Things you see as you walk down the street.

August 26, 2009

Today I saw a guy stop another guy on the street. They were both clean-cut, young professional types. The first guy, who looked like a child at Christmas who’d been given a pony made of ice cream that shot lasers out of its eyes, said, “Rob! I dropped in to see you!” 

The other guy, who may or may not have been named Rob, looked at him with the same expression you might expect to see on a freshly cleaned white-board. So the first guy, who now looked like his pony was showing the first signs of melting repeated, “I dropped in to see you!”

The second guy, the blank white-board named Rob, he said, “Oh cool. Yeah,” and didn’t offer his hand for a shake. He looked like he was deciding if he should tell the guy with the melting pony his name wasn’t “Rob” or if he should play along. He decided on the latter but wasn’t comfortable with it. You could see streaks of dry-erase pen on his white-board left after using a wet-erase shammy instead of a dry paper towel.

Soon I was out of earshot of the first guy’s voice which was still shooting off like laser beams when I entered the subway station.

Dundas Dining: Sebastian Cafe & Grill

August 23, 2009

We haven’t done any Dundas Dining for a while because we’ve been caught up in a whirlwind of weddings and other commitments. Driving back from a BBQ on Saturday we saw not one but two new restaurants in the Junction and at least one new empty storefront. Clearly we’d been neglecting our beloved Dundas West.

Since the closer of the two new eateries (Leno’s) was closed for lunch on Sundays, we chose the other. Sebastian Cafe & Grill is a Colombian restaurant that has filled the hole left by the intriguingly named Authentic Mexican Restaurant near Keele. It’s a cute and cozy orange space with cozier armchairs. The air is filled with joyous MOR Latin pop tunes kept at a comfortable volume and the South American decor accents (i.e. prerequisite sombreros) are kept on the tasteful side of kitsch.

The menu boasts a variety of dishes written in Spanish which may or may not contain corn and various meats but sound delicious, at least phonetically. We need to spend some time at Babelfish before going back. I went the safe route and ordered the chicken soft tacos (which were in English) and Mandi had some kind of large breakfast (in Spanish).

The fledgling, but perfectly pleasant, wait staff seem a little unsure of their duties but eventually get there in the end. Much the same as High Park Spicy House, you have to go to the till to pay though there’s no indication of this other than a long, awkward wait. I’m beginning to think it’s an unspoken part of the Junction culture that the bill is not offered or brought to you. When we did take it upon ourselves to go to the back to pay, someone had to be brought out from the kitchen to operate the till. It was a little odd, but the restaurant is brand new so you have to give them a little slack. Let me know if this is still the drill in a year’s time.

But that’s getting ahead of ourselves. First, the food. My tacos were certainly good though not as exceptional in taste as they are in visage. The tortillas were made in-house, the ingredients were fresh and the pulled chicken was tender but overall the meal lacked a distinct flavour or spiciness. That’s not to say it was poor, just a tad on the bland side. My salad was made solely from iceberg lettuce which I am probably alone in enjoying, simply because it’s easier to eat with your fork when there’s nothing else in the salad at all to spear into (a wedge of avocado sat off to the side, I suppose I could have employed that).

Mandi’s plate was a fiesta of breakfast foods. Three eggs on top of three tortillas covered in what we think was perhaps a chipotle enchilada sauce, fried plantains and black refried beans topped with grilled red-peppers, onions and tomatoes. Mandi commented on there being a mix of flavours she hadn’t experienced before, overall good. I’m not drinking coffee right now but Mandi says it was “Good, average, run of the mill, nothing bad.”

At one point I thought there was a problem with Mandi’s meal but the horrified look on her face was merely because a dirty kitten on the sidewalk was venturing dangerously close to the wheels of a bus. It lives in the convenience store next to the restaurant. It almost came home with us. I was too comfortable in my plush chair to rescue him though. Just as well, Mandi points out, I’d just have scared him under the bus.

Though I found my tacos a touch bland I suspect Sebastian would be worth, after boning up on my Spanish,  returning to for one of their dinner entrees.

3.5 out of 5 sombreros over the till (with expected improvement as they hit their stride).

Dream recaps, irony + movie meal

August 18, 2009

» I’ve been having a few strange dreams lately. Actually, I have them all the time but lately a few have stuck in my mind weeks later. The first was when I was convincing Barack Obama he should wear a set of mottled-brown leathers. I’m not sure why it was important he wore them but it was and he looked good in the jacket and pants. I think perhaps some kind of food riot was averted. In the other dream I was a disgruntled Harry Potter or  generic Hogwarts student teamed-up with the Malfoys on a heist. The dream took place after the fact and was centered around laundering the loot in a magic sock drawer at the Burrow. There was some drama about keeping Molly out of that bedroom.

» Today in irony: I generally feel much more awake having stopped drinking coffee.

» It’s been hot. Hot enough that upon leaving the air-conditioned theatre where we saw Distric 9 we immediately, without hesitation, walked into a showing of Miyazaki’s new film, Ponyo (perhaps on the sly). It was a good way to spend a far too hot Sunday afternoon. Especially delicious was the contrast between two of the best films I’ve seen this year. D-9 was like a full roast beef dinner of heavy ideas, poignant emotion and visceral violence topped with perhaps a tad too rich shaky-cam sauce. Ponyo was a perfect dessert of brightly coloured, frothy sorbet made with fresh raspberries and a slightly weak finish.

Off the road again

August 14, 2009

Collateral Damage

We went on a trip. We killed a lot of bugs with the car. Other bugs fed on the corpses of their slain brethren. The circle of life is a glorious thing.

Two perks

My recent vacation had a few unexpected perks. The first was I didn’t realize what a relief it would be to not do anything on the internet for a week. No emails, no forums, no Twitter, no blogging, no podcasts. All the things I’m normally obsessive about. I suppose that’s a clear indication I’ve developed a bit of an internet compulsion.  And by “developed” I mean I’ve force-fed it growth hormones for the better part of the last ten years. Having a week off really put it into perspective that a lot of the time I spend on the internet is a daily vacation from reality. Being on vacation, I didn’t need it.

I’ve also accidentally weened myself off coffee. It wasn’t intentional. It wasn’t even really a matter of circumstance since I’m sure I could have found coffee anywhere we were. I’m hoping early work-week mornings won’t have the bean back on my back. Mid-week had me doubting this decision but I’m beginning to feel like everything is going to be okay.

Things are kind of the same all over

I was able to carve three more notches in my province belt: Quebec, New Brunswick and PEI. I don’t actually have a literal province belt, but now I’ve been to seven of this countries ten official political regions. The thing about Central and Eastern Canada is it’s a lot like British Columbia. Perhaps that’s because BC contains so many climate zones. I was constantly thinking: this is like the area around Nelson; this is the Comox Valley; this is like Kelowna; you’d almost believe we’re on the Malahat here; this place looks like towns in the foothills of the Rockies. If I’d been blind-folded and dropped in one of the places in Quebec, New Brunswick or Nova Scotia we visited, I couldn’t say for sure I wasn’t somewhere in the Lower Mainland like Delta. Really only PEI felt like I was really visiting somewhere else. It’s really all the same terrain from Toronto (once you’re out of the smog belt) to Nova Scotia. Of course, NS was delightfully cool ( actually cold at times) and almost entirely lacking humidity. It was probably the best vaction locale  I’ve ever been to.

Old école

I suppose an exception to the above assertion was Old Quebec City. It’s like a Hollywood backlot vision of “generic European city.” Of course, at the same time it’s the real thing and the only reason it feels like you’re in Frenchie-Town at Disneyland is it’s been touristized to death. I’m not sure anyone could actually be a resident there who isn’t directly involved in the tourist trade. Anywhere that might have sold groceries is selling postcards or women’s fashions. Which is really too bad. Though the abundance of restaurants meant I did have the best poutine of the trip there accompanied by a really nice local beer.

Wedding GOWN

The whole point of this trip was Andrew got married. We stayed in his semi-vacant 100-year old farmhouse. It had a David Lynch living room and some kind of Stephen King rooms upstairs. It was a great place to stay and not just because it was free. It gave us a feeling of having a “home” while away which you don’t really get in hotels and hostels.

As the wedding season ramps up for us this summer (we have two more to attend this summer starting tomorrow), Mandi and I have been noting what a lovely, simple wedding Andrew and Stephanie had. I’m not sure Andrew would agree, as he spent the week in a state of near mental collapse, but it was short, sweet, casual and unpretentious. It was a really good time and it was nice to see Andrew, when he wasn’t freaking out, happy.

Vacationing + working

August 3, 2009

» Today is the first day of my vacation, if you don’t consider Saturday the first day. And since I’d have today off as well, it being a statutory holiday, my vacation doesn’t really start until tomorrow. That’s the first day I’ll be not at my desk when the chumps I work with will be at theirs. Not that the defining aspect of a vacation revolves around work-related schadenfreude. Others don’t need to suffer for me to find joy in time off. But it does make time off that much sweeter, doesn’t it? Tomorrow we hit the road for Andrew’s wedding in Nova Scotia. Travelling always feels too much like work to me.

» I’ve started writing a novel. I only have about 78,500 words to go. getting back into the swing of writing (interesting and engaging) prose fiction is proving to be harder than I expected. I’m confident by the time I finish the first draft several months from now, I’ll be able to revisit the dryness of the first half and fluff it up a bit with some purple metaphors—similar to giving an old pillow the illusion of being soft and fresh and not full of dust and mildew. Then once the revision process is complete, several drafts later, I’ll have a perfect manuscript to collect dust in the bottom drawer of my bedside table. If anyone needs something to prop-up the corner of a table, contact me in about a year.

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