The Drake Hotel

2005 03 31

The Drake - Fevered

imageA month’s work culminates in a crazy day. I should have slept last night, had something other than beer for lunch, but maybe it’s all in the name of momentum. Getting ready for the opening, getting ready for leaving and I realize that it’s become normal to live in a hotel, to sew in 12 hour shifts, to have cable. There’s not really time to think about any of this, or the people I’m going to miss and maybe it’s better like that. A blaze of glory (?) or whatever my version would be called. It’s two in the morning and everything’s over but im still humming, the vibration of a manic day hasn’t left my system yet. Ill be gone in the morning and I wont live at the Drake anymore. ive never been in a world quite like it.

This post by Ingrid Gerberick, The Drake Hotel's Artist in Residence

2005 04 01

The Drake - Insecurity Shirt

imageimage “can you still tell im a lesbian now that my hair is long?”
-ingrid gerberick, insecurity Shirt

9am: wake up and go to the Beaver for a breakfast goodbye party.
Ingrid Gerberick aka Drake Artist in Residence for the month of March is leaving us for New York this morning. Eight of us mange to arrive on time, despite the fact that we were all at the Drake celebrating the culmination of her A.I.R project the night before at ‘Notes From the Underground’.

For her residency, Ingrid Gerberick fabricated a series of Insecurity Shirts on which she projected either her insecurity (“can you still tell im a lesbian now that my hair is long?”) or embroidered your personal insecurity onto your favourite shirt. The performative result: an installation in the Underground consisting of bodies wearing their no longer closeted insecurities quite literally on their sleeves.

Exposing oneself is not new to the Drake. (Maybe this is why many, many people
were drawn to the shirt that read: “do you think I drink too much?”). From the scarified pillows dangling thread et al. in the Lounge to the overt voyeurism of the hotel’s glass washrooms, the Drake was designed to make visible what we normally keep hidden below the surface.

Playfully scratching, rather sewing the surface, Ingrid’s Insecurity Shirts made visible the process of coming out. Creating a spectacle out of speaking the unspeakable unleashed the tension that builds up within community. The dividing lines of our social identities and positioning within its fabric - whether it be sexuality or gender or job description - were disarmed by insecurities sewn in pink thread such as ”Love Me?” or “Is it okay?”. Caught in the act we were all out-ed as completely ourselves, and we were out-ed and completely ourselves together.

So completely ourselves that the Wet Spots, a singing and stripping sing along sex-ed. act all about baring all that is repressed aka sexuality, out-ed the “difference” of the female orgasm to an over exposed audience by out-ing a certain audience member: “how long does it take you to come? 10 minutes…20 minutes…25 minutes…I bet it takes you 35 minutes….45 minutes…25 seconds!!!” Surrounded by everyone’s secret insecurity summed up in a short question written on their clothing, admittedly I felt a little bit better about mine (aka is it okay that I just got out-ed in public how long it takes me to have an orgasm?).

Ingrid’s long hair cuts through the centre of the text of her insecurity which she embroidered around the collar of her suit jacket. While wearing her insecurity shirt, her declaration actually reads:

“can you tell that …………………….... my hair is long?”
The process of coming out is neither as clear cut as an announcement on a shirt nor as eruptive as being exposed and named by someone else. If our insecurities
(or…err…our…differences) are at the core of our social fabric, then Ingrid’s project successfully wove us together – scars, dangling thread, glass walls et al. Whether it be claiming territory by naming our identity, or having our social vulnerabilities named for us, the process of coming out is all about allowing ourselves to be open while occupying and creating the ambiguous spaces in between.

For ingrid
9:45am: in the beaver gulping down my coffee and saying goodbye.
If I was wearing an Ingrid Gerberick shirt it might read:
“Is it okay that im not so good at endings?”

Wednesday march 30th 2005
12.01am - 9am at the Drake Hotel
jessica rose - art director/curator

The Drake - Sirens

Sirens and lights outside the hotel. Fourteen fire trucks total! A house seems to be burning down the street. Everyone in the crowd speculates.

Break-dancers preceded this in the lounge in front of the fireplace while DJ Gus played some Malcolm McLaren.
I had started the day the same way every weekday begins - A walk down my beautiful alley that takes me from my backyard directly to The Drake. I love the alleys in Toronto. Everyone is different. This one starts with a backyard barn and ends with some Graffiti. Tonight police tell me that I can’t go home via the alley.

The Drake like a microcosm of the city itself is full of the one thing that makes me love Toronto wonderful people with beautiful souls.
The morning café blasts funk while people sip lattes under a sculpture of bicycles. I spend some time there talking to Colin, Chris and Ashley. Jessica comes in to tell me she has not finished writing the March 30th installment of “Reading Toronto”.

I leave the Drake for an early meeting at 99 Sudbury St. Only a block away it is an old warehouse that contains everything you need to make a movie. I am meeting there to discuss plans with Mikhel (who owns the warehouse) and Rob about our next project. A movie called Suck. The meeting goes well but it has started to pour rain. Rob drives me the block back up to the Drake. I see Jeff Stober (owner of The Drake Hotel) and we discuss music in the lounge. He turns up the volume and we plot what we want programmed for the crowd’s listening enjoyment. Jeff wants the music to be as wonderful as the renovation of the hotel. He worked with Third Uncle to create what has become somewhat of an intentional community. A beautiful place that you don’t want to leave full of the most incredible people. I spent the rest of the day running back and forth to the Drake and various meetings. The end of the day I find myself in a packed lounge, again with Jeff, talking music and sipping a glass of Pinot Grigio. I have a box of delicious deserts from the café under my arm for dinner back at Mihkel’s house, which is inside of his movie studio-warehouse. Steak and potatoes and Churchill port passes the early evening too quickly. Mihkel’s incredible vegetarian wife grill’s the steak while I play with their very special baby – Hannah. Matt leaves for home and I head back up the block to The Drake. In the Underground (our basement performance space) we have two bands: Manervous Beat and The Quartertones. I get there in time to catch Bill Simpson (General Manager of the Drake) and we head to the Underground to enjoy some music.
Bill is always there, it is something you can count on.

The Quartertones are about to play some turntabley-jazzy-funky-soulful sounds but we catch sultry vocalist Catherine to say hi before the show. George drops in he tells us that his 96 year old grandfather died this week which makes him conflicted about traveling to an awards show where he is nominated for a Juno Award (best director for the Feist video) and they will be playing footage he shot while pinned down in the Congo with the Warchild crew and Sum 41. Also in the room are Emily from Metric and Richie Cureton. The band is great but I have seen them before I need to get home and see my girl. That brings me back to 1:27am and the fire trucks.

2005 04 03

That Drake Cafe Kid

imageI woke up this morning at 8:17 am. Krik in my back. Damn. went back to sleep for 10 more when I remember my clock is 10 min fast (weird how it works every morning).

I decided to shave my head this morning, which took me 45 min, making me late for work. I rode my bike to work and wore my contacts, the combo of which along with my already delirious state left me feeling a bit like someone had shoved mashed potatoes into my eyes.

I've got a sniffly stuffy cold again, have to remember not to chat with customers about it, I do serve food after all (and wash my hands frequently).

I was greeted by sunshine bluegrass vixen Marnie Lee McCourty and the latest addition to the growing Drake 'Chris army' , Chris Flaro. That brings it up to 6 or 7 I think. Soon we shall conquer the universe.

I am Chris Prime. Love me.

Made a latte or 8, buttered a bagel or 6, said "$1.61, please" more times than any man should have to. All the business was from sunny spring day walkers passing through on their way to somewhere else. My manager Jenn came in around 10.. that girl gets taller every day. And puuurtier. Jeff Rogers looked at me through his bangs and said "Chris, do you write?" I don't remember what I said, but here I am writing. I think he hypnotized me or something because the next hour or so is a bit of a blur.

It was very busy in the cafe, but just not for me. To go to go to go.

The day dragged on.... I told James Simpson, singing bum, to stop singing...and felt a bit guilty.

I'm so fucking stuffed up today. Dammit.

Bruce LaBruce came in wearing an Andy Warhol T-shirt. Didn't seem to notice MY Warhol T-shirt. Curses. I made mine myself. So there.

Saw a regular named Gord... he's a closed eye talker.. you know the type: the get so intensely into articulating their thoughts that they close their eyes while talking to you. Kind of unnerving and a bit fascinating. David Christian, our former chef does this too. Could this be the secret to not coming across as an inarticulate oaf most of the time, thinking before speaking? Hmmm, I should try that.

Transexual fella (gal?) came in...white trash guy sitting across didn't seem to notice. The Mom's came with their babies, the bitchy but cool fourty-something ladies came in and ordered their "Lesbian Breakfast" as they call it (granola, fruit, and yogurt). We had our regular visit from Stephen from Queer As Folk (I think we should just give him a room to live in) to brighten up our day. He really makes us feel appreciated.

Stober stopped by, Billio breezed through.... Jasmine floated in for a bit.

I work in the cafe as a server on Thursdays and Fridays and as a bartender in the lounge on weekends. It's kind of like working at two completely different jobs. The vibe's are vastly different, yet somehow it all comes together in a delicious gooey mixture. Everybody's so lovely at The Drake...I love them all, even if I sometimes hate serving people (eeer I mean...yeah, I looove serving people).

Meetings were had,
lattes were made,
bagels were buttered,
indie rock was played,
In The Drake Cafe.

Asia came in at the end of the day and sexually harrassed me AGAIN... geez louise....That's actually one of the best things about working here... the rampant sexual harrassment I receive makes me feel loved like that slutty girl in high school with the feather roach clip on her bowling ball bag purse. Cheap and Easy. Hot. Too bad Asia's a girl... damn hot chicks...

I sat on the patio after work in the chilly Spring(?) air with Marno and Annie, who told me how she'd just bought a huge collection of dental X-rays from the 60s on e-bay. Got on my bike and came home... so nice to be riding again. Watched America's Next Top Model "Omigod, she has FLESH EATING DISEASE!!". Got a call from My Mom And Grandparents, 3 identical weather reports later I'm about ready to hit the sack. Off to bed and off to work in the morn.

Seeya at the Main Bar.

2005 04 06

The Drake - I Don’t Care

imageKurt, a cook in the kitchen, says today that M.I.A. has recently graduated from obscurity on to his personal Top Fifty Sexiest Ladies list.

"Did you see her perform here in the underground a month ago?" I ask.

"She was great." He answers.

"She was, but isn't she a bit of a flash in the pan?"

"Who cares."

I realized quickly that I fucking didn't, and niether did any one else. But when I say, "I don't care", I really mean it.

Andre Ethier

2005 04 20

The Drake Hotel - The Epic of Geena

image"Call me." Watching her mouth these words in mock seduction to a drunk passed out next to her replays in my mind. Geena is equal parts woman, man, devil and goddess presented in the most comely, commanding and compassionate package conceivable. Like all famously brilliant and beautiful women, she is the cause and the remedy for all your troubles. She’ll smack your ass hard as soon as look at you and hug and kiss you in the same breath. She’ll leave you with the image of a stunning smile and the sound of enthusiast laughter; making you feel better, making you feel cared for. And therein lies my sorrow when she is gone.

But, am I left with nothing? Not so. I have memories, a legacy of love and respect, her one-liners, thousands of her friends and colleagues and the everlasting effects of true hospitality that was her trademark and credo at the Drake. I feel special to have known her deeply and know the depth of her heart. I watch in awe at the scope of her giving and am inspired by her selflessness. I feel privileged to have spent hours along side her and witness the extent of her power and prowess as a hospitality professional. Geena has turned around impossible guests and makes service seem as effortless as picking her keys up off the floor. She treated everyone like a VIP and treated the VIPs to a shot of Jack Daniels.

At all times, I will miss her sense of humour. Anyone that was not brought to teary-eyed, falling-over, belly-clutching laughter while she was around is probably not of this earth and should probably just go. My extensive and hazardous dalliances with Mr. Daniels and Mr. Turkey aside, Geena was one hilarious broad. The deadpan delivery, the serious expression, the speed of her wit: you didn’t have gullible or stupid to fall victim to Geena’s stories, pranks and teasers. At home I watch Donald Trump pronounce “You’re fired!” to hapless apprentices and Sarah Jessica Parker and Kim Catrall make Manhattan cab drivers raise their eye-brows. All I can think is: “amateurs”. Why don’t you come to Toronto and see reality at the Drake?

There are many silly little adventures that we have lived through together, planted in my memory, eager to grow old with me and help me grow as a person. Geena you have taught me optimism; that energy and good-times will always conquer the darkest days. You’re my sister, mother, friend, teacher, and a most excellent foil for my mischievous side.

Let them grimace at the shots of whiskey, sneer at our dancing on the bar and shame our naughty jokes. We were having fun, they knew it and having you there made all the difference.

More than anything, I will strive to make your legacy of fun endure. Life is not worth living without fun, work is not worth doing if it’s not fun and love is not worth having if it’s not fun. And whenever you’re up for some fun, be sure to give me a call.

Melanie Splatt is the Director of Food and Beverage at the Drake