Wednesday, July 30, 2003

one fine weekend in southwestern ontario and southeastern michigan (2)

We zig-zagged around the city for the next hour, going back and forth across Woodward. We covered areas like Ferry St, the New Center, Boston-Edison, ground zero for the 1967 riots, Hamtramck and so on. Almost missed the Motown Museum - I thought it was on the other side of the street and the view was blocked by several tour buses. It's one of those places you've always intended to visit, but never get around to. Should have marked that as a New Year's Resolution...

One comment that kept cropping up as the others saw more of the city was how they now understood why musicians from the region like Eminem were so angry. The abandoned landscape led to thoughts about the decayed inner cores of American cities versus healthy ones like Toronto (some American exceptions were mentioned, like Boston, SF or NYC). The decay struck a nerve, especially when we crossed into the suburbs and saw the landscape change immediately. The lack of visible minorities in the burbs was duly noted.

Another thing they noticed was the size of the flags flown by businesses. In Canada, we're not used to seeing flags flapping away that are larger than a car.

Started to make stops again in the burbs, beginning with a Slurpee run in Oak Park. Big Lots was next, where Dee and Jess pondered hideous vases as potential joke gifts. Had an off day at Street Corner Music - some days you have to keep tossing discs and records back, but this wasn't one of those.

Target (pronounced tar-zhay) was our next destination. Think the gang was impressed, judging by the time we spent there and the cart full of stuff. Sounds like they want to go again in a few weeks (but a closer location - Buffalo). From Sesame Street garments to cat dishes, from cereal to video tape, items flew into the cart. Somebody would disappear then return with hands full. Mark picked up a new signature item - a cowboy hat. Items were marked out for potential future purchases. Maybe I have a future doing Target runs, like the Cherry Coke runs for the border in university.

Wandered over to the East Side next, staring at mansions in the Grosse Pointes. A quick trip to Belle Isle, where the architectural ruins were admired. Had a late dinner at La-Shish in Dearborn. Still running on my streak of not having had a bad meal there (this time soup and fattoush). We had to help Mark finish off his lamb dinner, a fine example to the group of the size of American restaurant portions. Everybody appeared to enjoy the fresh pita bread, the soups, salads and smoothies. The female members of the party also enjoyed the waiter...

Meijer (a regional supermarket chain) was the final stop. Jess borrowed Mark's hat and took a penny pony ride. Eyes popped at the wide selection of patriotic junk food. Eyes rolled at large, leaky tubes of hamburger.

Got back across the border with no problems, went back to my place and collapsed. The sleep would be necessary to get through the final packed day of the trip.

Stay tuned for Episode 3, with adventures on this side of the border...

bridging the golf

There were many things in the world my father despised, especially if it related the 50s middle-class world he grew up in. One such thing was golf. I never remember him ever going out to a course. His eyes rolled back into his head whenever it was on television. Even the mere mention of the sport caused a frown.

With this background, plus never having found the sport fascinating, I wasn't too sure about ever going on any golf days offered by my employer. Curiousity, and half of the team going, caught me this year. At best, it'd be a day away from the ding-dongs in marketing. At worst, it'd be a long, slooowww day.

All turned out better than expected.

For someone who never stepped on the links before, I didn't do badly. Sure I missed the ball entirely several times. When a connection was made, it went in the right direction. May not have gone far, but I didn't have to spent eons searching through bushes for balls. One teammate noted that as everyone else was losing their touch, I gained mine.

Tiger Woods doesn't have to fear for his career yet.

The afternoon didn't drag, as my team moved right along the easy course (nine holes played twice). Ran out of energy by dinner time, but that's expected when you've been out in the sun all day. Except for patches along my hairline, I escaped serious burns.

Think I'll go again next year...but won't be turning into a golf junkie anytime soon. Give me a volleyball or basketball anyday.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Sunday, July 27, 2003

one fine weekend in southwestern ontario and southeastern michigan (1)

Brought a carload of friends back to my hometown this weekend, a chance to get out of the city for a few days. Covered a lot of ground, which will take a few entries to tell.

FRIDAY
Had an easy drive out of the city. Stopped in Woodstock at Dairy Queen, where we sat in the parking lot with the local teenage population. Drove through London, past several sketchy strip joints ("sketchy" was a term thrown around often during the weekend) and into a livelier-than-I-remember downtown London. Maybe the place is now dead by day, alive by night, like Windsor. Arrived in A'burg around midnight, watched an episode of the Muppet Show, then collapsed for the night.

SATURDAY
Things got off to a good start at the border, where the guard joked around with us, asking if the girls were dragging the guys along for shopping. More proof the guards are friendlier at Detroit than along the Niagara River. Once across, we swung around the Hotel Yorba, then grabbed lunch at Armando's. Dee's chicken enchilladas were the hit of the meal.

After stuffing our faces, we drove by the ruins of the Michigan Central Station and Tiger Stadium (the latter site now being pursued by Wal-Mart - NOOOOOOOO!!! Don't let that be the fate of a chunk of land that provided many happy childhood memories!). Went across Lafayette, then parked south of Greektown to head over for a spin on the People Mover.

For the next hour, endless mentions of the monorail episode of the Simpsons were made.

The others were struck by the lack of people walking around. Definitely not downtown Toronto. Eerie, post-apocalyptic...these were the words being tossed around. If only they could drive around downtown Detroit on a foggy day with the sewer grates on full-steam, a sight that's pure Robocop/Blade Runner. Finally ran into other intelligent forms of life in Greektown, just in time for a group bathroom break.

I figured there'd be one in the Greektown Casino building (formerly Trapper's Alley, which used to house a store that sold only purple-coloured items and where I saw my first live sex act on a railing). The only survivors from the pre-casino days were tow places Dad and I used to eat at, the Pegasus and the Olympia. None appeared to be outside the casino, so we went in. Discovered casinos creep me out - felt very uncomfortable amidst the dull drone of slot machines, stale smoke and sad-looking characters. Also saw the largest mullet any of us had seen in years. One of the floor staff marked us as Canadians (was it the accents? the dazed wandering around?) We all tested the slots after Mark won back a dollar he threw in. Jess won $5 and stopped while she was ahead. BTW, I apologize to the others if I seemed too eager to leave...but it really did a number on me. Going to love to see my reactions to Las Vegas next week (though there will be other distractions at the gilded palaces of sin there).

(photo temporarily out of commission)
Three people in search of an elevated train
Here's the gang standing on the platform at the Greektown People Mover station. Detroit's rail system (we debated the merits of calling it a monorail) is short, cheap and a great way to see the city's ruins. Usually it runs in a loop, but the reconstruction of the Renaissance Center has forced to go in a back-and-forth pattern. We waited...and waited...and waited...and sang the monorail song a few more times...and waited...and stared at the shoe somebody lost...and waited. Once on, the others liked the art in the stations and the designs on the Guardian Building. Rather than go back around, we got off at the Millender Centre and walked through more people-free areas, such as this building on Congress.
(photo temporarily out of commission)

continued in Episode 2...

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

warehouse music annex: fairport convention

FAIRPORT CONVENTION (Polydor 1968)
Time Will Show The Wiser/I Don't Know Where I Stand/If (Stomp)/Decameron/Jack O' Diamonds/Portfolio/Chelsea Morning/Sun Shade/The Lobster/It's Alright Ma, It's Only Witchcraft/One Sure Thing/M1 Breakdown


(The 2003 reissue adds 4 tracks - covers of Leonard Cohen's Suzanne, fellow 60s musical teen Tim Buckley's Morning Glory and Richard Farina's Reno, Nevada, along with their 1967 debut single, If I Had a Ribbon Bow)

Fairport Convention began their career as a group of English teenagers heavily influenced by the sounds coming out of the US West Coast folk-rock scene, plus a dash of Canadian covers (OK, Joni Mitchell, represented twice on this album). A strong focus on harmonies is evident, especially between lead singers Ian MacDonald (who soon changed his name to Matthews and later had solo success in the early 70s covering Mitchell and Neil Young) and Judy Dyble (who left after this album, next appearing in an embryonic version of King Crimson). Listening to this album would make one think they might have headed into the developing singer-songwriter genre...but personnel changes would send their sound closer to home.



HIGHLIGHTS: Time Will Show The Wiser gets the album going at a catchy pace. A trippy version of Chelsea Morning.

LOWLIGHTS: On the reissue, the bonus tracks don't add much, especially the weak cover of Suzanne. The Lobster, like its namesake, crawls along.

VERDICT: Much different than what followed, but still an enjoyable slice of 60s folk-rock. Be warned this is an atypical album in the group's career, as they'd soon emphasize the folk end of folk-rock.

Sunday, July 20, 2003

on the radio

Spent Friday night/Saturday morning on the airwaves for the first time in several months. I didn't forget how to use the equipment, though more of it was in less-than-functional order (now both turntables and one CD player need a manual cue - the board will only send the sound out). Things seem to be in better order around there these days - they have finally started to catalogue the new releases and make it easy to figure out if anything has gone for a walk. Good new material is available, not missing after a week. Record library's still a mess, but don't think that can be helped. It's scary to still see signs posted in there from my attempts to rearrange the place...seven years ago.

Nobody called, so I can't be sure if anybody was listening. Whenever I do a late-night fill-in, there's usually a drunk or stoner who'll call in and keep pestering for stuff. Still remember the first call I ever got at the station - it was before my first show, and a little girl called in wanting to hear the Spice Girls. The request went unfulfilled because:
(1) The Spice Girls weren't station fodder at the time (no top 40 if possible...though given how bad "top 40" radio is these days, that's not a difficult task. Somebody could probably play them now out of camp value.
(2) I had just returned from England, during the height of Spicemania. Any mention of them was enough to cause a temporary loss of sanity.

Felt a little bad, since it was a little kid, but hey, them's the breaks.

As the playlist...ranged all over the rock map, from recent tunes by the likes of the White Stripes and New Pornographers to all the way back to Gene Vincent. A bit of reggae, bit o' country and Quebec rock were tossed in. A dash of soundtrack music. A pinch of outsider stuff (the unbelievable Curly Toes, the lamest striptease tune ever written, so lame nobody knows who recorded it). A couple tunes suggested by friends (Andy Stochansky and Mitsou). Vintage Detroit car dealer commercials. In short, the usual eclectic bag.

Monday, July 14, 2003

27's a dyin'...28's a comin'


So this is it...the last hours before birthday #28. Two more years until I'm untrustworthy, or two years until I leave today's adolescence, whatever. The last year has been a blur, as have most of my 20s (except for the year post-Ontarion, which was a case of post-traumatic syndrome). Feel as if I already have a full slate planned for the next year, with vacations, events, etc. Which makes me think...how have I done on the year's resolutions so far?

1) Try the dating field.
RESULT: Went out on two dates earlier in the year, both of which were interesting experiences, but didn't lead to any lasting friendships. Feel better about current activities.

2) Break the writer's block
RESULT: Haven't done too badly keeping this up.

3) Get a bicycle
RESULT: Accomplished.

4) Go on a long trip across the continent
RESULT: Stay tuned in a few weeks.

5) Take up a new hobby, like teaching myself a musical instrument
RESULT: Not yet.

6) Get a digital camera
RESULT: Accomplished, now have to take it out of the box (several folks must be starting to get impatient about seeing some results).

7) Go to the gym regularly
RESULT: Mixed. I am going, but not as regularly as intended (average 1-2 times a week). Have only missed an entire week twice this year.

8) Clear up the scrapbook pile of newspaper clippings of shows/events I've gone to since 1999
RESULT: Yeah, right :)

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

random notes

Updates and news...

1) The test laboratory in the basement has picked up a newfangled gizmo called a digital camera. Results of its tests will appear in the next few weeks.

2) I'll be on the road the first two weeks of August, travelling across the continental. Updates may appear, if only to keep straight the places I've been.

3) Chateau Cola is still a mystery (May 20th). Any leads are appreciated. Other family members recall having root beer, grape and orange.

4) Looks like one miscarriage of musical justice has finally been rectified, according to the latest issue of MOJO magazine. In Britain, it looks like Neil Young's On The Beach has legitimately entered the digital era (June 11th).

5) No more sushi for me. Another food through trial and error that i have discovered no longer agrees with me. However, discovered the cure the tummy woes may be lazing around a hotel pool all afternoon and going out for a nostalgic dinner with siblings.

Confused?

Let's just say my digestive system is screwed up. It's a fussy beast, usually tamed by medication whenever I suspect danger lurks. It's when I'm caught off guard that I throw on the deerstalker and figure out the root of the problem. Saturday, I had a tasty lunch at a local Japanese restaurant. Japanese cuisine has had an on-again, off-again history with me, depending on the restaurant (I'm beginning to suspect the Ho Su restaurants are the only place I'm safe!). Sushi and teriyaki seemed to go down fine. Spend the steamy day wandering around the city, passing one too many inflatible Shoppers Drug Mart teddy bears as I wandered all the way down Yonge (it was Street Fest weekend, one of Mayor Mel's brainchilds. Yee-haw).

Felt OK going to bed, decided I didn't need to take a pill. Four in the morning....ugh.

I will spare you, sensitive reader, what usually accompanies these periodic reactions to things. Wait until Halloween. :)

So by 7am Sunday, I figure I'm in the clear, sleeping peacefully until my sister and her boyfriend call to meet up for lunch. They were in town on one of the special post-SARS packages, which included a night at the Chelsea, one dinner, a couple of attractions and tickets to The Lion King. I felt OK during the phone call, then I fell off the wagon.

Determined not to have my day ruined, I met them down at Mel's Deli in the Annex. While they ate, I slurped away at a treat rare in these parts, unsweetened ice tea. Followed them to the record store next door, picked out a couple of discs (James Brown, Elis Regina), then left my goodies with them to flee back to their hotel room for the last act of misery.

After lazing around their room, we spent the rest of the afternoon resting around the pool. OK, it didn't start out as a rest. I want the see the Chelsea's new waterslide. There were no restrictions on adults, so I gave it a shot. Fast, yet not stomach-turning, though I stuck my elbows out (and bear the scars). Go on again. Sister's boyfriend follows, not repeating my mistake.

Spend awhile around the adult pool before a quick trip uptown. I was going to drop them off for dinner, but hunger pangs struck. Dilemma time - felt OK, but would food at this point cause further misery? Taking the risk, I joined them for dinner.

Wise move.

We went to the Old Spaghetti Factory, where we used to go all the time as kids. Figured it'd be good for a nostalgic kick. The place hasn't changed much since the late 70s-early 80s - still lots of Tiffany lamps, knick-knacks, happy kids and garlic butter. Dishes looked the same, as did the prices (with inflation). So did the food. Sometimes about a bout of misery, it's the simple meals that taste so good. Wolfed down a bowl of spaghetti in no time flat. Felt no misery, heck better than before entering the restaurant.

Wonder if they finished their tour of all the sites used for the Degrassi TV shows today...

Finally got home around 10pm, feeling like Tony the Tiger - grrrreat! Slept like a baby and woke up the next morning ready to take on the world!

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

traybogganing

Warning: Traybogganing Can Be Hazardous To Your Health

A popular winter sport during my university days, traybogganing involved the borrowing of dining trays from the nearest cafeteria for recreational purposes. The trays were taken to the nearest slope and provided a vehicle for students to slide down on. When the last of the snow melted, a pile of broken trays was revealed at the bottom. This picture demonstrates one of the potential dangers of traybogganing. Not shown was how sore one's rear could be if not positioned properly on the tray, a problem solved by purchasing cheap sleds at the Stone Road Mall K-Mart.

Photo taken at the University of Guelph, December 1995. - JB