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

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

wedding at the end of the rainbow

Last post was the teaser. Here's the rest of the story of Mark and Janine's nuptials.

The ceremony and reception were held at the Canadian Forces College at Armour Heights (northwest of Hogg's Hollow), where the groom's father ("the Colonel") once attended. The building below is the Officer's Mess, where all the action took place. Built around 1913, the place is full of atmosphere.

The ceremony was held outdoors, despite the weather - whoever controlled that dithered a lot. One second blinding sunshine, the next a few spits of rain. Only the wind gusts were constant. Still, despite the heels of bridesmaids sinking into the ground and a few drops when the bride walked down the aisle, the ceremony went well, full of humour.

A good sign for the future of the happy couple: a rainbow appeared shortly after the ceremony ended.

Afterwards, time to relax and grab a few drinks between "I Do" and dinner. Most of the gang found a lounge area next to the bar as their spot for most of the evening. The heated ledge by the window and comfy leather chairs didn't hurt.

The Colonel outlined to Jordan conditions required to get ahold of any of the chairs (base closures left a surplus). Some decided maybe it was time we formed our own "club" to secure digs like this, with the chairs, old architecture and a steady supply of liquids.

I'd have no problems with that.

Dinner went smoothly, despite an initial shortage of buns at our table. This problem was quickly fixed by Jordan, which became the running joke throughout the meal, in between stories of why Scotland turned him off teaching (in short, hooligans in training). We've all missed his storytelling abilities - it's hard to describe, you just have to sit back and listen.

Dinner ended with the slide show, which was in Elaine's capable hands. Tons of funny pictures. I contributed a few, but it would have been more if cutting exes from the pictures wouldn't have required spending a few hours with my pal Photoshop.

More relaxing. It was a nice night to stand outside, stare at the fountain and full moon and contemplate, as Jeff put it.

Then came time to cut the cakes.

While others line-danced, a group of us headed to the solarium at the back, hanging around a lush pond with colourful fish. Cue flashbacks of the fish area in Colasanti's when I was a kid, though these fish were larger.

Next to the solarium was a "pub room", where we wish the bar service was open. More fuel for our "club".

Bondyra was fascinated by a mess comment log he found. It reminded me of a similar book we kept at CFRU for listener feedback, which was good for a laugh while playing 12-minute tracks. Back in 2001, we learned somebody was disappointed with their Pelee Island red.

Back in the main hall, the music had changed to the groom's tastes. It was inevitable: the soundtrack to Mortal Kombat had to be unleashed, with full acrobatics!

As the midnight hour rolled around, a nice shot by the fireplace on the dance floor.

Sis, if you're reading this, you're not alone in deciding that once the ceremony is over, more comfortable footwear to go with your formal wear is required (she's picked out sneakers to go with her wedding dress).

Hopefully this was the enjoyable start of a long, happy marriage. Next up on the wedding list, Amy on Saturday, then my oldest friend Mike next Spring, unless any surprises happen. - JB

Sunday, October 16, 2005

photo du jour

Mom pointing out Buttermilk Falls, as the water sprays onto my camera. Sunday, October 9th, Hwy 35, near G'Day Lane. - JB

Friday, October 07, 2005

photo du jour

Sitting outside of Guelph London House shortly before returning to Canada, April 1997. - JB

Thursday, October 06, 2005

business proposal. do not ignore. if you do, you cannot pass go. you cannot collect $200

Hands up all of you who have received 745 variations of the Nigerian money scam in your spam-specific (or regular) e-mail accounts.

Almost all of you? Thought so.

Here's one I received recently. Feel free to point some of the mistakes our would-be scam artist makes in their efforts
to sell you on the next best thing to ocean-front property in Arizona (including spelling mistakes):


Dear friend,

Let me start by introducing myself.I am Mr. MOISE "BUD" AKAKORAMAKOMBE, the manager of bill and exchange at the foreign remittance department of bank of africa - katsina (BOA-K), BURKINA FASO. I am writing following the impressive information about you, Mrs. Beadburne. I have the assurance that you are capable and reliable enough to champion an impending transaction that does not involve the loss of your assets. In my department, we discovered an abandoned sum of US$15.5M (Fifteen million five hundred million thausand dollars), in an account that belonged to one of our former customers, who died along with his entire family and pet dog Cuddles in a plane crash in November, 2001.

Since we received the information about his death, we expected his next of kin to come forward and claim his money, as enshrined in our banking laws and regulations. So far nobody has come forward, and we cannot release the funds unless someone applies as the next of kin as stipulated in our guidelines. Unfortunately, we have discovered that all his supposed next of kin or relations (and those of Cuddles) died alongside with him in the plane crash, and effectively leaving nobody behind to come forward and claim the balance left in his account.

My colleagues and I want to take this once in a life-time opportunity. It is consequent upon this discovery that other officials and I in my department decided to make this business proposal to you, mrs. Beardbun. We want to present you as the next of kin or relation of the deceased person and the former guardian of Cuddles. We intend to transomfer the money into your account for safety and subsequent disbursement, since nobody is coming forward for it. If we lose this golden opportunity, the bank is going to return the money into the bank’s treasury as unclaimed bill and divert it into the slush fund for the next office party.

The bank’s regulation stipulates that if after five years, such money remains unclaimed; the money will be reverted to the bank’s treasury as nonclaimed fund and the bonuses for our managers. The request for a foreigner as the next of kin in this transaction is predicated upon the fact that the said customer was a foreign national (British Honduras) and no citizen of this country can claim to be the next of kin of a foreigner. We agree that 30% of the total sum we be given to you for your assistance in facilitating this transaction. My colleagues and I are going to retain 60% of the total sum, and 10% will be set aside for the expenses that we may incur in facilitating the remittance, which include fatigues and munitions. To enable us effect this remittance, you must first apply as the next of kin of the deceased. Use the middle name "Otto" in all paperwork.

Your application will include your bank co-ordinates, that is, your bank name, bank address and telex, your bank account, internet banking password if applicable and name of your local taxidermist. I want you also to include your private telephone no. and fax no. in your response to me, for easy and effective communication during this process, as welle as the fax no. and telephone no. of your employer and five friends who you may wish to share the proceeds of the transaction with (citizens of Burkina Faso are exempt). My colleagues and I will visit your country for disbursement according to the agreed ratio, when this transaction is concluded, after a sidetrip to Switzerland for other business.

Upon the receipt of your response, I will send to you the text of an application which you will use to apply to bank for payment of this to your bank account. I must not fail to bring to your notice the fact that this transaction is hitch free, and that you should not entertain any fear, as you are adequately protected from any form of embarrassment or sadistic forms of torture. As a sign of good faith for your assistanse, we will guarantee you the entire contents of the estate of Cuddles, which includes a highly-prized box of bones and gold-plated squeak toys.

Do respond to this letter today to enable us proceed with the transaction. i will furnishe you with more details of this operation, including the hospital room the surgery will be performed in. Your earliest response to this letter will be appreciated.You can call me for more detail - ask for Moise, Ben or my coworker Yanoush.

Your’s faithfully,

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

burning for tennis

Tennis has never been a sport I followed closely. For my football/basketball/baseball-fan father, it ranked down there with golf and bowling as sports to watch on the boob tube. I didn't pick up a raquet until high school gym class and proved spectacularly inept. Matches were over in 30 seconds.

When Jess offered up tickets to a Davis Cup doubles match up at York, it was hard to resist. Another new experience, an afternoon with friends, etc.

Truelove, Janine and I landed good seats, close to the court. They were also directly in the sun. By the start of the fourth set, our faces had started to turn a nice shade of red. We fled to a shady section of the stands for the nail-biting final set.

Canada, anchored by Daniel Nestor and Frederic Niemeyer, went down to the wire to beat Belarus in four sets. You could feel the tension in the stands as the teams went into the tennis equivalent of sudden-death overtime.

The stands were livelier than I expected, with patriotic cheers all around that resulted in many hand signals from the court judge. Only the stadium organ was missing. Belarus had a small but loud following, deafening the stadium with their noisemakers. Everyone received "cheer sticks" at the entrance, long balloon-like objects than "banged" when smacked together. Great fun for drumming on the seats. I received a faulty set, as one kept deflating (the other week was still in good shape when I took it out of the trunk a week later).

Turned out I picked the right day to go, as Canada split the first day of singles, then lost the final matches. - JB

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

photo du jour

Is this where west end girls hang out in Toronto?

Sorauren, just north of Queen, Sep 17/05 - JB