Canada via a short cut through the center of the Earth. 172 flights of stairs later and we emerged into downtown Paris! I could barely contain my excitement! I was finally old enough to understand what I was seeing. As I grew older and reflected back on what I saw as a child, I always appreciated what I saw. Now, however, I could see it AND appreciate it at the same time! We searched frantically for a sign post to let us know where we were and off we marched towards the Seine. We rounded the corner and this is what I saw:

My first view of the Eiffel Tower since I was 10. I took about 30 pictures from this spot. Not sure why, I was just so incredibly excited! Seeing this amazing structure would have to wait until after lunch. We were too close to Notre Dame to pass it up! For the Muppets it is home to Quasi Motto aka “Hunch’a my back” as they fondly refer to him. We walked along the Seine and found a market where my mom and Mrs. Stadler left the rest of us to fend for ourselves. We weren’t worried, 3 of us had excellent navigational qualities. We  turned one more corner, and learned where everyone on the Metro went. They were all in line for Notre Dame. Only about a gazillion people were sitting out front. The rest were in line to go inside, with about 2 million waiting to go UP the bell tower. I live in a city with approximately one million people. 7 million people were here at Notre Dame. Overwhelming much? WOW!

Again, I was so excited I took about 30 pictures of the church itself. Then I got a grip. As I walked closer I noticed the ornate detail, the individual faces of each saint carved into the stone. Each gargoyle was vastly different from the next. Even the plants carved into the stone was exquisite! If you only got to see one church in all of Europe, this would be the one I would choose. The Vatican doesn’t count, it’s a city. As I walked around and through the building I was in awe of the art. It was a truly amazing experience.

As we left and hooked up with mom again, she asked how we got in and out so fast. I must agree, for the amount of people in attendance, we did get in very quickly! I replied we just stood in line and walked in! She figures we hooked up with a tour group and followed them in. So that is my tourist tip for you, walk like you belong and no one will question why you are there.

European Deportation was Imminent had Duct Tape not Saved the Day

The Merry Band of Muppets arrived in Germany in one piece, barely. It had nothing to do with the speed traveling down the Autobahn, it had nothing to do with eating Ikea 5 star cuisine, nor did it have anything to do with being kidnapped by my neighbor‘s cousin’s sister.

We almost ran out of duct tape.

My dad is a genius, not the Wiley E. Coyote kind, a real honest to goodness one. Or he is just an experienced traveler. I vote for genius because Christmas is coming and I want to remind him I am his favorite daughter. (thank me later Dad!) Mom and Dad brought Mrs. Statler to Europe 2 months before the rest of the Muppets showed up. My sister arrived to travel around with them a short time later. Then our Muppet Cast showed up. The important thing to remember is, my family is filled with seasoned travelers. We each have a “just in case” case. In Dad’s is a mega roll of Duct Tape.

Duct Tape is not the prettiest form of adhesive in spite of the fashionable colours. Dad likes to think of himself as a well dressed man, just like Johnny Cash, so Black Duct Tape was his colour of choice.

When we arrived in Paris, we were greeted by my mom at the arrivals gate, we were shuffled in to the Caravan as it screeched to a halt. We quickly jumped in and sat at the table beside Mrs. Statler. I looked around the tiny space that was to be our home for the next week and I noticed black squares of duct tape placed in a random patterns all over the inside of the caravan. I didn’t ask. I didn’t need too. I knew I was traveling with the senior section of the Muppet Cast of Characters. For some unknown reason, things always run amuck.  Between you and me, I believe it has everything to do with the caravan being made of cardboard and string, and nothing that has any barring on the Senior Muppets.

By the time we reached Germany, every cupboard and drawer in that place was broken. The cargo net on the upper bunk, broken. The pull-out steps to escape the caravan, broken. The Fridge Door, broken. Dad’s Camera, broken. Main window shade, broken. Duct Tape fixed everything. Including holding the batteries inside Dad’s camera. Even Phoebe needed to be taped to the dashboard. When we arrived at Bacharat in Germany, the roll was nearly empty. We had discussions around the need to secure more, but in the end, we decided to have a little faith.

In the end we did indeed have enough. Dad went home with a very tiny piece of duct tape.

Do a Little Dance…Get Down Tonight!

KC and the Sunshine Band (album)
Image via Wikipedia

My day started out BAD. Then it became worse. I even cursed at work. Not usually like me, no clients were around – just a colleague, but still… not a proud moment. Then, like a ray of sunshine in walked one of those Angels, the kind that fixes everything, kisses the boo boo better, and makes the world all right once more. I am grateful she appeared and is staying for a while. So off I went to do my work with a little tune in my head to keep me happy.

I sat at the desk, typing away, answering messages, checking emails when the Angel appeared again and looked at me oddly. I looked up from the desk, met her gaze with a quizzical look and gave her my best Tim “the Tool Man” Taylor “Aaarroooo?” And she said “what are you listening too?”

You mean you can’t hear the music in my head? So the strange desk dance must seem odd. You see I was singing and dancing to KC and the Sunshine Band in my head. This always helps me focus, complete my tasks in a timely fashion and makes me happy. Not necessarily KC, but some other happy song always works. I come from a long line of head singers. No I don’t mean LEAD singers, HEAD singers is exactly what I mean.

I would walk into the kitchen as a kid to witness my mother in a “shakin’ her bootie” moment. Her music of choice was something from American Graffiti. I would jump in beside her, and we would dance to absent music, only available in our heads. Not cool dancing either. The kind of dork dancing that makes everyone laugh. Often my sister would join in, only she was so little, we would pick her up and twirl. Her giggles were infectious. Before long we were all doing the Happy Dance and laughing until our sides hurt.

The only way I can properly describe the Dork Dance or Happy Dance is this: please visualize Muppets dancing with their mouths open and arms flailing about. That is as close as I can describe to how cool we looked. The kicker being, this could happen anywhere. No location on the planet is to obscure or off limits. We have done the Happy Dance on Main Street USA in Disneyland. I have watched my sister Happy Dance in Paris at the age of three where countless Japanese tourists took a video her. We  even Happy Danced at my Grandfather’s funeral last year, honoring his Old Man Dance. Nothing is sacred, if you need to be happy, DANCE!

I have carried on the time honored tradition and corrupted my children. We all stopped one day in the middle of Sobey’s parking lot to Happy Dance. I cannot tell you what we were celebrating, but I do remember saying “Happy Dance!” everyone froze in their tracks and we all danced.

Tonight when I came home from work, Genetic Offspring was pretty excited about the new series “Hawaii Five-O” starting. I sang the first five notes, and suddenly the Happy Dancing started! Chatterbox and I carried it on the longest.

I must say dancing is the quickest way to cure what ails you.

Last year I forgot about dancing. I was just too wrapped up in stuff that bogged me down. So listen up fellow tourists!

Eat, Drink and most of all Dance.

Because silly makes the stress go away.

There is a bit of insanity in dancing that does everybody a great deal of good.  ~Edwin Denby