Wednesday, July 31, 2013

I Think You My Friend

Day one of this UK Road Trip has gone well. For probably the first time I can remember, I slept for most of the flight. Not a dreamy deep sleep or anything but generally for most of the flight I had my eyes closed. 

Finding the hotel wasn't too hard either though carrying two bags even for a short walk seemed rough. Once checked in (upgraded to a double no less) I immediately had a two hour-ish nap. Then I headed out to walk through Hyde Park on route to Oxford Street. I figured I could find a department store where I could pick up some wrapping paper and a card for Catherine and Andrew. I was soooo close to getting a condolences card but fought the urge and found something nice at John Lewis. Traveller note - most department stores have fine and clean washrooms. Just saying. Then I continued my needlessly consumerist ways and found a simple white shirt at Zara (Globalism comment here) to wear for the wedding. My theory is it will be grossly hot and a white shirt may disguise the huge damp spots better than a blue shirt. 

On my way I figured I'd need some walking-around-money so I hit a cash machine then consulted a map to find my way back to the hotel. Whilst crossing the street I realized I was heading the wrong direction and turned quickly back. That's when this burly salt-and-peppered headed stranger slapped my shoulder. When I looked at him he says, in accented English, "Sorry, guy, I think you my friend."  Just then I got the feeling I had been "marked" so I double backed to the curb, removed my jacket and tucked it under my arm. The paranoia that I was about to be pick-pocketed only worsened so I crossed the street in an erratic and unpredictable pattern until I tucked and rolled behind a waste bin - drew my revolver and quickly shot dead the sneaky looking Serb who had begun tailing me. 

Okay. That didn't happen but I felt pretty sure I hadn't been mistaken for someone's buddy and it did give a good excuse to try one of London's Barclay Bike hires - aka Boris Bikes to make a speedy getaway. I had tried to rent one on my way to Oxford Street but both kiosks failed to either accept my card or print a release code to unlock a bike. Third time lucky I guess. Even having a code it took me a couple of bikes before I could find one that had a working base station that would unlock a bike. 

It was quite a thrill to finally get on a bike in London and … stop and correct the seat height (two more times). I rode as leisurely as I could down Bayswater along the North edge of Hyde Park. It was also very satisfying as I was just getting plain annoyed by the rate of walking as so many people on bikes went by. Also - it gave me an excuse to talk to a rather fetching female cyclist when I was getting near my hotel but had no idea where the next bike hire station was so I could drop the thing off. She told me to follow her and she would point out where the next one was. Black Lion Gate I think was the location. She rode on like a ship passing in the night/bike passing on the tarmac. These are the stories you find on your way through a foreign city (or insert some Graham Greene-esque quote here as you wish). 

In another spy novel twist - the hotel's fire alarm just sounded - 1am by the way.  I immediately jumped up; put on a shirt and pants and grabbed my wallet, two phones and passport and walked to the front desk. Fortunately there was no emergency and myself and many other pajama'd patrons went back to our rooms. 


Sunday, July 28, 2013


Patricia Lee Smith

I should be working right now, but I'm listening to Patti Smith and hearing her talking about her kids and herself as a little girl, sounds a little funny to me. It just reminds you we were all kids once upon a time. I wish I didn't have to work. I wish it could all be play. But, bills to pay… obligations and so on…

Monday, July 22, 2013

Coffee Time 

Espresso coffee cubes, blended with milk and sugar and POW! Heat wave coffee explosion!


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Seen in June 

photo of Michelle Williams
Michelle Williams in Meek's Cutoff

I'm late posting this by almost three weeks. I guess June wasn't about watching too many movies. In fact most of June was taken trying to avoid spoilers from Game of Thrones, but the film that stuck with me is still the quiet and still Meek's Cutoff. Sadly, two of three films were seen on a seat back display of a plane but I don't think it made them any worse.

Meek's Cutoff
Three couples are being led west in 1845 via the Oregon Trail by a hired guide, Mr. Meek. At some point in their wanderings they've run low on water and are beginning to doubt that their guide knows anymore about where they are going than they do. This is a time when the menfolk speak quietly amongst themselves to determine their fates while the women watch from a distance. Yet, these hardened women are no dummies and this is more their story. Michelle Williams plays Emily Tetherow who turns out to be the only one with the fortitude to put their guide Meek (an almost unrecognizable Bruce Greenwood) in his place. Curiously this is shot in 4:3 aspect ratio. The director, Kelly Reichardt has said it was to convey the point of view of the women looking out from their bonnets and the feeling of despite having no privacy, the journey remained almost an internal one. I can't speak to that but it reminded me of old silent films and photos of the West (which I guess were really 1:1). The film has very little story other than the trance-like quietness of walking in the wilderness and it ends ambiguously but I think we know the truth. The great Western frontier was peopled by women with the strength of Mrs. Tetherow.

Game of Thrones, Season 3
Spoiler alert - there is nudity and graphic violence and dragons but on the bright side there are notably fewer characters to keep track of.

Identity Thief
Funny in a funny-ha-ha kind of way but predictable in a saw-it-coming kind of way.

Gangster Squad
Almost as cartoonish as Dick Tracy but not quite cartoonish enough to erase some of the fetishistic violence.

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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Goodbye Mr. Colville 

On a River, 1996

What to say of Alex Colville's passing? Like many, I admired his work, even had prints of his paintings on my walls. In some ways, it was the proliferation of those prints and success of those images, superficially seen as simple, that led some to think of him as a Canadian Norman Rockwell. He was much more than that to me. Seeing a Colville image is as strong a neural connection as a long forgotten memory forced to the surface by a passing scent.

Moon and Cow, 1963
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Wednesday, July 17, 2013


Split image showing Jesse on one side and Walt on the other with the title Breaking Bad overlaid in such a way that the words King and Bad are isolated. This could get bad. Image via Murray Mitchell

I've just started watching Breaking Bad Season 5. The current temperatures in Toronto - mid-30s or around 40 with the Humidex reading, seem in sympathy with a show like this (or Walking Dead where any human is perspiring heavily). The very physical discomfort of sitting in a Toronto apartment match the uncomfortableness and unease of the show's characters. Adding to this discomfort is that I have a cold. So I'm feeling pretty not-so-wonderful in the evenings. The really draining part is not sleeping then dragging yourself to work again. Super. But I shouldn't complain. At least the office is comfortable. Before this heat began, the office seemed over chilled but now it simply feels "not hot".

All I'm saying is: Beer, good show cued up, too hot to move. Don't expect too much of me at the moment.

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Monday, July 15, 2013

A Weekend in the Hot Sassy City

A pint at Bellwoods Brewery, the name of which, I do not recall.

Lately, I have been what you might call slothful. Not just lazy but practically inert. I'm not entirely to blame nor blameless either. The tumultuous weather and the resulting headaches or migraines have meant my preferred position recently has been horizontal and drugged — though I prefer the Elizabethan sounding "druggéd". Sounds romantic. As though I were an English poet recumbent on a chaise lounge incapacitated by opiates, dreaming of stately pleasure domes. But I wasn't really. In reality I lay in a sticky, bright but airless Parkdale apartment (albeit with views of sailboats on the lake). 

One problem is I gain weight like a plant absorbs carbon dioxide — very efficiently. Also, I appear to have developed a tendency for being a hermit. To counteract both weight gain and hermitage but mostly to avoid the heat of my apartment and the noise of the nearby Molson Indy car race I took a longish bike ride then attempted rehydration at Bellwoods Brewery.
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