Tuesday, October 07, 2008

nuit notes (2008 edition)

For the second year in a row, I tested my endurance during Nuit Blanche. Unlike last year, the other events over the weekend came before, not after, the all-night event. The morning was spent putting the finishing touches on an article, followed by a fantastic round of dim sum out by the airport with the monthly dining group. I tried to nap in the afternoon but only managed to spent 90 minutes in Dreamland. The challenge was to see how deep into the night I would last.

Judging from the reactions I've seen so far around the web, it looks like my big mistake was not drifting far into Zone C. I almost made it at the end of the night, but fatigue derailed those plans. I also remembered my trek through that zone last year, a miserable experience I didn't feel like repeating. C'est la vie. Despite a few duds along the way and less energy, I enjoyed this year's edition more than last year's, helped by elements not directly related to the works on display.

***

Nuit Blanche Cabbagetown: Project Beacon Nuit Blanche Cabbagetown: An Appropriate Work to Read

Though I contemplated starting in C and working my way east, Cabbagetown wound up being my first stop. Though only listed under one generic entry in the guide, the exhibits in Cabbagetown felt like a Nuit Blanche of its own. There was a strong sense of neighbourhood at work: many in the sparse crowd knew each other (I ran into a high school classmate), Parliament Street was closed off, vendors were out selling goodies other than street meat and local authors read Hugh Garner's novel about the neighbourhood. Think downsized, artier version of summer street fests. The relaxed atmosphere made it a good spot to ease into the night. Perhaps small neighbourhood clusters and a few large scale installations downtown could be a method of programming in the future.

Spiked Cabbage (2)
The cabbage lanterns were a cute touch.

Nuit Blanche Cabbagetown: Carousel
I pulled up a gym mat and caught a mix of dance and improvised music at the 509 Dance studio. Spectators were spared the spectacle of seeing my two left feet dragged onto the floor.

Nuit Blanche Cabbagetown: The Poet Tree
Who says poems don't grow on trees?

***

Next stop was Maple Leaf Gardens. The long line moved quickly, with most people happy to see a glimpse of the inside of the old hockey template. The official exhibition felt like an afterthought; the real attraction was the venue. The Gardens has rarely been opened to the public since the Leafs moved out, including an underwhelming Doors Open there a few years ago. Many seats are still in place, as is the centre ice scoreboard. Conversion back to a hockey arena is easier to visualize than Loblaws' on-again, off-again plans for a superstore.

Gold Seats
The true art was overhearing the fond memories of the crowd. Parents showed their teens where they sat. Fans bemoaned the Harold Ballard era. Photographers tried to sneak past guards to snap girlfriends sitting in one of the few remaining gold seats. I thought of Dad's tales of watching junior hockey with his grandfather in the 1950s and the tale of my grandmother seeing the first game at the Gardens.

1999 Cougrrr Still Promoted in Maple Leaf Gardens
Advertising from the late 90s was still visible. Access to the the washrooms opened more of the ground floor than Doors Open did, revealing well-preserved team store and reception areas.

***

The crowds appeared in earnest on Yonge Street. Negotiating room around the crowd? Fuhgeddaboutit. Many were flowing in and out of the park next to College Park to see if any zombies were about. There was a horde but it looked healthy, if a little confused about what was going on.

Lighting the Sam The Record Man Sign for the Last Time (2)
Nuit Blanche also marked the curtain call for the Sam the Record Man sign. The neon landmark was lit for the last time before Ryerson University expands onto the site. Shutterbugs lined Yonge Street to take their final shots. As with Maple Leaf Gardens, nostalgia ruled most of the conversations I overheard.


***

After a quick glimpse of the blue jello mould in the Eaton Centre, I wandered over to City Hall to check out Stereoscope. The building was transformed into a large pixelboard, which was easier to immortalize with a short video than fuzzy pictures.

The towers were engaged in a Pong match. The upper ramp of City Hall was open, so I wandered up to get a closer look. The views of Nathan Phillips Square and the surrounding buildings were wonderful.

Old City Hall from New City Hall Upper Deck
A lovely view of Old City Hall.

***
Business Class
The longest stop in the Financial District was Business Class, which allowed participants to enjoy the wonders of modern airline check-in procedures. Picking Memphis as my destination was not a wise one, as it led to a hands-against-the-wall security frisking with a plastic lightsaber.

Around Union Station the effects of the long night were becoming apparent in others. A group of twentysomethings mulling outside the station uttered the strangest soundbite of the evening:

My friend is from Mexico! He needs $3 to get his family out of El Mexicoville!

I won't receive any rebates from the El Mexicoville Rescue Fund on my 2008 tax return.

Horroridor
In the bowels of the station was a long line for Horroridor, two screens of famous movie screams, mostly under gory circumstances. Cut away too early from the melting Nazis in Raiders of the Lost Ark, especially the one that looked like Dad (he was razzed about the resemblance when the movie came out and was one of the reasons he enjoyed it).

***

On the subway ride up to St. Patrick, two goofs decided to perform a combination of slam dancing and acrobatics using the handrails in the car. One landed squarely on his head around Osgoode. The other passengers glanced for a moment, then resumed whatever they had been doing.

***

Cinematheque Ontario ran silent comedies all night with live piano accompaniment. Perfect excuse to rest my feet. I arrived in time for the curtain to rise on Max Linder's Seven Years Bad Luck (1921). Unlike half the audience I managed to stay awake, but my energy level wouldn't last long.

Lineup Inside OCAD, 4:25 A.M.
4:25 A.M. and there were still lineups like this one at OCAD.

I finally ran out of steam around 5. The temptation of an Ossington bus was too much to resist. The jetlag will take a few days to work itself out.

Full photo set.

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