W Montreal Weekender Staycation…Can you go home again?

Can you ever truly go home again?

Have a new experience in what feels like an old narrative? 

As someone who was born and raised in Montreal—I know first hand what a culturally rich and supremely gorgeous city it is.

Living in Toronto for the past 7 years, I still miss the French influence of Montreal, the fresher air (downtown Toronto is condo construction city!) and of course my family and friends.

While I’ve visited frequently since moving, I have never truly experienced Montreal through the eyes of a tourist. I normally come in and stay with my sister at her place in lower Westmount, which was filled with familiarity, and the omnipresence of my late mother who passed 3 years ago.

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This time around I planned a *solo* journey (a sojourn if you will) staycation at the W Hotel Montreal, and sis recently moved to the up and coming GriffinTown area. I could no longer fall back on old habits of familiar terrain. This was a concious exercise in getting my brain to make new connections and fire off some fresh synapses. I realize it’s not a foreign country, but Montreal is still a backdrop like no other, and stands up to any European city. 

I had a profound intention for the weekend itself. To connect with my deeper self, to soul search and to see my beloved city through a new lens and aperture.

Plus, I love staying at beautiful hotels. There’s always a palpable air that anything can and will happen. 

The W Montreal is perfectly situated on historic Old Montreal’s Square Victoria street and proudly faces a poetically landscaped courtyard replete with water fountains and gardens.

W Lobby

The mood lighting of the W Montreal Lobby…

The mood and architecture inside The W Montreal drips with sexy and sleek luxury. When you arrive at W Montreal and take in the flora and fauna of dim lighting, bold colours, imaginative seating areas + an endless stream of attractive patrons from all over the world—an internal whisper emerges, “oh yes— this is going to be go-oood.”

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I check into my room which features a heavenly Queen sized bed with signature W Bedding. The bathroom boasts high ceilings and Bliss Bath sundries with a spacious Rain Shower. My view faces the spectacular Square Victoria courtyard and already I feel like I’m inspiring my muse to ‘come out and play‘ after a recent spate of ennui and creative stasis.

Away Spa

Away Spa…

On tonight’s menu, an early evening visit to the W Montreal’s Away Spa. Upon entering, I already feel like my shoulders have dropped significantly and that time is beginning to stand still. I take in the ambrosial scents of my surroundings while I rake swirley patterns in the exquisite Zen Garden set before me.

Zen Garden

Karen, my masseuse retrieves me and brings me into the treatment room for the AromaSoul Massage Ritual. She offers me 4 different scented oils to choose from, and explains that there is a specific massage associated with *each* smell.

I am immediately drawn to the fresh Mediatteranean scent, and she explains that the massage will entail circular motions akin to “waves in the ocean.” Being that I am a Cancerian water-baby, I am tickled by the suggestion.

The oil is first mixed in with Shea Butter and Volcanic Rock Powder for a full body application and exfoliation. Afterwards, I rinse off in a shower and return for the massage portion. The lights are dimmed and the music is a perfect blend of soothing chants and song.

As I let my thoughts wander, I start to make connections and answer questions from within. I see that I am currently riding a wave of opportunity, one that is at ‘ high tide.’ A wash of memories and familiar faces flash-flood over me. Some are more emotional than others, and like a *wave* I don’t judge it, I simply observe it’s natural ebb and flow and go with it. I relax into a blissful state and fall into a meditative dream-like sleep.

When it is over, I tell Karen how I had an abundance of wonderful thoughts and metaphors come to mind. I ask her what sign she is and she answers “a Cancer…” and it did not surprise me one bit. This was the beginning of many-a-synchronicity moment(s) throughout the weekend.

Back upstairs (plush robe still on from spa!) I order up some room service, capped off with an order of homemade beignets with chocolate sauce *and* lemon cream.

*No photos are taken to protect my dignity.

The massage has worked miracles, my skin is silky soft and I fall asleep instantly with remnants of donut sugar kissing my lips. Tomorrow is a big night out and I need my beauty sleep!

Sweet dreams are made of this.

Bonne Nuit! XO 

***

The next morning I wake up bright and early and head off to Montreal’s trendiest new enclave Pointe St Charles aka “The Pointe.”

I enter Café Bloom, and enjoy a sublime latte and some freshly baked treats.

Luxe Latte

Latte With My Name on It…oh hello loverrrrr!

The vibe is über hipster and I feel transported to Brooklyn, NY —except everyone here speaks French and the hipsters are less try-hard and impoverished.

Next up its time to get my hair and nails did. I saunter over to nearby M Salon located in the cooler-than-thou GriffinTown endroit.

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Adrien’ does my colour and blow out to purrrfection, and my nails, like my surroundings are done super ‘pointe’ styles in an arresting ice blue!

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Taking a leap of faith and trying a new salon has paid off! This is now my go-to one stop shop for whenever I come to town! Meanwhile, all of this beautification has made me honnnngray! 

Word on the street is that I must try L’Gros Luxe—a local eatery boasting farm fresh ingredients, many a vegetarian/vegan offering and inventive food combinations. It’s around 4:30pm so I’m turning this meal into an early dinner. My sister and I share a vegetarian El Burrito and a Grilled Cheese Poutine and, “yes” it is as delicious as it looks!

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Yes, home girl here can eat! *Were you expecting a dandelion salad?!

***

Tonight at the W Hotel’s Wunderbar I will be attending the Back to Disalvio’s reunion party with DJ Jo Jo Flores at the turntables. Many moons ago, on Montreal’s famed St. Laurent strip, club Disalvios was an epic dance club that brought together people from different cultures and backgrounds all in the name of house, dance and hip hop music. The reunion has been held annualy for the past 4 years, but this is the first time it is being held in the summer and at Wunderbar. I can never extol the virtues of the yearly event enough! It never ceases to be a less-than-stellar evening of marathon dancing and great vibes. I mean who even gets to go out dancing like this anymore?! I cherish it! 

Wunderbar...

Wunderbar…

Wunderbar is as sexy a venue as they come— an adult playground, really. In fact the entire hotel is a wonderful labyrinth of initmate nooks and crannys, lounges and private bar service. Get lost or found at your discretion, (insert a wink-wink here!)

I dance the night away with old friends and it is exactly the kind of night I need! Except for the having-one-drink-too-many part, and thus in the interest of dignity (again)—no further pictures will be posted!

Hot Mess, but such fun!

I’m a *Hot Mess* but oh what fun!

***

Waking up is infinitely more challenging than expected—le aging she is a wicked foe! I ring up the concierge and true to the W Hotels ‘Anytime, Anywhere‘ credo—I request some Advil NOW in my MOUTH, or my head will surely explode thankyouverymuch!

Not but 5 minutes later I’m downing a trifecta of tablets with icy-cold bottled water they’ve provided (something tells me they’ve seen this scenario play out before…) as I get ready for a decadent brunch at Être Avec Toi aka ÊAT, just off the main lobby.

ÊAT is a feast for both the senses and the palate. The room is covered in dynamic pop art installations and paintings by a collective of mainly Montreal artists, reflecting the city and its vibrant culture. Read more how this unique concept came to fruition here.

I’m joined by my sister and a round of fresh orange juice and lattes are procured. The music is funky without being overpowering (there’s a live DJ!) and the crowd is cosmopolitan chic. Brunch at ÊAT is nothing short of a work of art in and of itself. The presentations are like mini Pollacks or Rembrandts, the pomp and ceremony unparalleled.

I am following the waiters lead in terms of ordering. ÊAT is very heavy on the seafood which is music to my ears, and he suggests a variety of plates for the table.

We start off with the ‘presentation’ of the Bakers Basket (a cornucopia of gluten-everything) that is wheeled out on a trolley with various compotes and jams.

Decisions, decisions...

Decisions, decisions…

Actually can I say that everything is presented in various trolleys and pulley carts? It’s quite charming I have to say.

Next up, a Salmon Tatare that is so exquisitely presented it demands a round of applause followed by a moment of silence for this masterpiece set before me?!

A work of art...

A work of art!

We are then brought a cart of champagne  elixirs and mixers and enjoy some Laurent Perrier Rosé—hangover helper/hair of the dog coming right up! 

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Rosé all day…

Next we get a lobster roll and side salad each, and I’m happily eating and dancing while beaming at everyone in the room.

A couple from NY a few tables over is seat dancing as well and we end up inviting them over to have a drink with us. In another moment of synchronistic you-are-exactly-where-you-are-supposed-to-be/there-are-no-accidents scenario, turns out one half of said couple, *whom we’ve never met* works for a company that I had just been talking about days earlier. The coincidence (there’s more to it, but that’s private) just confirms that there is a divine order to everything and my spirit is buoyed even more (if that’s possible!)

I can't even?!?!

I can’t even?!?!

Last but not least we are served a gorgeous Lobster Benedict to share. Our new found friends leave us to enjoy this last offering of our kings feast.

This was an experience and meal for the record books! I leave fully sated (stuffed, really!) with a new set of NY friends, and a wonderful new outlook as I head back TO.

My weekend was a wonderful mix of the new and the familiar. A city has many sides to it, and a new connection can be made just by virtue of what street you walk down. Taking the road less traveled was the purveying theme for this weekend.

Like my city, I can visit my past as a tourist. I can take in the memories and the music, but I no longer live there. 

I think the adage that you can never truly go home again is pretty accurate. Home takes on new meaning as you get older, especially when you lose your mother. It can exist in the heavens or within a magpie memory, in ones significant other, or in the smile of your own child. It isn’t one place like it was when you were growing up and certainly isn’t restricted to an area code.

But man is it fun to visit

Merci W Hotel Montreal!

XOXO

P.S. The diet starts tomorrow!

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Beyoncé’s Formation Tour a Must See!

Wednesday night Beyoncé’s Formation World Tour steamrolled through Toronto, setting up shop inside the mammoth Rogers Centre which boasted over 50,000 fans. The tour which bypassed Montreal for Canadian-only dates in Edmonton and Toronto was in support of her latest visual album Lemonade.

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The electrifying musical journey began with Beyoncé and her dancers dressed in black bodices, bedazzled lace tights and imposing wide brimmed hats courtesy of Canadian designers Dsquared2 marching militantly onto the stage.

Beginning with a spoken word call to arms directed toward the audience; “If you came here tonight to slay, say I slay…” and then segueing into “Ok ladies let’s get into formation…”

While there were fans of all ages, backgrounds and gender—this was a thematic show that saw Beyoncé at her absolute peak of unapologetic brazen female empowerment. From her all-female troupe of dancers and band members (her guitarist blew the audience away!) this was a show exploring everything it means to be female from a superstar who has truly come into her own as a business woman, a wife and a mother. Even fans seated in the far off distance were able to clearly see Beyoncé distilling each facet of her womanhood and proud African American culture through imagery displayed on a 60 foot tall rotating LED screen nicknamed The Monolith (seen ↓ below.) 

beyonce            Image: Daniela Vesco/Parkwood Entertainment

From recurring white orchid’s to a razor blade seen emerging from Beyoncé’s mouth, grazing her tongue—plus many a raw Lemonade visual—The Monolith narrated Beyoncé’s inner chiaroscuro of both light and dark throughout the 2 and half hour show.

The fashion was undeniably a highlight with performance segments designed by several fashion heavy weights like Balmain’s white lace frilly bodice + light blue boots and Japanese designer Atsuko Kudo’s off-the-charts-sexy red latex body suit. 

Vocally Beyoncé sounded incredible and her energy never wavered with choreography that knocked my inner-dancers socks off! From Afro Caribbean styles to pure show girl physicality in what was a sultry porno-version performance of Crazy in Love—Beyoncé dripped sex at every bump and grind. Also, I’ll be damned if I don’t learn and MASTER the Ring the Alarm choreo from start to finish!

Musical highlights were Baby Boy, the all-the-feels performance of 1+1make love to me...” the trippy Hendrix-Doors inspired Don’t Hurt Yourself which blended into the fog blow horn blasting choreo of Ring The Alarm, a heartfelt dedication to Prince by playing the original version of Purple Rain, the water splashing inspired Freedom was like witnessing a baptism towards forgiveness, and lastly a heavenly rendition of Halo.

I clocked in on many cleverly mixed in musical samples interweaved throughout the night like the classic reggae ditty “Bam Bam” by Sister Nancy, “Human Nature” by Michael Jackson, “Give it to me Baby” by Rick James and “Nasty Girl” by Vanity 6.

Beyond the ‘Lemonade’ emotional scars Beyoncé endured within her marriage, this tour served as an emblam of survival for all women, with echoes of her quote staying with me long after the concert danced in my head. 

“Nobody is responsible for your happiness but you. And you always have yourself so you are never alone.”

Yass Queen!

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Coachella Style 2016 Wish List!

Coachella 2016

Hi Kids! I managed to put together my first FLAT LAY courtesy of Polyvore! Have a look at some of my Coachella Style 2016 picks! As you can see Polyvore likes to add in some rando links for the Where To Buy section, but you can clearly find many of these hot items at their namesake boutiques or websites. Should any of you damsels get the slightest itch to wear a floral wreath crown, I say scratch that sucker raw and replace it with THE ‘it gal’ item of the season, a Yosuzi pompom straw hat.  You can also look for style inspo on the Nasty Gal website or simply strut yourself into any Urban Coachella Outfitters and you will be good to go!

Enjoy the shows!  

SHOP THE LOOKS!

Stella McCartney Short dress
4,775 CAD – net-a-porter.com

Alice Olivia white romper
625 CAD – net-a-porter.com

Pierre Balmain high-waisted shorts
825 CAD – net-a-porter.com

BUSCEMI leather shoes
1,100 CAD – forwardbyelysewalker.com

Elina Linardaki leather sandals
265 CAD – avenue32.com

Chloé fringe purse
2,605 CAD – farfetch.com

Vanessa Seward leather purse
505 CAD – net-a-porter.com

Sophie Anderson travel purse
860 CAD – net-a-porter.com

Isabel Marant bracelet
410 CAD – theoutnet.com

Tribal jewelry
85 CAD – popmap.com

Nak Armstrong stud earrings
1,515 CAD – barneys.com

Carolina Bucci sapphire earrings
1,870 CAD – net-a-porter.com

Chloé pendant necklace
755 CAD – brownsfashion.com

Sonix tech accessory
22 CAD – nordstromrack.com

Karen Walker oversized sunglasses
325 CAD – harveynichols.com

CÉLINE cat-eye glasses
465 CAD – superette.co.nz

STELLA McCARTNEY fragrance
28 CAD – sephora.com

Yosuzi Pompom-embellished woven straw sunhat
505 CAD – net-a-porter.com

Kylie Lip Kit KylieCosmetics.com

Couture Candy; This Ain’t Your Granddaddy’s Fun Dip.

 

A previous limited edition from Sugarfina: 4 karat gold-dusted, Dom Pérignon-infused gummy bears

A box of Nerds is soooo very pedestrian, while a bag of Maltesers reeks of bridge and tunnel. 

Luxury and couture candy—aimed towards an up-scale adult market, is the latest trend in sweet bonbons.

Sugarfina

Sugar Logo

Leading with their tag line ‘Candy for Grown Ups’Sugarfina is a luxury gourmet candy boutique curated by Los Angeles wife and hubby duo Rosie O’Neil & Josh Resnick. Inspired by their vast travels, they set off to meet with the world’s premium candy ‘artisans,’  bringing only the finest of ingredients back into their pristine boutiques.

Luxe offerings like Kyoto Blossoms, tiny sugar flowers imported from Japan and Baby Champagne Bears sourced exclusively from the Bavarian region of Germany (where gummy bears were invented!) are flavoured in Brut and Rosé. 

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…and below Champagne-infused, handcrafted marshmallows dipped in 24K gold, their famed Bling Rings—sculpted from dark chocolate with a thin sugar shell brushed with edible silver and Champagne Bubbles dressed up in tiny white nonpareils—all superb for your swankiest cocktail parties.

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With boutiques across the US and one in Vancouver’s Nordstrom’s—Sugarfina plans on bringing the boutique to Toronto in a yet-to-be-determined locale!

Sweet Saba

Lady in Red: Maayan Zilberman Photo- Steve Earle

 

Lingerie designer-turned baker-turned rock candy confectionista, Maayan Zilberman’s Sweet Saba line offers a multi-sensory experience that is equal parts kitsch and artful design. 

rock shorterSweet Saba; Not your granddaddy’s rock candy…

 

The former Israeli and Vancouverite has been showing off her unique wares through a series experiential New York pop up stints, where she currently resides. Back in November, Zilberman created a conceptual ‘Candy Rock and Crystal Bar’ at Fort Gansvort and during February and March a  ‘Lovers Rock’ collection at The Standard High Line Hotel.  

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Too beautiful to eat? A pop up display promoting the ‘healing powers’ of Sweet Saba’s gem inspirations.

Zilberman worked closely with a food technologist to create 30 experiential flavours that range in taste from champagne, grass (yes, actual grass!) bubble gum, bacon and whiskey. 

Clients can purchase Sweet Saba mainstays online—our favorite being the mix tape that can be customized with whatever title gives you the coziest nostalgic **feels.**

Custom Order the name on your very own mixed tape.

 

And being that Zilberman is never not dressed to the chicest of New York minute NINES, replete with red lips and her signature sex kitten nails, who can resist the lure of a one-of-a kind tube of lipstick—infused with vitamin c and antioxidants, no less!

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Her designs are constantly evolving with each pop up performance, the next slated for the Whitney Museum this April!

Chocolates X Brandon Olsen

 

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CXBO chocolates; Not your granddaddy’s Goobers…

 

Few new brands can boast A-List testimonials like Beyoncé’s, but that’s just what happened when through creative channels, QueenB got to taste Toronto’s Brandon Olsen’s delectable CXBO chocolates. “We sent some of our salted caramels for Blue Ivy’s birthday,” says Sarah Keenlyside, marketing director of Chocolates X Brandon Olsen, (also fiancé X Brandon Olsen!) Unfortunately the salt wasn’t suited to Ivy’s toddler taste palate, but Beyoncé was so impressed that she told her assistant that he “should have brought 100 boxes!”

Olsen’s chocolatier comeuppance has been a slow and steady rise after spending years as a chef de cuisine in some of Toronto’s most prestigious kitchens—his inherent love for “all things sugar” finally winning out. “We use really high quality ingredients and I care a lot about the flavour combinations,” says Olsen. “I think it comes from my background as a chef, where the design of a plate is important, but if it doesn’t taste good, your restaurant isn’t going to last very long!”

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Luxurious flavour combinations like Lime Ginger Black Pepper, Raspberry Rose Fennel, and Cinnamon Brown Butter are part of the draw, but equally are the distinct artisanal design elements of CXBO’s bit sized chocolates. The moulds are a specific reference to American architect Buckminster Fuller who famously designed geodesic spheres (he did the Biosphere for Expo ’67 in Montreal), the splatter an ode to Jackson Pollack’s famed technique. Their boxes are all individually splatter painted as well, making every box an original work of art. “I’m a Lego guy, always have been,” offers the confection wunderkind, “and I think people who are into Lego as kids are inherently interested in design and colour.

Choco Lite
Holiday themed exclusives; a Valentines gift set and the magnificent Chocolates X Brandon Olsen Easter egg that sold out within days.

 

Presently, you can order Chocolates x Brandon Olsen through their online web site and Shopify, but coming in May CXBO will be opening a College street west location with an open concept kitchen—Willy Wonka styles—Olsen’s favorite childhood film!

***

So is there a price to pay for luxury? Does high design equate to some hefty cha-ching?  Well, yes and no.

Sugarfina’s products were moderately priced all things considered; the exquisite ingredients, the uniqueness of product, the displays and packaging—the overhead of being a stand alone boutique in a tony Bev Hills zip code?

Sweet Saba’s pricing is most definitely on the higher end with a customized mix tapes costing you a cool $40.00 a pop, the lipsticks at $15.00. But the creativity tho? The experiential flavoring tho? The vitamin C and antioxidant infused lip sticks tho?!?! Plus did we mention its KOSHER?!?!

And lastly on the topic of Chocolates X Brandon Olsen which were recently coined as “Too Die For” from a Toronto Life Magazine e-commenter, what is $18 for a box of 9 delectable bites— if not the most reasonable ticket to heaven ever? Also, Beyoncé approved?!

So really, why even try to put a price on zee works of art, n’est pas?

Until we meet again—parting is such SUHWEET sorrow

XOXO

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Just the Tip(s)!

Who among us doesn’t have an erstwhile male-tale of “I swear baby, just the tip” stashed away in our collective memory trove—amirite ladies?

Why it’s as common as fondlly remembered lover linguistics  like, “You’re too good for me,”It’s just a loan— I’ll pay you back, stop calling me,” and “how’d you get in here, I’m calling the police,” …l-a-d-i-e-s, amirite?

…No, not so much? Ahem!

With seasonal echoes of SPRANG in the air, I bring you a freshly squeezed nail art trend—and a sad excuse of a segue.

In the opening credits of this latest nail art fad we see a resurgence of the French manicure, but instead done with colored tips! The base is clear, and/or you can play around with some opacity if you so choose.

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I find they look best on natural nails as opposed to ho-stroll fakes, but hey it’s your digits, do whatcha like!

Some more examples of “just the tip (heh heh, I’m criminally infantile) …

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Another brand new example of this, is an accented barely-there, speckled, off-kilter version, that I’m seeing mainly come out of Japan—the birthplace for all the best nail art trends. Have a looksee kittens!

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To round out this nail tip confetti, is the Spring 2016 interpretation from fashion house Tibi. Nail artist extraordinaire Jin Soon combined the negative space, French, and open-V nail art trends into one graphic design dubbing it the negative split ‘tip’↓

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All versions are confectionary perfection. In other words they are Beyoncé.

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Which ones do you prefer or do you love ’em all?  Let me know!

XOXO

Love & Rockets,

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When Breath Becomes Air; Parallels, Reflections and Synchronicity.

 

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I’m of the mind that books—like people, come into our lives when we are oven-ready to receive them.

It doesn’t always happen this way, sometimes a book is just a book, but more often than not I find myself reading something that feels tailor-made for all I need to learn in a particular time frame.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi was one such read.

Originally published on January 12th, 2016, I recall seeing a slow trickle of cover photos splashed across many a social media posts, building to what felt like a synchronistic crescendo.

I knew nothing about the actual story arc, I just picked up on whispers that it was a transcendent and powerful read, and I liked the cover. I’m not sure about you—but covers are a big draw for me. It’s what leads me to pick up the book in the first place and read the back cover and/or flip through some pages. Not having had the recent luxury of visiting a book store, I didn’t have that tactile experience of going through my touchy-feely process and finding out more—just a visual intuition via online optics that I needed to read this book.

It was finally delivered to me by my good friends at Chapters Indigo on March 1st, despite having made a request for it in early February. This is not to highlight any fault on Chapter Indigo’s part, they are always sending me books well in advance for review.  This is more about my belief in receiving knowledge right when we need it and how the universe conspires on our behalf. In this case it was due to my late request and promotional back orders, that I received it when I did.

I read, nay, drank in When Breath Becomes Air in 8 straight hours. I experienced a flash flooding of memories and parallels that this book brought forth concerning my own mothers death, some painful, many of them comforting—more on this later.

When Breath Becomes Air, is about author Paul Kalanithi’s decade worth of training towards becoming a neurosurgeon—only to find out that he has terminal lung cancer in his last year of residency. The book details the many transformations and rebirths that Kalanithi experiences as he bravely and humanely comes to terms with his impending death sentence. Or does he? Can we ever really be ready?

Paul Kalanithi Photo: © Norbert von der Groeben

While it’s certainly not the first memoir to be written by someone describing their terminal illness as they were actually cycling through it, it was unique in that Kalanithi had a previous interest in the emotional response to death and dying and how to parlay that to his patients before he was ever diagnosed with terminal cancer. His young age (he was 36 when diagnosed), his wake of incredible accomplishments, coupled with his exceptional facility for writing, all added a unique dimension to this memoir for me. The-doctor-who-becomes-the patient narrative is also poignant as we see him go through the various Kübler Ross stages of grief—albeit, he humorously notes, backwards! It also gives readers a window into how Kalanithi, with his ambitious nature decided to spend his remaining time. Time becomes a precious commodity and the present moment takes center stage.

He writes:

Everyone succumbs to finitude. I suspect I am not the only one who reaches this pluperfect state. Most ambitious are either achieved or abandoned; either way they belong to the past. The future instead of the ladder towards the goals of life, flattens into a perpetual present. Money, status, all the vanities the preacher of Ecclestiasties described hold so little interest; a chasing of the wind indeed.”

In Kalanithi’s case, he and his wife decide to go ahead and have a baby through IVF before his cancer treatment starts. This was one of many passages that turned me into a human puddle from weeping my face off.

Will having a newborn distract from the time we have left together?” she asked. Don’t you think saying goodbye to your child will make your death more painful?”

Wouldn’t it be great if it did.”

***

My mother passed away from breast and uterine cancer that ultimately spread to her brain almost 3 years ago this April 1st. The spread to her brain was a surprise—as a family we collectively thought she was on the mend after she had her breast removed and went through chemotherapy and radiation. Her hair fully grew back, and while the toxicity of these poisonous medications altered her emotionally and physically, we were hopeful that she was going to recover. She then took a turn for the worse, complaining of migraines and began to fall. We thought it was possibly a stroke, and were not prepared for the shocking emergency room diagnosis that the cancer had spread to her brain and that she had days, maybe weeks to live.

She thought she possibly had the flu, and it was utterly heartbreaking having to tell her the diagnosis, after learning of it privately. How do you tell your own mother in so many words that she will never leave the hospital? We were in utter shock. It took us 48 hours of consulting with doctors on how to do just that, whilst unbeknownst to her we began a regimen of treatment to contain the growth of her tumours. I had never lied to my mother in my entire life, and those 48 hours before we told her were an absolute exercise in inner resolve and digging deep deep deep into the ‘soul well’ for every ounce of strength I could muster. I had to pretend that tests were still being done, making sure to never cry in front of her or lead her to believe anything was awry. It was gut wrenching.

When she was told, she accepted the news bravely and with grace. And although the doctors gave her an option to attempt a surgery, she knew it could be fatal or barely stave off the inevitable. The first night that she was moved out of emergency and into a temporary room, I spent the night sleeping with her in her bed, clutching on to her and kissing her, not knowing how much time she had left. I honestly felt g-ds presence with me in that room, in a way I had never felt before in my entire life.

Luckily she lasted 5+ weeks in palliative and did not lose her mental capacities, in the ways we had all feared in those last days. She was most definitely over compensating, but she always knew who her family was, and this was the biggest blessing to all of us.  The month of March brings with it bittersweet memories for me, each day marked with a visceral flashback tied to the weather, scent and certain music that I can barely get through listening now without falling apart. The frisson of winters thaw and impending spring is one that will be forever tied to saying goodbye to her. I recall the sunshine pouring through my mothers hospital window in mid March, with part of me wishing it would stay dark, and winter-like so she wouldn’t feel badly that she would be missing spring.

All of my senses were extraordinarily heightened during that time. I had bionic hearing. All smells were that much more potent. I was a veritable skin covered satellite dish. To say that the spiritual and cosmic dots were aligning and unfolding on a daily basis would be a criminal understatement. Words really don’t do those last synchronistic weeks justice, so I’m going to stop trying for now.

So many parts of this book reminded me of that long stretch of time, watching my mother slowly pass. The book describes the various brain surgeries Dr. Kalanithi worked on during his residency (so gruesome were the details that many times I actually gagged or looked away from the copy as if it were a television screen.) Despite the squirming, I did glean valuable information that reminded me of my mothers case, the various places where tumours can exist and how they can affect different emotions, memory and language. 

It brought the memory of those first 24 hours of my mother in the emergency room into focus, as looking back— after months of experiencing depression—she was actually smiling while we were taking various tests to see what was wrong with her. Her memory was also exceptional, that I’m convinced her tumours were pressing on some sort of happy centres at that point. Her relatively good mood, despite the diagnosis was ever-present for her first full week in palliative. It was an absolute blessing to see. It was also a comfort to be reminded through the book of the close relationship between Dr. Kalanithi and his oncologist. One of the issues that clenched my heart in my mothers last days were that she never discussed that she was going to die with me. I realise this was her protective nature, and was reminded through the book that there were doctors, nurses, and other friends and relatives available for her to discuss these issues if she wanted to.

In the books epilogue Paul Kalanithi’s wife Lucy, writes a posthumous update through loving reflections on her husbands last days. She explains that Paul passed away one year ago this coming March 9th, and again I wept as if I had just lost a very special friend.

He was only 37 years young.

Among her many passages that resonated with me;

Paul napped comfortably in the afternoon, but he was gravely ill. I started to cry as I watched him sleep, then crept out into the living room, where his fathers tears joined mine. I already missed him.”

This lodged an enormous peach pit in my throat upon reading it. It still does, just writing these words. So many times upon leaving my mother’s room, I felt the exact same way. I missed her already. So many times I longed to cry to my mother about LOSING MY MOTHER, but that was obviously impossible. I missed her before I physically lost her, and especially in those last days, the world of the dying becomes that much insular and they slowly pull away from the living.  

But not before I got repeated I LOVE YOU’s that I hold in my heart forever. She passed in the early morning of April, 1st, at 7:45 am lovingly surrounded by her sister, her daughters and grandchildren.

***

Paul Kalanithi’s knowledge of literature and poetry were awe-inspiring and an ongoing theme in When Breath Becomes Air. A compelling standout was how he repeatedly used writer Samuel Beckett’s seven words to help him get through some of his toughest days. 

They read: “I can’t go on. I’ll go on.”  

Simple—yet potent, reminding me of a quote that helped me absorb my own personal grief.

That time
I thought I could not
go any closer to grief
without dying

I went closer,
and I did not die.

~Mary Oliver

***

To my dear readers,

I realise this is an off-brand post filled with the uncommon spillage of my own emotional graffiti and not the usual pop culture brilliance, yet frivolity that I normally employ in this space. It was what had to pour out of me after reading this book and I hope you can cull some sort of meaningful takeaway for yourselves. While I read this book quickly, it took some time for me to get through writing of this post, as it was quite painful to relive the loss of my mother as it is every year at this time. This post went through various incarnations, rewrites, and many tears.

However, I don’t see it as a coincidence that it is ready to be published on the eve of Paul Kalanithi’s one year anniversary of his passing, and on International Womens Day.

So with that in mind, I dedicate this post to the strongest, most selfless, and loving woman I have ever known.

My beloved mother Evelyn, who I miss every day—but especially every year in March.

XOXO,

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 P.S. …And now back to our regular programming → *Makes fart noises with my armpit.

The Fur Nails Trend: Yeaaaa, No.

Photo: Libertine NYFW

If you’re just tuning in, you should know that here at The Pop Culture Rainman™, a nail trend story, ANY nail trend story gives us warm and cozy amniotic fluid *feels* on the reg.

The Reason?

a) Nail art is the gift that keeps on giving and is a trend writers evergreen-content bestie.

b) It keeps the lights on at our head office and has helped fund my dream of bringing my production of the 1986-1993 runaway TV hit Perfect StrangersThe Musical to off off off broadway.  

P Strangers

…I’m thinkin’ Simon Helberg for ‘Balkie Bartokomous’

untitled

…and Michael Cera for ‘Larry Appelton’—but I’m still working out the deets.

c) Who am I kidding, our ‘head office’ is my bedroom and I pay an occasional intern in Benzos and leftover Swag that “I don’t care for.

Ahem. Where were we?

Ah yasssss, Nail Art…is a huge audience draw for The Pop Culture Rainman™, and that is why it hurts me to say that the latest nail art trend of hideous Fur Nails is one that I cannot endorse. 

It all started at the Fall/Winter 2016 runway show for fashion label Libertine at New York Fashion Week. Jan Arnold, whose work I adore as style director of CND nail polish came up with the concept, which incorporated FAUX-FUR on the digits of all the models. I put faux-fur in bold letters, as I wanted to make clear the distinction, as anything else would have enraged me, being that I am militant ANTI-FUR.

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Fur Nails : Do Not Try This at Home

In the words of  my best friend who commented on one of my many experimental whacked-out hair colors whilst I was still in university; “it’s great for the clubs, but bad for the library.

Translation: Leave it for the runway, but do not try this at home. Also, do the kids even go to the library to study anymore?

I have to say I do appreciate this ↓ Troll Doll version from Instagram Nail Artist Narmai.

Troll Dolls

I mean that is super cuuuute stuffs amirite?

To sum up, in the bold words of Dr. Seuss who was most definitely tripping his balls off when he wrote the classic Green Eggs and Ham:

I could not, would not, on a boat.
I will not, will not, with a goat.
Not in the dark! Not in a tree!
Not in a car! You let me be!
I do not like them in a box.
I do not like them with a fox.
I do not like them with a mouse.
I do not like them here or there.
I do not like them ANYWHERE

 

Yeaaaa, No.

XOXO

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