Immerse yourself in art

Van Gogh immersive exhibit

Last weekend, my girlfriend Leslie and I went to the Van Gogh Immersive Exhibit in Toronto.

It wasn’t at all what I expected, but was quite interesting. I expected to walk through a gallery of rooms of Van Gogh’s art projected on walls, but you actually enter one room and stay there the whole time as the theatrical experience engulfs you.

It was a massive space—the exhibit is showing at The Toronto Star building at 1 Yonge Street and I suspected the space on the first floor was the former printing plant.  

The first time we watched the 35-minute production, we simply admired Van Gogh’s masterpieces paired with classical music as they surrounded us in 360-degree views projected on the walls and floor.

Van Gogh’s famous sunflowers, lilies and almond blossoms surrounded us, followed by a starry night, scenes of fields and cafes, and portraits of courtesans, farmers and compatriots of his day.

The second time we watched it, the images transformed in a new way, dancing across the walls, rising and falling, coming to life. The smoke from a cigar billowed upward, a steam train rolled across the countryside, and a windmill slowly turned amongst threatening clouds as the animated images immersed us in their beauty and brushstrokes.  

Art aficionados and purists may balk at commercializing works of art and masterpieces, but for me it created a new and wondrous appreciation of the work of Van Gogh.

Here are some pictures of the exhibit. The Van Gogh 360 exhibit is on until May 30 in Toronto and this summer at Lansdowne Place in Ottawa. Be sure to put it on your summer vacation happy act list.

Van Gogh a starry night
A starry night
Van Gogh painting
Van Gogh art
Van Gogh lillies
Van Gogh masterpiece
Van Gogh's lillies

Know where you belong

sign that says happiness is knowing where you belongI’ve spent the last four days in Toronto. It struck me more than ever, that even though I was born there, I don’t belong there.

Toronto is an amazing city, but like with any large city, there is the good, the bad and the ugly.

Toronto the good

Stunning skyscrapers, lakefront paths and parks, festivals and events, fine dining and shopping, and people of every faith, race, culture living for the most part in respectful harmony.

Toronto the bad

Relentless traffic, air pollution, soaring housing prices, long commutes and endangered greenspace from concrete sprawl.

Toronto the ugly

Poverty, homelessness, and indifference. Both days, walking the few blocks to my course in the financial district, I walked past at least a dozen people sleeping on the street. One man was lying in the middle of the sidewalk sideways and was so still, he could have been dead. Everyone, EVERYONE including me stepped around him and walked by. I’m still ashamed.

This week’s #HappyAct is know where you belong. United Ways across the country are kicking off their campaigns. Get involved, give and help change lives locally where you belong.

Visit a Toronto landmark before it’s too late

Honest Ed's signTwo Toronto landmarks only blocks away from each other are closing soon: the Brunswick House and Honest Ed’s.

It’s a sad end to an era.

I have fond memories of both these Toronto institutions. I remember scouring Honest Ed’s for bargains as a cash-strapped Ryerson student. Walking into Honest Ed’s was a smorgasbord for the senses. Housewares, clothing and knick knacks were crammed into every nook and cranny of the store, forcing you to walk sideways through the aisles. It was quite the place.

And then there was the “Brunny”. The Brunny was the second home for Ryerson and University of Toronto students.

We’d stake our spot at one of the Brunny’s long tables after class in the late afternoon. At that time of day, it was just the die-hard regulars drinking and talking. But by night-time, the place became a raucous party, beer hall style. By 11 o’clock, the washrooms had an inch of beer on the floor and there was a line up out the door.

You didn’t order beer by the glass at the Brunny. You ordered beer by the tray–$27 for a tray of 30 glasses. Years later, they replaced the trays of glasses with pitchers—it was never quite the same.

Brunswick house signThe best part of the Brunny by far was the entertainment. Carla and Rockin’ Irene, two old birds in their seventies would take to the stage. Irene would belt out old bar and war songs like Roll out the Barrel, and It’s a Long Way to Tipperary while Carla banged away on the piano keys. Nate replaced Carla, and the good times rolled on.

Dave and I had our first kiss coming home on the Go-train after a night at the Brunny. I often think I have The Brunswick House to thank for my marriage.

The Brunwick House closes its doors on March 31st. It’s current owner has extended an invitation to all its patrons, past and present over its 140 year history to come for one last drink and to celebrate the Brunny’s last dance.

Honest Ed’s will close its doors on December 31, 2016.

This week’s #HappyAct is to make a final trek to one of these Toronto iconic institutions. Or leave a comment sharing your favourite memory of Honest Ed’s or The Brunswick House. If we can’t make their final call, we can at least virtually raise our glass in their honour. Cheers to them and to the wonderful memories they gave us.

When it rains, it pours


lake and rainI’m sitting in my sunroom looking out at the rain gently fall on the lake. It’s been a tough week on all fronts–work, home life, worrying about the health of loved ones and challenges at every turn.

One of those weeks where you wonder what more can life throw at you.

It can seem almost overwhelming at times. What do you do to get through when life pours down on you?

During the last three days in Toronto, when I spent more than 12 hours in traffic shuttling back and forth between work and Joseph Brant Hospital, I tried to snatch a few precious moments where I could to forget life’s worries.

A short walk in the rain. Treating myself to a frothy overpriced McDonald’s latte.

I came home, hugged my children, slipped into my hot tub, then curled up with my daughters to watch a movie. My worries were still there, but I was home, and with the people I loved, and all of a sudden my problems didn’t seem as insurmountable.

This week’s #HappyAct is to find a few moments of happiness when life pours down on you. Here’s to a better week.