Sunday, December 25, 2005

all I want for chrismas is a loaner toyota, a loaner toyota...

Adventurous start to the holidays...

After battling everyone else who left the city early, I drove to Guelph to meet up with old university chum Dayna to exchange gifts. We made a quick trip out to Conestogo to grab some goodies at a Mennonite bakery.

We were almost back at her place when another driver decided it would be a great idea to run a red light and shave off my front bumper.

Results: a night in Guelph enjoying the goodies from Conestogo, a call to the insurance company, my first stop at the Guelph Farmers Market in years (where I found Mennonite cookies for Mom that the other bakery had run out of) and a drive home in a 2005 Toyota Corolla.

Before anyone asks, physically I am OK. My car should be OK too, as it appears the only damage was in the bumper area. The only side effect will be a few more trips to Guelph than I intended this season...which isn't a bad thing. - JB

2006 federal election - episode 3

Warehouse Election Central


Christmas, Christmas time is here, time for toys and time to jeer...

But seriously, we've reached the holiday lull. Not much news, as everyone gears up for the January dash. Yer humble newsdesk editor admits to having barely touched a paper the past few days. Call this episode the equivalent of TV talking heads nattering about nothing. Humble readers can discuss the merits of whether Jack Layton will shave his 'stache for charity.

Meanwhile, there are areas where parties are attempting to monopolize public corners with their signs. Case in point: drive into Guelph, Ontario along any of the main roads leading into the city and you will face an onslaught of Christian Heritage Party signs. The CHP had the only visible sign on the grounds of the University of Guelph, unless the NE corner of Stone and Gordon is considered city property. One imagines how well this will go down with students on campus (except maybe the Campus Crusade for Christ).

Surfing The Seas of Small Parties
Over on the Canadian Action Party site, you'll be welcomed by an animated introduction featuring less-than-stellar caricatures of the four main leaders. Harper and Duceppe look like young and old versions of actor Michael Murphy (Nashville, This Is Wonderland), Layton looks like a wide-eyed monkey doll and the Pinocchio nose on Martin comes off much dirtier than we suspect they intended.

The CAP also lays claim to the candidate-name-we-couldn't-make-up-if-we-tried for this campaign: Spurgeon Westhaver (London-Fanshawe).

1979 Election Update
Notes from Apr 23/79 issue of Macleans...
Pierre Trudeau told a gathering of Calgary oil men "I'm a rather gentle fellow, and I only fight with those who fight with me" while promising support of a new pipeline to the US. Also proposed a hike in home insulation subsidies on pre-1961 homes, from $350 to $500.

Joe Clark attacked Trudeau as "a man who attacks the people of this country while we attack the problems." Backs a mortgage deduction scheme.

Ed Broadbent indicated that a three-way television debate was necessary "to see how we react under pressure". Called Clark "a joker".

Fabien Roy received a "between the lines" endorsement from Quebec premier Rene Levesque.

Elsewhere around the world: the horrifying reign of Idi Amin came to an end in Uganda...Coming Home dominated the Oscars, with awards going to stars Jon Voight and Jane Fonda... - JB

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

political sledding

Second entry of the week, second flashback to childhood.

A recent post over at the Spacing Wire shows a kid gliding on a makeshift sled pieced together from an Olivia Chow sign.

Neat new idea? Nah.

I grew up on Fryer St in Amherstburg, across the road from a field and quarry. By the side of the road was a giant ditch, which occasionally provided fun for the lunati...er...upstanding leaders of tomorrow at my school bus stop. After the 1988 federal election, a large number of signs for the losing Liberal candidate, Ray Robinet, found their way into the ditch (our riding was going through an NDP interval between members of the Whelan family). The election was in November, so it wasn't long before the first snowfall hit. A lightbulb went off in someone's head, so for a few days, kids attempted to fly down the side of the ditch.

I don't think I took a trip - I was in grade 8 and would have either looked down upon the "sleds" as childish or worried about getting wet from the puddles at the bottom. I wouldn't come close to a sled again until traybogganing at U of G. - JB

Friday, December 16, 2005

2006 federal election - episode 2

Warehouse Election Central


Christmas shoppers scurry as the week-before-Christmas blitz begins. Ontario is digging itself out from a blizzard. Workers rush to finish projects before taking a rest for the holidays.

Oh yeah, there's an election going on.

Little evidence so far in the Warehouse's neighbourhood. Signs are few, flyers and candidate telemarketing fewer. The imcumbent is recycling signs from the last campaign. It's best if all parties make their gaffes now, while most of the country carries on with more pressing issues, like that Xbox 360 for Billy or how not to avoid playing the fool at the office party.

Question: in light of Liberal communications director Scott Reid's loose lips earlier this week, how many viewers of tonight's debate will fortify themselves with beer and popcorn?

While on the subject of beer and politics, check out Rick Mercer's petition. You may also want to throw back a shot of any spirit whenever Paul Martin says "let me be perfectly clear."

Need other ways to liven up a debate? A round of Give 'Em The Boot Bingo may be in order (courtesy of the NDP).

As for the American ambassador's outburst this week - he's a Dubya guy. Why should we have expected anything less from the playground bully? Besides, our souring relations with the South had to crop up sooner or later. Rather than get too worked up about US threats or Canadian electioneeing, your humble Warehouse editor is a believer in a line his father used to say, "this too shall pass".

Commentary 
This week, a few words from Gord McGordon, who, besides providing his expert commentrary for WEC, tells it the way he sees it every weekday morning at his neighbourhood Coffee Rhyme.

I ahm so sick of hearin' bout this dumb-ass GST cut Mr. Harper.

Frum 7 to 6 to 5%...in 2011!

For those of us who ain't even got the money to spend on coin-op'rated lawndree machines, well, savin' 2% on the nothin' I spent...well, mah math ain't so good, but ahm pretty sure that 2% of nothin' is nothin'.

But that got me te thinkin'...bout all those folks who got fancy lawndree machines in thur howses...then that got me thinkin' bout those folks what make the lawndree machines...why, I bet they spend a whole lotta somethin' to make them machines (they're kinda big...I seen a few in mah day)...and again, mah math ain't so good, but 2% of a whole lotta somethin' gotta add up to a little bit of somethin' at least.

Seems to me Mr. Harper's kinda lookin' out for the rich folk with them their fancy clean pants...making folks like me think we're gonna git somethin' from this tax cut that ain't gonna happen till long after Ma finally looses her last tooth, when in acshul fact, we ain't gonna git skwat.

Thank you Mr. Harper, fer treatin' me lahk I'm sum kinda dumb hick, and fer proovin' once agin that you don' give a flyin' fir tree 'bout me an' mine.

Nile's Nook
Regular Warehouse contributor Nile Seguin joins us to provide his sharp journalistic eye on the stories emerging from this thrill-a-minute campaign...

The Conservative candidate in Gaspésie-iles-de-la-Madeleine wants the party to donate the money it would have spent on lawn signs in his riding to local school breakfast programs. Gaston Langlais has decided not to put up any election signs during the campaign and is calling on his opponents to do the same. Langlais is known for his generosity…and for the hideous facial scarring that makes him look like a monster in campaign photographs.

Langlais is asking his party to donate the $4,000 earmarked for the signs to breakfast programs for schools in the area. "We know that at certain times of the month, parents are short on cash. Often, little children are going to school without breakfast in the morning," he said. Of course the big children never go without lunch, as they can just beat the little children out of their lunch money.

"We could offer this gift to them before Christmas. So, if the Liberal party and the Bloc did the same, we're talking about a budget of $14,000," Langlais said. He added that if the NDP threw in their contribution, it would amount to $14,000, a bucket of paint and an deconstructed Trinitron box.

Bloc Québécois candidate Raynald Blais, who is seeking re-election, says the idea is nothing more than a stunt…after which he drove a motorcycle over a tank of sharks for charity.

1979 Election Update
Does this sound familiar?
"Sick of elections before the first week of blather is over? Wishing you could hibernate your eardrums until May 22? Join the throng. Election '79 may be the first one in history where the proprietors of our one-party democracy have - through indecision, dawdling, delaying and hinting - bored the electorate before they have begun. It is the slogan of this campaign: Politicus Interruptus.
- Alan Fotheringham, Macleans, Apr 9/79
Notes from week 1 (from Macleans, Apr 16/79):
* The party leaders logged over 15,000 miles in the air, with Joe Clark in the lead (6,440). Unfortunately for Clark, workers at a tar sands project felt he looked "dopey".
* Pierre Trudeau dealt with protestors at several stops, at one point joking that farmers were grogneurs (grumblers). For his campaign, PET relied on improvised speeches.
* Ed Broadbent focused on social issues, shying away from national unity. Support from the Canadian Labor Congress had yet to materialize.

Other items in the news that week: in the wake of the Three Mile Island accident, US President Jimmy Carter said the energy crisis has replaced inflation as America's #1 problem...Galen Weston and Ken Thomson were in a bidding war for Hudson's Bay Company...British Columbia premier Bill Bennettt drops the writ for a May 10 provincial election, less than two weeks before the federal vote. - JB, MC, NS

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

gift card-o-rama

More and more, the gift card is emerging as a popular way of telling someone you care for them this season, by providing them with a license to shop. Some feel they're impersonal or lazy, but if you're drawing blanks in the idea department, or have someone who's difficult to buy for, they fill the void.

For me, the trick is to also give something small, personal and/or homemade with the gift card - mix CDs, jewellery, etc.

In the old days, you gave paper certificates in a plain envelope. Now, gift card presentations run the spectrum, from a cash register receipt straight from the till (Body Shop) to a debit card encased in a compact encased in a box encased in a satiny bag (Sephora). We're nearing the point where unwrapping a gift card will require more effort than the large present your loved one spent 20 minutes fussing over.

As presentation grows fancier, a gaze into the Warehouse crystal ball shows many possibilities for retailers to pep up their gift cards...

Tim Horton's - comes in a miniature coffee can, or a folded into a mug the size of novelty machine plastic football helmets.

IKEA - card is a mini-instruction sheet on how to assemble the GIIFT case it fits in.

LCBO - card comes with a case containing a folded mini-wine rack designed to hold the mini bottles of spirits found by the cashier.

Old Navy - comes in a mini-shirt that shrinks or falls apart when you try to remove the card.

Indigo - comes in a hollowed-out book, personally chosen by Heather.

Future Shop - comes in a case resembling a Palm Pilot. Also inside the case is a miniature sales associate clone, to look over your shoulder and ask if you need assistance 12 times while you shop.

General Motors - comes in a scale-size classic car. Sitting in the front seat is a miniature sales associate clone, pleading with you to buy a North American vehicle.

Hudson's Bay Company - comes wrapped in a miniature Bay blanket.

Lick's - case shaped like a burger, with the card as the patty. Open the case, hear the vocal prowness of Lick's employees.

Food Basics - comes in a case made from a section of typically dirty store floor. Dusted with corn meal or spilled flour. Scratch n' sniff feature on card comes in feeble fruit, mangy meat or smashed jam jar scents. - JB

Monday, December 12, 2005

gourmet's gallery: pineapple crush

Crush Pineapple
Sobeys, Acton, ON


Whenever I visit Guelph, I drive home via backroads, usually Highway 7. Except for the odd streetracer wannabe in Georgetown, it's far more relaxing than risking sleep or meeting up with south-of-the-airport traffic on 401. I'm amazed at how each time I drive along 7, Georgetown and Brampton inch that much closer together - when I owned my first vehicle in '98, Brampton sprawl began at Hurontario, now it's at broken-up Creditview Rd, with no signs of its westward march halting anytime soon.

The occasional break along the way helps. One such stop, in Acton, produced today's find. This Sobeys had more drinks from the Maritimes than their Toronto locations - is there a greater concentration, per capita, of down easters in Acton? Crush Pineapple is definitely not something you see much around these parts.

Package Notes: Typical Crush label, with curved logo, splash and fruit represented my artificial flavours inside the can.

What's It Like?: Very, very yellow. Much brighter than Mountain Dew or Mello Yello. Could not be used as fake piss in a movie or practical joke.

Definitely has never come in close contact with a pineapple, but it's not overwhelmingly sweet/cheaply artificial in the taste department.

This Sobeys also sold Crush Birch Beer. Brown can, expected. Purplish-pink colour, not expected. The taste was somewhere between cream soda and root beer.

Would You Buy It Again?: Sure. Whether it's worth the drive to Acton is debatable.

Friday, December 09, 2005

2006 federal election - episode 1

Warehouse Election Central


The Warehouse election desk is officially open. Over the next few weeks, our distinguished correspondents will provide their own spin on the current campaign. Local fights, historical perspectives, commentary, criticism and advice...we don't claim to be fair and balanced, we just claim.

This week: lots of links and the start of our time-warped coverage.

The four men who will fight with Angelina, J. Lo and Jennifer for space on the front of your morning read: Paul Martin (Liberal), Stephen Harper (Conservative), Jack Layton (NDP) and Gilles Duceppe (BQ).


Get To Know Your Parties
Elections Canada has links to the 12 registered parties for the January showdown...but we're going to save you a few clicks by providing them below.

Bloc Quebecois
Canadian Action Party
Christian Heritage Party
Communist Party
Conservative Party
Green Party
Liberal Party
Libertarian Party
Marijuana Party
Marxist-Leninist Party
New Democratic Party
Progressive Canadian Party

Elections Canada lists several organizations with "eligible party" status...no guarantee you'll see any of these banners on your ballot.

Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party
First Peoples National Party
Western Block Party

Alas, we no longer have the Natural Law Party to kick around any more. No more rolling in the aisles at their 24-page newspaper inserts.

Music, Music, Music
Politicians know that people love a toe-tappin' tune. Thanks to the miracle of the internet, you can now enjoy some of your favourite campaign songs on your iPod...at least you can if you're a Bloc Quebecois supporter.

Mediawerks
Looking for coverage from your favourite TV network, when you don't have a TV? Fear not...CBC, CTV and Global have the bases covered. For coverage en francais, go to Radio-Canada and TQS (TVA only appears to carry individual news items).

As for other channels, did you think CPAC would be left out of the festivities?

1979 Election Update
We're digging deep into our research library (one shelf of books!) to take a look back at the '79 campaign through the mirror of Macleans magazine.

Before dropping the writ, the Liberals had a slim two-seat majority. Three other parties made up the balance, including one with a charismatically-challenged leader, one whose party previously propped up the Liberals and one who includes representatives with a slight Quebec nationalist streak.

Plus ca change...and gives us an excuse to quickly profile the party leaders.

Parliamentary Makeup Before Dissolution
LIBERALS 133
Leader: Pierre Trudeau, Prime Minister since 1968. The bloom of Trudeaumania is long gone, as the public perceives an air of superiority and boredom in the man they don't care for. Not helping matters is a brand new autobiography from estranged wife Margaret, Beyond Reason. In an interview with the Daily Express, she says that "he crushed me, he gave me nothing to do, he treated me like the most worthless woman ever hatched on this earth". (Macleans Mar 26/79)

PROGRESSIVE CONSERVATIVES 98
Leader: Joe Clark, who succeeded Robert Stanfield in 1976. First campaign as leader. Not regarded as being particularly charismatic, but he hasn't dropped any footballs lately either. Given public distaste for PET, this could work to Clark's advantage. Tagged with nickname "Joe Who?" Among his slate of candidates is 84-year old former PM John Diefenbaker, who promises this will be his final campaign. Dief is still miffed at party brass for not letting him take a more active role in the past three campaigns.

NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY 17
Leader: Ed Broadbent, who succeeded David Lewis in 1975. First campaign as leader. Like Clark, not regarded as being too charismatic. The party's seat count dropped in the last election (1974) after the Liberals reaped the benefits of policies pushed along by the NDP while propping up Trudeau's 1972-74 minority government.

SOCIAL CREDIT 9
Leader: Fabien Roy, who succeeded several temporary leaders earlier in the year. The party is still reeling from the death of Real Caouette in 1976. Representation in parliament is strictly within the socially conservative party's Quebec wing - no MPs have been elected outside the province since 1965. Roy was new to federal politics, having sat as a Quebec MNA for most of the decade. Receiving help in Quebec from the Parti Quebecois, which indicates where the Socreds stand on the national unity debate.

There were also 5 independents and 2 vacancies.

Here are excerpts from current receiver of libel lawsuits Peter C. Newman's first editorial on the race, "a lively struggle between Marlon Trudeau and the Tricycle Kid".

"They're off! Our cover boldly proclaims. But the election has been so long in coming that about the only emotion most Canadians have left concerning the May 22 polling date is one of bored anticlimax. That's a pity, because few previous electoral contests have had so much riding on them."

"Ed Broadbent at last has a national pulpit from which to expound his earnest vision of the country's future; Joe Clark has a chance to absolve himeself from past gauches and stake his claim to greatness; for Pierre Trudeau, it's a gutsy, final round in his crusade for national unity."

"This election is about one essential issue: which of the men capable of forming a national government can best be entrusted with the nation's future? At this early moment in the campaign, the national mood was probably best caught by the kid parading outside a Conservative rally with the hand-lettered sign: A VOTE FOR CLARK IS A VOTE AGAINST TRUDEAU".
- Peter C. Newman, Macleans Apr 9/79
More from the wayback machine next time. - JB, PI

Thursday, December 08, 2005

crane shot of the day

Ya Want A Crane Shot? Ya Got A Crane Shot!

Quantum Crane, Yonge south of Eglinton, Dec 2/05

For over a year now, my department has alternately been entertained, fascinated and shaken as the Minto condo towers rise from the rubble of the old OHIP building. Controversy has surrounded this project, due to its size (up to 54 stories) and neighbourhood fears about traffic and blockage of the sun. Personally, with Eglinton station across the street and most residents likely working in the city, I think the area should be able to handle the influx.

Here's a closeup of the crane working on the south tower. More pics soon here and on Flickr. - JB

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

future condo site photo of the day

Death of a Second Cup Mural

Demolition of the former Second Cup/antique store/pizza parlour/high-end linen store/car rental office at Mt. Pleasant and Manor began Friday morning. Above is what was left the next day. Neighbourhood smokers that used to frequent the picnic table outside the Second Cup will have to find a new spot to puff. Billboards indicated construction was supposed to start in June, but scaffolding wasn't erected until late November.

Based on the layout and wide windows of the old Au Lit showroom, and the parking lot next door, I suspected that the site might have once been a car dealership - a suspicion support by a city report from 2002 (PDF format - check page 2 for details). - JB

Friday, December 02, 2005

the backstreets of toronto: fitzroy terrace


Continuing on in Kensington Market, the next stop is Kensington Place's twin to the south, Fitzroy Terrace.


Before venturing on, care for a drink from this well-stocked, non-functioning fridge?


The traditonal Toronto street sign marking the start of Fitzroy. Like Kensington Place, Fitzroy was built around 1888 to house English workers.


Fitzroy shoots off of Kensington Ave north of Exile, a market vintage clothing fixture since 1975. Used clothing dominates the landscape south of Baldwin, sidewalks and stores crammed on weekends with shoppers thumbing through racks of t-shirts, costume materials, sport jerseys, ski vests, stylin' 70s threads and smart wear for the modern anarchist.


Some streets are marked by arches, others statues. Here, it's a glittery piece of clothing. Wonder if this was snapped up by a last-minute Halloween shopper (all photo were taken on October 29th).


Looking westward. Notice walls fully covered in murals and/or graffiti (it's up to you which is which).


The artwork on the side of Exile.


Feeding the green fire...





Fitzroy grinds to a halt at this small building, home to the Fujian Association. No luck finding any information about this group or building...


...but there is a fading mural of a family across the laneway.


Row housing on the north side. Several kids ran around me, one stumbling in a large Darth Vader helmet and cape.


Uber-tiny window. Use your imagination for a reason it is this size. Note the number of paint jobs this building has seen.


The trip ends back on Kensington Ave, with a grand opening on the north side of Fitzroy.

Next time, a new lane with a name from way, way back in the province's history. - JB

UPDATE TO KENSINGTON PLACE ENTRY: an audio guide to Kensington Place, courtesy of Murmur.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

subway stylin'

ttc-logo


As mentioned on several other sites, the Toronto Community Foundation has proposed sprucing up several University-Spadina line subway stations with art to reflect nearby landmarks. Museum will be the pilot next year, with mummified pillars to represent the ROM, while proposals for Osgoode (Four Seasons Centre) and St. Patrick (AGO) have been unveiled.

This cranked up the wheels in the brains of the Warehouse design team. We submit our proposals for other stations:

Davisville - Mt. Pleasant Cemetery. Obelisks for pillars. Murals of famous residents of the cemetery, including Mackenzie King (at a seance), various Westons, Masseys and Eatons (and their businesses), etc.

St. Clair - A big mouth, for CFRB. Hot air pumped onto the platform.

Summerhill - Photographs of winos sitting against the platform walls, to salute the monster LCBO outlet.

Yonge - Any number of themes could be used here, from literary scenes (Toronto Reference Library) to the HBC blanket colours...well...blanketing the station. If any tapes exist, Ben Kerr tunes could be piped in at night.

Wellesley - Rainbows filling the walls.

Dundas - Wall-to-wall advertising, as on the streets above.

King - Images of different kinds of beans, representing either St. Lawrence Market or the Financial District (beancounters...get it?)

Union - Scenes of a busy platform, indistinguishable from the actual commuters in the station. Let chaos ensue when riders bump into the people on the wall.

St. Andrew - Scenes from past productions at the Royal Alex/Princess of Wales/Second City, or other theatrical representations. Pillars designed to look like Victorian actors.

Queen's Park - Heated arguments in Question Period, government artifacts, a collage of Ontario's premiers or paintings of protestors.

St. George - U of T officials selling out the school.

Bathurst - fully-lit, scale-sized versions of the Honest Ed's marquee, except these flash "Bathurst".

Pape - similar to Bathurst, except the station name is surrounded by a neon flaming saganaki. Cries of "opa!" played every five minutes, or before a train departs.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

the $99.95 timex computer



 From the early days of home computing, when every company with the slightest foothold in the electronics industry jumped into the field. Few friends at the time who had computers - most had the plug-into-the-TV variety pictured here (most of which were Tandys). The height of technology for most kids in A'burg in '82 were arcade games at the bowling alley or Speak and Spell.

Note the memory add-on - 16K of RAM for an extra $49.95! Power within your reach!

From Obsolete Technology site, an overview of the Timex Sinclair 1000 (1982-83). It was the North American version of the British Sinclair ZX-81, evidently a better doorstop than computer. - JB

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

come up to the blue of canada, and enjoy the 1984 detroit tigers



An indication of how much beer advertising has changed in the past 20 years. Don't think I've ever heard anyone wax poetic about the clean, clear outdoorsy feeling that comes over them while knocking back a Blue.

Take a gander at that bottle...were stubbies still in production in '84, when this ad appeared? Or did Canadians keep them in the Great White North?

Note that the importer was located in suburban Buffalo. Was Blue western New York's #1 imported beer?

Many memories of the 1984 Tigers, the last edition of the team to go to the World Series. They stayed in first place all season long, driving the growing number of Blue Jays fans crazy (the Jays were less than a decade old). Watching Jack Morris throw a no-hitter on the NBC Game of the Week. Going to see my second baseball game at Tiger Stadium (forget the results). WDIV sportscaster Al Ackerman's catchphrase that stuck to the team: "Bless You Boys". My beloved Tigers jacket from Montgomery Ward. The burning police car during World Series celebrations. Heady times for a nine-year old baseball nut. - JB

Sunday, November 20, 2005

some of my best rats are friends

While on a stroll downtown a few months ago, I picked up a cheap bound volume of Maclean's magazine, covering the first half of 1979. You'll see plenty of material from this tome when the federal election finally drops, as these issues cover the campaign that led to Joe Clark's minority government.

(Yeah, I know the 1980 election is a closer parallel to one we're about to have, but I work with what I have!)

Until then, and until the sun engulfs the earth, I'll dig into these magazines to highlight the ads, as they tell us as much about the time as the articles do. Full-size versions of these ads will also appear on my Flickr site.

Let's begin with a CBC Radio teaser from the January 29, 1979 issue:

If only Ed Grimley was pictured with the singing rats. That would have been comedy gold. Short would have been in his second season onstage with Second City when the show aired.

We're sad to report that the all-rodent musical craze this show spawned lasted 36 minutes in the summer of '79, when the SPCA cracked down on a Montreal theatrical company that used real singing rats during a production of Marat/Sade.

No info on the web about this show, though Google suggests I should check out "some of my best rates are friends". Does anyone know anything about this production? Should CBC have rerun it during the strike?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

the backstreets of toronto: kensington place

Most weekends, I take a "Sunday Constitutional" walk downtown. The route rarely deviates - start at Osgoode station, head out Queen West, then backtrack through Kensington Market. Any health benefits are usually reversed by snacks along the way - try resisting a warm pupusa or empanada on Augusta or goodies from the bakeries along Baldwin. Vendors and pedestrians vie for space along the sidewalks. Crowded, but cozy.

And full of short side streets to wander.

The next few installments will explore the neighbourhood, starting with a hidden street that shares the area's name - Kensington Place (marked in green below).




According to the Kensington Alive Virtual Tour, Kensington Place, along nearby streets Fitzroy Terrace and Glen Baillie Place, was built around 1888 to provide homes for English construction workers, the first of many immigrant waves in the neighbourhood.


The gateway to Kensington Place, on Kensington Ave slightly south of St. Andrew. This marks the northern edge of the clothing stores that line the avenue, which were hopping with last-minute Halloween shoppers the day these photos were taken (more on this in an upcoming Fitzroy Terrace post).


Closeup on the entrance sign. Unless the alley has another name or is considered part of the street, Kensington Place might not intersect any other TO road. If there was a standard white sign, it's long gone - I imagine it would be one of those items somebody has stashed in a backyard or uses as home decor.


Walking up the tag-filled approach. Neighbourhood watch dead ahead.


A rare example of a DIY street sign in Toronto, suited to the neighbourhood's vibe. May no stickler from the city attempt to replace this with a newfangled large street sign!


The north end of Kensington Place, complete with a place to sit, unlike most of the market (public benches, not patios).


Here, have a seat. Grab a book from your backpack. Observe the row housing. Relax and stare at...


...the fishiest dwelling on the block.


The south end of the street. Very quiet compared to the bustle of Kensington Ave - the only action happening was a resident raking leaves. Might be ideal for NHL rink-length game of road hockey.


More tagging on the east side of the street, just before it's time to head back down the approach.


Heading back to Kensington Ave. Fruit stand dead ahead, with scientific experiments in organic decay on display.

An audio guide to Kensington Place, located at Murmur.

The stroll around Kensington Market will continue... - JB

Monday, November 07, 2005

a biscuit, a basket...

If you subscribe to a newspaper like I do, chances are you've received a flood of flyers for pricy gift baskets over the past few weeks. Usually inserted on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, these catalogues offer "distinctive" arrays of nuts, chocolates, cookies, pasta sauces, smoked salmom, baby toys and other products, often from brands that only exist in the realm of gift baskets. Company names may be plain and simple (The Basket Company), personal (Peter & Paul's), brick and mortar stores (Pusateri's), punny (Nutcracker Sweet) or flat-out weird (Gift-O-Crat).

Some of the crazier basket names discovered in this year's catalogues:

Equity Shares (The Basket Company): I'm guessing a former bean-counter runs this outfit. Dividends from your $65 investment include nuts, chocolate truffles, camembert and a planter.

Patient Pleasures (The Basket Company): Nothing says get well to a friend in the hospital than $55 worth of sugary snacks, playing cards and Reader's Digest, especially when treatment dictates nourishment through a tube.

The Coxwell (Gift-O-Crat): Somehow, Lindt chocolate and $65 worth of cocoa treats doesn't remind me of Coxwell Ave. Model cars crashing into each other while turning left at Danforth would be more appropriate.

The Kensington (Gift-O-Crat): Basket companies love to apply English names with a hint of class. I think I'd be happier with a Kensington Market basket, which would be loaded with goodies like empanadas, dried beans, Jamaican bread pudding, baked goods, etc.

Decorator's Choice (Nutcracker Sweet): $125 of sweets and salmon pate in a plain black leather box. Unless it's for magazine storage, I fail to see the decorating connection. Maybe a deluxe, silver-plated paint tray?

Fond Of You (Peter and Paul's): Fondue. Ha ha.

***

All of this inspires the Warehouse to create its own line of baskets, that capture markets ignored by most basket-makers.

The 1960s Home Chef Basket
* One tin of Spam
* Three packages of Jell-O (orange, lime, strawberry)
* One container of Miracle Whip, with a special 1965-era label
* One can of creamed corn
* One large package of Velveeta
* One tin sliced pineapple with heavy syrup
* One package of Warehouse FinestTM Frankfurters with Extra Nitrates
* One bottle of Dexedrine
* A reprint of Better Homes & Gardens Jiffy Cooking (1967)(see here for more details).

The 1970s Home Chef Basket
* One fondue pot
* One bar of Gruyere cheese
* One box of Lasagne Hamburger Helper
* One can of Tab
* One bottle of Baby Duck
* One bag of Earth Goddess Crunchy Granola
* Three packages of Warehouse FinestTM Plain Gelatin
* One can fruit cocktail in heavy syrup
* One Warehouse FinestTM Riche Quiche Mix
* "101 Ways to Make Fondue and Aspic" cookbook

Factor the Fear Basket
* One can Warehouse FinestTM Earthworms with Italian Herbs
* One can Warehouse FinestTM Beetles in Ginger Soy Marinade
* One can Warehouse FinestTM Grubs in Tex-Mex Sauce
* One box Warehouse FinestTM Breaded Lemon-Pepper Rattlesnake
* One bag Warehouse FinestTM Gummy Spiders with Real Tarantula Legs
* One pint cobra venom
* One airplane sickness bag - JB

Sunday, October 30, 2005

warehouse halloween roundup

A couple of graveyards have mysteriously popped up a few blocks west of my bunker, such as this one.


Since I didn't feel like sticking around the house last night, I drove around the city to see what folks were wearing this year. I intended to snap some pics, but failed to get any decent shots. The best of the lot was this test shot while waiting for two lanes to merge into one on Queen West.


There was one factor I hadn't accounted for. Last time I was downtown on a Halloween Saturday night, Church St (and other streets, for all I know) was closed so that everyone had more room to mull around. Not the case this year. I suspect the current police job action played a role.

From the comfort of my car, these were the highlights.

Church St - half-a-dozen drag queens in full Wagnerian regalia. Maybe they were off to audition for the Bugs Bunny part in a remake of What's Opera Doc? Also noticed the two styles of costumes that reigned across the core: ancient Egyptians and pirates.

Peter St - the most impressive Egyptian of the evening was seen here, a guy wearing a towering Anubis mask.

The wackiest moments of the night happened in Clubland. I saw two girls pose for a friend's picture by sitting on a red sports car...which promptly caused its owner to come running from the pay booth and hurl a steady stream of obscenities and raised arms. In front of a nearby club, a bouncer did a meek job of holding at bay a dominatrix offering to whip patrons waiting in line.

Kensington Market - no Egyptians or pirates here. What I saw were several folks in 1950s-60s Latin American revolutionary gear, complete with fake beards. Take note of how many people come/came to your Halloween party as Fidel Castro, c. 1959.

College St - back to Cleopatras and buccaneers. Standout was a couple as Spy Vs Spy - a male black spy and female white spy (though no grey spy in sight). Looked like they had some trouble holding their long-paper masks against the wind. - JB

UPDATE - OCT 31ST
Additions and corrections...

My theory about Church St was wrong - should have looked at the city events calendar first (or Spacing, for that matter).

Today's Toronto Star (you may need to log in) has an article on how Halloween shows the differences between Canadians (we have fun) and Americans (the religious right thinks it's an evil day that promotes paganism).

Friday, October 28, 2005

gourmet's gallery: pathmark fruit punch soda

Pathmark Fruit Punch Soda
Pathmark, Newark, NJ

Package Notes: Dark pink can promises "tropical taste". Drawings of pineapples and cherries in the background. Drink itself is light red in colour.

What's It Like?: In the battle between the natural and artificial flavours noted on the front of the can, the latter wins. Overly sweet, tasting closer to bubble gum than tropical fruit. Dumped it down the drain after a few sips. Stains tongue but good.

Would You Buy It Again?: Doubt it. It was like going to a bad luau where everything is made out of sub-dollar-store plastic. - JB

Thursday, October 27, 2005

she smiled sweetly

Dad was right about most things, right up to the end.

While on his deathbed nearly five years ago, one of our last conversations came around to a new guy Amy was dating. I admit, I wasn't always the most supportive brother when it came to earlier relationships, mostly because they tended to be short-lived (or were guys she eventually mocked too). I hadn't met Gavin yet - they'd only been together about a month and I hadn't heard too much about him. Dad told me to be kind, as he sensed she might have found the right guy.

He was right. Again.

Gavin fit into the family quickly. At Dad's funeral, several people thought he was a relative, as some of his facial features vaguely resembled ours. As time passed, everyone figured it was a matter of time before Amy and Gavin tied the knot.

Except for their first photographer going bankrupt and a change in best men, the preparations for the wedding went fine. Amy avoided going bridezilla and one could notice her smile widening as the day approached. It would be a small affair, mostly relatives or friends of our parents. A mini-family reunion, we joked.

I stayed out of most of the lead-up, due to distance. Most of my duties were on wedding day, walking her down the aisle and keeping the reception flowing. My tux was hit with most people, and I'd likely go with something similar if I ever walk down the aisle, unless future wifey has other ideas.

One weird event before the wedding. The flower arranger usually posts on a billboard outside the shop the marriages she works on. For example:

Wonder how Kris & Tim made out...

Before their names went up, there was only one couple...Nancy and Jim. Our parents names. Eerie. Strange. Coincidence, an unearthly message or somebody messing with our minds?


By the limo in front of Mom's house.

The service was held at Wesley United Church, across from A'burg's Canadian Tire. I'd only ever seen the back part of the building, when Amy was a Girl Guide, so it was surprising to see how large the actual church was. Amy and Gavin worked out the ceremony with Rev. Kirby (his first name, but that's what everyone used), so that it leaned towards humour, not holiness.


Leading Amy down the aisle.

The smile never left her face the entire day. Most had never seen her so happy, so beaming. A very good sign.


About to say I do.

After the ceremony, the main party headed to the photographer's studio, out by Fox Glen Golf Course (Essex Rds 8 & 9, for those looking at a map). Spent a couple of hours modelling for the camera, with conditions the photographers loved (slightly cloudy, one tree on the property blazing red). The butterflies in my stomach grew frisky as the reception approached, as I was a little nervous about speaking in front of everyone. The chocolate almonds at the photographers helped.

Relax folks, I survived, as did everyone else who went to the podium. Speeches were brief, as I remembered that at the last family wedding we attended, Amy and I slipped out in the midst of a droning ramble to see if the hotel pool was still open. No such option for the audience at the Verdi Club.


The happy couple showing off their rings? Not quite. While that's Amy on the left, it's our cousin Blake (father of Heather, the bridesmaid)
showing off his ring.



The wedding cake, complete with young Marge and Homer toppers.


Gavin and Amy prepare to cut the cake...


The bridal party at the head table.


The first dance...We've Got Tonight by Bob Seger.

They chose all of their music, packing it into several folders on a DVD, each fitting the different moods of the evening. It was fun to see who was energetic and who wasn't on the dance floor. Mom's cousins Buzz and Kim burned up the floor all night, while my Mom's neighbour was Amy's energetic partner for the early fast numbers. I wandered from table to table, with conversations ranging from my high school drama classes (my teacher gave the dinner grace, with a nod to Dad) to tales of what the Horseshoe Tavern was like in the early 70s.

The night wound down around midnight, as the newlyweds headed off to spend the night near the top of the Windsor Hilton. I joined them the next morning for brunch and they were still glowing. Later, we returned the tuxes, split off for a bit (Amy and I ended up buying muffins for Mom at a Costco open house, then picked apples near Harrow), then met back up at Mom's to open cards and wolf down leftovers. Let's just say they could have used a tote board to count up the cash they received...

Good start kids.

For more pics, see my Flickr site. As for the pics above, you can click on the smaller ones for larger versions. The joy of mixing your photo programs!- JB, some photos by GT

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

the backstreets of toronto: croft street (part three)

(Part One | Part Two)

Before heading off to the final two segments of Croft St, we duck onto Harbord to look at one of the remaining colonies of Val Kilmer heads in the city.


Looking north at the entire length of segment #2 of Croft St, running from Lenox to a short alley that leads to Borden St. Lenox St's most noteworthy feature was the Bathurst subway station-themed mural at the NW corner of Bathurst, recently painted over. No more concerned female commuter or old guy leafing through a copy of Fantastic Four #1. The mural had been deteriorating, so it wasn't a surprise to discover its days were numbered.


The rear of various businesses along Bloor. Note the obsession with arrows. This alleyway starts around Robert St, then turns into Croft. Looks like there's plenty of parking.


A devilish figure welcomes you to the last segment of Croft.


Looking north on the final, short segment of Croft, barely half-a-block in length. Hello Bloor Street!


We've reached the end of the line. Given how many times I've seen this sign appear/disappear over the years, I wonder if it's one of most swiped street signs around town. How long before one of the new "Frankensigns" pops up? (if one does, hopefully with a neighbourhood banner - much more attractive than the standard bloated version...but that's a rant for another time).


Our last shot is taken from the north side of Bloor, showing the businesses that welcome you to Croft St, a Thai restaurant and Tim Horton's. - JB