New Thing+ #3: The Stonewall Inn

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I have to admit that there aren’t many downsides to flying to New York for an overnight work trip. Especially when I’ve only visited the city once before (and that was only for a fleeting evening stay).

I made sure to make the most of my time there and found myself walking all over the bottom half of Manhattan. It was around 9pm when I finally made it to The Stonewall Inn.

It’s one of those larger-than-life places that have existed in my imagination ever since learning of its existence. In this case it really lives up to that; it’s crazy tiny.

You’d think that the place that birthed the Gay Rights movement would be grande. But no, it’s just a quaint looking exterior with a pretty average gay bar inside. It’s dark, the service is slow and the bar rum is a travesty.

But as I sat there surrounded by men winding down after work, college kids chatting in the corner and the older crowd enjoying a beer at the bar, I realized how perfect it was.

Not a single one of them was afraid. Or ashamed.

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New Thing #352: Mel Lastman Square

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I’ll start by saying this: I don’t get up to North York very often. Actually I go there exactly twice a year unless I have a cavity.

That’s because my dentist is in the North York Centre, and although I’ve been going there for over a decade, I had no idea it was literally attached to Mel Lastman Square.

In my defense, I take the subway and I never really go outside when I’m getting for a cleaning. So when I was looking for something to do before leaving for my appointment I was surprised to see Mel Lastman Square show up on Google Maps.

All these years I’ve thought it was this huge place where people congregated to see bands, attend festivals and ring in the new year. But it’s tiny. Really, really tiny. I guess that’s fitting with its namesake and all, but it was surprising none the less.

All in all it’s an odd town square. The skating rink seems well maintained and they even have their own Zamboni. But the stage is minuscule, there’s a weird pagoda overlooking things and more stairs than places to stand.

It’s certainly an not what I was expecting in the heart of what amounts to a foreign city to me.

New Thing #347: King Edward Hotel Bar

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I love hotel bars. There’s a certain anonymity to them that I really enjoy. There’s never any pretension to them since anyone who stays at the hotel could come down at any time in any state of dress. And you tend to meet interesting people if you’re looking for that kind of thing.

So tonight I finally made my way to the King Edward Hotel lobby bar. I know it’s strange that after all this time living in Toronto that I’ve never been there, but what are you going to do? I’m glad to say that it’s right up there with The Roof bar at the Hyatt, my favourite bar in the city by far.

Sure, it was mostly filled with old folk, but the bartenders really knew their stuff and mixed me up at fantastic martini. 

The decor was straight out of an English country manor even if the staff wasn’t. If I’m not mistaken I was served by a very fine Russian barkeep, which would account for the very fine martini I was served.

If you don’t mind the rather inflated prices that come with hotel lobby bars, I’d suggest checking this one out.

 

 

New Thing #305: Crema on the Danforth

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It’s not much of a secret that I frequent the Crema Espresso Bar at Yonge and Bloor rather frequently. I love their coffee and it’s conveniently located about 3 minutes from my office. 

But, even though I’ve passed it many times on the Danforth, I’ve never frequented their newest location until tonight. After a rather enjoyable visit with an old friend and colleague I grabbed a cappuccino to see how it stacked up to its brother’s. Pretty well is my assessment.

Plus, out of the three Crema locations I’ve been to, this is by far the most inviting. It’s warm and has plenty of seating and, at least in the evening, it’s fairly vacated. Perfect for a little quiet espresso time.

 

New Thing #282: Maple Leaf Gardens Loblaws

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I headed down to the new Loblaws that took up residence in the old Maple Leaf Gardens today. 

I have nothing but good memories of the Gardens. From the Leafs to WWF Wrestling and a few concerts thrown in, it always makes me smile to remember it. So there’s something a bit surreal about finding a big red dot marking centre ice next to the soy sauce. Aisle 25 if you’re interested in finding it for yourself.

It’s hard to stay weirded out though when you’re surrounded by what’s easily the biggest, most spacious, beautifully designed grocery store in the city. The immaculate tile typography that ushers you towards the fishmonger and butcher is definitely the star of the show for me. It’s big, bold and stunning and I’ve never seen anything quite like it before.

My only complaint is that the hot food section is a complete mess. I ended up having to buy my entrée and sides separately, amounting to multiple pieces of packaging that needed to be weighed and tagged for purchase. Plus we got shuffled around to another side of the register where people were gathering their utensils even though it made more sense for us to stand opposite them. This caused one woman to freak out, call us animals (yes she actually called us a bunch of animals) and storm off, only to turn around and decide that we were actually bitches. And she wasn’t even one of the crazy ladies that I used to see in the neighbourhood when I lived there. Not to be outdone though, the older eastern European gentlemen in front of us proclaimed that if she’d said something like that in his country, he would have punched her in the face. Good times.

But aside from their eatery bringing out the worst in people’s souls, it’s a pretty damn nice place.

New Thing #266: The Lego Store

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To say that I loved Lego as a kid might be one of the biggest understatements ever made. There was only one person in the world who loved them more, and that was my dad.

So today when were walking through Fairview Mall on important pants buying business I let out an audible gasp when I passed The Lego Store.

I had no idea that this Mecca to the six the sided brick existed, let alone in this neck of the woods.

The store is just overwhelming, and teaming with customers and Lego Experts alike. If it weren’t for the primary colours everywhere you’d swear you were in an Apple store

The walls are neatly stacked with all types of Lego sets from the traditional castles, to modern works of architecture and robots. George Lucas seems to be financing his next Star Wars production entirely on the basis of Lego sets alone. The 3,104 piece Imperial Star Destroyer alone is $500 (if anyone is looking for Christmas gift ideas for me this year).

There’s a wall devoted to buying bricks piece meal which would have been a fantastic resource when I was kid. I’d never be stuck three-quarters of the way through a giant ship build only to find that I didn’t have one of those little blue three bangers.

Plus, you can mix and match heads, bodies, hair, legs and accessories to make your own custom Lego guy.

Oh, and Audrey thought it was pretty cool too.

 

New Thing #176: Pablo Escobar’s Beach House

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When I found out that we were shooting a spot for one of our clients on a beach in Mexico, I never expected said beach to be attached to Pablo Escobar’s former beach house.

Of course it’s gone through some changes since then, most notably being turned into a cleansing spa retreat, but it’s still where the famous drug lord used to chill out. Of course I got the grand tour of the estate right away and although not extrememly impressive in size, it has a lot of nice little touches. Ok, I mostly just glommed onto the big bathtubs all over the place. You gotta wonder what kind of crazy shannagans they got up to in those things.

And now it’s on the market and could be yours for a cool $17 million. Girls not included.

New Thing #171: The Magic Building

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I used to work in the east end of Toronto and quite often I’d notice a strange building just off of Queen on Sumach Street. It’s hard to miss with its distinctive exterior covered in blue paint and yellow stars. The rather barbaric heads that double as colums to the doorway and “The Magic Building” moniker atop them obviously upped the intrigue factor. I had no idea what the building housed and never thought to go in to see for myself. But today I had to work out of there.

A marathon casting session for a spot I’m shooting soon was set up at Jigsaw Casting. They just so happen to run out of the second floor of 60 Sumach Street. I was thrilled to finally get inside the joint, especially since it was a nice surprise to start the day.

As far as the inside goes though, it’s just another converted warehouse. The casting house did have a entire room that used to be a subway car, comple with poles, seats and windows, so maybe it isn’t just like any other converted warehouse after all. Plus the casting agent was just lovely, so it has that going for it too.

New Thing #168: Ruby Eats

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If you’ve watched much of Food Network Canada, you probaby know who Lynn Crawford is. She used to be the executive chef at two Four Season’s restaurants until opening up her own place in Toronto’s east end. Ruby Watchco is a fantastic dining experience, focussing on local and sustainable ingredients. Plus, one of the chefs is sort of a friend of the family, so it has that going for it.

Recently they’ve opened up a food store just a few doors down called Ruby Eats. We sauntered in near the end of the day today and were stunned by the beauty of the store. I worked in the neighbourhood for years at a previous job and I’m amazed at what they’ve done with the old stereo store space.

It’s full of hand-picked packaged goods, local produce, cheeses, cookware and prepared foods. There’s even a cooktop where Lynn gives occasional demonstrations apparently. And surprisingly things are reasonably priced. Sure, it’s no Pricechopper but it wouldn’t break the bank either.

I couldn’t leave empty handed so I picked up some very reasonably priced pickled zucchini. Which is the reason I’m ending this post now since I can’t wait any longer to dig into them.

New Thing #157: Las Vegas

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When I was in college my friend Irene introduced me to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Even though I’ve never been into the whole drug scene, the frantic, exciting and explosive nature of Hunter S Thompson’s novel enthralled me and made me yearn for a crazy Vegas weekend of my own.

It’s been a long time since I read that book for the first time but I’ve never lost the hope that I’d get to Vegas eventually. And here I am. In an airport. With slot machines.

Now where’s my hotel at, ’cause I’m old now and tired from that flight.