amsterdam & montreal
do ubl edo t
welcome to alphabet city 13-23...........if you ain’t dutch you ain’t much 30-39..........................interview with amie dicke 40-49..................................................collect em’ all 56-61...................................................................irina 76-81..........................................hot on the presses a city in the clouds..............................................6-8 the cooks aren’t alright.............................24-29 collect em’ all.................................................40-49 interview with tops & silver dapple........50-55 bat cave..............................................................62-72 hard core mojo...............................................73-75
a special thank-you to ford models, lavish&sqaulor, magazines canada, the walrus and the countless number of talented friends and contributors who participated in this issue.
10-12............................................................a tall tale
contributors amie dicke bailey marie wright winter ben freedman bryce wymer ellie andrews julia stone
or ual s q s l sh& ode lavi rd m you fo oves g l thin ma ma sed clo u
katrina cervoni neil silverman nicole malbeuf noah van der laan sam white sarah lambert
bailey marie wright winter
how montreal’s tam-tams tell a larger story
a Article Illustration
Each Sunday, Montrealers gather on
Mount Royal for a thing called a TamTam, sort of a hodge-podge pop-up gathering unique to Montreal. Nearly half the city, it seems, can be found lounging on the grassy hill or snaking up the forest’s winding path. The scene feels like a cliché university cafeteria. Around the statue of an angel hang kids who dance half nakedly, beat drums, sell craft, stink like hippie, and often all of the above. Scattered throughout, another stink of smoke can be smelled, drifting above the sound of iPod docks and eccentrically glamorous wine drinkers with Derrida dripping from their mouths. There are the soccer kids, the Hula-Hoopers, the health fanatics who run or cycle in packs, wearing spandex shorts and pedometers. In between the loungers on the hill and mountain climbers is a most unusual crowd. Under the shade of
dozens of trees on flat patches of trodden grass, a group of young people (mostly men) can be found in battle. The activity is Live Action Role Playing. More than a game, LARPing is an indulgent, imaginative culture that exists outside of real life. Hoards of medieval knights fight with weapons made of foam, card board, and duct tape. Soldiers yelp and grunt as if in agony, and promise to avenge a compatriot’s death. When I walk through a summer Tam-Tam, I’m reminded of Jean-Marc Leblanc, the lame-duck civil servant played by Marc Labrèche in Denys Arcand’s L’âge des ténèbres (Days of Darkness). He’s a character stuck in the middle—of his lifetime, of divorce, of 21st century suburbia— when he finds himself, somewhat reluctantly, LARPing on a first date. Leblanc and his gal walk out of her silver sedan and up to a high, wide
wooden gate, and Leblanc suddenly finds himself stuck in a different sort of way. He is trapped in a fantastical, medieval-like society created by the imagination of everyday schmucks like him. Leblanc’s predicament, along with every other TamTamer, in an odd way, represents the real Montreal. What happens on Mount Royal isn’t part of a world as richly imagined as the one in L’âge des ténèbres.
pull quote by jake everatt
(After all, they don’t give multi-million dollar budgets to kids playing in a park.) But it is a display of camaraderie in nerdom and shamelessly developed interests, a coming together for people similar and completely different—something refreshingly common in Montreal. A Tam-Tam is at once a happening and not at all. It is a sample of the larger population; microcosms of the city itself.
the agony and ecstasy of being the tallest people in the world
The Netherlands has become a land of giants. In 100 years, Dutch people have gone from being among the smallest people in Europe to the tallest in the world. The men now average six feet, one inch—seven inches taller than those in van Gogh’s day—and the women five feet eight. The growth of Dutch people is etched in the architecture of Amsterdam. In buildings built in the 1600s, it’s tough to get through a door bent over. But as the generations passed and the Dutch people grew, so too did their doors. Today, the new minimum required height for doorways is seven feet, eight inches, which made me, a six-footer, feel real short. A nation’s average height is about more than bragging rights. Historians have found height to be one of the best indicators of a nation’s success, reflecting not just wealth but overall well-being. That’s why the
United Nations now uses height to monitor nutrition. In one’s height lies the tale of one’s upbringing, daily diet, and healthcare. In one’s height lies one’s history. Now, there are enough Dutch people taller than the national average to warrant the Klub Lange Mensen, an organization that protects tall people’s interests. In order to become a member, men have to be taller than six feet, three inches—five feet, eleven inches for women. KLM has considerable lobbying power. Across the nation, ceilings have been raised, and many hotels now offer twenty-centimetre bed extensions; ambulances on occasion must keep their back doors open for tall people’s legs. Cor de Graaf, a secretary of KLM, is six feet, eight inches and well acquainted with the annoyances of being tall. “We hit our heads,” he says, “even in the Netherlands which has the tallest population in the world, there is still no regulation for these things.” “KLM raises awareness about problems exceptionally tall people face,” says de Graaf, “and campaigns
benefit from cultural biases. they get married earlier, get promoted quicker, and earn higher wages
on their behalf.” Some other logistical problems facing members, according to de Graaf: “Leg space on trains, trams, and buses is insufficient. Airlines are not interested in delivering service to a minority group that has trouble sitting in its seats. The automotive industry is largely unconcerned by sitting comfort. Bicycle producers only serve tall people in the highest price range.” Still, a series of studies has shown that tall men benefit from cultural biases. They get married earlier, get promoted quicker, and earn higher wages. Indeed, the etymology of the word “tall” did not originally have to do with height. In medieval English, the word was an adjective for men who embodied the idealization of masculinity. Short men, by contrast, are unlucky in politics (only five of forty-four American Presidents have
been shorter than average) and find themselves at the butt end of jokes in certain Randy Newman songs (“They got little hands/ little eyes/ they walk around / tellin’ great big lies/ don’t want no short people `round here!) Dutch people attribute the height to different causes. Pediatricians credit people’s growth to child care (Netherlanders have the world’s best prenatal and postpartum clinics, free for every citizen). Some point to the landscape (flatlanders are naturally tall, they say, so that when the dikes break, Dutch people can keep their heads above water). Others thank Protestants (who are taller than Catholics because they have fewer mouths to feed), and some attribute height to the Dutch love of milk and the country’s high number of cows per capita. For Dutch people, being tall is a curse they can live with.
if you ain’t dutch you ain’t much
“This kind of thing leads inevitably to tragedy.” These are the
words of former chef and restless adventurer Anthony Bourdain as he cruises through Montreal’s le PlateauMont-Royal in the back of a pickup truck with legendary local chefs Martin Picard and Normand Laprise. Fresh from a meal at the latter’s Brasserie T, the three men take turns chugging from a giant brown-bag bottle, Picard occasionally splashing passersby with its contents. Bourdain is known to get a little tipsy on camera, but from the lack of sentience in his eyes, you can tell he is painfully wasted. “We all of us have our Waterloo,” Bourdain says, “and mine will be in about fifteen fucking minutes.” Picard and Laprise laugh and continue drinking. Eventually, Picard passes out in Laprise’s arms but the joyridegoes on. Most chefs avoid this kind of behaviour for fear of becoming cover fodder for some sad sack magazine. But to the delight of Bourdain and television audiences everywhere, Picard and Laprise just don’t give a damn. Picard and Laprise’s irreverance in the face of law and liver is indicative of Montreal’s larger food culture. The city is Canada’s food capital, and a continuing source of inspiration for chefs and critics taken by its defiance of the mainstream. Forged by a bizarre blend of Canadian modesty, ethnic pluralism, American overkill, and sophisticated French hedonism, the food experience in Montreal stands alone. “There’s no other city with [such an] anarchistic mixand-match attitude,” says Bourdain. The result is a collision of Old World culinary tradition, and youthful post-ironic daring. Only in Montreal does food look, taste, and shock as it does. And only in Montreal, do they get away with it.
And while Montreal is a darling destination for food intelligentsia, the city draws increasing furor from food activists outside the Quebec border. Indeed, what makes Montreal cuisine so sexy, apart from its surplus of technique and flavor, is its insouciant promotion of ingredients many consider to be subversive and immoral, ingredients that happen to be engrained in Quebec identity. Take Picard, Montreal’s unofficial culinary Prince of Darkness. When he’s not drunk out of his mind partying with visiting chefs, Picard is likely running his restaurant Au pied de cochon, the original temple of Montreal excess. Everything on the menu features pork, lard, or foie gras, the engrossed liver of force-fed ducks. Foie gras is a staple of Montreal cuisine; dozens of renowned farms outside the city produce it, and duck is as common on local menus as fish is in Tokyo. Foie gras is also banned in several European countries and American states for its evident cruelty, but Picard maintains that as a chef, he’s only interested in promoting Canadian food, not engaging in politics. Last year, the chef was invited to cater a dinner hosted by the National Capital Commission at Ottawa’s Taste of Winterlude festival. 450 tickets
priced at $125 a piece sold out within hours. Naturally, foie gras was to feature heavily on the menu. But after receiving immense pressure from animal rights groups, and the unsolicited advice of several Ottawa chefs, the NCC decided to ban the ingredient from their event. Rather than succumb to pressure, Picard pulled from the evening. He was soon replaced with Prince Edward Island’s Michael Smith, a wholesome and handsome television chef with a (sponsored) habit of shopping at supermarkets—the physical and spiritual antithesis of his Québécois counterpart. Picard refused to comment on his withdrawal, but his silence spoke volumes. This wouldn’t have happened in Montreal. This year, Picard furthered his outrageous reputation by releasing a maple syrup themed cookbook featuring recipes for “Squirrel Sushi” (fried rodent, rice, seaweed, and other fixings surrounded by the critter’s head, paws, and tail) and “Confederation Beaver” (Canada’s national emblem stuffed with the flesh of its own tail, slow cooked in a sauce of pig’s blood and cream). Quebec food lovers championed the book for its innovative approach to Canadiana. But others were not so kind. “It is a
really eerie cookbook,” said Emily Lavender, an Ottawa based representative of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. “PETA’s advice is to give thought to these poor squirrels and beavers…that went kicking and screaming to their deaths.” Being able to harness the deliciousness of strange ingredients without scaring off or offending locals is a privilege not well known outside of Montreal. And Picard isn’t the only rogue testing outsiders’ tolerance for the weird (although he is
certainly the loudest). At Old Montreal’s DNA Cuisine Complice, head chef Derek Dammann takes pride in reviving forgotten Canadian staples, namely offal. One of his signature dishes includes horse heart tartare served on a bed of horse tongues. (In 2007, when Gordon Ramsay cooked the meat on one of his British television shows, PETA responded by dumping a tonne of horse manure outside his then-Michelin-starred restaurant at Claridge’s hotel in Central London.)
Consider also le Plateau Mont-Royal’s brazen restaurant Au cinquième péché (which translates to “the fifth sin,” that is, gluttony), where head chef Benoit Lenglet prepares cured seal sausage. American food bloggers have called Lenglet “cruel” and “evil,” but the chef claims he is simply trying to respect local traditions. Evidently, food can be a loaded weapon. Aristotle claims that “man is by nature a political animal.” And in the groundbreaking work, Physiologie du goût, ou méditations de gastronomie transcendante, 19th Century politician and epicure Anthelme Brillat-Savarin claims even more famously, “tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.” If we take these truisms to be accurate, we can’t help but reach the conclusion that food is political. Consider the controversies surrounding contemporary Western food culture (animal abuse, overabundance, gluttony, disregard for health, etc.) and we find ourselves in an ethical theatre of argument that reaches
far beyond the basic conversation of food as sustenance. So why do Montrealers get away with all of the above? Well, Montreal’s subversive food culture is an issue of national identity—one burdened by the need to protect local culture within the encumbering philosophy of multiculturalism. It is well known that Quebecers have long considered theirs to be a distinct culture under threat of extinction from various forces, both within and without the province. This has been Canada’s defining political issue since Confederation. Quebecers indeed, have a distinct culture, and this was officially recognized in 2006 when the Conservative minority government declared Quebec to be a nation within Canada. In asserting this, Canada cemented within itself a mandate to protect Quebec’s unique identity, so long as it did not interfere with the larger national interest. It was also an admission—and perhaps a point of pride— that Quebec’s unique culture is by
extension Canada’s unique culture. Having a strong Quebec is important, because the French Canadian province is one of the country’s only explicit symbols separating Canada’s identity from, say, that of the United States. Moreover, in protecting the culture of Quebec, and those of other minorities within the country, Canada paradoxically reinforces a larger national culture—however ambiguous and ill-defined—that is unique when compared to the American melting pot and the cultures of traditionally ethnocentric countries. This is why the commercial seal hunt, for example, exists in Canada. The practice is banned everywhere else in the world, but Canada allows it because the hunt is a fundamental tradition of Inuit people. Most Canadians outside of Quebec consider seal hunting appalling, but its existence is the price paid for Canada’s brand of multiculturalism, and consequently, the country’s unique identity. Multiculturalism is a confusing philosophy, one Canadians have yet to fully exact with confidence. Controversial practices like the seal hunt spawn uncomfortable debate in Canada. Perhaps then, it is useful to hear the perspective of an outsider who, unlike most Canadians, actually lived among Inuit people.
When Anthony Bourdain travelled to northern Quebec in 2006 he was treated to a feast of raw seal from his host family, butchered right before his eyes. He understood the practice as tradition, one that for thousands of years kept Inuit people alive. “Imagine this,” Bourdain said of the meal, “[it was] both horror movie, and heartwarming.” As he was offered a piece of every part of the animal, most notably the eyeball, Bourdain couldn’t help but be taken by the warmth and generosity surrounding him. “Has a blood smeared face and gore covered hands ever looked so benevolent?” he asked. The same principles validating the seal hunt can be applied to the slaughter of horses, the production of foie gras, and any other outrageous food activity happening in Montreal. Food, to the Quebec nation, is an essential pillar of identity. And whether this is right or wrong, the controversies surrounding Quebec food simply cannot outweigh the importance of that identity. Unlike the rest of Canada, Quebecers have a national cuisine—it is admittedly fluid and evolving, but it is a national cuisine nonetheless. And if Quebec has a national cuisine, so does Canada.
amie dicke interview
Amie Dicke is an Amsterdam-based artist who creates and alters images and objects in a way that makes you think twice. exploring themes of frustration and contradiction, Dicke’s work invites the viewer to reconsider the idea of “mistakes” as understood by the fashion industry. ALPHABET CITY talked with Dicke about violence in her art, creating by accident, and whether mistakes exist.
Your work SUGGESTS A quiet violence. DOES the FASHION world ANGER YOU? I had a show at Galerie Diana Stigter that was called The Violent Contradiction. The title is a reference to George Bataille who said, “Truth has only one face: That of a violent contradiction.”) This violent contradiction is something that’s in my work. It is a part of being annoyed and irritated and frustrated with myself but also with images that I see. Fashion magazines were the first objects in which I understood my frustration. This frustration was necessary to be able to create. It’s creating by destroying. But my work is personal and not an attack on fashion industry. I believe fashion is
something innate in us—our notion of what is beautiful or attractive. So I don’t see why I should blame the way the industry uses female models. I don’t see that as something bad. What I’m asking is, “Why do I even buy the magazine?” Even as a child, I didn’t see fashion magazines as precious things. They were always there, and they were there to use. I used them to wrap presents, to draw, to make collages. I really prefer the existing image to the blank canvas or paper. I always used fashion to project my feelings. I like to work in layers— adding and removing. I’m trying to create new space to be able to have more reflection and put more of my personality behind these images.
You said you work a lot with layers. when you are adding and removing all of these things, how do you decide what to leave and what to keep? It’s constantly an accident. My whole way of working is one big disaster. It’s one big failure after the other, but sometimes it’s a very happy failure or a happy accident. Like you wouldn’t have thought of it before you did something stupid. It is a good stupidity.
So you just use your intuition to decide if you should cover something up or leave it there? “Decide” is such a strong word. Sometimes your mind decides and sometimes your hand decides. The word intuitive is, of course, very important. I do make a lot of choices, but the moment you stop to think about it, it becomes difficult to see. Sometimes it’s better to just do it. But the biggest problem can be that you go too far. There might be a magical moment, and then you think, “just a little more….” And then it’s gone. That happens often.
Do you enjoy the feeling of not knowing WHAT YOU ARE MAKING? “The only thing you know is that you don’t know.” That’s a very famous saying by—I don’t know [laughs].
There you go! Yes, but at the same time not knowing is frustrating because sometimes you just want to have this feeling that you have control. That’s the constant struggle. Sometimes people say: “That’s the best part of creating, that you don’t know what it’s going to be, everything is still possible.” And that is true, but when you’re really struggling and in the middle of that feeling, you don’t like it. Once you have this slight feeling that you’re on a road to a good idea, then suddenly it can be very nice again. Not knowing is feeling insecure, and that is not a nice feeling in general.
What is the beauty of removing something from its context? The funny thing is when you remove a page from a magazine, it’s still a
fashion magazine. The context is still there (if there is a context). I think that it’s all very superficial, though. I have this rule that I like to work within one image. I don’t really see my work as collages because it’s always just one image. It’s more about materials. I think when taking things out of their context, it’s good to be aware of the original source material. I think it can be very interesting to see how far you can take something. With the cut-outs, just by using what you’ve got, you still have the fashion image. By removing parts, the story becomes different.
Do YOU create OTHER rules that you try to stay within or are you free to do whatever you like? I think that secretly I love rules [laughs]. I like directness and using existing materials. I like to work with what’s given. I started to understand that I could work with the given space. Until now, I have been working a lot with galleries which are blank spaces. I now understand that the white space for me is not such a natural area to reflect or work in. Not that I don’t like white [laughs].
I think that there is so much in our world already that we could work with, so I don’t see the necessity to create a totally new image when there are already so many images out there. I really like to be conscious of what’s there, and not invent or create mystique. Of course, you do put a little extra in. It’s not all pure intuition. You emphasize certain parts.
What is the worst mistake you have made? Most artists can think of certain embarrassing missteps, but I can’t think of any. For me, there is no “worst mistake.”
SO there are no mistakes? If I say that there are no mistakes then I imply that I’ve never had a guilty feeling or that I go through life not caring. That’s not true, there’s a lot of shame and guilt, and it plays a very big role in my work. Being afraid of making mistakes plays a big role, being aware of your position, where you stand, where you are. So I don’t want to say that I don’t care—I definitely care.
collect emâ€™ all photography
silver dapple & tops the most interesting thing about Montreal’s indie scene is that many of its most famous musicians (Arcade Fire, Grimes, Cadence Weapon) aren’t from Montreal. unlike most cities in North America, Montreal actually attracts and retains talented young artists, without the traditional promise of fame and fortune. Curious about this phenomenon, ALPHABET CITY spoke to Montreal indie bands TOPS and Silver Dapple, each comprised of members born outside la Belle Province. We asked them about what’s keeping them in Montreal and one theme kept coming up: community.
How has living in Montreal changed the way you make music?
silver dapple Markus Lake (bass, guitar) MK Julien Bakvis (drums) JK Martin Blackburn (guitar) MB Emily Deimert (guitar, vocals) EB
EB: Living in Montreal, I get to see a lot more bands live. I am also exposed to a bigger music community; all different kinds of people making all different kinds of music. In Alberta there were not a lot of places to go out to. You would hang out with your friends and play music for fun so I would write a lot songs over a day or two. In Montreal I find that I tend to work one song over a longer period of time. I think that my writing is more refined, but it is not as spontaneous and takes a lot longer to gather new material.
tops JP Jane Penny (vocals, keys) DVC David Carriere (guitar) y TGpoor Thom and Gilliesparty (bass) all the time.) RF Riley Fleck (drums)
TG: The music scene in Montreal got me to perform and write with a band. I’ve met a lot of likeminded working musicians who want to help each other out with shows and recordings. The people that I’m around tend to be really positive and open, and dedicated to their own creative pursuits, which is inspiring.
photography by evan prosofsky
How has the Montreal community been supportive of your music (if at all)? EB: The Montreal community has been really supportive. In the music scene we make “band friends” and you tend to go out and support these bands and they do the same for you. I feel like there is a lot of love that goes around. “I love your band, lets play a show together.” A lot of shows we have played were booked because we just wanted to see and play with a specific band. We got a lot of love from the francophone community after the album came out last November. I did more interviews in French than I did in English and it definitely put my French to work! It was unexpected and really cool.
. JP: People are generally forward thinking in terms of the culture and music that they get into in Montreal, so it’s a good place to try new things out. That being said, I can’t expect everyone in my city to be fully supportive of what I’m doing, and that’s not what I’m looking for in a place to live. The people that I’m around tend to be really positive and open, and dedicated to their own creative pursuits, which is inspiring.
After touring many vibrant cities across North America, what keeps bringing you back to Montreal? EB: I love Montreal and I don’t think I would settle anywhere else. This city has so much character. Even the old, creepy aquarium store down the street from my apartment has this bizarre charm. It is like living in a small tight-nit community, but you get all the perks of living in a big city. Every neighborhood has its dépanneur, grocery store, and parks.
JP: I might leave Montreal at some point, but touring allows me to see all of those cities and meet new people without having to establish myself in a new place, which is the best way to do it.
photography by julien bakvis
Are there any side projects or collaborations that you’ve recently taken part in? EB: Everyone (except for me) has another band. Martin plays in Jesuslesfilles, Markus is in Sheer Agony, and Julien plays in Meta Gruau. Julien is a graphic designer and screen printer by day, so he is always working on various projects. Markus has exhibited a few art installations and is also working on sound editing for a friend’s film. Martin started the label FORCHRISTSAKE and is releasing a compilation that has been a year long project showcasing two songs from ten bands. Each band had one day to record and one to mix at the same studio.
RF: I’m in another band called Prime Cuts, and we’ll be releasing a few songs sometime before the year ends. Back in August, Alex (Zhang) of Dirty Beaches and I made plans to record percussion that he would use and sample for a song on an upcoming record. Since then one or both of us have been out of town on tour, but I hope we can make it happen. I have a lot of respect for his music. TG: I play in another band called CAMP with Pat (Jordache) and friend Cameron MacLean. We played Pop Montreal and we’re working on recordings. DVC: I have a solo project called Paula. It’s really cool check it out. Expect big things soon.
What’s next for the four of you? EB: We are currently working on a 7” to be released sometime next year.
RF: We’re driving to a venue in New Orleans right now—stuck in traffic but we were just able to watch the sun set over a swamp besides the highway. We’re going to tour through the south and up the East Coast, and then fly to Europe in November and tour there for a month.
photography by evan prosofsky
x irina fiction Illustration
One evening a few months ago, right
after Irina left, I took my mind for a walk through Amsterdam, the city of my twilight Wikipedia reveries and false imaginings. I wrote my false trip in a journal to show her when she returned. But I lost the journal in the bottom of an improperly-unpacked camping bag and only found it a few days before I went to the airport to pick her up. I brought it with me on the drive and perched it atop the wheel as I used cruise control.
Day one in Amsterdam, I have seen the locks and canals on my drive in to the downtown, the sunset and wind’s duet on the trembling tulips, the Traffic to Pierre Elliot Trudeau was snarled and the gate was jammed. It took me fourteen minutes to park and when I walked into the terminal, I saw lumpen families in Copacabana gear, gypsies, panhandlers, jesuits, jehovah’s witnesses, alcoholics blitzing the duty-free, and bizarre New World Order machinegun/ soundcannon/taser-toting security personnel. The only ones that weren’t there were the baggage handlers, who were on strike. Outgoing planes weren’t leaving, ingoing were still arriving. I went up to the big board and saw Irina’s flight, arriving from Amsterdam, and went to the gate.
Day two in Amsterdam, I read as I sat and ate a grilled cheese sandwich. Last night I couldn’t decide what to do my first night in Amsterdam. I didn’t go to the red light district, where all the other guys (I hesitate to call them men) in the lobby of the hotel seemed to be shuttling themselves. I decided to just wander around, and it was only when I saw the masses of bikes parked outside seemingly every major office building, recreational centre, marijuana cafe, church, and clinic in the city, which is
very old, that I realized I better do what I was here to do. I found the nearest bike rental, rented a nice tweewieler, and began looking for Irina. Months ago, right after I had bought the journal, I looked for her on Street View Amsterdam. I had my plan. I would show her the journal, and then I would use my Internet-acquired knowledge to talk to her about the places near where she was staying, a hotel called La Cochina, which she had mentioned in a long-ago email. I punched it into Street View. After myriad ramblings in a landscape where every image conveyed the reference of depth but was completely flat, I couldn’t find her, of course, but I did see several other people: a family sitting on the grass, two sets of twins, some anonymous watchers standing in the shadows under bridges in the fuzz of Street View’s crummy image quality, the ghosts of its weird planes. Their faces were set and square, and because of that I knew they had not met Irina. As I sat in the surprisingly comfortable airport chair, I thought about that night and wondered if any of them would be on the plane. I opened the journal.
Night of Day two: Writing from the terrace of Gent aan de Schinkel, a recommended bar. The breeze is cool. I did not go to the marijuana cafe. When I went there it was all touristy. But I didn’t want to get high, I really just wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Everywhere was all touristy. I gave up looking for Irina after a short time, I have no idea how long because I forgot my watch. Then I saw an elderly man ride his bike into a canal, swim to shore, and fetch it, at the moment I realized I had forgotten my travelers cheques at the hotel. I walked half way back before seeing this bar, and it looked inviting, and now I am sitting here.
I remember when Irina told me shewas going to Amsterdam. I remember because it was at a potluck where everyone had brought salads. They were delicious but I had oversalted all of them. As they talked about their study-abroads or parentfinanced yuppie Rumschpringes to South Aftrica, and I sat and chewed a bite of tabouli that had been oversalted, I realized that all my friends were going places, scattering like the four winds. It was the first time I had really considered the saying, “you’re really going places in life.” It was that moment I realized I would not be going places, would be holding down the fort here in Montreal.
Irina had been pretty quiet the whole meal. She sat across from me on the diagonal, looked straight at me and asked about my plans. I provided the vagaries before asking her where she was going. Someone else said something, I forget what it was, and then she said Amsterdam and looked at me, and I had a red onion acid explosion in my mouth, and in the moment that I took a sip of water to quench the salt I saw our nights of big cans of dep beer and hikes up the mountain. I remembered the stabbings of spinerending violence I had felt over the course of her years-long recitation of the names of her always-older-thanher boyfriends: “Duane, Elliot, Greg,” each more painful than the last. “What?” she said, looking at me. I forget what I replied, but I didn’t bring up the subject of where she was going enough after that. I took another bite of tabouli, and everyone else at the table picked up the conversation like their tennis ball had just been roofed. And now I waited at the airport, the Amsterdam gate quiet even though the plane was due to arrive any minute now. I kept reading the journal in my hands, the shaggy little result of late-night Wikipedia-ing and missing her.
Day three in Amsterdam I am determined to find a windmill. I see them on everything: postcards, flags, shirts, curtains. It’s hard to explain, but there are places or pieces of urban furniture that are shaped like windmills, but don’t actually function: streetposts in windmill shapes, public pay toilets in the shape of windmills, miniature golf lanes with balls skipping past tulips to hollow windmills. And none of them contain her. I have not asked about the wooden shoe thing, and I assume it’s not cool to bring it up. I returned the bike and have been walking around, trying to find La Cochita. After my days here I am sure of one thing. I waited a few more minutes. Irina’s emails were always short, if expressive. Her message asking for the airport pickup had been pretty much all expression, with little explanation or relevant facts. I stood up and went to the garbage can and threw out the wrapper for my sandwich. I walked back to my seat and sat down. In front of me was the gate. The stewardess was wiping down the counter with a cloth. She had a laundry bag over her shoulder and a handbag in the other hand. I looked at the journal in my hands, the pathetic brown thing I had bought in a dimly lit store that smelled of patchouli,
and realized I would never show it to her, at least probably not. I opened it to the last page.
Day four in Amsterdam The thing I am sure of is that in my wanderings throughout the city, I have doubtless passed her once. Been in the same room as her, or the same metro car, the same building, looking at the same monument from different angles, or we have both picked up the exact same fragrant orange at the corner of Eerste van Swindenstraat and Pontanusstrat, before replacing it amongst its identical cousins and continuing about our separate days, not knowing the connection. The Dutch were renowned for their shipping. Perhaps that orange’s ancestors quenched a sailor’s thirst and cured his scurvy, and he completed the voyage to find his long lost love. “Hey, Smellyface!” “Hey, you,” I said, looking to my left. Irina walked towards me, her shoes clacking on the marble, and sat next to me on the bench. “I finally found you,” she said. “Yeah. I finally found you too,” I said. “What are you talking about? I’ve been looking for you for like half an hour.” “Oh yeah?” I said. “Why are you over here?” she said.
“Where?” “Here. It’s fine, it’s not like I told you the gate properly anyway.” “How was Amsterdam?” She stood up. “I haven’t gotten my luggage yet,” she said. “I’m getting nervous someone’s going to try and take it. Can we just go get it?” “Sure,” I said, standing up. “Where is it?” “Over there,” she said, pointing. We started to walk, but she walked out in front of me, something she said she had done since birth. She turned around and started stepping backward, shooting finger guns at me and dancing. “How was Amsterdam?” I said. “Amsterdam?” she said, “You mean Copenhagen, right?” I had spent enough time Googling in her absence that I could build up in my head an effective substitute for Amsterdam, but now I must add that not only have I never been to Amsterdam, but that I have never even been to Montreal, that the woman I saw at the airport was not Irina, who many years ago decided to travel to every city in the world, who fell off the edge of the earth and out of reach, after whom I have walked in my mind ever since.
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a veteran punk recalls the city of his music dreams
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compartmentalization, and a tyrannical Catholic Church. He did so with time-cemented vitriol. He said leaving was the best thing he ever did. As we shifted our conversation to the present, his assessment was equally unkind, citing the “entitled and lazy” population as cause for the rapid disintegration of a city that, in his view, wasn’t well off in the first place. Yet, as a musician, I love Montreal and I don’t think I’ll ever change my mind. I’ve spent the past six years working for and playing in bands, all of them of the punk and hard core genres. (I’ll allow the purists that know which bands a moment to scoff.) Through touring, I’ve been fortunate enough to see a great deal of places, but unfortunate enough to never stay more than a couple days. For this reason, my lens is skewed. My opinion of a given place is formed, then immediately crystallized. Some would say that’s the reason speed dating doesn’t work, but I think it’s the very reason it does. A crystallized first impression is beautiful. A fleeting, ignorant romance is a romance still, the validity
This June, I made the forty-minute trip from my apartment in Toronto to my hometown of Oakville to have dinner with my grandfather—it was his 88th birthday. Pierre Rousseau is his name and he’s as French Canadian as they come. We talked at length about his Montreal upbringing. Surprisingly, he didn’t recount his time there with the fond, nostalgic glow that I expected. Rather, he seemed almost ashamed. He recalled political corruption, social
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of which can’t be damned for not meeting a time requirement. I think I can say for certain that it’s the stubbornness of the whole place that gets me most. The uncompromising “we want to do things this way so that’s what we’re going to do” attitude. In my experience, and to my delight, it seems like Montrealers want to support their music scene. I don’t mean that Katy Perry sells more tickets in Montreal, or that the newest Kanye West record did particularly well in la Belle Province. I’m talking about the low level, under 500 records sold, sleeping-in-their-van-andhaven’t-showered-in-weeks kind of bands. I’m talking about fifty people cramming into a space that should only hold thirty-five, all with the intention of supporting a band that desperately needs to sell four T-shirts to make it to the next gig. This brand of music fan is not exclusive to Montreal, but when I meet such a person, they’re usually speaking French. Years ago the band I was touring with did a show at Club Soda, a legendary venue in the seedy part of Montreal’s Latin Quarter. After we had loaded out, the band and crew
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bus soon noticed the tha e nding in t sid ople sta t h n e f th e i e pe ro g
were sitting in the bus waiting out the final few minutes before we were scheduled to leave. We were parked on a nearby side street which was only a few hundred metres from the venue, and there were some determined fans waiting for us on the street. Someone inside the bus soon noticed that there were two strange people standing in the front lounge. I noticed too, but just thought they were someone’s friends I hadn’t yet met. When our tour manager finally asked them who they knew and why they were there, the fans pulled out a handful of do-it-yourself seveninches and asked us to buy them. That is what I’m talking about. Fans in other cities timidly hand over burned CDs fully expecting you to throw them in the garbage the second they walk away. In Montreal, the punks walk right onto your bus and try to sell you their seveninch. Our tour manager told them to get off so we could leave, and though it required some coaxing, they eventually did. With contrition, I admit that none of us bought their record. “This is our bus,” they told us. And in a way, they were right.
why the print industry in amsterdam is thriving against the odds
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print publishing is a dinosaur.
writing is a dying art. The future is digital. These adages have become commonly accepted as fact in the twenty-first century world of blogging, self-publishing, and iPads. Perhaps then, it’s appropriate that it was in Amsterdam that I decided I wanted to be a writer, editor, and publisher. After all, print is thriving there, thanks to a history of print appreciation. Dutch religious publications of the early twentieth centurywere essential to the Dutch people,teaching them how to live the Good life. And now, in the secular Netherlands,magazines remain a central component of everyday life. Flying across the country to visit my best friend during her studies at the Amsterdam Fashion Institute, my vision of the city involved the typical tourist trappings that Eurotrips are supposed to be made of: sex, drugs, and more drugs. Not looking for a
Girls Gone Wild adventure, I was also daydreaming of markets full of tulips, rooms full of van Gogh masterpieces, and picnics by thecanals. What I hadn’t expected to find was the design and literary rigour of print publishing common in Dutch society. While print runs are shrinking in the country, it is still undeniable that the Netherlands is a nation of magazines. It is said that there are no other countries in the world with as many magazines per square metre.According to the Institute for MediaMonitoring, the average Dutch citizenreads more than thirty-six magazines per year. And while some titles inevitably disappear, there are always new publications hitting the newsstand. With 91% of the Dutch population reading print magazines (compared to 77.5% of Canadians), it is clear that the Netherlands remains committed to the classic medium and Amsterdam is its magazine Mecca.
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with the secularization of society in the Netherlands, the focus of its magazine culture has shifted. This flourishing print industry can be,in part, attributed to the compartmentalized religious culture that Dutch society has evolved from. For much of the twentieth century, Catholic and Protestant groups in the Netherlands had their own newspapers, broadcasting companies, and magazines. And from the 1930s to the 1960s, women’s magazines promoted the modest and often repressed manner in which women were expected to behave. These early lifestyle publications were largely concerned with domestic issues, such as housekeeping tips and recipes. However, in the days before Google, they were also important sources of information for doctor’s advice. Today, the two largest Dutch women’s magazines are reincarnations of these early doctrinal titles; the everpopular Libelle, a publication once
made for rural Catholic housewives, and Margariet, an urban counterpart. With the secularization of society in the Netherlands, the focus of its magazine culture has shifted, but its central importance to the Dutch lifestyle remains. “Over the years, the style of magazines, photography, and layout [have] become a strong focus,” explains Reny van der Kamp, part owner of Athenaeum Nieuwscentrum, Amsterdam’s largest magazine vendor. Piet Schreuders, a Dutch graphic design legend with more than thirty years of experience in every aspect of the magazine industry, has been playing on this fascination with layout since he began making magazines in the 1970s. The layout for his publication De Poezenkrant (The Kitty Paper), for example, changes with each issue, sometimes playing with classical formats, and sometimes creating something entirelynew. Issue 10 is arranged by Dutch graphic designer Françoise Berserik; Issue 41 draws influence from the New York Times. Issue 39 exactly replicates the layout of The Beatles Monthly Book, from the type choice and column width right
down to the number of articles featured per page. Through this playful approach to design, Schreuders demonstrates how the diverse elements of a magazine come together to create a unique reading experience. By using handcrafted techniques, he exercises a level of control over his design possible only in print. This magazine for cat lovers plays on the human fascination with feline humour (cat photos are one of the most frequently downloaded items on the Internet), but caters specifically to a Dutch audience. “De Poezenkrant, is especially difficult to
translate or even explain the ironic, tongue-in-cheek, deadpan way of writing and reportingabout cats,” Schreuders says. “The Internet is full of funny or cute stories about cats. Yet, I don’t find those (mostlyAmerican) cat humour sites very funny,” he says. The specificity of focus found in Schreuders’s work is indicative of the rising popularity of niche magazines among Dutch people, and his expandingfan base is evidence of this trend. Growing from a few dozen copies when he started out in 1974, De Poezenkrant now boasts over 3,000 readers per issue.
Rather than the large-scale publications of the Netherlands’ past that sought to homogenize based on gender or religion, more and more Dutch citizens are opting for indpendent publications that appeal to a smaller audience, and speak to specific interests and lifestyle choices. For lovers of Japanese fashion there’s Code; young creatives find inspiration within the pages of Blend; selfdescribed gentleman can take a cue from Fantastic Man. Global interconnectivity fostered by the Internet allows for a new kind of tribalism as people in disparate parts of the world connect over seemingly individualistic qualities, while also allowing for a growing diversity of identities and lifestyles to reach the mainstream. But, young Dutch magazine publishers aren’t always interested in restricting their projects to the online sphere. In fact, I Love Fake, a contemporary culture magazine for youth based in Amsterdam, recently made the jump from digital publishing to releasing its first print issue. It’s not only with these small-run, indie publications that the Dutch print
industry is thriving. In March of this year, Vogue, the holy grail of international fashion magazines, launched its first Netherlands edition. Elle and Cosmopolitan both publish successfully in the Netherlands, and Linda, hailed as “the Dutch Oprah,” reaches more women in the Netherlands than any of the above titles. The ability of the Dutch magazine industry to thrive, even in the digital age, demonstrates the value they place on the perfectly chosen typefaces, painfully laid out images, and carefully wrought wordings that can only come with paper and ink. A year after my trip to Amsterdam, I co-founded with my friend Elyse Moland, The Mason, an independent print magazine based in our hometown of Toronto. We were inspired by the Dutch print industry. Most people would consider our endeavour crazy. But so far, it’s been a complete success and we will soon be flying to England and Poland to work on Issue 2. If there’s anything I learned from my time in Amsterdam, it’s that perhaps being a twenty-something with big print magazine dreams doesn’t make me such an anomaly after all.