Novella Team Share Some of Their Worst Dates

Art work by Michelle Cheung for Novella Magazine

Who hasn’t had one of those dates that make one reconsider lifelong singledom or better yet question the very foundations of creation myths based on two strangers meeting and not killing each other immediately? The struggle — the struggle to live just a few hours a day with a real sense of belonging and companionship — is real. Especially in this urban landscape wherein some two million people mete out a living. We collected here some traces of said struggle, dried on the walls of our memories like some early cave paintings of portent.

Hoon, Managing Editor

Thought it was a date. It wasn’t.

Adina Heisler, Contributor

If you’re a single bisexual or pansexual woman out in the world you’ve probably come across the term “unicorn” before. For the people out there who think a unicorn is just a mythical animal, let me explain. Some straight couples are under the assumption that all bisexual, pansexual, or in any way queer women (but especially the first two) want to have threesomes with then. Look, if you wanna have a threesome that’s totally your business, but the assumption that someone’s sexual orientation makes them automatically down for that is just not true. Anyway, a few months ago I matched on Tinder with a girl that seemed pretty cool. We got along really well over chat and decided to meet in person for coffee. The date itself was totally fine. After, she asked if I wanted to meet again and she said “Sure, I’d love for you to meet my boyfriend too.” I asked if they were in an open relationship or something similar and she said “No, but we’re trying to find a girl to be a third with us.” I was totally flabbergasted. “Why did you think I would want that?” I asked. She responded, “I mean, you said you were bi…” Ok. No. Just no. Needless to say, I never saw that girl again. Hopefully she and her boyfriend have since decided to be more upfront about what they want, and not assume every bi girl wants to be in a threesome with them.

Claire Ball, Contributor

For our second date, he invited me to his house to order Chinese food and watch movies. When I got there he had already ordered $50 in Chinese food so I offered to split the cost with him (we were poor university students and I wanted to be nice and fair). He insisted that it was okay and told me not to worry about it. The food arrived and we decided to watch a Harry Potter movie (this was basically the highlight of the night for me). A quarter of the way into the movie he asked me if I wanted to go upstairs to “take a nap.” I told him I didn’t want to sleep with him and the rest of our night continued as we awkwardly finished Harry Potter. A few days later (after I told him I wasn’t interested in him), he proceeded to tell one of our mutual friends that I was a bitch who “used him” for free food and dates. Really, he was just mad I didn’t want to date him because, after I broke it off, he begged me to keep seeing him the rest of the summer (lol).

Natasha Grodzinski, Contributor

I went out for coffee with this guy I’d been seeing for a little while and the conversation consisted of him telling me 1) my taste in movies was terrible, 2) my taste in TV shows was terrible (YOU’VE NEVER SEEN BREAKING BAD?????), 3) my taste in music was terrible, and 4) I don’t drink coffee the way it should be drunk. The exact level of his douche-ness hadn’t been revealed to me until that crucial moment and I swear, somewhere far away, I could hear the sound of a plane entering a nose-dive.

Kimberley Drapack, Contributor

I don’t date. I’m not saying that in a fun-loving, quirky way where I have somehow met my soulmate before the ripe age of 18 and we’ve happily been together ever since. It’s more just that I’ve never really been comfortable with the concept of dating. Putting yourself on display and having to prove you’re worthy enough for that second round of Prosecco at an over-priced wine bar. For this reason, I don’t have a “worst date” story to share with you darling Novella readers, but I will say, make sure whoever you are spending your time on is someone worthy of your time, because, yes, you are worth that second (or third) glass of sparkling wine.

Christopher Zaghi, Fashion Editor

The unbearable entirety of my last relationship. XO, b***h

Catchin a cold at Toronto new surf shop

Aliya N Barnes in front of Elie Landesberg’s photo.
Photos by Sveta Soloveva 

Try on a juicy rash guard, flip through a surf magazine, grab a board of your dream and … go surfing!

Are the Great Lakes too cold for you? Don’t worry, Surf the Greats company got you covered. Their new surf shop and café at 276 Carlaw Avenue offers thick cold water wetsuits, surf booties, and mittens from Rip Curl. While the warmest gear keeps your body comfortable, the beach-inspired events and parties will take care of your mood. For example, until July 29th, Catchin A Cold photo exhibit showcases works from 16 artists who represent all five of the Great Lakes.

Hidden in the labyrinth of the building, the shop became one of many surfers’ favourite spots in Toronto even before it opened. Even while under construction, it hosted Toronto’s premiere of environmental movie Island Earth and welcomed adventure photographer Chris Burkard who was in to Toronto to present his surf documentary Under An Arctic Sky.

Now the shop is officially open and it offers everything surfers need for their soul and body, from surfboards, apparel, sun care, and printed matters to surf and yoga lessons, energizing drinks, and many exciting events like film screenings and live music concerts!

“The atmosphere is totally amazing,” said 20-year-old Aliya N. Barnes, who attended the grand opening party on June 29th. “It’s colourful and bright, but it still has a nice surf chill feeling. I feel like I wanna live here.”

Surf the Greats’ owner Antonio Lennert said that the physical shop is an extension of their online platform that brought many surf enthusiasts together through organizing beach cleanups and free yoga classes and offering surf equipment and lessons for the last three years.

“We started online as a media outlet to connect all different communities of surfers over the Great Lakes using hashtag ‘surf the greats’,” he said. “I feel like we’ve earned the community’s trust by giving, and now the community is giving back to us. That’s why now we have a home, and there’s so many people here and so much positivity. It just feels very special.”

Surf the Greats’ sign over the bar table is shimmers in its juicy colours, shifts from pink to blue and from blue to green. Dj Great Lake Shark (Ellie Landesberg) creates a tropical vibe with folktronica tracks until the band Gold Complex takes over with their live acoustic.

Gold Complex performs at the surf shop on June 29

Guests sample RISE Kombucha, order beer from Sweetgrass Brewing Co., and explore newly arrived surfboards and apparel. There are a couple of major brands like Vans Canada and Rip Curl, but Surf the Greats tries to stay local as much as possible and carries products from Montreal, Tofino, BC, and Toronto, along with their own brand.

Walking through the rows of beach bags and rash guards, the visitors occasionally stop and stare at the photos of Catchin A Cold exhibit. The sixteen photographs vary from black and white to colourful, and show surfers riding or waiting for waves, walking to and staring at the water. “What you see on the walls is a mix of professional photographers and people who go to beach with their phones,” said Lennert. “We tried to make sure that we represented all the Great Lakes, amateur and professional photographers, male and female photographers.” Surf the Greats announced the photo competition in the winter and, working with Vans Canada, selected the winning works out of 700 submissions.

Dj Great Lake Shark (Elie Landesberg) creates a tropical vibe at Surf the Greats’ grand opening party
“I took this photo in Scarborough, Ontario, in a very-very stormy day, and there was one surfer out in very turbulent water,” Elie Landesberg told Novella about his black and white photo. “Because the sky was so grey and the birds were blowing around the sky, I thought it was a metaphor for my life and for surfing to see somebody sitting insulated, so calm among so much turbulence and chaos.”
Lennert said Surf the Greats will host a new event every week. Many of them are free or by donation. Check out a screening of a the surf movie GIVEN on July 20, a wave forecasting workshop on July 29th, and beach yoga every Sunday morning.
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Novel Ideas: The Stories of John Cheever

John Cheever in Ossining, New York, 1976

John Cheever has not had a good posthumous career. He is not widely read today nor is he regularly included in school curriculums where reputations live and grow; the setting of Cheever’s stories and what it’s come to represent being under general social and cultural scrutiny — and such scrutiny, anachronistic or otherwise, being generally popular —, Cheever’s stories themselves have often come under attack. ‘Cheeveresque’ has become synonymous with suburbia and middle to upper middle class and dismissed as misogynistic or just another dead white male voice. He has, somewhere along the way, become an author an English major is proud to have graduated without reading (the list may very well include some of Shakespeare’s better-known tragedies, T.S. Eliot, Kipling, etc.).

It should be noted that Fitzgerald — Cheever’s immediate predecessor — and Salinger — his contemporary —, whose primary subject was middle and upper middle class America, continue to be a part of the literary lexicon of our time. Jay Gatsby’s ascension to online bibliophiles’ points of reference and continued presence in ‘The Most Beautiful Quote…’ lists would have surprised even Fitzgerald himself, while Holden Caulfield maintains something of a cult status. Cheever the man, while alive, was not prone to scandal and notoriety as the Fitzgeralds were, or did his stories end up in a Southern School District’s list of banned books.

Cheever’s contemporary reputation, whatever remains of it, is largely shaped by Blake Bailey’s long biography published in 2009 that gives in full and lengthy detail the personal struggles of the troubled author; his daughter’s, Susan Cheever, memoir, Home Before Dark, published just two years after his death in 1984, which revealed her father’s closeted bisexuality and his lifelong struggle with alcoholism; and the posthumously published journals and letters that didn’t really paint a brighter portrait of the author but furthered the image of the man in a mire of emotional crisis and financial troubles.  Perhaps the fact that Cheever isn’t read so much today has more to do with the convergences of these factors that define the author outside of his works: mid-century America, suburbia, his bisexuality, his marital troubles, his strained relationships with his children, alcoholism.

Cover of Vintage International Edition of ‘The Stories of John Cheever’ (2000)

But there’s more to Cheever than the sum of the words written about him, as there are more to Cheever’s stories than the most immediate images of swimming pools and backyard barbecues. In them, bright images — or technicolor, as it was for Frank Perry’s 1968 adaptation of ‘The Swimmer’ — turn sour, sooner or later, and in Cheever’s mastery of the form, the souring makes perfect sense. Central to Cheever’s stories are not particularly 20th-century American notions of glamour of living fast and being peculiarly close to violence, the likes of which can be found in Fitzgerald and Hemingway alike. What lurks behind closed doors of Cheever’s well-to-do suburban houses and apartments, and in the crevices of safety and security of social status and wealth is an element of criminality, of venal sins, small in scale but outsized in moral connotations.

In ‘The Enormous Radio,’ Cheever’s 1947 breakout story in the New Yorker, Jim and Irene Westcott, “the kind of people who seem to strike that satisfactory average of income, endeavor, and respectability that is reached by the statistical reports in college alumni bulletins,” brings home a radio that transmits sounds from nearby apartments. After a series of bizarre and Kafka-like instances of eavesdropping and paranoia, Jim reveals to Irene the family’s financial crisis and, to obtain a moral high ground, reminds her of how she stole her sister’s inheritance and how she went to get an abortion as if she were “going to Nassau.”

One of Cheever’s more celebrated story, ‘The Housebreaker of Shady Hill,” begins Johnny Hake’s description of his house in an upstanding Upstate New York suburbs: “We have a nice house with a garden and a place outside for cooking meat, and on summer nights, sitting there with the kids and looking into the front of Christina’s dress as she bends over to salt the steaks, or just gazing at the lights in heaven, I am as thrilled as I am thrilled by more hardy and dangerous pursuits, and I guess this is what is meant by the pain and sweetness of life.” Johnny Hake then proceeds to tell us how he was fired from his job, lied to his wife, and resorted to stealing his neighbor’s wallet to make ends meet.

The resolution of this particular story says much about Cheever’s stories in general: Hake’s employer calls him and rehires him. That the reestablished order is tenuous and fragile at best is perhaps what makes the tranquil night of a backyard barbecue as thrilling as stealing. Or perhaps that the tranquility, the contentedness, are themselves stolen. If so, from whom or what? Or more importantly, when will they come back to get it?

In a 2012 essay in the New York Review of Books, Allan Gurganus, who studied under Cheever at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, wrote, “If [Cheever’s] fiction still throws off salt spray and blinding daylight, his company amused, intrigued, specialized in dares. He always wanted to have a good time. ‘What’ll we try for fun now, and next, and…?'” Gurganus’s account of Cheever’s company differs with others that speak to his genuine inability to maintain relationships and of his close bond with his dogs as the only close bond the author had in his life. It’s difficult, and perhaps meaningless, to attempt to understand Cheever the man three decades after his death. But as for his characters, they are indeed full of intrigue, desirous of good times, and also full of darkness, weighted by unnamed remnants from past that, even in grand company, they are alone.

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Cold and Amazing: Recent Events to Celebrate Surfing in Toronto

Antonio Lennert says his company Surf the Greats partners with some local exclusive brands for their new surf shop in Leslieville that will open on June 29th. Photo by Sveta Soloveva

Even though many Torontonians think they have to travel far to surf, the local community of wave riders is growing in popularity. More and more people are popping up on the boards in the midst of lakes Ontario, Huron, and Erie.

The adventure and lifestyle company Surf the Greats is going to increase the excitement for the new obsession even more with a couple of big surf events. The screening of Under An Arctic Sky at The Royal (608 College Street) welcomes its renowned adventure photographer Chris Burkard this Thursday. The other — opening of a surf shop/cafe in Leslieville next month — will get surfers everything they need for their soul and body.

Over the past three years, Surf the Greats has been fostering the local surfing community through film screenings, art exhibitions, beach cleanups, surf lessons on the Great Lakes, and surf camps in Nicaragua, Mexico, and Costa Rica. This year the company partnered with Chris Burkard Studio to present the documentary Under An Arctic Sky by Burkard and filmmaker Ben Weiland. The film follows six surfers in the most remote corner of Iceland.

Surf the Greats’s CEO Antonio Lennert said he’s excited to meet Burkard in person for the first time“[Burkard]’s been a big inspiration for us to get outside, explore the nature and take beautiful photographs,” he said.

In order to spread the world about surfing in Toronto, the event will also screen two local short films: On Days Like These You Must Surf by Jake Kovnat and Sweet Water by Andrew Wyton“They were the best short films on Great Lakes surfing we’ve seen so far,” said Lennert. “I thought it would be a great opportunity for local filmmakers to show their work to the big name surf-photographer and filmmaker.”

Kovnat and Wyton were each going to their surf spots over the course of Novella’s interview with them: to Hawaii and to Lake Erie, respectively.

“I feel so amazing! I feel high every time I come in from the surfing on the lake,” said Kovnat. “No matter what else is going on in my life, it feels incredible.”

His black and white documentary tells the story of Larry Cavero, who, together with Lennert, introduced Kovnat to surfing on the Great Lakes. Every time Kovnat shares his surfing experience, the excitement grows in his voice: “I heard about surfing in Toronto around 2013, 2014…And in 2015 I met Antonio and Larry. That was the first time that I went to surf by myself. In the process, Larry actually sold me my first wetsuit and he let me borrow a surfboard just for free. So, I went out on lake Erie and I did horribly, but it was so cool to be out there in the water. And water is really cold. You were always told to be careful and safe in the water, and then you are out there, you feel amazing.”

Kovnat said, as his film was self-funded and all the participants donated their time, the most difficult part for him was the production and getting everyone together:

“When you do a ‘passion project’ like this with basically no money but a really great story, you have to work around the schedule of your crew and schedule of the waves, which is completely unpredictable.” The best part for him was getting shots of Larry and his daughters in Larry’s house and seeing Larry “living his life outside of the water.”

For Wyton, who has shot videos about surfing before, the weather was always one of the most challenging things. “You can never shoot in the wind because your lens will be drowned in the water,” he said. “It’s frustrating just keeping your lens clear all the time.”

Wyton said he enjoyed observing nature and capturing its mystery, which inspired him to do even bigger projects in the future. “I’m happy, but I’m never satisfied,” he said. “I’d like to make another one [film], but I’d like to get more professional surfers.”

The screenings of the three films will be followed by a Q&A with Burkard and a 20-minute presentation about the documentary. The guests will be able to talk to Burkard and purchase his new book. 

Lennert added that they wanted to organize a similar event in 2014 when Weiland and Burkard released their film The Cradle Of Storms. However, it took them a long time to build the network with the Californian producers. “We just opened our company, so we didn’t have enough connections to make it happen,” Lennert said. “We’ve been in touch with him [Burkard] since then. And when we saw he’s releasing his new film, we reached out to him and his producers in California… It took us a while to find the right venue in Toronto that could accommodate 350+ people at an affordable rate. It was a big risk.”

During the event, Surf the Greats will also announce the grand opening of their new shop in Leslieville on June 29th. Lennert said his shop will have everything surfers need: boards, wetsuits, and exclusive clothing brands from Tofino, Montreal, California, and New Jersey. It will be a kind of surfers’ hub with a small cafeteria and space for workshops, yoga classes, and live screenings of surf competitions like the World Surf League (WSL).

“Now we have only one surf shop in Toronto,” Lennert said. “And we don’t actually have the space where the community can hang out outside of waves. So this is going to be a kind of a community’s home.”

VIP-tickets are sold out. Click here to find a last-minute GA ticket. 

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Ones to Watch: Five Artists for our Times

Disorientation is normal; it’s never been easy to cope. But goddamn it if the levels haven’t reached that final boss level these days. These five artists don’t really talk about the Saturday Night Massacre or James Comey, but they are fantastic as reflections of feelings of dislocation.

Anselm Kiefer

Bohemia Lies by the Sea by Anselm Kiefer (1996)

Anselm Kiefer was born in Germany in 1945 and raised in towns near the east bank of the Rhine; he is a child of post-war Europe, its devastation, guilt, poverty, and politics and culture of national identity crisis. To look at the scale and the depth of Kiefer’s landscape is to stare at a an unpromising and faraway horizon. The poppies throughout promise momentary escapes.

Edward Steed

On a lighter note, Edward Steed, the New Yorker cartoonist, goes to Japan in his Japan Baseball Sketchbook and finds himself a little disoriented, a little fascinated. His sometimes careless and sometimes weirdly detailed and often hilarious style carries the confusion and fun of the foreigner in a foreign land well. Perhaps it is the romantic baseball audience inside that sees in Steed’s illustrations a sense of loneliness. It’s a little like, if I were forced to make a comparison, Lost in Translation for baseball lovers. Let’s go Nippon-Ham Fighters!

Winnie t. Frick

From Winnie t. Frick’s website: “Winnie t. Frick is a comic artist & illustrator based in n.y. She is a pseudonym for another woman, or perhaps she is simply a mirror reflecting the spirit animal of blissfully giving up.” Her detailed and intriguing illustrations, portraits, and comics have been featured in Guernica and Capilano Review, among others. Go read otherpeopleproblemsIt’s quiet and reflective. Sad in an enveloping and directionless way. Angst, so to speak, that didn’t go away with the pimples.

Sara Cwynar

Sara Cwynar is a Canadian-born visual artist who seem to be concerned with the lives of objects or visual representations of objects. Her series, Three Hands, Encyclopedia Grids, and Flat Death, offer visions of objects reimagined and visual representations — of celebrities, products, etc — re-presented. Kitsch, or objects that prop up dust in time and never, seemingly, return to nature so much as become foreign interjections in them, or live again ‘re-purposed’ is, considering the amount of plastic produced and dumped and the duration it takes for it to ‘disappear,’ and our relatively recent dependence on it and relative impermanence to it, depressing. Cwynar’s works makes you stop to ruminate.

Sophie Calle

The renowned conceptual artist Sophie Calle recently finished her 25-year-long public art work called Here Lie the Secrets of the Visitors of Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York. The work consists of a marble obelisk with a slot into which visitors can slide in secrets. Calle will return periodically to the famed cemetery to exhume the secrets and to ceremonially cremate them. Symbolically free yourself from your darkest secrets and thoughts.

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