Wednesday, November 19, 2003

what to say to conrad black if I had gone to his book signing at indigo yesterday

"Yes, could you sign my book? Make it out to 'to all the Dominion pensioners I cared so much about, Conrad'"*
"Hi, my dad stalked your wife when they were in university."**
"Still rooting for the united right?"
"Guess you got what it's payback time!"

*For a time, Black's Argus Corp controlled Dominion grocery stores and ran the chain down until it was sold off. There was an outcry when it was revealed in the mid-80s he had taken a substantial amount out of the Dominion pension fund surplus.

**Actually, it was Adrienne Clarkson, our current Governor-General. Another one of my Dad's great tall tales of his misspent youth. Claimed he followed her around one day. Probably caught a glimpse of her then dreamed on. Come to think of it though, he did say once Lady Black (writer/gem fancier Barbara Amiel) didn't look as good these days as she did then...One of these days I've got to compile some of those tales, especially how the myth of the bullet in his nose wasn't a myth at all.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

red noses running

Spent the day down at the Santa Claus parade, third year in a row. This year, a bunch of us helped out Jess and Dee by selling noses for Sunnybrook/Women's down at Queen and Yonge. All I hoped was that it wouldn't be as bone-chilling damp as it was last year.

Did not get off to an great start. Took longer to get ready than expected, so I made a mad dash to the subway. Thought I'd make it down just in time, until a fire investigation at St. Patrick station brought the Yonge line to a crawl, then stop. I was stuck at St. Clair and nearly got off to search for a taxi, until it was announced all was good to go.

Arrived 15 minutes late, but that didn't seem to matter too much. Picked up a bag of moses and headed south on Yonge with Kiersten and Dee's mom. Business was good - went through two bagfuls quickly. Was a little nervous at first, following behind the others, then gradually starting bellowing out like a baseball game program huckster.

The parade took awhile to reach our cubbyhole. We had the area around the van semi-cordoned off, which didn't prevent onlookers from trying to sit on the van or crowding around it. We had to act like cops to shoo people away, which some took better than others - a few comments were muttered under people's breaths. One family tried not to understand the concept of "move away", asking every possible way to stay.

At least we could see the action, unlike others in the crowds around us. People would swoop down and block the view of those who'd been standing for hours, leading to a few near-bustups. Kiersten got to stand in the middle of one, as an older woman started yelling at others. So much for holiday cheer.

There was a long lull between the first few clowns (the only one I recognized was Norman Jewison) and the parade proper. Kids went running after the clowns, pulling on the odd one. Some candy landed our way, with thumbs down on the gum. "Disintegrates in the mouth" was the concensus.

Things were brighter once the rest of the parade rolled by. One of the highlights was the little kids in miniature Florida Orange Juice cars. Cute to begin with, but even cuter when they piled into each other when coming to a brief stop while waiting for the folks ahead of them to turn the corner.

One motorized bear (forget who the sponsor was) sped down the street, making me wonder if there were frat students inside planning revenge against the world. Astonished it didn't wipe out at the bend. Lots of marching bands, mostly from western New York state. Lots of happy kids walking or riding along. More miniature cars, from Pizza Pizza, but no pileups.

The parade wrapped up just past 3. After the crowds thinned out, we headed over to Church St to Hair of the Dog to grab food and drinks, and for some to say goodbye to a friend who was going away for a month. We caught the transition from brunch to dinner - I went for the former. Forget the name of what I had (along the lines of "easy pie" or "easy as pie") but it was the largest breakfast dish I'd seen since my last trip to Louie's in Detroit. A huge bowl with a bottom layer of scalloped potatoes, then ham and peameal bacon, then poached eggs with hollandaise sauce. Very good, but very filling, but luckily Chris was able to finish it off.

Left around 6, loped back up here, then sat staring into space in a daze for an hour, letting my body finish thawing. - JB

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

election wrap-up

Looks like the polls at the end of the race were accurate - David Miller won the mayor's chair, with John Tory a close second (44% to 38%). This will go down as the first time I ever voted for a political candidate who got into office. Barbara Hall's campaign completely collapsed - from polls indicating support in the mid-40% range before the campaign picked up full steam, she wound up with 9% of the vote. I walked by her campaign party (the old York theatre), where glum faces paced outside. Nunziata's car-honking only grabbed him 5%, while Jakobek...BWAHAHAHAHA...1%.

monkeys from the past

Decided to sift through the back reaches of my rarely-used Hotmail account (aka Spam 'R Us). Found this note, received way, way back in September of 1995, the oldest e-mail I have kicking about. We're talking the dawn of my second year at U of G. It's juvenile and gut-busting at the same time:

I like monkeys.

The pet store was selling them for five cents apiece. I thought that odd since they were normally a couple thousand. I decided not to look a gift horse in the mouth. I bought 200. I like monkeys.

I took my 200 monkeys home. I have a big car. I let one drive. His name was Sigmund. He was retarded. In fact, none of them were really bright. They kept punching themselves in their genitals. I laughed. Then they punched my genitals. I stopped laughing.

I hearded them into my room. They didn't adapt very well to their new environment. They would screech, hurl themselves off of the couch at high speeds and slam into the wall. Although humorous at first, the spectacle lost its novelty halfway into its third hour.

Two hours later I found out why all the monkeys were so inexpensive: they all died. No apparent reason. They all just sorta dropped dead. Kinda like when you buy a goldfish and it dies five hours later. Damn cheap monkeys.

I don't know what to do. There were 200 dead monkeys lying all over my room, on the bed, in the dresser, hanging from my bookcase. It looked like I had 200 throw rugs. I tried to flush one down the toilet. It didn't work. It got stuck. Then I had one dead, wet monkey and 199 dead, dry monkeys. I tried pretending that they were just stuffed animals. That worked for awhile, that is until they began to decompose. It started to smell real bad. I had to pee but there was a dead monkey in the toilet and I didn't want to call the plumber. I was embarassed.

I tried to slow down the decomposition by freezing them. Unfortunately, there was only enough room for two monkeys at a time so I had to change them every 30 seconds. I also had to eat all the food in the freezer so it didn't all go bad. I tried burning them. Little did I know my bed was flammable. I had to extinguish the fire. Then I had one dead, wet monkey in my toilet, two dead, frozen monkeys in my freezer, and 197 dead, charred monkeys in a pile on my bed. The odour wasn't improving.

I became agitated at my inability to dispose of my monkeys and to use the bathroom. I severely beat one of my monkeys. I felt better. I tried throwing them away but the garbage man said that the city was not allowed to dispose of charred primates. I told him that I had a wet one. He couldn't take that one either. I didn't bother asking about the frozen ones.

I finally arrived at a solution. I gave them out as Christmas gifts. My friends didn't know quite what to say. They pretended that they liked them but I could tell they were lying. Ingrates. So, I punched them in the genitals.

I like monkeys.

Monday, November 10, 2003

halloween jems

(photos to be restored at a future point)

Going into Halloween night, I still wasn't too sure what the plan was. I knew I was going to a cocktail party in Guelph the next day and had heard rumours of something going on with friends. Plans concerning a cartoon from the 80s, Jem & The Holograms. Wanting to be prepared just in case, I dashed around to several Value Villages the night before and picked up a pile of goop for any contigency, goofy or ghoulish.

Hit the phone to see what was up. Last-minute party down in Parkdale, with plans to head to a club downtown to dance the night away. Since the Jem theme was on, I decided to throw together an outfit that wouldn't look out of place. I used a black 80s headbanger wig picked up in the mad dash. Took an old black t-shirt and cut the arms off. Found some old tight jeans and ripped out the knees. Discovered some pleather metal-studded half-gloves I used for a costume years ago. Voila, one skid/wanker/whatever you used to call that type in high school.

For once I wasn't the first person to show up. I was greeted by an undercover hula girl...OK, Mark B in combination of his Turkish Matrix outfit (the obligatory mustache) with a WWII-type grass kit/coconut bra. Upstairs, the place was a hive of activity, with people in various states of transforming themsleves from 21st century normalcy to 1980s excess.

The TV was fine-tuned to that decade, first with old Jem cartoons, then Gremlins (one of those rare movies where the sequel was better). Chris was having a few problems with his fangs as Angel. He was a throwback to our first year of university, where everyone went to one Halloween party as vampires with press-on nail fangs. I remember giving up on mine when they wouldn't stay - must have lousy denture adhesive.

Birthday cupcakes were unveiled - it was Truelove's b-day. After they were wolfed down, time to gather the crowd up for group shots. Even the dog got in the act, with her "Village of the Damned" contacts.

Once the cameras were put down, the group divided up into cars and headed to Phoenix, over on Sherbourne. Thought I was going to be slowed by traffic on the Gardiner, but it was better than it looked. Mark B snapped shots of us rolling down the highway.

When we reached the Phoenix, the lineup was halfway back to Rosedale. Kiersten nearly lost some parts of her outfit on the way, which were quickly found. We stood around and waited for the others to figure out where to go from there. Saw some interesting costumes while waiting, many with masks or wigs so high one wondered how they'd ever get through the door.

We ended up on Church St, which was closed to traffic from Alexander to Wellesley. Huge crowd...felt like half the city was there.

Along the way emerged the goofiest quip of the night. We passed a guy in a Star Trek Next Generation-era uniform and a feminine wig. One person blurted out (and this probably isn't the exact wording, but close enough), "ah, my two favourite fetishes combined, Star Trek and drag." A couple in drag ahead of us burst out laughing.

Wide, interesting mix of costumes all around us. Several zombies loping down the street. Siegfried and Roy, the latter with a stuffed tiger clutching his next. Movie and TV characters galore, from Marge Simpson to the one-eyed nurse from Kill Bill. Too many getps passing by for the mind to register. The key was that everyone appeared to be enjoying themselves.

After surveying the landscape for awhile, we headed past the crowd, across Wellesley to Babylon. Spent some time on the intimate top floor drinking, dancing and chatting. After an hour, headed back down to the street, where the group split away. I went with the half that wound down the night dancing at Buddies, which wasn't crowded. Stayed until close, where we split again - several went off in search of pizza, while the rest went home. I had a long trudge back to the car, and managed to convince Ryan (the other third of the Parkdale trio with Dee and Kiersten) to come along for the trek.

A few odd sights on the way back. An old guy flashed us (though I sensed it coming and my eyes were skyward). Got to the garage, found the stairwell doors were locked, so we had to walk all the way to the garage entrance. Dropped Ryan off, then finally got home well after 3 AM.

Spent that Saturday running around the city before heading out to Guelph. Went out to the opening of one of CT's new "concept 20/20" stores in Markham (think big) and visited cousins out there (a story in itself, for later). Good thing I decided not to head that way early. When I got back in, I checked the phone and discovered I could have a lazy night in. Due to one of the hosts having a mishap the night before, the party was pushed to a later date. I'd had my fun for the weekend, so I wasn't feeling too blue. It just meant another event to look forward to.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

one fine saturday in the city

Feeling impatient about wanting to see the remaining Halloween pictures in my camera, I spent Saturday walking around downtown, snapping whatever looked interesting, or worth looking back on 30 years from now.

Started by heading west along Bloor to the Annex. The ROM has an old new temporary look - the last addition has been demolished to make way for the touted Daniel Liebskind design. Currently, you can see the old outside walls of the museum. Enjoy the view while you can.

As I headed south on Bathurst, a steady stream of cars adorned with red balloons raced by, horns honking. It was a caravan of vehicles for John Nunziata's faltering mayoral campaign. I resisted the urge to yell "Nunziata sucks!" A few ballons fell off, causing anxious moments for drivers behind them.

From there, went across College and down through Kensington Market. One of the few times I didn't run into anybody I know. Went into Chinatown, stopped to snack on some Chinese buns. I should know by now that the "pineapple" style are too messy to eat while walking, but the taste is worth it ("pineapple" buns have a crunchy sugar pattern on top that suggests a pineapple. Have never had one that contained said fruit - usually vanilla custard).

The new addition to OCAD is coming along quickly. For those of you who haven't seen it, go down to McCaul and Dundas to take a look. The least you can say is it's different. The expansion is being built above the current building, supported by slender multi-coloured poles and an elevator shaft.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

warehouse music annex: the replacements let it be

Time for a quick trip to the record library for one of my favourite albums, a quartet from Minneapolis remembered as much for how drunk they were on stage as for their music.

LET IT BE - The Replacements (Twin/Tone 1984)
I Will Dare/Favorite Thing/We're Comin' Out/Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out/Androgynous/Black Diamond/Unsatisfied/Seen Your Video/Gary's Got a Boner/Sixteen Blue/Answering Machine

HIGHLIGHTS: Opens on a strong note with one of those songs that should have been a hit but wasn't, I Will Dare. Try not to yell "rip rip, gonna rip 'em out now" when Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out. Unsatisfied leaves you anything but. And yeah, Androgynous is the same song the Crash Test Dummies did later (the Dummies may have been more in key, but the rawer vocals work better in this, the original version).

LOWLIGHTS: Get back to me on this one...

VERDICT: A mix of great pop songs, fun obnoxious rockers and solid tunes, an excellent disc to kick back to.

OTHER SUGGESTIONS: The Replacements had a weak beginning, fantastic middle and dull ending. Besides this one, there are three other discs worth checking out. HOOTENANNY (Twin/Tone 1983) begins the transition from punk to more melodic tunes, but also has a couple great drunken moments, like the title track. After Let It Be, they moved up to the majors, and their first big league effort, TIM (Sire 1985) is my favourite of the four (see a future installment). PLEASED TO MEET ME (Sire 1987) has some great songs too, especially the ode to Alex Chilton. After that...blah, or a lesson as to what happens when rock bands go sober. - JB