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!