The background colour has switched again, though time has faded the seasonal red to a shade of brown. The ad editor finally found an item that works for anyone following the gift-giving schedule set out by "The 12 Days of Christmas", though this partridge lacks a pear tree.
The final trip to the garden involves finely aged pork products, condiments with a touch of the tropics, and an "unusually appreciated gift." We hope that receiving fresh taco shells was not the unusual element.
A series of quick web searches reveals that none of these items are currently available on the internet, unless they're buried on page 37 of a Google search.
Awhile back, I floated roadtrip out to Scarborough among some friends, based on a walk along Lawrence Avenue that a few had done several years ago. One element from that trek occasionally surfaced during conversations about Scarborough: an image of a stern-looking man used on the sign for The Kirks, a side lounge for the venerable Wexford Restaurant.
This required investigation.
Before eating, we checked out 54 East. Located in a former drug store, the space is part local history centre, part gallery. The main exhibit spotlighted the musical heritage of Scarborough. Thousands of records were pressed in the area, some on labels whose names derived from the neighbourhood (e.g. Birchmount, one of Quality's subsidiaries).
Most of these albums passed through my family over the years (this copy of Lightfoot! looks much healthier than mine...).
This year marked the 50th anniversary of the first cracked eggs and squeezed orange at the Wexford. The walls celebrate its connections to the community, through mock street signs and historic images. The 1960s-70s era family restaurant decor and a sticker at our table touting the rice pudding quickly comforted us. I was reminded of a recent breakfast experience I had with Amy at The Lumberjack in Windsor, though the Wexford's surroundings weren't quite as rustic. Not the type of place to go to for culinary wizardry, just good comfort food that has kept customers satisfied for eons.
As for what we ate...
Alison - french toast and a side home fries. She determined it was the best french toast she had ever sampled.
Dylan - back bacon and eggs.
Nadia - sausage and one egg, with a dash of pepper.
Me - ham and eggs.
The Wexford was pricey for greasy spoon fare (our dishes hovered around the $10 mark), but was worth the cost taste-wise—we left with happy stomachs. Fresh orange juice helped wash everything down. The coffee cups disagreed on how many eggs had been cracked or oranges squeezed.
Nearby, a pair of murals celebrated the journeys of immigrants to Wexford, utilizing subway map-style graphics.
Strip malls rule Lawrence around Wexford, most anchored by grocery stores offering tastes of cuisines ranging from Caribbean to Korean. Middle Eastern food stores dominate, with Nasr Foods and Arz Fine Foods the largest of the lot. We checked out a couple of stores, sampling sweets that may provide an excuse for a return trip.
On our way out to the Steeles/Middlefield branch of T&T, Dylan caught a glimpse of a semi-circular plaza at Lawrence and Markham Road. We investigated Ring Road Plaza and discovered goodies like Monkey Brand black tooth powder.
Design elements included mosaics near the grocery store and hanging signs that appeared to have greeted customers for decades.
What are the fine folks at Gourmet offering as today's gift suggestions?
Regal shallots that carry an extra shipping charge west of the Mississippi
A dapper turtle chef about to serve one of his siblings (unless that's the conch chowder in the bowl—perhaps Sid and Roxie decided that the psychological damage to the cartoon cooking staff would be too high if the chefs/waiters served their relatives to tourists sampling the cuisine of the Florida Keys)
Grandpa Forst taking the world's first ham-fueled rocket on a test flight. The rocket crashed into a Catskills resort, which was less disconcerting to guests than the comedian bombing in the lounge
Pairs of game birds fit for royalty (notice the regal leanings of these products, to puff up the ego of purchasers?)
A demonstration of the proper technique for cutting a large salmon
Mrs. Dewildt's unusual representation of exotic cultures (we think that's an arm on the left...)
Ooooh...the background colour has switched to blue! Guess the editors felt like mixing it up, unless they felt blue after trying the featured products.
Orange waffle syrup sounds like it had great potential for being sickly sweet, whether it was mixed with maple or corn. Tasti-Cup may be the secret ingredient of the brew from the office coffee machine that my coworkers groan about. Any ideas as to what the "wisp o'beef" from the quaint smokehouse might be?
With the end of 2008 looming, it's time to clear out drafts that have been sitting in limbo for eons. You know the story—an idea for a post strikes, you start writing away, then either hit a wall or need to do further research. Hopefully I'll clear a few cobwebs out of the way before 2009 arrives...
Back in the early 1990s, I regularly taped the Friday "Viewer Mail" segment of Late Night With David Letterman and any skits that followed. One segment Amy and I continue to quote from is a showcase of odd-but-real video tapes. Archaeological expeditions through the valley of YouTube have unearthed several of the videos that Dave took potshots at, but evidence of others remains lost to time, unless the tape this segment was preserved on is found.
Among the highlights:
A tape for pipe smokers, where the host extols the virtues of the "brotherhood of the briar". A smoker passes by, prompting the host to greet him with "Hi Bob, nice pipe!"
T-Bone's World of Clowning, an introduction to the art. A man tells T-Bone that he'd like to know more about clowning. The clown's response, uttered in a stilted, wow-can't-you-tell-I'm-not-reading-cue-cards-manner: "Really? Acrobatics is a skill I really enjoy! Let's make a deal!" (to which Letterman notes "yeah, they're pipe smokers.") While the exact clip doesn't appear to be available on the web, the video above looks as if it may come from the same source.
An anti-smoking program where Larry Hagman reveals the mini-pocket fan he carries to blow offensive smoke away and provide smokers with a brief burst of cool air (Letterman: "I have an even bigger fan to keep Larry Hagman away").
An exercise program based on the art of juggling. Cue a hefty dude in grey sweatshirt, valkyrie wig and heavy rouge semi-operatically extolling the audience to "juggle your way to health and beauty/juggle your way to beauty and health." Letterman compares the juggler's beauty to Madonna.
Omar Sharif provides tips on how to play bridge. "Now through the electronic miracle of video cassettes, you will be my partner" (to which Letterman responded "now through the miracle of the eject button"). My grandmother was a bridge enthusiast, which earned her the most media exposure in the family in the late 1980s when the results of her weekly bridge club were printed in the local paper.
Willard Scott demonstrates the fine art of toenail clipping for The Farmers' Almanac.
The piece-de-resistance, the video that never fails to make either of us roll on the floor, is a segment from a parenting guide called It's Potty Time. Two over-enthusiastic parents sing about their "super-duper pooper" of a daughter, accompanied by a marching miniature man who may have failed an audition for Harold Hill in The Music Man.
The producers had the best of intentions for making a useful toilet-training video...but a musical ode to learning how to poop is going to come off as bizarre under any circumstances. Besides, a mini angel/guide/clown/peeping tom that comments and makes rhymes about excrement? Creepy.
I think I'd rather have my child trained by Mr. Hankey.
Congratulations to Spacing magazine on five years of looking at our urban landscape. Last night's anniversary bash at The Great Hall drew a healthy crowd, who cheered when mayor David Miller, with Corona in hand, announced several initiatives that passed city council earlier in the day (bike plan, TTC fare freeze in 2009). Several cakes modelled after city landmarks were served—I sampled the edible OCAD, which I figured was a safer bet than testing the waters of the model Captain John's.
Yahoo's front page is a rich source of cheesy headlines. This morning's howler: "Ignatieff likes the smell of farm animal droppings," which refers to Michael Ignatieff's first press conference as federal Liberal leader, where he reminisced about childhood farm visits. The story itself doesn't carry as aromatic a headline.
If I ever seek political power, I probably won't mention the elementary school field trip where I nearly passed out from the stench in a pig barn.
All I want for Christmas is stray wigs in a window, stray wigs in a window, see these stray wigs in a window... - JB
Like DVDs of motion pictures, sometimes posts I write for other web sites merit bonus features. Before browsing this entry, read "Vintage Toronto Ads: Come Be Pampered", posted on Torontoist on Nov 25/08.
Sources: The Toronto Star, February 29, 1956 (left), The Toronto Star, February 23, 1956 (right)
A pair of ads for Toronto's first Japanese restaurant, the House of Fuji-Matsu (operated 1955 to c. 1958-59). Based on the ads I've unearthed, the house specialty was sukiyaki, the Japanese dish most often found in mid-century cookbooks whenever the editors wanted to present something slightly exotic. My lone experience eating sukiyaki came at one of the cheap sushi joints in The Annex and I wasn't that enthralled—maybe it was the runny egg that didn't mix well with the other ingredients.
Source: The Toronto Star, February 6, 1987
The last trace I found of Tanaka of Tokyo while digging through the local newspaper archives was an ad included among other restaurants pitching themselves to lovebirds for Valentine's Day in 1987. At least they spelled "Tokyo" correctly in this one.
Tanaka appears to be have remained on Bay until 1990, then spent its final year of operation on King Street in the Entertainment District...where my sister dined on her grade 8 class trip to Toronto. She remembers little about the meal other than the name. - JB
Labelscar has a nifty piece on one of the annoyances of the modern shopping mall experience: obnoxious kiosk salespeople. You know the type: usually selling skin cream or cell phone accessories from a cart in the middle of the corridor, using every attention-grabbing tactic possible to make innocent shoppers test their wares. The "grab" can be literal, as family members have learned - I have seen Amy take as wide a walk as possible to dodge skin cream sellers reaching out to her at Oakland Mall in suburban Detroit.
Of the five types of obnoxious kiosk listed in the article, the only "the blanket people" haven't attempted to lure me in. Being asked to feel a blanket out of the blue has potential for creepiness—I imagine a "Sprockets"-style sales pitch:
BLANKET PERSON: Hi there, wanna touch my blanket? INNOCENT SHOPPER: Huh? BLANKET PERSON: TOUCH MY BLANKET! TOUCH IT NOW! INNOCENT SHOPPER: (mumbles) Pervert...
As for being chased by a salesperson, that hasn't happened to me yet. The last time anyone followed me in hot pursuit on foot in the US was back in high school, when a panhandler in Ann Arbor was so determined to receive spare change from me that he kept at it for a block-and-a-half on Liberty Street. His belligerent tone made it seem like he wanted more than a handful of coins, so I walked faster, then ran out into traffic to cross the street, which finally shook him off.
When I was younger, one phrase I loved to hear Dad say was "King-Byng-Wing-Ding," which was his nickname for the Canadian constitutional crisis of 1926. I'm struggling to come up with something as snappy to describe the events in Ottawa over the past week.
It's like watching a car crash transmitted over a weak dial-up connection.
Most suspicions I've had about Stephen Harper and the Conservatives are playing themselves out: divisive, demagogic bullies beholden to ideology and not much else. Listening to Harper or other Conservatives open their mouths, especially when using fire keg words like "coup", is a nauseating experience. The venom spewing out of the House of Commons is quickly passing beyond the farce stage. Watching the highlight reel of yesterday's question period, Stephane Dion shook with so much outrage that he appeared to be losing his voice. Seeing Jack Layton calmly point out Harper's past dalliances with the Bloc made it appear as if he had dropped in from somewhere else.
Reading the talking points highlights the lack of tact in the Conservative brain trust. Take a gander at these gems:
"…how about Liberals, NDP and Bloc respecting the will of the voters when they said 'YOU LOSE.'"
"And I wish the media would be more clear on this point – the opposition aren’t being singled out by this fact the Conservatives stand to lose the most money of all. The only difference is that Canadians are voluntarily giving money the Conservatives, so they don’t need taxpayer handouts. The only reason the opposition would be hurt more is because nobody wants to donate to them. They should be putting their efforts towards fixing that problem."
Don't you love sore winners?
Remember: next time you hear a caller fumbling awkwardly while expressing their support of the government, they might have dropped the printout.
Here's some wishful thinking: once the dust settles, wouldn't it be nice if Mike Harris Ontario/Bush Republican/Tom Flanagan-inspired campaigning and governing techniques were discredited once and for all?
The situation is like incidents I have experienced at work: somebody commits a colossal foul-up, someone else starts asking serious questions, the offender goes overboard to defend themself and flings mud at the one raising the question, barbs fly back and forth until either both sides cool down and look at the situation rationally or someone invokes the nuclear option.
Sure, dealing with the Bloc Quebecois invokes some uneasiness, but sometimes one has to deal with the devil to get back on track (fingers crossed). There are reasonable arguments as to why a coalition may not be a good thing (Calgary Grit has a good post on this). I guess I'm just fed up with the moves by our current government and want to see them go bye-bye by any means. Who knows, cooperation may be a very good thing - isn't that what Sesame Street taught us?
PS 2: One of the funniest conversations I've heard so far was on last night's edition of As It Happens, where Heritage Minister James Moore stuck to script...and you can sense some glee in the interviewer's attempt to question the lines.