Tuesday, November 29, 2011


I've just returned to Red Deer, after a wonderful weekend in Toronto where I was invited to participate in an event called "New York, New York", sponsored by TINARS (This Is Not A Reading Series) held at the Gladstone Hotel.  "New York, New York" refers to two books published by Porcupine's Quill that tell two very different stories about New York.  One book is a wordless book of wood engravings by George Walker titled "The Book of Hours".  The book describes, in images with no text, the lives of people who worked in the Twin Towers during the hours leading up to the attack on the Towers.  The other book is titled "Beasts of New York: a Children's Book for Grownups" by Jon Evans and illustrated with wood engravings by Jim Westergard.  "Beasts" follows the life of Patch the squirrel as he awakens one early Spring morning, in his tree in Central Park, to discover his caches of food have been stolen.  This discovery is followed by a series of crises, including squirrel clan wars and dangers from various beasts.

George Walker presented a short video of his images that took us dramatically through the day before and up to the attack on the Towers.  I joined Jon Evans on the Gladstone Hotel ballroom stage as we fielded questions from Tom Smart, art historian, author and curator, about "Beasts of New York".  Jon Evans presented a slide show of the locations in the New York area which are the sites of Patch's adventures.  Mr. Smart also supplied questions directed at George Walker and myself about wood engraving and the role of wood engraving today.  Books and prints were on sale.  Don Black Linecasting Service set up a table of letterpress items and offered demonstrations of letterpress printing.  It was a very enriching afternoon.

The flight from Calgary to Toronto took about four hours and was rather a routine flight.  I took the Airport Express Shuttle into downton Toronto then took a streetcar from the Shuttle's final stop, the Sheraton Hotel, down Queen Street to the Gladstone Hotel.  What I didn't know until I got on the streetcar was that there was construction near the Gladstone (1214 Queen St. W.) which forced the streetcar to turn off Queen Street at about the 1100 block.  I figured it would be no big deal to pull my bag three blocks in the rain.  When I had pulled the bag for a couple of blocks west of the Sheraton and started to look for an address I discovered the addresses were still in the 1100 range and gaining in very small increments.  Obviously the system there was not what I was used to (each block increasing by units of 100).  By the time I reached 1214 I was fairly wet, even though the rain was light.

The set-up for the event in the ballroom the next day began at noon and when it was opened to the public the time passed quickly.  I met some wonderful people and enjoyed every minute. Please check out the photos and a video prepared by TINARS as well as a Porcupine's Quill blog.

My room at the Gladstone (above, taken the morning I left) was a white room called the "Map Room" (below) and I spent a cozy warm night there.  The next morning, after breakfast, I returned to discover the temperature was 82 F (the thermostat was not metric).  I tried turning the heat off and had the window propped open while I went for a walk.

When I returned it was still hot, so the desk clerk moved me to a red room (remember "redrum" in the movie, "The Shining"?). Each of the rooms in the hotel is designed by a different designer and art work is hanging in all the hallways.

The elevator is very old and works the old fashioned way, with a counter-weight and an operator.  No buttons to push here.  

Jon Evans, George Walker and I (l to r) posed for a photo.

All in all, I think a good time was had by all!

The Westjet flight back to Calgary was not as routine as the flight out to Toronto.  I had watched the news the night before and saw the report of the hurricane strength Chinook wind that had blasted out windows in the buildings of downtown Calgary the previous day.  It had also torn up trees, ripped roofs apart and blown tractor-trailers off the hiway.  There was a scene of a Lufthansa airplane fighting the wind to attempt a landing at Calgary airport.  That scene was on my mind as I boarded the plane.

I was seated in the second row, not far from the front entry of the plane and just a few steps from the toilet.  When we were a few hundred miles east of Calgary and had been in flight for nearly four hours there was a distinctive sewer-gas aroma, getting stronger by the minute.  I noticed a flight attendant hand something to one of the three ladies in the row ahead of me.  Suddenly the sewer-gas smell was replaced with the aroma of fresh coffee.  They asked her what it was and I heard her say "coffee grounds".  

During the flight I ordered two glasses of red wine and had given my credit card to secure the tab. I settled the tab as we neared Calgary.  When I was about to put the receipt away I noticed the charge was only for one glass.  I asked one of the flight attendants to check with the attendant who had settled the tab.  She came back and said the other attendant had wanted to buy me a drink!  Imagine that!  Yessiree, a good time was had by all!

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