Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Chip trucks in Cowtown

[from The Love Lettering Project VI: Calgary]

Chip trucks always had a mythological quality in my family – the savoury cousin of the ice cream truck. My uncle used to talk about one from his childhood and I before I had even seen one myself, I could picture it exactly. In fact, I still can.

There’s something fabulous about eating outside, on the side of the road and there’s also something exciting about eating from a vehicle. I’m not a street meat fan, but ice cream trucks? Awesome. Or a Creamsicle carted around by a teenage boy on a bike? Delish, though I could do without the bells and that horrible tinny ice cream truck song.

As a city-girl, chip trucks were also imbued with the mysterious quality of being out on concession roads and small highways en route to lakes and cottages and towns with just one main street. It always seemed like a small miracle when Mom or Dad or Papa would pull over and a small white-turned-rusty truck would just be perched there on the side of the road.

I found ‘my’ chip truck maybe ten years ago somewhere between Toronto and Trenton , though I can’t for the life of me remember where I’d been going or why I was out that way. It was a super sunny day though and I had cranked the tunes. I still can’t remember why I had been driving my mom’s car alone up there…but do seem to remember the Tragically Hip a-blaring…

I even debated stopping once I saw that first sign, a hand painted arrow on the side of the highway. I wasn’t hungry had been my first thought, but I followed signs further and further away from the highway, terrified I wouldn’t be able to find my way back.

There weren’t any trees, or any grass, just a gravel parking lot and this chip truck with its small saggy awning. The man who served the fries was wearing a grumpy striped shirt and a visor that was grey around the brim. A woman that might have been his wife sat next to the truck on a Tupperware bin marked ‘potatoes,’ not doing or saying anything.

The chips took a while. They’re fresh, the grumpy chip man promised, handing me a pile of napkins and pointing to he ketchup pump. I carried my cardboard basket over to a picnic table and sat on top of the peeling green paint, with the initials of strangers carved into the top. I felt awkward sitting in this silent triangle between the grumpy visored man and his silent wife, but the chips were perfect – so, so hot, so salty and crispy, they didn’t even get soggy under the weight of the ketchup blanket.

In Calgary , with love letters in my pocket and jet lag ready to take over, I found this chip truck and like one of Pavlov’s dogs, my mouth started watering – salt, vinegar and ketchup sweet. Yum! But it didn’t look like this truck was going to be churning out chips anytime soon. There were broken windows and the signs sun-bleached and faded. It was still early March though and I hope it was just out of commission for the winter…fingers crossed…

Love to Cow-town chip-trucks. May your chips be crispy and your ketchup plentiful…

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Love Lettering Project IV: Halifax tales, Part 2

I may have mentioned that I love Hali. Love love love. Granted, it’s always been sunny every time I go, and word has it it does actually rain every now and then, but I think of that place and positively beam.

My first early morning love lettering stop was right between The Economy Shoeshop and the Seahorse Tavern, where a friend and I once had an epic Alice-falling-down-the-rabbit-hole evening that featured a bar full to the brim with Lithuanian hockey fans, a Jack Black look alike with a cowboy hat, and drinks that may or may not have been called “The Lobster Trap” and “Tall Ship.” Who doesn’t love long rabbit hole nights on the East Coast…

My next stop was to a yarn store I stumbled across the night before. I had just completed my first attempt at reading patterns with a few pairs of socks and was ready to tackle mitts. The Loop Café was even better inside that it had been peering through the window, chock full o’ huge shelves of local yarn. They even have a café upstairs – how perfect!! Tea and knitting all in one!

For me, yarn is like ribbon, or buttons or big bolts of fabric – as delightful as it is on its own, it’s always better in huge piles of different colours. And so, a love letter for the next person who dreams in ssk’s and k2tog’s…

A musician friend who has often travelled to the East Coast said I just *had* to get to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning. I was working a crazy long day, but it turned out that the market was right next to my hotel, so I managed to sneak over to ogle the buckets of flowers and admire the crepes and munch on delectable gluten free macaroons. It was too rammed and busy to covertly drop off a love letter, so I saved them for the walk along the pier.

And ooh, the pier! The wind was so strong, I think the Atlantic might have been the recipient of some love lettering bits. I am just smitten with peeling wood anything and as soon as you add sunshine on water, I’m a goner.

A wee love letter to that fabulous place:

It is a city of hills,

salt bleached footsteps

and bridges that stretch

without names.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Love Lettering Project IV: Halifax tales, Part 1

I love Halifax. I’ve only been there twice and both times were for work, but there is something positively magical about that place. I was lucky enough to have a co-conspirator in Halifax -- co-cupid-ninja, the wonderful poet and inspirer, Ben.

I had told Ben when I got into town I wanted ocean and ocean is what I got. The Atlantic was inky, and the wind was vicious, and my hands were frozen before I could even pull the love letters out of my bag.

It took the most delish mussels and sesame crusted haddock and a glass of delightful Nova Scotian red before I was fortified enough to trek up the hill to the Citadel.

The shadows were awesome and though it was too dark to capture them camera-wise, we left a love letter for the person at the Citadel info booth.

Ben took me up and down the steep hills (And I must say, as a Toronto-girl, I’m not used to hills!) and we found a lil Wu-Tang love behind the public library – time to bring the ruckus!

A church got some love, and my fav – the water fountain at the ferry terminal that had the most fabulous mosaic fish on the tiles. Oh-so-sadly, I lost the photos from this late night love lettering adventure, but trust me, Wu-Tang, mosiac fish and Citadel shadows, it was one amazing love lettering adventures!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

loving letters

I love surprises. And a letter tucked into an envelope is one of the very best surprises I can think of...

Letters never disappoint. Okay, bills and rejection letters are disappointing, but letters with your name handwritten across the envelope? Those never disappoint. Never ever ever.

There’s something so magical about the moment right before tearing open an envelope. You know that someone’s been thinking about you. You KNOW there’s goodness in store. Though I’m always careful not to tear wrapping paper (because that’s some prime crafting material, right there), I always find it hard not to tear an envelope open.

And the opening part doesn’t stop there as you still have to open up the folded pages. (Man, just thinking about it makes me want to check the mailbox!)

And then of course, the letter. Sigh. The date in the corner that reminds you that two days earlier, three weeks earlier, someone was thinking ‘bout you, how it is addressed to the nickname only that someone calls you, how their es curl just so.

I think every letter is a love letter whether or not there are sweet nothings whispered onto the page…

Thursday, March 25, 2010

a love letter to an old book (penguin edition)

From the room next door, 

you smell like high ceiling-ed hallways

and wood thick rooms, 

but from here,
 you smell 
like a voice

against single paned 

window glass.

(The small mark on your spine,

curved near the top,
 a thumbprint,

my thumbprint, 

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Love Lettering Project VI: a love letter for a Washington, DC oyster shucker

I love playing cupid-ninja in Toronto , dropping love letters along streets I walk on often, in the bathrooms of my favourite bunch spots and in laundromats that have seen countless loads of my dirty clothes, but dropping off love letters in cities that aren’t mine is positively gleeful.

One thing I love about this project is the anonymity of it – slipping love letters into books in a used bookstore and sneaking away. And to do it in a city where I don’t know very many people heightens this anonymity.

This February, I was wandering through a fish market in Washington D.C. with grit between my molars from the oyster that had been chucked by a man in a one-piece orange camo snowsuit. I think his name was John, or maybe Joe. He didn’t have any teeth and knew everyone in line, sliding his chucking knife around the edges of dirty shells and spiraling them open, six to a plate with a quarter of a lemon in the middle.

It was the second time I had ever had oysters and I was officially converted to the I Heart Oysters team.

There were bright flashing lights as if it was a carnival instead of a fish market late on a Saturday evening and the fish were stacked, gleaming, iridescent on ice. The clam chowder was piping hot in lidded Styrofoam bowls and I learned that tilapia, something I had only ever seen delicious on my plate, or in thin, frozen fillets, had black, black scales, the crow of the white fish family.

I bought a bag of shrimp, deciding I was brave enough to de-vein the little guys myself.

But the highlight of that fish market adventure was dropping a love letter at the second to last stall, right in front of the baby crabs, with their dusk-blue underbellies and slow moving legs. A love letter on the damp cement.

And then I ducked away as fast as possible. I didn’t want to see who found it. I just like hoping that someone did.

(Confession: Part of me hopes it was John, or Joe, the Oyster Man, who found it, though the chances are slim to middling. He probably had a pile of oysters to be chucked and a lineup that took over the chowder line.)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Love Lettering Project VI takes on Calgary

Yippee-yi-yo! Last weekend, the Love Lettering Project VI travelled to Calgary, home of huge skies and oh so much sunshine.


I love you at the bottom of the hill

we used to toboggan on,

years of magic carpets

and swishy snowpants,

fingers numb and held in fists

as we marched back to the top,

but there is no snow now,

just you and me,

our knees touching on the splintered bench

we were always afraid of crashing into.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Library of Congress love

I love words. And I LOVE books. But when I was approached with the chance to visit the Library of Congress when I was down in Washington , D.C. , I was really reluctant to go.

It was a sunny Saturday and there was brunch to be had and streets to meander along, apple cider to sip and a market to find…forget some fancy-pants tourist site! But I went. And am so glad I let myself be persuaded.

I’m sure there are a million odes to this glorious, wondrous building, but I was truly blown away. It was stunning. There were poets’ names on the ceiling and the most beautiful stained glass. I just wanted to spin around and around until I got dizzy and fall in a heap of bookish adoration.

(my favourite Shakespeare quote...)

It was like a church for all things book. I got myself a reading pass so I could hang out in the reading room under this huge domed ceiling that reminded me of the Vatican with its domed ceilings and huge arched windows. Sigh. The building is a love letter to all things written and all things read. Just glorious.

The sun was setting and the light was long and long – just amazing and it was only fitting that I left some love letters on the front steps…

[photo from The Love Lettering Project VI, taken by Michael A. Jones]

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Love Lettering Project VI takes on Halifax, N.S.

The Love Lettering Project VI went to the glorious town of Halifax, Nova Scotia this past weekend.

Salt bleached docks and a sun bright Atlantic. It was glorious...


With the edge of the water

burning, furious, impatient,

I love you when the season turns.


[from The Love Lettering Project VI]

Thursday, March 4, 2010

There are a lot of things I love about this love lettering project, but I’d have to say, my very favourite thing has been the number of first kiss stories people have started sharing with me. Not quite strangers, but definitely in the periphery of my social circle.

And almost everyone has framed it with ‘Oh, you’ve probably heard a million of these. You’re probably sick of them...’

But I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of hearing about people’s first kisses. They’re like finding pictures of folks you love at 13, all braces and gangly and wearing the most bizarre clothes (hellloooooo acid wash collared shirt with turquoise glasses!) – so endearingly awkward. I love reconciling the two – confident, fabulous friend with awkward basement corner couch kiss. LOVE!

CBC Radio's DNTO did a follow-up show on first kisses and breakups on Your DNTO and people called in with their first kiss stories. Swoon! I was in heaven.

Being told first kiss stories is like finding lucky pennies, and I can’t pass a penny on the sidewalk without picking it up. (I’ve even been known to stop my bike if I catch a glimpse of coppery luck!)

ps: the photo is from Valentine's Day in Washington, D.C. Cupid-brunching-photographer: Michael A. Jones.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

a love letter to a magnolia tree

your love falls

on the far corner of the front lawn,

and on the ends of branches,

pink the size of hands

petals like fingers,

holding hands

holding hands.

[from The Love Lettering Project IV]

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Love Lettering Project takes on Washington, D.C.

After 5 years of Toronto-based love, the Love Lettering Project goes international on Valentine's Day, covering snowy Washington, D.C. with papered love.

(Photos by Michael A. Jones)

Dupont Circle fountain love

Yummy market love

Snowy car love (so much snow!!!)

And some bookstore love (with a dash of Amelia Earhart lovin')


The Love Lettering Project is a guerilla art project that brings love letters to strangers. Creator Lindsay Zier-Vogel has been papering cities with love letters for the last six years by writing love poems that are turned into one-of-a-kind paper and thread collages and slipping them into air mail envelopes marked ‘love.’ She and her international squad of cupid-love-letterers then distribute these love letters all over the place -- from cherry bins and phone booths to parked bikes and unsuspecting mail boxes...


(New Zealand watch out, you're next...)


The Love Lettering Project + CBC Radio podcast

Love is in the air! Check out the podcast from CBC Radio's DNTO (about 1/3 of the way in!)


The history of The Love Lettering Project:

The Love Lettering Project I: cherry bins and phone booths
The Love Lettering Project III: odes on brambles and elegies on hawthornes
The Love Lettering Project VI: (it's a-coming...keep your eyes peeled for some Valentine's Day goodness...!)


Thursday, February 11, 2010

love letters + CBC = this saturday!

The Love Lettering Project will be on CBC's DNTO this Saturday!
First kisses abound between 2-3pm on Saturday, Feb. 13th. Oooooh, lovin'!
99.1fm if you're in Toronto, and you can always listen online...


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

a kiss on tuesday

first kiss sites: under the monkey bars, behind the skating rink, on the edge of the river, on the balcony, on an old chesterfield in a dark basement, the back of a blue Honda Corolla, the middle row at the movie theatre, at the bottom of the toboggan hill, the food court on a Saturday afternoon, a driveway, a car garage, backstage during the school play, the Halloween dance...

[from the Love Lettering Project V]

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

toboggan hill love

I love you at the bottom of the hill
we used to toboggan on,
years of magic carpets
and swishy snowpants,
fingers numb and held in fists
as we marched back to the top,
but there is no snow now,
just you and me,
our knees touching on the splintered bench
we were always afraid of crashing into.

[from the Love Lettering Project V]

Thursday, February 4, 2010

grey skies are gonna clear up...

[from the Love Lettering Project V]

Monday, February 1, 2010

dreaming of france. dreaming of summer...

[from the Love Lettering Project V]

Thursday, January 21, 2010

spoke love, an ice rink first kiss

[some love lettering love for a rainy day bike]


First kiss: behind Memorial Ice Rink:

We stand next to a pile of Zamboni ice,

mittens stuffed into pockets so that

when our hands touch each others’ by accident,

we will feel knuckles and nails

instead of factory knit wool.

[from the Love Lettering Project V]

Saturday, January 16, 2010

resolution love...


[from the Love Lettering Project V]

Thursday, January 14, 2010

movie theatres and mailboxes

oh love...

... movie theatre love...and mailbox love...

[from The Love Lettering Project V]

somewhere near ontario street

[from the Love Lettering Project V]

Friday, January 1, 2010

bench love

My vertebrae slips between slats in the wood,

and I love you salt-bleached,

the beach stuck to the bottoms of our heels.

[from The Love Lettering Project V]

The Love Lettering Project V: first kisses

The Love Lettering Project V: December 31, 2009

[first kisses]

For the fifth Love Lettering Project, I asked people I love to send me the locations of their first kisses, along with the season of this kiss and I wrote poems about these moments, turned them into small pieces of one-of-a-kind art and slipped them into envelopes marked ‘love.’

On the very last day of 2009, I delivered these love letters to the places of these original kisses -- behind ice rinks, movie theatres, basements, behind churches, porches, driveways, school playgrounds…

It was a glorious day…