The time I had a martini with Mrs James Brown at Hotel Bel Air

One time I was invited to a wedding in Los Angeles. This was back in 2007, when I was young and vulnerable, at that impressionable age when brushing with semi-famous people was pretty cool (probably still is for some people; I mean look at how they recite the names of Jersey Shore and American Idol participants – who are they anyway?).

No matter. The wedding took place at the Bel Air hotel, the day is June 1, the time is roughly 6 or 7, and it’s a perfect evening in California. The palm trees are everywhere in sight, so are dark pastels, I’m wearing a sexy white dress (is the non-bridal white a taboo? No matter) and it’s the hors d’oeuvres time in the grassy area around the Bel Air Hotel. The wedding ceremony finished, and the happy couple looked like this:

The wedded pair are doing photos, guest books are being signed, and everyone is waiting for the wedding party to get back. Or have they just gotten back? As I chomp down a cheesy puff that is also probably spiced with gold dust, I see a worried bridesmaid running up to me. Her name is Gaia and she is terrified, because she took a bite of her cheese puff and the gooey inside projectiled onto her shinyish brown bridesmaid dress (not my ideal choice).

Image

This was not that wedding, but you get the idea. Swans, seats, romance at Bel Air.

“Karin, can you go with me to help fix this?” she says tipsily, because the wedding party was in a limo all day, rolling around LA and drinking whiskey.

“Sure”, I say. And we walk to the ladies toilets at Hotel Bel Air.

I have to admit that I was doing a lot of eye rolling at that moment, but I was also holding a grudge at my boyfriend at the time (which is why I was at the wedding in the first place), and wanted to get away. He was in the wedding party and nowhere in sight.

We enter the toilet and Gaia excitedly talks the whole time we are there. I propose napkins, I propose water, we discuss my relationship briefly (Gaia brings it up), when the door opens and two things happen:

A beautiful, tall, long-haired redhead walks in a sexy pencil skirt, lovely top, fishnets and fierce Yves Saint Laurent heels that I immediately know were in May’s issue of Vogue. I’ve got a great photographic memory, and those heels were all the rage in 2007. She eyes me, says in a deep, seductive and velvety voice: “Nice hair”, and walks into a stall.

I melt.

Second thing: an African-American woman in a flowerful (that’s right) turban walks in. I am completely startled also by the fact that she is wearing a long mermaid skirt emblazoned with tropical fruits and flowers, plus a bikini top.

I am embarrassed to say it, but seeing the two of them together, the first thing I thought was, “Is there a gay party happening at the Bel Air tonight?” And an air of excitement filled the room.

The woman in the turban says, “Do you know who that is?”

“No”, we both say, mesmerized. I’m sitting on the bathroom counter, waving my legs in white heels that match the dress.

“That was Mrs James Brown”, says the flower lady in a loud whisper.

I immediately think “Right”, and then: wait, I’m in Los Angeles, Hotel Bel Air, it is summer and James Brown died on Christmas 2006. Where does this go now?

Mrs James Brown emerges and pays attention to us. The wedding party girl squeaks about her cheese puff problem. “Oh, we can help you,” and they shoot a barrage of stain removal advice. I have to admit that I must have been tipsy at the time or it was a long time ago and I don’t remember all this very well.

Mrs James Brown calls the Bel Air concierge from the toilet and asks her to bring some soda water and a hair dryer. This happens.

Gaia, the bridesmaid, is so grateful that she exclaims that she must buy Mrs James Brown and – drumroll…. guess who we are with? Princess Selassie of Ethiopia, or so she says and I have no reason not to believe her – a drink. Princess Selassie looks suspiciously like this, and apparently she was on Real Housewives of New York (I’m not surprised):

So we all make our way to the Hotel Bel Air Lounge Bar not too far away. It looks like this:

Hotel Bel Air Lounge Bar

Bridesmaid recommends an apple martini to Princess Selassie and to Mrs James Brown, whose real name is Tomi Rae Hynie, and apparently they never heard of those. “Really?” I think. I highly doubt that, but hey, if the ladies want to play the part, that’s absolutely fine.

Gaia goes to pay for the drinks and she is upset that the cost is $80 for four martinis. Sounds about right, but at the age of 2o or 22, that is a huge chunk of money. Realistically, you could have bought 1.5 bottles of Veuve Clicquot at the store, so that counts for something too.

We return to the table and converse with the women. All the celebrity crap, B-A-C, whatever, aside – the women were kickass. They talked to us about the importance of career, about not letting the man trample all over you, girl power, being independent, strong and more. We also exchange phone numbers (really? That did happen, I had the Princess’s number and Tomi Rae’s number down), and we were invited to a couple of jazz shows and some other events.

I have to say that Tomi was at the time embezzled in a vicious battle of James Brown’s estate (read more here), and she was really pushing the story on us too. Which is fine. I would probably also go for the money had my late husband died and I wanted to take care of my kid, James Brown II.

What else? A great evening. The Bel Air Hotel lounge is beautiful, and it was filled with dark types that – in my young digital mind – resembled the smoky, analog Hollywood era long gone. I swear I saw a mafia guy or two.

“There you are!” yelled the wedding planner. Our dreamtime had to end. “You should return to the wedding.” A wedding planner was telling US what to do. If it happened today, I’d slap the living hell out of that woman. But we obliged and went to the wedding banquet area.

Everybody heard of our adventures by now (bless me and my BBM abilities of 2007).

The first song that the wedding DJ played?

This: 

PS. Random little observation. Tomi Rae’s hair colour darkened from the same bright that I had to a more somber color (like me). Could it be that we were using the same L’Oreal Feria brand and then had to stop?

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Cities and Horcruxes

I was walking down the street (how Dickensian and utterly, typically boring), en route to home sweet home, and I thought about something. I tried to figure out where my home was. Because I love my parents, my dog and the lovely house where they all live, I want to say, “My home is in Vancouver!” and yet when I am there I feel like I am on an anything goes vacation. I also feel different, like an outsider and almost like the blast from the future. So no, not quite there.

Toronto is fantastic, it’s a home. But it’s a home which is solely powered by my passionate heart. I make it what it is. I am the fire that burns in your eyes. And is it really home when one person is behind it? Perhaps not.

“Home is where the heart is,” I hear. Oh, what a relief! But where is my heart?

I love Berlin, my heart got lost there. Ibiza’s wonderful and Spanish only, seafood-infiltrated beaches devoured a big chunk of my pumping muscle, too. So where? I betcha Rioja is dying to eat the rest of what I have hiding behind my left lung. And I haven’t been to Congo yet.

So I realized that every bits of my soul are all over the world. Then I thought about Harry Potter, lord Voldemort and horcruxes. When I heard Tom Riddle about splitting his soul and leaving it to various objects (places in my case), I saw myself leaving bits and pieces of me everywhere. I love the world, I love to travel, I belong in the airport and I am the explorer.

I can leave bits of my soul in many places, thus living on in many places at the same time, and living forever. In very big fat theory.

In theory, I would be living in all of the cities I visited, because they affected me so.

In reality, however, I will probably be only living forever in the minds of people I affected. I will live on as long as the memory of me lives on in the people that were close to me. Perhaps down the road, the memory can carry onto people that I have not known. By creating something, by giving life, finding, building, teaching, showing, making, explaining, illustrating something to someone else, I can hope to give a part of my soul to them, thus extending my life. Man wants to be remembered.

I have to live my life prudently, expressively, beautifully and independently. I have to go where my mind and heart tell me to. I will not trust witches, nor will I subscribe to pure paganism. I will be me, and I will keep on splitting my soul in as many cities, places and people, as possible.

I live forever already.

All That Jelly

Took these shots in Boston at the New England Aquarium. The place was a lot of fun! After conquering the long line to get in, we delighted in the micro-processing, never hurrying jellyfishes, counted as many weed sea dragons as we could, and learned that the giant tank in the middle of the Aquarium is actually tuna can-shaped as opposed to the “apparent” soup can-shaped. 40 feet wide vs. 20 feet tall, ha!

Besides enjoying and photographing unique creatures (and reading their “facial” expressions), I also made a friend with a penguin whom I named Bob. Bob was swimming in the pool as I watched him from above (the pool extended beneath the area where humans walked) and I started waving and calling him to get closer. He looked up and seemed to have gotten mesmerized for a minute there (yay red hair)! Then we continued the wave – swim underneath – swim out – watch for the Karin – swim to where she’s walking – swim out – hear her call – look again… It went on for several feet until he got an ADD attack and quickly swam away with his buddy. I’m telling you, I am princess Mononoke.

The rest of the photos are here

Post title inspired by the homie Egyptrixx.

Platja den Bossa


I really like this photo, which I took in Ibiza, on Platja den Bossa. I haven’t even noticed the great composition – look at the man and the woman! And then check out the couple in the distance – their heads are almost on the same level as the couple’s in the foreground. Yeah!

Playa d’en Bossa is the longest beach strip on the island (2 km). It’s full of beach cafes, bars, restaurants that often have famous DJs spin some tunes before performing at major clubs of the island (Space, Amnesia, Pacha, Privilege, Eden, did I forget something?).

We rode our scooter to the beach after spending most of the day in Eivissa town (where we scootered all the way to the top! See other photos), and relaxed. Be warned – numerous umbrellas beach chairs (is that what you call them?) that fill up the area have to be paid for. Watch out for the collector man.

London Callings

Oh, crossing the streets is a major nuisance here. I feel like I’m breaking all sorts of laws when crossing. Even Zoe said that she still doesn’t quite know when she is allowed to cross or not, because very often the pedestrian light turns red, but so does the light for cars. This is when I usually run across. I’m obviously confused as to which way to look, but luckily there are directions painted on sides of the roads: “Look left”, “look right”. I find it strange that back in 1999 I didn’t find the “right” side of the road to be a problem. In Russia the same sides as in Canada and US are the “right” sides, but I never took notice. Perhaps I didn’t cross the streets enough.

Well, alas, tomorrow I have to return to North America. I may be that sapping young woman on a plane that everyone is going to think said good bye to her boyfriend and is now sad. Whilst in fact, I will be sad about leaving Europe. I’m from here, and I will be back (for good)! Terminator said so, and he returned, see.

Ah yes, stay tuned for the art and literature reviews. I picked up so many fabulous books! I’ll have to work my charms at the British Airways check-in desk tomorrow, making sure they don’t charge me extra for going over the allowed bag weight.

From one of my new acquisitions: “Don’t bunt. Aim out of the park. Aim for the company of immortals.” David Ogilvy, Confessions of an Advertising Man.

You Sound Like Youre From East London

I just got a haircut from a man who’s been cutting hair for 28 years (including frou frou Kitsilano in Vancouver and 1985’s Spanish Harlem), and I realized than instead of going to hipstertown and seeking out the gayest, skinniest youngster with amazing hair, you should go to men of experience. Just make sure you explain your dreamcut really well. So yay to Islington’s Rough Cut!

I am currently sitting in Wellcome Collection, which is a unique mix of galleries, events and meeting, reading and eating places spread over six floors. Its goal is to engage public with health and well-being; it brings modern art, medicine and peoples ordinary lives to create and exciting place of interest. I am here, so should you when in London.

I went to Camden yesterday evening and had quite a good time. Besides picking up some flaming vintage pieces and trying Moroccan food (my next travel place of interest), I met some nice folks and managed to keep the happy hour prices in a bar way past the happy hour time. Camden is full of Italian daddy’s girls looking for bargains, handsome punks, prima donnas of the burlesque scene who will never see 30 again, skater boys, American Apparel sect members and random misplaced people. It’s heaps of fun, as my Australian friends would say!

By the way, I haven’t been updating a lot lately because I have been busy experiencing life here, but I have certainly been taking notes on what to post about. My autumn schedule will be busy, but calm busy, so expect posts very often!

Losses and Damages

Ah yes, on this trip I haven’t lost anything super valuable. Most annoying thing is that i’ve forgotten my BlackBerry charger in Ibiza (and no, I was not inebriated at the time of packing), and had to run around Barcelona’s Born and Gotik neighborhoods, trying to find something to replace it. Did find it, but what a silly waste of money.

I also got hurt in Ibiza – burnt my leg when accidentally touching the exhaust pipe of mine and Krystel’s scooter.

And the last one is catching a minor cold after 21 days of good time and merrymaking. One thing I regret is not drinking enough water here in Europe – it’s fairly expensive in restaurants and servers don’t usually bring a glass to the table. Oh well! 😀

BCN to LGW

I am a little sick, hence getting tired way sooner than usual. But not to worry – I have been writing down things to blog about, even if I have no time.

When I was leaving Barcelona, on a Friday night, I decided to take the train to the airport. I got to the Sants Estacion and went to the train station, got to the right platform and then jumped on a train that was there. Some other people followed and we waited. I was an idiot enough to drag my suitcase up the mini stairs and took a seat.

Then the kids who got in after me quickly ran off the bus, and I panicked. I dragged my suitcase down the stairs and as I was about to jump off, the doors closed. Right in front of me!

A kind man came up to explain to me that I won’t be going too far and that I should get off at the next station. So I got off at Bellvitge train station and that messed things up.

I decided to grab a taxi. But there were none. I had 50 minutes before the EasyJet check-in closed.

I tried calling a taxi, but they hung up on me because I had no street address (hello, Vancouver taxi cabs; same story there) to give them. I panicked even more. I tried to run up the overpass to get to the other side of the train station – second entrance. And as I was half way through, I saw a cab! I missed it.

I started to get really worried, I could’ve missed my flight to London after all. I ran down with my 23kg bag and got upset. Some elderly couple tried to help me figure out where to catch a cab, but that didn’t help.

I started crying right in the middle of the street, panicking, scared of missing my flight, when a young man came up asking me (in fairly good English!) what was wrong. I told him. Him and his girlfriend called me a cab, but none came. We dragged my bag to the main avenue of the suburb, and waited. I had no Euros left, save for €10, and hence couldn’t fully the €15 fare to the airport. The couple gave me €10 more! Then the cab came. My God. Am I not lucky? After this incident I’m pretty much convinced that nothing will go wrong in my life anymore, and if it does, a guardian angel will help me out. (This is sort of what happens in Harry Potter all the time, eh. The boy’s just so well connected and gets help when he’s in trouble)

God bless the couple that helped me out. I found that Spanish people in general are really warm, helpful, and empathetic. These two lovely strangers didn’t need to help me at all, but they did take the time out of their evening to make sure I got on my plane!.. And I don’t even know their names 😦

When I ran up to the EasyJet, panting and still shaking from stress of missing the flight, the check in guys laughed, but in a good way. They also didn’t charge me €30 for every kilo that my bag was over the limit… And it was over by 4 kg. Am I not lucky?

Crazy day, that Aug 29. Most ridiculous day of the month, actually, hehe.

More on Europe

Berlin was such a satisfying sight when it came to the roads (among many other things) – all the cars were either Mercedes, Audi, Opel or BMW. I saw ONE Ford and shivered to the bone. What’s a Ford doing in Germany? What kind of a nitwit would buy a Ford when they can buy a probably better Audi for that price?

Another note on Spain – Ibiza island is full of roundabouts. At first it was sort of tough on a scooter, but then we eased into it and found it much more practical than lights or highway exits. Roundabouts! I’m so happy that my Ibiza experience was just as wild as it was chill. Master of balance ze Karina.

I’ve been thinking about Hemingway a lot here, his Spain. I was trying to pick up one of his book to read since I am in Spain and I love reading books set in locations which I am traveling through. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything super intriguing of his (and I couldn’t deal with reading so much about bullfighting, considering Barcelona was the first city in Spain to protest against bullfighting or bull running). Instead I got Faulkner’s Light in August. It sounds quite promising; I spent several hours in a cafe yesterday reading it.

Hey, I just arrived in Bunol! Going for La Tomatina. Tomatoes, here I come!

random musings in a cafe in Barcelona

It’s interesting how people write a lot about their personal lives when they are younger. I used to write so much about my heart’s rollercoasting about 5-6 years ago, but now that seems like a gargantuan waste of time. Hearts are some of the most unstable things in the world that spending time on detailed archiving of their course becomes some of the worst ways to throw precious time out the window.

* * *

Dairy in Europe is much better than in N. America. Water is always in bottled form. I keep thinking about Dave’s environmental comments every time I ask for or buy water. I also think that is the reason I haven’t been drinking enough water on my trip, yikes.

We are driving to Valencia tomorrow to have some legendary paella (which is where it was invented anyway) and to partake in La Tomatina in Bunol. I still have to buy some cheap shoes and protective goggles to survive the famous tomato battle.

More to come later

Catalunya

Well! I am in Spain. It has been my secret desire for some time now, I must admit.

I always wanted to have tapas and enjoy the chatter of passers by.

Barcelona is a wondrous and surreal place in way that a Juan Miro’s work is, with its grotesque animal shapes and disfigured perspective, with its narrow streets that make you slightly uncomfortable but definitely welcome you to get lost and find yourself in some safely tucked away Placa… I keep thinking that I will uncover some secret when I walk around the Barri Gotic or even Barceloneta. I am convinced there is a secret that a handful of locals are able to whisper, yet they all have it in their hearts, Catalan hearts.

My dreams of seeing the artworks by Picasso and Miro are coming true! I absorb the culture like a sponge of sorts and I am extremely happy to have the opportunity to do so. I am grateful for the friends that are with me.

Xavi and Sal are great guides. They took us on a tour yesterday. We went into a small square where the building walls still bear the gunshot marks from the times of the Civil War. I could not believe my eyes, but my video camera did.

The food, the food. Let us discuss – we went to the Mercat Santa Caterina, and my eyes fell out at the sights of fresh seafood, and several dozens of cured ham varieties. Ladies and gentlemen, make sure you go to the markets. Skinned rabbits, goat heads, cow brains, steaks, mushrooms, cheeses… Yes.

Last night we drank homemade sangria (guess what, i’ve acquired the recipe, too…), and went to Gracia neighborhood for some drinks. The narrow streets are littered with small bars and whatnot. Did I mention that I used the Bicing system and biked through the hilly city (in a slightly not so sober state, oops)! I did well, and unfortunately Georgina did not because she and Sal fell off their bikes 😦

And it’s been only two days so far. More museums, more food from the markets awaits me, and more fun. We still have to go to the Sidecar and dance our socks off.

Tomatina happens on Wednesday! Stay tuned. Oh, definitely do. Salud!

Ibiza

Ibiza is a wonderful place. Word of caution: you have to do more than just party party.

We rented a scooter and drove all over the island.

First, of course, we took a cab to Sant Antoni, and went to party at Space. We saw Carl Cox. 6am end time, cabs with British ladies and all that.

We rented a scooter, and I must say, a scooter is an important part of an Ibiza experience, unless of course you want to pay €25 for a ride to Ibiza town.

Krystel and I had an awesome experience riding all over the island, particularly at night. Yesterday we covered half of the island, in pitch dark, with rabbits hopping about the road.

The villas here are rathe fancy, and i’d like to own one someday. He he he.

We ventured into areas that not so many tourists go to; we toured all over the dark northern coast of Ibiza, sat in the middle of the road and stared at the sky (with our helmets on of course he he).

We ate swordfish, and drank local wine. You must must must drink wine from Ibiza; it is absolutely wondrous!!

We danced like there is no tomorrow.

I must say that there were too many trashy British girls; they gave a bad name to the whole Empire. I will post a video of some exceptional examples as soon as I get back to Toronto.

Overall, Ibiza was a great experience. The sun, the fun, the lost in the hilly residential areas with barely any fuel left, and then eating grapes off someone’s wine estate, and scootering through druglords’ villas and whatnot.

Ibiza is a wonderful place, but you must do more than just party till the wee hours and sit on the populated beaches!!! Toy must explore and you must go deep into the island to uncover the true story.

On a return train

More observations include the fact that eggs come in 10- or 6-packs. Wherefore did the idea of a dozen disappeared to?

Wind power is pretty widespread here. Florian was saying that the government will pay you a lot of money to install one of the wind power-generating mills.

I tapped into the German popculture when I purchased an Ampelmann from Eastern Germany. Hehe. Pretty cool.

I didn’t manage to swim in the Baltic Sea due to horrid weather, but Florian did go for a quick swim and he fished out a pair of Baltic sea sunglasses in surprise dive (sentence structure?).

I got off at a wrong train stop, so am currently trying out all methods of trainsportation in Berlin in order to get back to Kreuzberg.

Taking Berlin

Well, well, well. I am in Germany! It is fantastic. Last night I went to Tresor night club, which is a former power plant, and now is a crazy techno club. Gritty place, complete with cold basement spilling over hard techno sounds and scary looking employees with t-shirts that proclaim “Tresor never sleeps”. Agreed. We escaped the full-on party around 5:30am, and that’s nevertheless early.

Tonight I am going to Rostock to rock out a bit there, eat some fish, and drink champagne with Florian.

I’ve had currywurst for the first time, and it was fabulous. I also noticed that cigarette packs have 17 units in them, which I find completely odd. There is no such thing as “last call”, which is the way it should be. People bike a lot in Berlin, and I am even thinking of renting one myself and cruise the city.

Humboldt Universitat sells awesome t-shirts: “Wilhelm & Alexander & ich”. I got one for myself.

I’m taking videos and photographs here, living in Berlin in a less touristy way and having a generally awesome time. Great company, great city, great weather, great memories.