Sunday, November 26, 2006

Back East and Out West

Room with a View, Toronto, 21/11/06

Hello, Dear Friends! I'm back from Back East, and am glad that I am. Oh yes.

From a functional perspective, the trip was a success. Business was concluded. Faces were put to names. Nice people were met. Relationships were nurtured, both in office settings and over expense-account meals in chi-chi restaurants. Indeed, I filled my annual red meat quota with some lovely venison at Bistro & Bakery Thuet and a very nice filet mignon at the rather staid Barberian's Restaurant. Head was rested on a king-size bed in a 27th-floor room of a comfy but cookie-cutter downtown hotel. All very satisfactory.

All that said, I don't like Toronto.

Clearly it is a city that's trying very hard. Yonge Street is ablaze with neon lighting and video displays, all attempting to invoke the brio and esprit of Picadilly Circus, or perhaps Times Square. Skyscrapers soar purposefully - in the name of commerce, and of cosmopolitan, condominium living. But I found no soul, only the steely, hard edge that cuts through so many metropolises. And speaking to its denizens, it is apparent that it suffers from urbanitis: lengthy and frustrating commutes, elongated working hours, and individuals isolated amidst the multitude.

Radio 4 - Save Your City (buy here or e-here)

Despite my general opinion of the city, I was happy to rediscover and spend my one free evening most enjoyably at Sam the Record Man's emporium. Sam's is something of an odd beast, much like a cross between HMV and a local, independent record shack. It boasts stock levels to rival the megastores, yet has wonderful pockets of eclectica and a laid-back staff. I left with a clutch of CDs, including a copy of Morrissey's "Your Arsenal" at the bargain price of three bucks. Result! But it was a Romeo Void compilation that I was most pleased to unearth. For my money, "Never Say Never" may well be the perfect Noo Wave track, with its dripping anomie, atomaton guitars, droning sax, and sleazy lyrics - "I might like you better if we slept together." Oh, my!!

Romeo Void - Never Say Never (buy here)

CDs in hand, I was most pleased to board my Friday flight Out West to Vancouver. My seat neighbour was something of a kindred spirit, having chucked it all in and moved, along with his daughter and wife, from Nottingham to Vancouver. We had a good natter comparing notes, and neither of us had any regrets. As our five-hour flight neared its end and the plane prepared to land, we both gazed out the window at the frost-dusted North Shore mountains. The afternoon sun stroked the peaks and made them glow with golden welcome. I am home, I thought to myself, and felt very contented.

My contentment is continuing, despite a strong dose of meterological incongruity. While I was in Toronto - a city (in) famous for its Arctic freezes and prodigous snow - the weather was sunny and temperatures most benign. However, here in Vancouver, where winter is usually a pussycat, albeit often a very damp one, we are groaning under a foot of snowfall and shivering through a freezly minus three cold snap. Yes, yes, Mr Mentok, I'm well aware it's minus fifteen in Saskatchewan. But we are gentle, fairer folk on the West Coast, and unused to such conditions. Plus our water is still turbid...

I must say, though, it was magical to wake up this morning to a pure white, silent, snow-muffled world. And even more enchanting to have the opportunity to build, along with Darling Daughter and Little Man, a wonderfully lumpen snowthing. We kicked it Old Skool, complete with twigs for arms and carrot for nose. And so I present to you our First Official Snowman of the season. I am sure you will agree he's a fine fellow.

Although we have a moratorium on Chrimbo music in our household until December (enforced unflinchingly by Dearest Wife), I couldn't resist posting The Ronettes's sublime version of "Frosty the Snowman" in celebration of FrankenFrosty's birth. It just seemed so right.

The Ronettes - Frosty the Snowman (buy here)

And so, to bed. I have no idea how I'm getting to work tomorrow, but the contingency plan is a 90-minute walk...

UPDATE 27/11/06 8:45 AM: Well, I managed to get into work this morning, though it took me just over an hour on a circuitous bus route. That said, it was still a shorter commute than my old regular one back in London. Ah, perspective. However, power is out across large swathes of the Vancouver area, our neighbourhood included. So fret not if you don't hear from me much. But hey, it's all an adventure!


Anonymous said...

Ah. The walk will be the making of you!

Playing the Romeo Void track as I type this and it is hitting the spot very nicely.

It's good to have you back.

(and, great picture of Frosty and his snow comrades)

Mentok the Mind-taker said...

No matter what Immigration says, you can now truly call yourself Canadian (if you wish) since you have joined the universal nation-wide dislike of Toronto. Your comments about it being a soulless city that is trying a bit too hard to be cool are especially appropriate.

Wow, Romeo Void! What a blast from the past! I thought I was the only one who remembered that tune.

Good to have you back!

Anonymous said...

I don't like Toronto either. Although my opinion of the city is probably clouded by a negative personal association, it seems to me to be a city with much in the way of, erm, ennui. That and an overabundance of construction cranes, which are lovely to climb but clutter up the city nonetheless.

Good to have you back - wonderful work on the snow man. He is the most decidedly British looking snow man I have ever seen, possibly owing to his thin lips and sunken eyes. Kidding, of course...?

Anonymous said...

I saw Romeo Void open for the Talking Heads at the Hollywood Palladium and they were astounding! (I mention them all the time at BKLYN SOD Mentok...)

T&F@tlh said...


Snow? Lucky you! Only an hour commute? - what a slacker, shame on you for forgetting the joys of the journey in to the City and the Wharf!

I'm not sure about that liz's comments about British snowmen!Is she not aware of our sangfroid behavior and tendencies? We dont need snowmen to show us up!

Looking forward to my visit to the snow - go dig those skis out (why didn't you use them to get to work?)- Better warn Rachel off from swapping with you.


mjrc said...

indeed, it good to have you back. and may i say that chrimbo is THE coolest word i've heard in a very long time. i'm not sure exactly what it means, but it sounds fraught with possibilities!

Anonymous said...

Oh I think this might be the best snowman I have ever seen, love the button nose and sweet smile of all three cuties ;)

I am glad you are home safely...Although it sounds like your area is getting some of the worse weather ever...

And although fresh snow is one of the most beautiful things it can also be quite a disaster for places that are not used to such harsh weather.

So I send my love to the entire FiL clan, stay safe and warm...I am sending you California sunshine (although it rained here today but tomorrow it will be 75 degrees again so I will send all I can) :)

Christmas music???? Mrs. FiL? What is up with the christmas tunes? :P

Anonymous said...

how can you rip Toronto? It might be the most fabulous city in the world. I said it might be. Had a great peach sorbet there once very long ago.

Eliot Iguana said...

I have to chuckle at your line about Toronto. No surprise, I had the exact same reaction on my multiple visits to the in laws 13 years ago.

It could be a very nice city, if it would stop trying to pretend that it is NYC or London. Can you imagine a Toronto that actually embraces its donut shoppes and cold weather and the question - what the hell is a city doing out here in the middle of nowhere?

Great pic of the kiddos! They are growing quite large - what are you feeding them these days?

Natsthename said...

Embraces donut shoppes? I thought that was a GIVEN anywhere in Ontario. I swear. I live in an area where there's a Dunkin' Donuts every 2 miles, but I have NEVER seen as many donut establishments as I did during one week in London. What I want to know is you go for the donuts or for the coffee up there?

And FiL, glad you're home to your normal (???) routine!

Anonymous said...

Now why..

would I want to buy Frosty the Snowman?

I freakin memorized the song, man! I mean...that's like buying yellow snow.

Anyway. Thanks for the Birthday Wishes!

Bishakh said...

Salut FiL! What a superlicious snowman! Might I also suggest, for an alternate take on yr chrimbo musik, the ever-shimmery and sublime Cocteau Twins' covers of the aforementioned 'Frosty the Snowman' and...wait for it...'Winter Wonderland'! And of course you must have 'December will be magic again' by (I suppose she's quite good) Kate Bush on your stereogram this hol season.

FiL said...

Dearest WAF: It's good to be back! Yes, I think Frosty would have made a great Revolutionary Vanguard, if someone hadn't decapitated him yesterday. Probably the Whites. Or else those pesky Mensheviks.

Dearest Mentok: Another maple leaf stamp in my book, eh? How many do I need to get before they simply award me citizenship?

Dearest Liz: You have Frosty pegged - behind his stiff upper lip rages a churn of emotions weighed down by the scar tissue of generations of repression... As for cranes, I must admit I find this urban exploration lark rather appealing, though methinks I may be too timid to actually giveit a proper whirl...

Dearest Fraser: Lucky dog!

Dearest Dearest Tim: Oh yes, I do remember the Canary Wharf rat run/crawl. Painfully. It's permanently etched into my soul...

Dearest Marcy: Chrimbo = an English contraction of Christmas. Also spelled Crimbo.

Dearest Rachel: Thanks for the love & sunshine - I can feel the warmth!!

Dear Nonny: Must've been one heck of a sorbet...

Dearest Eliot / Dearest Nats: Erm, must admit I missed the whole donut thing. Maybe Toronto has evolved to bran muffins & croissants over the years??

Dearest Hippo: Ah, but there are SO many versions, many sublime! Hope you had a splendid celebration.

Mon Cherissimo Beesh! Indeed, The Cocteaus do a dreamtastic versh. As for Kate, I'm slowly building her back up in my CD collection. She is indeed quite good (still), but I fear I've not been as attentive to her as I should have been for a couple of years now. Sigh...

Anonymous said...

I want snooooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!

Am I gonna have to stomp my feet til I get some?

How about hold my breath???