* * *
Last week, the insomniac and the youngest took a mini-vacation to Vancouver; the primary reason for the trip to deliver Mme. Polaire's winnings from the latest giveaway. It's always nicer to present in person rather than mailing, provided enough points have accumulated in the Air Miles Account to do so; however this generally limits personal presentations to winners living within a 1000 kilometre radius of Calgary.
Arrangements were made with Mme. Polaire to meet at Granville Island Market for lunch. After some confusion on the insomniac's part as to the actual meeting place, we eventually connected and enjoyed lunch together at the market (the insomniac had Bratwurst and Sauerkraut on a Bun, if you're interested), along with the youngest (who barely uttered a word, as she generally isn't even out of bed by 12:30 p.m. let alone being forced to eat at that unreasonable hour) and Mme. Polaire's mother.
When she was younger the insomniac briefly contemplated moving to Vancouver, but being Canada's third rainiest city combined with her aversion to wet feet and using an umbrella, ultimately decided against it - even if it does get fewer than twelve days of snow every winter. Because of the moderate climate, ivy grows rampant on absolutely anything that remains motionless for longer than five minutes. This adds a romantic appearance to many of Vancouver's older buildings - the Sylvia Hotel, built in 1912 and the hotel of choice whenever we visit - being one of them.
|R-L: The delightful Mme. Polaire in her Nevermore Dress|
and the insomniac.
Being romantically obscured by rampant ivy ...
|Completely engulfing the Sylvia ...|
For her winnings, Mme. Polaire chose four items from the Attic: an antique metal spiderweb, a Gothic metal welcome plaque, Edward Gorey notecards and a Bela Lugosi mug.
In return, she presented the insomniac with an enormous gift bag overflowing with the following: black and silver damask fabric, Hallowe'en gift bags, two CD's, a sugar skull mouse-pad, a sewing pattern we'd both admired, some little spider ornaments, a small gossamer bag filled with silver charms of skulls, spiders, owls, bats and the like, a book called Cabinet of Curiosities (which may or may not have already been read - one can't quite remember), a charming note written on exquisite antique Victorian mourning stationery, a beautiful necklace and matching brooch set of Death the Bride made by Mme. Polaire herself, a tin of homemade shortbread (consumed within 10 minutes after our return to the hotel), and lastly, a selection of chocolates which, as you can tell by the empty packaging strewn about, lasted only slightly longer than the shortbread.
It's glaringly obvious who got the better end of the deal here, isn't it?
|Mme. Polaire - 4 items.|
The insomniac - 400.
Although the primary reason for visiting Vancouver may have been to meet with Mme. Polaire, another important reason was the insomniac's longing to visit perhaps her most favourite store ever - Salmagundi West. The word salmagundi can be defined as either: 1) a dish of chopped meat, anchovies, eggs, onions, and seasoning; or 2) a general mixture; a miscellaneous collection. As one has never run across an anchovy or onion in the place, she surmises Number 2 was the reasoning behind the name selection.
|The Salmagundi Tin Collection, none of which are for sale.|
And not for lack of trying, either ...
Salmagundi is in an oddly shaped Victorian Italianate building on the corner of Trounce Alley and West Cordova Street in the historic district of Gastown. Despite the fact she has visited the store many times through the years, the insomniac can never seem to locate that particular corner on her first try, and must always walk down Water Street, turn right on Cambie and then backtrack in order to find it.
|The J.W. Horne Block, 1889|
|Lovely window detail ...|
The insomniac first discovered Salmagundi when she was seventeen. As an employee of the Canadian Pacific Railway, she used her train pass at every opportunity - Vancouver more often than not her final destination. Back in the early 70's, Gastown was full of antique and vintage clothing shops, and Blood Alley was home to many talented leatherworkers and silversmiths. When she stumbled upon Salmagundi, she felt as though she'd found the most wonderful shop in the whole world.
And while she may have difficulty remembering important things (like Mme. Polaire's mother's name, which she managed to forget less than ten seconds after being introduced) somehow she remembers her very first purchase from the store - a Victorian doll dressed in a white gown and bonnet, which was packed away just a few short months ago. She also purchased some black and gold deer hides, and remembers telling the shop owner she had no idea what she was going to do with them. Although she likes to think that particular purchase was the beginning of her love affair with leather and beadwork. It was the 70's, after all ...
Over the years she visited the store many times, always managing to leave with treasure(s) small enough to fit in her suitcase. And although she never knew the owner's name, she always felt she was remembered every time she returned, no matter how long it had been since the last visit. And then came a long period when the offspring were young, we had no money for trips and there were no visits to Salmagundi.
Finally, when the youngest was twelve, the insomniac took her to Vancouver, eager to share her favourite store with her offspring. She was bored after fifteen minutes. In order to placate her, her Sainted Mother purchased her a book, which she loved, and some candies, which she didn't.
|The hand stitched books of local artist Charles Van Sandwyk ...|
A few years later, another trip was made to the coast; the insomniac chatted with the owner about the lovely Victorian brass letter holder she ended up purchasing, along with a few more beaded flowers to add to her already large collection.
|This would probably look nice in the trailer, too ...|
Then last fall while discussing favourite places to shop in Vancouver, Mme. Polaire mentioned the owner had cancer and was in palliative care. Shortly thereafter the owner passed away, and it made the insomniac very sad to think such a treasured institution might end up closing its doors. But before she passed, she gifted the store to a longtime employee - someone who “gets” the store and plans to keep it alive in the way in which it was meant. And this time, the insomniac has made a point of being on a first-name basis with the new owner - something she regrets not doing with the former.
|The new proprietress. Anne Banner and her daughters ... |
L-R: Ariel, Anne, Honeybear and Kali
Following are just a few of the pictures taken during our recent visit. There could have been so many more ...
|Do you also find the store mascot somewhat creepy?|
|Didn't even get a chance to look through these ...|
|Isn't he adorable?|
|It looks exactly as it did the very first time |
the insomniac walked through the doors forty years ago ...
|Yes, it is ...|
|The infamous Chinese herbal chest in the basement, |
every drawer containing something different.
Zombie Mints, expanding brains, candy cigarettes just like Dad's ...
Sadly, due to poor lighting, the insomniac was unable to capture the gloriously gold-framed picture of Nosferatu under the staircase - next to the accordian and the rose-painted screen divider. But you can well imagine.
This time, the youngest made her very first Salmagundi purchase of a silver fox skull necklace. Her very first purchase with her own money, to be accurate. And though she spent considerably more time looking through the drawers of the Chinese cabinet than on her last visit, still remarked upon leaving, “You know you spent over an hour in there, don't you?” So her Sainted Mother took her across the street to New World Designs, and purchased her a new Hell Bunny dress to go with her new necklace in order to placate her.
|She was sufficiently placated ...|
Should you ever visit Vancouver and have, at the minimum, an entire day to kill, you really must visit Salmagundi West. And if you go in October, perhaps you'll run across the insomniac at the 40th anniversary gathering, which Anne has so graciously invited her to attend. This time, she'll be travelling alone and plans to set aside enough time to examine everything to her heart's content. Unless Mme. Polaire would like to accompany her - one has the impression she's a kindred spirit who'd be more than happy to look through every little cupboard and drawer before getting bored. And she probably wouldn't even mention upon leaving, “You know you spent over three hours in there, don't you?
Until next time, the insomniac wishes you nights of blissful sleep filled with pleasant dreams. Now if you'll excuse her, she's just remembered that caramel chocolate bar with black sea salt was the only one left uneaten. No sense letting it melt up there in the attic. Goodnight, my pretties.
PostScript: Probably goes without saying the insomniac didn't exactly go home empty-handed, either. We'll save that for another post.