Why those pants cost $175…

According to Marketing Magazine (May 27, 2002), the flagship store of the Ailes de la Mode chain of department stores will open in Montreal on August 7, 2002. It will occupy the old Eaton’s store on rue Ste. Catherine at rue University. The acquisition, renovation, and preparation is costing $40 million.

The store will employ 1000 people (all bilingual), and will feature such luxuries as a concierge, free coat check, a Bell business center, and a shoe shine service. It will also feature a 49-seat “multifunctional” room for movies and (no kidding) Saturday morning karaoke events. There will also be an in-house Berlitz language school teaching English and Spanish (but apparently not French).

Other upscale shopping necessities include a lingerie fitting service, a vodka bar, a water bar, a sushi restaurant, and a so-called French café. The very hungry can contemplate their $30 socks while eating at the 140-seat “Mediterranean-style” restaurant.

The Ailes flagship will not fill the entire Eaton’s building. Before it closed, the 1.5 million square foot Eaton’s store was the second-largest department store in the world, behind Macy’s in New York. The space not filled by Les Ailes will be occupied by “selected” retailers, such as an Archambault music store (which will be the largest one in the chain) and yet another SAQ outlet.

The Las Vegas PhilharmonicThe piece d’ resistance of the store will be an elegant staircase, modelled after the one at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, which is not only bombastically gorgeous, but is architecturally interesting in that it has no visible means of support. Les Ailes CEO Paul Delage Roberge anticipates it will become a major destination for wedding pictures. (While waiting for the photographer to set up the lights, the wedding party can get their lingerie fitted, or can get soused at the vodka bar.)

Unclear at this point is if they will get the permits for the planned specially-branded “Les Ailes” taxis (all of them PT Cruisers).

Me? I’ll stick with Schreter’s.

More on speaking French…

I was a bit early for my QWF travel writing workshop tonight, so I went to a cafe to pass the time. I had my laptop, so for amusement I went looking through some old files — the archive of my mind. I found a note-to-self containing a hopelessly poetic idea for a story set in a place where the language is song, and if you can’t sing, you can’t be understood. The hero of the story, of course, can’t sing. Duh.

In my notes I mention words in French that are difficult for hardcore anglos like myself to say, such as gauffre. This is particularly interesting because just last week I had a discussion about a gauffre shop with a francophone friend, and I managed to get through it all without once having to actually say the word.

Here’s an excerpt from the notes, with just a touch of contemporary embellishment:

In French, there are a number of words and sounds that are very difficult for someone from an anglo-saxon background to produce. An example of this is the French word for waffle, gauffre. The first part of the word, the drunk-sounding gauf, is simple enough, but the ending is impossible. The double “f” followed by the “re” create a fluttering sound, like a whispered secret. A delicate sonic texture, as if painting with feathers — impossible to create with my bulky and purposeful Germanic mouth.

The best I can manage is gauf-ruh, or worse, gauf-er. The properly spoken Gauffre, a word which begins in the gutter and ends on the whisper of a bird’s wing, remains, like the tenor of Caruso, a sound destined only for my ear, not my tongue.

There goes another one…

bring on the vidal sassoonThis time it’s Jean Paul Riopelle, dead at 78. Not only did Riopelle have the best geezer hair on earth, but he was probably the best known Quebec artist of his (or any) generation.

I have to confess that I’m not a fan of abstract expressionism, but I have a great respect for Riopelle, his place in history, and how he lived his life. In 1948 he got together with some other prominent Quebec artists and dissidents (Les Automatistes) and they created the Refus Global manifesto, railing against the cultural repression of the religious and political authorities of Quebec.

tehran?He hung out with the surrealists, and he lived the big life in Europe. He was successful, unrelenting, and uncompromising. He collected racing cars.

His work is in some of the most prestigious collections on the planet, as well as some of the most unexpected. For example, this abstraction from 1956 is part of the permanent collection at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art in Iran.

Falun What?

very peacefulAs I walked through the mall at Plaza Alexis-Nihon on my way to work this morning, I saw some people setting up a display for Falun Dafa. Anyone who has taken public transportation lately will recognize that name from the proliferation of Falun Dafa ads that are scattered throughout the Metro system.

Reading their website, one learns that Falun Dafa is a type of Buddhist martial art–not unlike Tai Chi–that is all about truthfulness, benevolence, and forbearance. It is also known as Falun Gong, which we hear so much about in the media. (For those who live in caves, the Chinese government has decided that Falun Gong is a "revolutionary movement," so they’ve banned it there, and persecute practitioners.)

When I was returning home from work at the end of the day, they were still there. I watched for a few minutes, and indeed, they looked very benevolent (as did the curious onlookers). Which is not to say they are not revolutionary, because it seems to me that if everyone practiced Falun Dafa (or even just truthfulness, benevolence, and forbearance), that would be a revolution indeed.