Kingston rocks. Who knew?

January 16th, 2010

(I had a nice photo here of Skeleton Park but the photographer asked me to take it down or he would send me a $1000 bill for copyright violation… I sent him the link to Creative Commons.)
I am on the train, leaving Kingston where I’ve spent the last two days at a workshop.

I stayed with my good friend, The Uze, at his rad pad, which is owned by his roommate, Spink. Everyone refers to this house as “The Tavern”, apparently because in the “old days” it was a drinking establishment. Now it’s a lovely, cozy bohemian-type living space decorated in vintage-shop style, with couches and cushions and candles and two stuffed horse heads, adorned in wigs and scarves, hanging over one doorway with a hand-scrawled note: Forbidden love? It is an inviting, open space, painted in vibrant earth tones (my comfort colours), and designed for communal living; I was immediately at home.

The Uze walked me over to Queen’s University the fist night for the opening lecture by CCTV man Clive Norris (whom I kept wanting to refer to as Chuck Norris). That was when I began to fall in love with Kingston. The Tavern is right on the cusp of this lovely urban park, nicknamed Skeleton Park for it’s previous stint as a graveyard. This is a delightful park, with paths cutting across it from various directions, connecting it to the surrounding streets and hood. Immediately I spied the ice rink, and boys playing pick-up hockey in their short sleeves. I caught my breath at this sight, immediately hurtled back in time, to my childhood, and Kew Gardens rink, where I would often go with my siblings or friends. Memories of oversweet, watery hot chocolate, the futility of double socks and stiff fingers lacing up second-hand skates on the windblown benches are etched like tableaus in my mind. I was overcome with an aching nostalgia for Canadiana, my past, and an innocent, beautiful time that perhaps never was.

We walked through quiet streets of gorgeous old brick houses and I realized how much I’ve missed brick living on the Left Coast. More nostalgia, and something Smith (a west coast transplant) could not appreciate as we walked back later that night. The Uze and I followed Princess St, listing toward the U, and it was then that I realized not only how walkable, but how liveable Kingston is. There was everything you would need on this main drag – independent and chain retailers, restaurants, cafés. And not just one block of this stuff – the strip went on for probably 15 blocks. Naturally there was a Tim’s, seemingly the heart and hub of action, but also Brian’s Record Option, the Sleepless Goat Café Workers Co-op and some little hemp shop where the guy was so stoned he first overcharged, then undercharged me for some beeswax candles.

Queen’s itself is a venerable old institution, backbone of the old boys network doubtless, but with an air of dignity and history nevertheless. The workshop was very well run, with decent food and a great art component designed into the program. One thing I really enjoy about working on the research project that has hired me as a post-doc is its commitment to public dissemination of research, as well as its inclusion of non-academic elements and people (such as artists and activists). I met some rad folks working in the “surveillance scene” (as I like to call it), and even made a Windsor connection.

In all, it was a great trip. As I tromped around Kingston, to-ing and fro-ing from the workshop, I did my usual trick of imagining I lived there. I typically do this upon arrival in a new town that seduces me with its promise and novelty. Just as I haven’t moved to New Orleans or Montreal or New York, however, I likely won’t be moving to Kingston any time soon. But it’s good to dream.

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Why I (heart) New York

July 22nd, 2008


For my reverse chronological account of Last H.O.P.E., go here.

Everything I learned about New York I learned from Law & Order

July 21st, 2008

This is a fast and dirty post Vbar & Café, in Greenwich Village, a very cool little wine, beer and coffee bar I just stumbled upon, seeking respite from the melting heat and free wireless. It’s my last day in NYC and, as my flight doesn’t leave till 11pm, I’ve been wandering around, absorbing the city – something I haven’t had a chance to do while I was attending Last H.O.P.E. I did become rather familiar with the one and a half miles between my hotel and the Penn Hotel, where the conference has been held every other year since 1994. But this part of Midtown – while indubitably cool because NYC – is really not unlike other urban centres. There’s just better architecture and more people – way more people.

So this morning, I started from Grand Central Station and took the subway to the East Village and have been roaming around ever since. I do have a guide book, so that’s tipping me off to cool sites, like where CBGB used to be, Leon Trotsky’s old printing press and other nifty stuff. I must admit, I was a bit freaked out when I wandered by the Hell’s Angels Clubhouse, tucked into a row of apartment buildings on E. 3rd St., a quiet, tree-lined street. My first inclination was to take a picture – I’ve been snapping photos like a maniac – but checked myself immediately. Too scared.

I walked west to Greenwich Village to see what all the fuss was about and I haven’t been able to figure it out… maybe I haven’t hit the right streets. Washington Square is pretty neat – loads of people lining the benches, sleeping on the balding grass and just hanging out. There are a lot of parks in this town, which I like. I stopped by NYU’s Department of Media, Culture and Communication, just for kicks. It’s freaky: you have to give ID before entering any of their buildings. Because of this, calls were made, directions given, and I ended up talking to the graduate adviser, basically by accident.

I’m now off to find Bob Dylan’s old house and take a picture, like a total tourist. I hope to document the rest of my New York stay, but it will be in reverse chronological order, seeing as I haven’t had one minute to post about what I’ve been up to. I will say, my first impression of this town is immensely positive, and contradicts most stereotypes I’ve picked up through cultural osmosis. What I have learned about NYC:

1. It’s actually safe (at least where I’ve been).

2. It’s pretty clean (shopkeepers everywhere cleaning windows and washing streets – I’ve really never seen such a thing).

3. It’s really fucking crowded in Midtown.

4. There are loads of fat people here.

5. New Yorkers are nice (to my total surprise…no offense).

My biggest surprise: I’m still alive, despite what Law & Order has to say.

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