Author Archive for Shawn Conner


What if you threw an orgy and nobody came?

The invitation got the wheels of my already-overheated imagination rolling.

It was for a birthday party for a girl I knew from the gym. I had been reintroduced to her at a party I attended a couple of years ago – the Global Warming Party, so named because of the pool in the backyard, heated to hot-tub-like temperatures in the middle of winter. The birthday girl had been there, and it was as debauched a party as I’ve ever had the pleasure of attending. Let’s just say, skinny-dipping was required, not just encouraged, and there was a downstairs room set aside for people whose carnal desires got the better of them.

The emailed invitation from the birthday girl – we’ll call her Fannie – mentioned a room for dancing plus the requisite DJ, a bar, and a clothing optional atmosphere. I thought a hot tub was also mentioned. The party was at a house, which meant that there would be extra rooms in which to crash, if necessary. The downside was, with Vancouver real estate prices being what they are (and houses in the city all but unaffordable except to the rich), the house was in a suburb, over half an hour’s drive away from the city.

Still, as the day approached, and my imagination became more fevered, the party took on Fall-of-the-Roman-Empire dimensions. My girlfriend, R., took little convincing, with the caveat that, should she start feeling like prey for a room full of white slave traders, we would leave.

Saturday night came around and, after a long drive on an unseasonably cold night, we arrived at the two-story abode. Once inside, we greeted by a guy in a bathrobe – Fannie’s boyfriend – whose eyes made him look as though he’d swallowed a bottle of cough medicine. He was having a conversation with the owner of the house, a guy named Gary, about who owed what when it came to bar supplies. It was not a good omen.

My spirits sank with each new discovery, except for the birthday girl’s near-birthday suit (a white mesh bodysuit). The house was unfinished – the rooms upstairs, including the living room and two bedrooms, were almost all completely empty. The food consisted of bulk plastic containers of croissants, no doubt for the morning (the invitation said the party was going to be going until the following afternoon). The “bar” was actually the kitchen, which had been cordoned off with tables and chairs. Except for a few people upstairs, it seemed empty, and there was little noise come from downstairs.

In the kitchen, as we sipped our vodka drinks, much was made about R; Fannie was quick to point out my girlfriend’s physical attributes, while the few guys standing around nodded agreeably. Shortly, our respective ages came under scrutiny. This was getting uncomfortable.

Downstairs, we found the only inhabitable space, a TV room with couches and carpet and a glassed-in three-person sauna. (There was no hot tub; I must have been hallucinating when I read the email. Perhaps I still had an image of Jessica Pare in Hot Tub Time Machine in my mind.) One sport wasted no time in stripping down to the altogether and getting his sauna on. He wasn’t the only freedom-lover – two other guys proudly displayed their fetishistic tendencies. One, Brent, was a short black guy in a belt that emphasized his equipment, the other was a Terence Stamp-type in his 60s and dressed in BDSM gear.

There were some nice moments – people shared some memories of Fannie, for instance (Brent told a story about being at an orgy with Fannie, who commented on the proceedings as they went on around and to her). And Fannie, singing a tune from her stage days revealed a surprising (to me) talent.

But here’s the thing – there was no music. And we knew no one – well, I knew the birthday girl, but barely, and I sort of knew Terence Stamp from the gym – so we stayed more or less silent. If there was going to be an orgy, which the email hinted at (my feverish imagination notwithstanding), these weren’t the people we wanted to have one with. We knew the time to leave had come when Terence sidled up to R. and started telling her his philosophy of life while she tried to keep her eyes off his pierced 60-year-old nipples.

So we pulled a quiet leave, sneaking upstairs and grabbing our stuff. On our way out we ran into our bleary-eyed host, Fannie’s boyfriend, who thanked us for coming. My first orgy – if it’s ever going to happen – can wait.


Girlfriends and comic books

Vancouver Comicon at Heritage Hall, Nov 14 2010. Robyn Hanson photo

There are certain things you don’t immediately let on to someone you’ve just started dating. Unless, that is, you’re totally clueless (something I can definitely lay claim to in the past… and probably again sometime in the near future as well. Maybe even in this blog post).

These include (off the top of my head): your negative opinion of your mother’s cooking; the fact that most of your wardrobe comes from indie-rock shows; and that your comic book collection could fill a regular-size closet.

Each long (and semi-long) term girlfriend I’ve had has had to come to terms with the fact that yes, their boyfriend is a comic book loser. Not that I have tried to hide it, though maybe I should have. But it’s one of those male things women seem to accept in guys, like hockey jerseys, Rush albums and a crush on actress Paz de la Huerta.

I recall a number of years ago when I was going through a geeky process of filing all my comics away in special protective bags (with special cardboard backing, of course). There I was, a grown man (in his late thirties!) in the middle of the living room of his tiny one-bedroom East Van apartment, surrounded by copies of The Invisibles and The Uncanny X-Men and who knows what else, when my cousin came in and said, “Wow. If ___ is still dating you after seeing this, she must really like you.”

One of my exes actually drew her own comics on a semi-regular basis. They were pretty good, too, even if they didn’t have the Hulk or Spider-Man in them.

Comic-book nerd selling off his comics. Robyn Hanson photo

The reason I bring all this up is that R., my girlfriend, got a first-hand taste of comic-book geekdom this weekend. With another move, the second in three months, coming up I had decided that it was time to sell of my collection, or at least a major portion of it. So I rented a dealer’s table and hauled six boxes over to a local Sunday afternoon comic convention. This is not something you want to do alone, plus I figured the presence of comely lass at my side couldn’t hurt sales, especially in the comely-lass deficient (except for the odd Emma Watson type) environment of a comics convention. Hence, I recruited R.

To her credit, she stuck it out ’til the very end as collector after collect (almost all male) pawed through my boxes of comics, most selling for 50 cents or a buck. Fortunately, it turned out that she knew the people at the table next to us. They were selling T-shirts, not comics, so they were even more out of place than we were.

So this blog post is going out to R., for sticking it out and being a good sport (as well as my gopher). And to any ex that I ever dragged to an X-Men movie: I’m sorry.

Read more about my experience selling off my collection here.



The Seattle W Hotel

The W Hotel Seattle's "living room". Robyn Hanson photo

The W Hotel Seattle's "living room". Robyn Hanson photo

Dateline: Seattle. The last stop of the West Coast tour of the newly reformed indie-rock band Guided by Voices. Your dedicated and possibly insane correspondent has been following the band since its show in Las Vegas last Sunday (it’s now Saturday), the third of the “Hallway of Shatterproof Glass* Tour” dates.

Four shows, six days and countless (well, probably close to 2000) miles into this admittedly foolish, misbegotten quest, the decision’s been made to go out in style. After staying at Ramada (Los Angeles), a Super Eight (San Francisco), the Timbers Motel (Eugene) and the Jupiter Hotel (Portland), all of which came in at just over $100 after taxes, we are staying at the ultramodern, sleek W Hotel Seattle.

North-facing view of Seattle from the 22nd floor of the W Hotel.

I stayed here once before and it made its mark on me; it was one of my first great hotel experiences, thanks to a combination of the décor (I’m a sucker for anything “espresso”), modernity and sheer sexiness, not to mention celebrity sighting (in that case, Quentin Tarantino, in town for the Seattle Film Festival).

This time, we have a 22nd floor “king corner” suite – a hallway leads to the main room, which features a king-size bed, a desk (espresso-coloured, of course) and a fantastic view of Seattle, including the Space Needle (not coffee-hued, unfortunately). In the spirit of the trip, I have christened it “The Hallway of Shatterproof Glass Suite” (see pic):

As the digs on this trip go, the W is by far superior to anything else. Second place goes not to the Palms (which is nice in its own way but also gaudy and grotesque, and the airless suite we stayed in was purely functional) but actually to the Timbers Motel, which won’t get any marks for modernity or sexiness but had a certain rustic, Oregon-ish charm and is located right near downtown Eugene**. The L.A. Ramada (on Wilshire) was okay, and the Super Eight (booked through was just squalid.

We have one more night in the W, and believe me, we’re going to enjoy it, though we will eventually have to leave for the show (the band is at the Showbox Sodo) and possibly lunch.

The lounge at the W Hotel Seattle. Robyn Hanson photo

*Named after a line from a song, “Gold Heart Mountaintop Queen Directory”, off the band’s breakthrough 1994 album Bee Thousand.

**Word to the wise: there are several chain hotels when you first come off the highway, but if you have the time it’s worth the extra 10-minute drive west into downtown to stay at the $50/night Timbers.


Memorial Day Weekend in Palm Springs

The Desert Valley Star Weekly reports about the exposure of an illegal sex club in Palm Springs. Which sounds about right, actually.

However, if there’s a sex club at the Riviera Resort and Spa I haven’t found it. I’m sure however there’ll be a lot more going on this weekend, when folks from LA make the drive to enjoy the long weekend (Memorial Day) around the pool.

And what a pool! The eight resort suite buildings, two- and three-storeys, as well as the main building/ lobby/restaurant are arranged around the swimming area, which includes an amoeba-shaped main pool and a hot tub. Palm trees, cabanas (rentable for the day, orange-and-green cushioned loungers and scoop-backed chairs, and tan California girls in Hooters orange and tight white hotpants (staff for the Bikini Bar) are the mainstays. For the first few days, nothing but Nouvelle Vague, the French band that plays lounge versions of new wave and punk classics, could be heard from the speakers, although yesterday (Thursday) the music was changed up a bit to include ’70s soul and classic rock (including, unfortunately, Eric Clapton’s egregious “I Shot the Sherrif”). The sun is gloriously hot and, at least in the days leading up to Memorial Day weekend, the pool is lightly populated – just the right amount of people, in fact; couples both young and middle-aged, one or two families, and groups of girls, some who are staying at other hotels but come just for the pool.

According to the “RIV Weekender”, an in-house publication, DJ Drewdown will be spinning this weekend noon-4. My plane leaves at 7, which will give me just enough time to work on my tan for another six hours before heading over to the Starlite Lounge, located off the reception desk, for Happy Hour. The deal: 50% of sharables, beer, wine and specialty cocktails, an offer I’ve been taking advantage of over in the Sidebar, which has both a dimly lit interior and a deck.

I’ve also been taking advantage of the gym, a small but functional facility with the usual treadmills, stair-climbers, Nautilus-type of unit and free weights, for some early morning workouts so I can feel less paunchy around the svelte young things around the pool. (So far, it’s not working all that well.) The gym is next to SpaTerre, the resort’s spa, where I was treated to an invigorating Balinese massage on my second day.

I have to say the Riviera Resort and Spa had been a delight, more or less. Next time I would probably rent a car to save on the extravagant hotel bills I’ve run up, though I haven’t been too bad – mostly it’s been mint juleps by the pool.

Well, heck, there’s more to write but the pool area is filling up and if I don’t act fast I won’te get a prime seat. I’m sure you understand.


Palm Springs – Circa 59 at the Riviera Resort and Spa

Seared scallops at Circa 59, the Riviera Resort and Spa.

Seared scallops at Circa 59. Lana Maytak photo

I left Vancouver on a rainy Monday a.m., and apparently “it’s cold” there now so I feel like I’ve made the right decision coming here. More or less.

Last night, the first night, we – that is, my photographer and I – were treated to a dinner at Circa 59, the restaurant at our accommodations, the Riviera Resort and Spa (from downtown Palm Springs, by cab a few minutes – I don’t recommend walking it). With high-backed wing chairs, chandeliers that look like they were designed by H.R. Giger and black and white photos of Frank Sinatra and Raquel Welch (doing her lounge act, no less), it’s a funky modern restaurant with a nod to the Riviera’s storied, Old Hollywood past.

Starting with a series of appetizers, we were most impressed with the lobster ginger dumplings (five of them, with a spicy Japanese dressing) and the oysters (komomoro), which my photog described as “the best oysters I ever had” – though she’s from Siberia, where oysters are not available on every street corner, and I suspect that may have had as much to do with the ponzu/spring tomato gazpacho topping as the actual slimy dollops themselves.

Oysters at Circa 59, the Riviera Resort and Spa.

Oysters at Circa 59, the Riviera Resort and Spa. Lana Maytak photo

At this point (following the appetizers) Circa 59’s chef de cuisine came out from the kitchen to see who was being so demanding. Ruben Barragan’s former employer was Chicago’s Wit Hotel, where he worked along with Circa 59 executive chef Bradley Manchester, and he explained that much if not all of the food at Circa 59 is locally sourced and inspired.

Ruben encouraged us to try more, so we sampled the chorizo-stuffed medjool dates, a sinfully candy-like flavour combination that immediately took me back to last year’s Burning Man and the less sophisticated delicacy known as “bacon-wrapped Fudgee-Os”. We also enjoyed the seared scallops with a fava bean and potato sauce (pictured above). The spot prawns were too grainy and dry for my tastes; I maintain (as far as that goes) that they are a hardcore foodie’s food.

Chorizo-stuffed medjool dates at Circa 59, the Riviera Resort and Spa.

Chorizo-stuffed medjool dates at Circa 59, the Riviera Resort and Spa. Lana Maytak photo

Spot prawns at Circa 59, the Riviera Resort and Spa.

The spot prawns at Circa 59, the Riviera Resort and Spa. Lana Maytak photo

And then the entrees…

I’m not much of a carnivore but the rib eye was probably as good as any I’ve had; just the right amount of rare, juicy, delectable, with a chantrelle mushroom topping and foi gras red wine sauce. (To interject with a brief wine mention: I was happy to encounter my old friend the Chalk Hill Chardonnay, a personal fave since a California wine-tasting a few months ago, and a wine which went well with the…)

The rib-eye at Circa 59, the Riviera Resort and Spa. Lana Maytak photo

The rib-eye with chantrelle mushrooms at Circa 59, the Riviera Resort and Spa. Lana Maytak photo

Halibut. Seared, herb-encrusted, and with a red-pepper sauce, but with the mouth-watering rib-eye taste still fresh in our craws, hard to appreciate.

Halibut at Circa 59, the Riviera Resort and Spa.

Halibut at Circa 59, the Riviera Resort and Spa. Lana Maytak photo

Not so with the butterfish (an out-of-season halibut). Two small but juicy slabs served with sides of a campari tomato so delicious it almost caused a death duel between myself and the photographer, with a salsa verde and roasted artichoke hearts on the side.

Butterfish at Circa 59, the Riviera Resort and Spa.

Butterfish at Circa 59, the Riviera Resort and Spa. Lana Maytak photo

About the desserts, well, the less said the better – not because the chocolate carmel tart with a scoop of hazelnut ice creamy and the sticky toffee pudding weren’t fantastic but because even recalling their names I am filled with longing.

The chocolate carmel tart at Circa 59, the Riviera Resort and Spa.

The chocolate carmel tart at Circa 59, the Riviera Resort and Spa. Lana Maytak photo

And now we come to the sad relationship part of the story. Because the meal most reminded me of the fantastic dinner shared with the Texas Twister at the Fairmont in Sonoma on our first night there, and how it cemented our love… and how that love is now over, alas, and I’m here in Palm Springs at another fabulous hotel but not with someone I love, or whom there’s anything beyond a platonic relationship (though I for one would like to change that). And I remember that feeling, and I want it back.

Still, I can’t complain – I’m here, with two days (three if you count Friday, the day we leave) of sun, pool and reading left. And, as the saying goes: we’ll always have Sonoma.





Publicist Marnie Wilson of artzbiz mans the decks at Unite With Art.

UNICEF. How long has this organization been around for? It’s like the McDonalds of charities. Everyone has a UNICEF memory, from Hallowe’en. But what is UNICEF today?

Well, the organization is concentrating its efforts on children in Africa with HIV/AIDS. That was the reason for the fundraiser Wednesday night, Unite With Art. A silent and live auction, with some live musical entertainment and food from a select group of Vancouver restaurants, the whole thing was held in the Storyeum building.

Which is a story in itself—the Storyeum was  a museum dedicated to BC history, and took up a vast amount of space in heavily-touristed area Gastown. However, the makers failed to take into account that BC history is, well, boring. And now the building, 40,000 sq. ft. or something, and in a prime location, is more or less vacant, and has been for a couple of years, awaiting new tenants.)

Anyway. So, Unite With Art. I went with a friend who’d recently broken up with his girlfriend, so he was definitely interested in meeting some new people. To his credit, he did—he circulated with the best of them. I hung out, after gorging myself on morsels from local restaurants like the Reef, So.Cial and Nubuwith, the event’s publicists. The art itself was a varied assortment, from abstract paintings to photographs, by local and international artists.



Thursday was Punk Rock Nite. I went and saw Rancid and Rise Against in an arena. Rancid was great, and so was the hospitality suite which, I have to admit, is really the only reason I went. I know, my punk rock cred’s completely shattered at this point. Sigh.

Do you ever work yourself into a tizzy about something, only to be disappointed? That’s what happened Friday, when I went to see a Scottish indie-pop band, Camera Obscura, at the Commodore. I loved the new record top-to-bottom (including the title, My Maudlin Career) but the live show was ho-hum. A friend in the audience, who had seen the band the last time it had come through town,  said she’d even seen the singer (Tracyanne) shooting dirty looks at the guitarist (Kevin). Just a rumour, though.

The best things about the evening were the opening band, Agent Ribbons, an all-girl trio from Sacramento playing Southern Gothic folk/rock…


and the electric guitar player dude standing in the doorway of a Granville Street store. Dude basically had a captive audience of people filing past as they left the Commodore, because the sidewalks are fenced in because the road is closed. (The city is constructing an underground train line from the airport to downtown in time for the 2010 Olympics.) He looked a little goofy like Jerry Lewis or Jim Carrey, but the weird thing was, he really rocked it on a James Brown tune.

Last night at a party I could hear myself telling the story about how I’d got my cat, Max. I knew then it was time to go but I still kept talking.

Today, checked out the Rembrandt/Vermeer exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery. What a rip! Only one (maybe two) paintings by Rembrandt and only one by Vermeer! The rest were second-stage (Dutch) Lollapalooza types. I call foul on marketing. However, the exhibit Apartment Ought is pretty cool. If you’re in Vancouver, you’ve got to check this out: it’s a six-level structure-in-a-structure (the VAG) where each level is an artist’s rendition of interior home design for the last 60 years. That is, the first level is decorated ’50s style, the second ’60s, etc, right up to the minimalist, cold ’90s. Quite a feast for the eyes, especially if you long for the shag-carpet-in-the-bathroom look. And who doesn’t?


Ups and downs on the Golden Pass

Back in Vancouver less than 24 hours and the Twister’s already calling to use my credit card. So much for “rebranding” herself, as she claims to be doing over there in Zurich.

Our goodbye, which happened at the main train station when I saw her off to work, was sad, as much as we infuriated each other over the last 10 days. And there was plenty of irritation to go around… for the Twister, I’m sure the highlight was Saturday afternoon. On our way to Montreux, in southwest Switzerland on Lake Geneva, via the scenic Golden Pass train route, we’d gotten on the wrong train, and we were trying to right ourselves. In a weird switch of gender roles, the Twister likes to figure things out herself (invariably leading to more confusion) while I, especially in a foreign country, like to ask questions. At any rate, she also hates my pronunciation of the few German words I attempt, and becomes acutely embarassed whenever I start asking questions.

So when we became uncertain which train to take next, she left me on the platform of a station. I was strictly forbidden from inquiring from any passing authorities or other passengers while she went in search of info. Of course, the minute she was out of sight I spied this weird pillar-like kiosk that said “information.” You don’t even talk to someone in person, you press a button and talk into a microphone. And that’s how she caught me, red-handed as it were, talking to a red pillar and trying to communicate with some Swiss train dude about which train to catch. She couldn’t have been angrier if she’d caught me with pictures of someone else’s crotch on my camera (see previous blog entry, Thanksgiving 2008).

We got through that, but there were several more instances as we tried to navigate the Swiss train system. It was all worth it though for the night and half-day we spent in Montreux, a breathtakingly beautiful little lakeside town. The Golf Hotel was no great shakes as rooms go, but the breakfast (included) was a feast, and a terrace looked out on the water. For dinner we ate at a little Italian restaurant—pizza, again, it’s so good over there thanks to the Italian influence—and chatted with a local who recommended, for lunch the next day, the Palais Oriental. We stopped in for lunch—Greek tapas—on the restaurant’s terrace, then spent the rest of the day at each other’s throats navigating our way back to Zurich. All right, it wasn’t that bad, but it was a long (if sickengly scenic) journey, and we were exhausted by the time we arrived back in town. And like I mentioned, everything was fine by the next morning, and love and sorrow at parting had replaced our mutual desire to make the other’s head explode like in the movie Scanners.

Next: a pictorial essay on my Switzerland trip.


For a good time in Zurich…

It was some kind of holiday yesterday, though national or just city-wide I’m not sure. Also, no one seemed to be able to tell us what the holiday was about, outside of “some Christian thing.” Anyway, the upshot of all this being, the Texas Twister lost her key.


To put it into context: there is one key that works both the building door and the apartment door, and it’s basically uncopy-able. So we have the one key between us and yesterday she was doing the laundry in the basement dungeon. She took the key with her and came back upstairs and then said she was going to get some breakfast. I said I’d be along in a bit and she left. A few minutes later, having finished whatever it was I was working on, I started getting ready to leave. Then I thought, the keys. She must have them. However, I know enough never to assume such things when it comes to the Twister, so I took a quick look around the apartment, even checked some coat pockets. Nothing. Okay then…

I found her sitting outside at a nearby “cucina” (lit. “kitchen”, meaning restaurant), where she’s having a coffee and waiting on some mussels. Hi, I say. You have the key, right?

She looks in her big white bag, which she bought at the flea market last Saturday. No key. Still, I’m thinking, it’s probably in that bag somewhere—this kind of thing, where she can’t find something that she has on her, has happened before. We finish our coffee, go back to the apartment. Re-check the bag, both of us. No key. We decide to stake out the building, even though no one ever seems to come or go. She takes the first shift, and I go up the street for a glass of wine and some olives. I come back, she’s inside. (I have to call up to her second-floor suite from the cobblestone tourist bath outside, with people who are sitting at wooden tables outside the Migros Take Away watching, because, she told me when I first arrived, the doorbell doesn’t work. Last night she revealed this was a lie, that it does work, she just wants me to yell from down below like some kind of putz.) She’d rung all the bells and someone, “a little old Italian man,” had come down to let her in. “I should’ve asked him to let me into the [locked] laundry room.”


“I can’t find the keys anywhere in the apartment. I must’ve left them in the laundry room.”


She’s already called the Swiss company that takes care of the building. They’re sending someone over to unlock the laundry room. She has to do some work she says so she’s going to go up the street to the bar that has wireless. Can I wait here in case they come? Oh sure, I say. What a sucker.

Dude shows up, doesn’t know a lick of English. The door to the laundry room, by the way, is unlocked—not sure if he’s just unlocked it now or if it had been unlocked the whole time. Anyway, I start looking for the key ring down there, but it’s nowhere in sight. There’s a pile of bedsheets she’s piled in a chair in the corner. I go through the pile. Nothing. Then Swiss handyman dude, mustached, 50-ish, stocky, goes through them. No keys. I’m babbling, “I don’t know where they could be, she does this all the time, the stories I could tell you, hahaha,” and he’s not understanding a word.

We go back upstairs to the apartment.

Swiss dude calls his boss. Boss gets on the phone with me, asks me what happened. Never mind that my presence here goes more or less unexplained, and I already fee like we must be breaking some weird Swiss rule by my being here (this apartment is run like a transitional hotel, with maids sent once a week), but now I have to try to explain. See, she went down to do laundry, and then came back up, and then went out, and and and… He says he’s going to get the handyman to leave me the extra key, and asks me to speak to the handyman again.

They speak in Swiss. Handyman laughs. Yeah, haha, stupid North Americans have locked themselves out of the building, yeah, no, the girl’s not here, it’s just some guy, yeah, what a sucker. Hahahahahaha…. hands me the phone back, dude on the line wants again to know what happened. Establishes that they weren’t stolen (“So you had them last night? And this morning?”) then pleads with me to let him know as soon as we find them. I hand the phone back, dude gives me the key, leaves. Five minutes later, the Twister shows up.

“Did they come?”

“Yep.” I show her the extra key. “They weren’t in the laundry room.”

“They weren’t?”


She goes down to look in the laundry room herself, like there’s some secret nook or cranny she might have left it in. Comes back up, no key. “Where could it be?” she asks repeatedly, as though I’ve hidden it.

Finally I say the only thing I can think of, the one avenue we haven’t explored in depth, even though it was the first one that should have occurred because it seems so obvious but then, wouldn’t that be the first thing you’d think of, “Where else did I go?”

And so I say, “Well, did you go anywhere before the restaurant where we were at?”

“No,” she says. Pause. “Wait. There’s one other place I can look.” Leaves. Comes back five minutes later, waving the keys. Where were they, I asked, not really wanting to know the answer.

“The cafe.” What cafe? “The cafe I went to before the restaurant. I put my stuff down but then they said they were closed so I went to the other place. I guess I left my keys… ”

For a good time, visit the Texas Twister in Zurich!


Dateline: Zurich

Zurich, Switzerland—It’s Monday, 9:30 a.m., but back home it’s 12:32 a.m. The time change screws you up, and not just your sleep-cycle—it’s played havoc with my internal email clock, which I didn’t even know I had. But now I get emails between 6 p.m. and 2 a.m. Zurich time, so there isn’t much point in checking them during the day.

But that’s just a consequence of crossing into a different time zone, and doesn’t really say anything about Zurich itself. One thing I can say, unequivocally, is that it’s freakin’ expensive. The other, that it’s pretty as a postcard, or a jigsaw puzzle scene.

I arrived Thursday, and promptly got lost on the way to the main train station, Zurich HB. The Twister had to come and get me—I’d gotten off at the wrong stop. Fortunately, she’s staying not far from the main station, in an area rife with cafes, bars, restaurants, shops, and, uhm, strip clubs. It’s cobblestoned streets were teeming with the arrival of the sun this past weekend, and if you love European culture—sitting outside with a drink and watching the people go by—this street (Niederdorfstrasse)  is definitely prime. It’s also close to the river, the Limmat.

However, the Twister’s place—which is above Splash, a clothing shop, and across from the Hotel Alexander and a grocery store called Migros—is tiny. The kitchen is practically unworkable, and there’s nowhere to put my suitcase. It’s a furnished transition place halfway between an apartment building and a hotel; there is no garbage bin outside, but someone comes in once a week (tomorrow, Tuesday) to clean. Depending on your food habits—I’d suggest staying away from fish, if there was any fish to buy here—you could have a pretty stinky area under the sink by the time someone picks up the garbage. For this, she’s paying New York City apartment prices—and that’s nothing, apparently.

Language is a problem. For one thing, I don’t know any German, and for another, the language they speak here is a bastardization, Swiss-German. The Twister’s no great shakes in the language department either; we got into a silly fight when she accused me of coming off like a linguistic expert. Every once in awhile I’ll try out a little Swiss-German on a poor store clerk or server, usually with comical results. At least, the Twister’s laughing.

We watched a movie the other night, with a title loosely translatable as The Swiss Maker. It’s about a couple of petty bureaucrats who have the power to grant citizenship, and four people who are trying to become Swiss. It’s a cute, comical ’70s movie that tweaks the nose of the powers-that-be and the more uptight echelons of Swiss society. The Twister’s stories of trying to assimilate, and all the bureaucratic hoops she’s had to jump through, show things haven’t improved for those seeking citizenship. Echoes from Home, the other Swiss movie we tried to watch, turned out (the Twister wasn’t sure what it was she was buying at the time) to be a documentary about contemporary, experimental yodelers. I’m not making this up.

The weather’s been unpredictable, sometimes cool and overcast, other times hot and humid and sunny; Saturday was gorgeous, and we walked along the river to a lakeside flea market followed by a delicious pizza near the water. Yesterday started out beautifully, and I went for a run along the river walk, but by the time we got to a park in Langstrasse the clouds had come out. We stopped for a glass of wine before coming home, and everywhere we went, people were watching a football (soccer) game. Tres European.

Friday and Saturday nights we went bar hopping, an expensive proposition, let me tell you. But there are so many around here, it’s hard to resist; one I’ve especially liked so far is called Corazon, which has a casual atmosphere with cushion-y chairs and benches, and serves big bottles of Chimay. Speaking of Belgian beer, yesterday we stumbled upon Beers of the World (at least, I think that’s its name) in the shopping concourse under the main train stration. I haven’t been that excited since I discovered the U.S. chain BevMo.

Today looks like another cloudy one. With the Twister at work, I’m gonna be spending a lot of time wondering from cafe to bar to cafe again. And I might have to visit Beers of the World again. It’s cheaper than going to Starbucks, that’s for sure.


Entertaining… at home in the sky

Last year’s Vancouver Bombay Sapphire promotion took place at Lumiere, one of the city’s tonier restaurants. For this year’s, the booze reps booked a night on the 58th floor of the city’s newest upscale hotel/residence, the Shangri-La.

The view was spectacular; after a mostly overcast day, the clouds dispersed, leaving the city to shine as the sun made its way to the horizon.


Merlin Griffiths, the London-based “global brand ambassador” for Bombay, was back on mixing duties, showing us the proper way to make martinis (well, one way, anyway), and making ginger mint drinks and Sapphire Collins in the suite’s island kitchen, while servers brought out a steady supply of hors d’oeuvres. The theme was entertaining at home, specifically for guys who want to do more than break out the Pabst and Pringles when a date comes over, and food stylist/entertaining expert Murray Bancroft whipped up some food pairings, such as crostini with Parma ham and a dungeness crab topping, to go with the drinks. An even mix of male and female media reps—the usual suspects—watched attentively, trying not to think about the playoff game in Chicago between the Blackhawks and Vancouver’s beloved Canucks.


Though there’s nothing I enjoy more than taking shots at people who get swept up in hockey, especially those who plant little team flags on their vehicles, I have to admit I found myself watching the last 10 minutes of the game at Circa. A new restaurant & lounge on Granville (which, because of ongoing Canada Line construction, is looking more apocalyptic than ever), Circa is a 192-seat room, including a mezzanine area and “a private dining room edged in gold leaf and elaborate woodwork” (okay, I’m reading off the PR bumf here). The menu is based on a shared-plate theme, with an emphasis on local ingredients (mushrooms, salmon, tuna) and wines. The moment I walked in—last night was the grand opening—I was handed a sample of the pulled pork with poutine, and my pants exploded.

But even that, along with Absolut vodka drinks and pretty minglers in fuchsia dresses, wasn’t enough to distract hockey fans as the Blackhawks pounded their precious Canucks into submission. Oh well, at least I won’t have to listen to any more hockey pool drivel at the office.

We—including former wingman Wingy, who brought his phone co. rep (!) along, and who spent much of the evening wondering how he was going to get out to a suburb where his car was getting fixed as some sort of contra deal—ended up, as is often the case on nights like this, at Bin 941 on Davie. The gin and wine must’ve gone to my head by then, because I recall having a conversation  about God with a Ukrainian. And then I blacked out.

Okay, not really—more like passed out (at home, not at the Bin). Today I’m taking it easy and tomorrow, well, tomorrow I’m packing; Thursday night I’ll be in Zurich, singing “Reunited” with the Texas Twister. Can’t hardly wait!

Thanks to Almira Bardai and the folks at Jive Communications, Merlin Griffiths and Bacardi/Bombay Sapphire, and Ayesha Khan with Optimum for putting up with me.

August 2020

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