Posts tagged ‘adrian brijbassi’

December 3, 2010

Adoration for the Magnificent Hermitage

[Got a chance to visit St. Petersburg for a second time and just like my first time, the Hermitage mesmerized me. It one most awe-inspiring building. Here’s a story from the Toronto Star’s Grand Tour series on the museum and city.]

ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA — Even if the Hermitage didn’t possess any paintings or sculptures, its walls alone would make it a place you have to see. The halls of the Winter Palace, the largest part of the complex, are laden with gold, malachite, silver, bronze, marble and ornate mouldings framing vaulted ceilings in this one-time dwelling of Catherine the Great. To stand in the airy armoury, surrounded by gilded pillars and hardly anyone is to be amazed by grandeur on an audacious scale.

Then, once you’ve taken in the walls, you can be mesmerized anew by what’s on them: Rembrandts, Da Vincis, Raphaels, Titians, Tiepolos, Monets, Picassos. The icons of art, whose names we all know and whose works we have seen in high school and university textbooks, are gathered on the banks of the Neva River in this museum founded in 1764. The Hermitage owns the largest collection of paintings in the world and has a total of more than 3 million pieces, only a small percentage of which are on display.

“Forget about what’s on the walls, look up and sometimes the rooms themselves are more amazing than the artwork,” says Eric Weiner, a student at Vassar University in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., who is spending this semester in St. Petersburg studying art history and Russian culture.

Read more in the Toronto Star.

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August 7, 2010

Graham Elliot a Delight in Chicago

[From “This Chicago Chef Rocks” in the Toronto Star, August 7, 2010]

CHICAGO—Chef Graham Elliot Bowles believes you should be entertained when you dine out, not just satisfied. Pretty early on in a visit to his Chicago restaurant, it becomes clear the 33-year-old aspiring rock star with a physique Pillsbury would endorse has a bit of Spielberg in him.

Popcorn is the first indication you’re in for a show. At Graham Elliot, it arrives in a basket where bread would go at just about any other place; it’s drizzled with truffle oil, parmesan cheese and chives. Bowles could scoop loads of the stuff into brown bags and sell it on the down low to those he’s addicted.

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July 14, 2010

Visiting Brady’s Beach in Bamfield, B.C.

[From “Beauty and the Beach” in the Toronto Star, July 3, 2010]

BAMFIELD, B.C.—The perfect beach — far, far from crowds and close to heaven — is a traveller’s Holy Grail or Fountain of Youth, a thing of myth that sets us jetting over oceans to rummage around dots of rock and sand that belong to Thailand, or sailing about the Caribbean for the lone island that has escaped commerce.

Such extravagant explorations may not be necessary for Canadians, though. Brady’s Beach in Bamfield, a funny little place that Garrison Keillor or Richard Russo could go to town with, is a British Columbian beauty with many of the hallmarks of the legendary beach-to-end-all-beaches: It’s hard to reach and nearly unheard of; has not one café, chain hotel, Starbucks or McDonald’s near it; and possesses the ability to put your mind in a place you might only be able to reach with hard drugs.

To make it to the beach you first have to find your way to Bamfield. It has a population of not many and seems made for a fable.

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October 1, 2009

Masquerade

She tied her hair into a ponytail, buttoned her leather coat, and thought of a polite way to put it. The issue was his friend’s Halloween party, an annual tradition, with a barbecue, joke prizes, and a midnight showing of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”. He called it campy and she nodded, without adding the adjectives that came to her mind.

In past years he’d gone as athletes, either famous ones, like Babe Ruth, for which he strapped a pillow around his torso and carried a bat in one hand and a liquor bottle in the other, or generic models, such as the toothless hockey player last year. “I said ‘eh’ a lot.” He grinned and looked for a response. “Like, ‘You havin’ a good time, eh? Get you some dessert, eh?'”

With a polite smile, she said no thanks and they continued by the window of the pastry shop that was two doors from the restaurant they had just left. The night was cool and the wind blustered, stinging skin, and rustling up leaves and cloaks.

“So, will you come? It really is a lot of fun.” His grin remained, his voice was joyful.

She locked her arm around his elbow, forming a link that felt secure and necessary. A strong gust whistled and smacked the side of her face. The cold burned and caused her to sniffle. To shield herself, she ducked into his wall of a shoulder and waited for the warmth to return to her cheeks. They headed for the subway, passing familiar bars noisy with activity and full of women desperate to look sexy. His mouth scraped against the side of her head as he pressed himself against her earlobe.

“Did you hear me?” he whispered. The sharpness of his chin felt like a nudge.

“Yes, I did.” With a fluid motion, she unlooped her arm from his and placed her hands in her coat pockets.

She bunched her shoulders and turned away, thinking she was better off with the cold. This relationship of theirs teetered between commitment and division, a tenuous state that could tilt on one true act of love or the slightest betrayal.

Rock music played in a bar and she peered into the window as if the notes would sound clearer or more resonant if she could identify the musicians from whom they came. The bar was dark and any figures she could see were faceless, shapeless blobs. The starkest image, in fact, was a reflection of them. She frowned and the old, unfortunate trinity of wrinkles formed on her forehead above the bridge of her nose. His face was stern, his eyes hard and focused on her.

He spoke again, this time with a hint of disappointment, a childish whine. “I’d really like you to come and I thought we could dress up together.”

A laugh spurted from her throat and in the window she watched her mouth spread into a wide smile. “I’m sorry.” She put a hand over her lips to stifle the laughter.

He frowned and his jaw bones jutted out as the skin around them went taut. Even as she apologized again, snickers continued to escape from the sides of her mouth. Rejection — even the perception of it — will cause anger and fear to swell, and at that moment his urge was to shake her and command her not to laugh like that again. Instead, he turned his eyes to the headlights of oncoming cars. He aimed to name the makes and models of each when it drove by. The mind game was a distraction meant to invoke patience, but after only a few cars, almost all Japenese coupes, the exercise grew tedious and the expungent glare of a set of lights and another ripple of wind caused him to droop his head.

Although she had apologized twice, he could tell there was only a touch of remorse in her words, so he decided to test her sincerity. Speaking into the wind and staring at the gray sidewalk, he reiterated his hope for the party. “I thought we could go as like a team. I’d be a quarterback and you could be a cheerleader. A lot of my friends’ girlfriends go along with that kind of thing. Last year, someone went as a hot dog and his fiancee went as a bun.”

Her eyebrows raised and her head shook the way heads shake when people can’t believe someone is being serious.

“No, really, it was a good costume. You know, the innuendo.”

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September 13, 2009

A Scene from September 11

The Gazette’s main office was located on West Street, in a twenty-four-story building that had the Hudson to the west and the Twin Towers to the east. When the possibility of the towers collapsing entered the minds of the editors, support staff, and firefighters, it became clear evacuation was necessary, and publication of a September 12th edition was in serious jeopardy, along with mere existence. As my superiors scurried to find a way to get a paper out, and eventually succeeding, we reporters and photographers took to the streets on what, chillingly, was a perfect summer day, with the sky pristinely, ubiquitously blue except for where it was interrupted by the searing sun and the conflagration of man’s wrath.

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September 3, 2009

Repairs

repairs-adrian-brijbassi-short-story-prize-winner

[Short story won the 2003 Whitman Award for Fiction from Southampton College]

At first, the loud revving and squeaks were disturbances Sally hoped would go away. Thinking it possible that cars came with the ability to diagnose and repair themselves, she felt all she needed to do was avoid overstressing the vehicle, an old blue Taurus Marc had found in a used lot three years ago. The car didn’t cost much more than their monthly mortgage payment and Sally initially feared it would have constant problems, because of its age and cheap price. All it ever required, though, was regular maintenance and Sally gained faith in the Taurus as a strong car. Even when it began to exhibit signs of weariness, she had no doubts it could be fully revived with proper attention. So, she wasn’t surprised and was even a bit proud when some of her methods appeared to work.

If she let the car idle for three or four minutes, the engine would rev lower. A gas tank that was always at least half-full made for a smoother ride and a full, fresh tank prevented the loud coughs she often heard when the car was turned on or off. However, the squeaking persisted whenever she applied the brakes with any force beyond a tap and this caused her to drive slower and avoid the highways. She also stayed well behind any car in front of her, especially when her son was in the passenger seat. For a boy of sixteen, he frightened easily and Sally knew Peter wasn’t at all comfortable with his mother behind the wheel of any automobile, particular that one, with all its weird noises. On the days she met him at school, he would sit completely still in the passenger seat and hold his breath, never saying a word to Sally, not even on the day she figured out how to make the squeaks go away. She drove so slow through town and on the back roads that led to their home that a simple touch of the brake pedal would cause the car to roll to the speed of a wheelchair. At stops, Sally wouldn’t need to keep her foot on the brake at all, and when it was time to depress the accelerator, she did so gently and the car commenced with its Little Engine That Could routine.

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August 16, 2009

A Final and Lasting Solitude

[“A Final and Lasting Solitude” is a novel-in-progress]

PART I: AUGUST
Chapter One

Montreal. Winter waits in the distance and when it comes it will be harsh. For now, it is hot and this place has a ripeness to it. Young people teem about in gangs. They parade noisily, drunkenly down avenues and boulevards, through cobblestone streets. They pass places of worship and do not pause or quell their voices in reverence. They speak in French and English and in something called franglais, a perverse blend of the two. Many of them wear their Christian cross, and little else. Women, indeed, show much of themselves, without shame. They walk bare-bellied in the streets, their bosoms hanging out like bunched fruit, eyes skittering about uncontrollably when men pass. I have watched them as they ogle each other, these women and those men, the ones proud of their bare, pink chests and the clothes they have and choose not to wear.

It should not surprise me, this immodesty. I have seen it everywhere outside the confines of my home. I have seen it inside my home, seeping into the minds of the young, their impure thoughts propagating like vermin. For this reason, I willingly subject myself to these sights and to the presence of these people. There are many sacrifices to Allah, I understand, and toiling for Him here is but one. Besides, it will not be for long. A dawn approaches and I have been called upon. Humbly, I will do my part to see its rise.

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July 18, 2009

Glory Days and the Blue Jays

[First draft was written in May, when the Jays were in first place! This version was published on July 18, 2009 in the Toronto Star – and the Jays are almost in last.]

When I was a child, a summer day rarely went by without the radio voices of Tom Cheek and Jerry Howarth mingling with the sizzle of a barbecue or a lawn mower’s buzz. The broadcasters delivered news of each pitch as the Blue Jays’ annual six-month fight for the pennant kept me riveted and tense.

blue-jays-logoFrom 1985 to ’93, I attended 10 to 40 games a year, filling out a scorecard, wearing my Dave Stieb-autographed Wilson glove, hopeful of a foul ball, even in the second deck. On Oct. 20, 1992, I stood in line for nine hours to get into the SkyDome’s Hard Rock Cafe (which charged only $15 and a two-drink minimum, perfect for a university student) to see the first World Series game played in Canada.

Blue Jays fever gripped me again this April, after 14 seasons in remission, and has maintained its hold despite the team’s recent woes.

This year, I’ve made the walk to the dome a dozen times, attending more baseball games than I have in the past 10 years combined. I had lost interest when I lived outside Toronto – and the team resided far from a playoff spot. The baseball strike in 1994 cut off my habit and my obsession never fully revived.

From 1996 to 2005, I lived in Long Island, N.Y., and for the first couple of years I would eagerly go to games when the Jays visited the Yankees. Dressing in enemy colours in the Bronx isn’t smart, and it was downright demoralizing to do it during New York’s decade of supremacy.

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