fig. a: odd, rag-tag sign
There's always at least one point during our yearly visits to the Czech and Slovak Association of Canada's annual bazaar when we wonder whether it was worth it. It's so odd, so rag-tag, and yet for some inexplicable reason (genes? upbringing? masochistic desire?) we can't help but love it. In order to do so you have to be able to overlook the bad lighting and the stands selling windshield wiper fluid and cheap jewelry, and fixate on the positive instead. This means you take full advantage of the chlebicky table, you sniff out the traditional Czech and Slovak pastries from among the many impostors at the desserts table, you scour the books table for any and all hidden treasures, and you take in the social scene.
In some ways we had a particularly eventful visit this year. Hell, it was worth it just to see Robert, of Café Toman fame, and thank him for all the pastries and lunches we enjoyed there back in the day. Of all the Montreal institutions we've had the misfortune to see disapear, Café Toman is without question the one we miss the most. That secluded second-floor dining room, that Old World décor and ambiance, and those pastries, those beautiful Czech pastries--it's enough to make the two of us cry. And you wonder why we're so desperate for Czech desserts?
fig. b: tea time
Anyway, when we got home we did what we always do: we put on the kettle, made some tea, and sat down to enjoy our batch of sweet treats. As always, our favorites were the ones you see in the foreground--yeasted Slovak numbers filled with sweet cheese--followed closely by the ones you see in the background--yeasted rolls that have an apple filling. Then we started leafing through the Czech children's books we'd found, giving them a closer look. That's when we decided once and for all that Czech children's books are the best. Period. I mean, just look at this:
fig. c: the world according to Czech carp
Yes, that is a big carp and, yes, he is enjoying himself a frosty one. Now that's what I call a happy hour, and that's what I call educational.
Most of the books at the Czech-Slovak Bazaar are in Czech, and I'd even go so far as to venture that the bazaar is the city's best source for Czech books (certainly rare ones), but they always have some English books too and I generally find something of interest among them. This year it was a copy of Norman Mailer's The Armies of the Night (1968), his book about the 1967 march on the Pentagon, which I'd wanted to read for a long time, but which I'd more or less forgotten about until I came across a reference to it earlier this week*. On our way home we stopped by my parents' place, and it was there that I learned the news of Mailer's passing.
* The reference appeared in Chris Marker's Staring Back. Marker too had been in attendance at the Pentagon demonstrations--he even made a film about them (The Sixth Face of the Pentagon) that same year--and in Staring Back he expresses a certain amount of awe with regards to Mailer's professionalism, his ability to spin his highly abbreviated experiences at the Pentagon into a 320-page, Pulitzer Prize-winning experiment/intervention ("History as a Novel/The Novel as History").
Sunday, November 11, 2007
fig. a: odd, rag-tag sign