Archive for August, 2012

A Little Knowledge …

Friday, August 31st, 2012

I am not entirely sure why but in the past few months I have been on an almost frenetic quest for knowledge.  Its like I am having some kind of mid life crisis (one that the silver convertible cannot assuage) and that I have realized that my time on this earth is finite and I must cram as many facts into my weary head as possible.  It has gotten to the point that I cannot really tolerate most television programming and I have been eschewing reading fiction (which I generally love) in favour of more factual fare.  I just finished an absolutely fascinating series of articles on Nazi Germany by a jouranlist named Gitta Sereny. Having polished off a book called “The Westies” on the Irish mafia in New York City’s Hells Kitchen I picked up another effort by the same author on race relations in New York during the 1970s.  I have also been using my Hot Docs membership as much as possible, taking in films ranging from the story of Darwin, California (population:  35) to the 1975 Academy Award winning opus “Hearts & Minds” which examines the intricate details of the Vietnam War.

Oh, and I went to see “The Expendables 2”.  Yup, just needed to see how far I could swing the intellectual pendulum.

“The Expendables 2” is a visual candy store if indeed the treats you seek are inconceivable amounts of bullets, blood and mayhem. It was like the film makers took all the gratuitous violence that had been edited out of ever movie last year and stuffed it in this one.  Bombs and bad puns explode at every turn and the phrase “rest in pieces” is uttered at one point,  not without reason. The gossamer thread that presents itself as the plot line is really only there to create a scenario for some retired action hero to step out of the smoke and take a bow. Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Jean Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris (in a particularly unbelievable sequence of events which is saying a LOT under the circumstances) take their turn.  The only one missing was Steven Seagal.  Categorically ridiculous and, for what it was, enormous fun.

Newton’s law of motion state that for every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction.  Good to know that the principles of Physics, a subject I was categorically hopeless at in high school, should now be waging a pitched battle in my brain so many years later.


Friday, August 24th, 2012

Rumspringa is the time in the Amish culture when the youth may choose to separate themselves from the community for a period in order to confirm they are ready for a lifetime of commitment to Amish tradition.  Some go to live among the “English”(non-Amish North Americans), experiencing modern technology and perhaps even experimenting with sex, alcohol and illegal drugs. Once this period of experimentation they may return home (and the vast majority do) for baptism into the Amish church and commence their adult lives with full celebration of the traditions and beliefs of their culture.

And what the hell does this have to do with me, you may ask?

For the most part I adhere to a rather strong if unspoken code of behavior in my life.  Not guided by religion it is more a commitment to my own intellectual and experiential growth as well as to a lifestyle dictated largely by healthy eating and plenty of exercise.  Until August 17th through September 3rd, when the Canadian National Exhibition rolls into town and any semblance of restraint (dietary or otherwise) goes straight out the window, into the deep fryer, and on to my plate.

The CNE experience is kicked up a notch by the fact that my friend Jennifer sits on the board so not only do I get a free pass (through the gates, not by any nutritionist on the planet) but I also get a really cool insight into the things that happen on the sidelines that one might be apt to miss.  Like the enormous butter sculpture of Rob Ford reading a Margaret Atwood novel, the best fudge purveyor on the grounds or the specific location of the Harley Davidson boot outlet.  I had dropped by on the weekend with Jen and casually shared a pulled pork sandwich on a red velvet cupcake “bun” with maple syrup, which was a horrifying creation.  The red velvet pancake was NOT a chocolate item but rather a regular pancake dyed a lurid shade of neon orange which gave me a headache for two days.


Undaunted, I vowed to return and see what  gustatory boundaries were being challenged in earnest.

Enter Kim, who has hitherto proven her courage by walking around the edge of the CN Tower.  This may have proved to be a bigger challenge.

We decided to try and follow a traditional meal pattern, starting with an appetizer, a full meal, a side and then several hundred desserts.

East met West with a pair of tacos – the first was kalbi (BBQ Korean beef) the second fish with kimchi and carrots and sauce in a fresh taco shell.  Both quite delicious, and unnervingly almost healthy tasting.


Determining that healthy tasting could devolve into a dangerous trend, we followed the tacos with a side of deep fried dill pickle on a stick and a delightful shepherd’s pie in a bread cone.


The pickle came from a separate establishment than the cone and I was amused to see the following sign.  A sad state of affairs when one has to create a special sign for your “healthy” option.  Sadder still when it is a roast beef sandwich on a white burger bun.

Dessert #1 was a conceptual mind bender:

Bacon wrapped deep fried Mars Bar with bacon topping and a duo of caramel and chocolate sauces.  My arteries hardened just writing that.

Kim and I decided to take a well deserved break and Jen led us on a brief tour through the Arts & Crafts building, home of the aforementioned best fudge on the grounds.  I am delighted to report I restrained myself (Ha!) and bought nothing.  Kim however left with some pumpkin pie and key lime pie chunks and really as I had about a quarter pound of samples I should not be so bold as to bandy the word “restraint” around unless I am planning to chain myself to a chair so as not to run back tomorrow and buy my own.

After walking around for at least seven minutes and thereby justifying the purchase of a fortifying snack we split a lovely deep fried peanut butter and jam sandwich, which I am sad to report was alarmingly delicious.


Sated, salted and sticky we made our way home.  It was a fun day and I suspect I will not have to eat again for a week.  I am trying to ignore the fact that Jen has generously shared a couple of passes so I can return to haunt the fudge hut at any time for the next 10 days.  After that I will have a ritual cleansing and will try and reintegrate amongst my people with a dab of caramel sauce on my chin and sugary visions in the clouds of my memory.

Some other options, should you choose to Rumspringa (which sounds like a frothy booze drink one might pair with some chocolate covered bacon) down at the Fair.




Edge Walk

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

The other day I did the CN Tower Edge Walk where, as the name might suggest, one walks around the perimetre of the first large hamburger shaped building on the stick.

So up in the air you are, wearing a saucy red jumpsuit, hanging 356 metres off the ground (1168 feet for the Imperialists).  It is very exhilarating and the view is fabulous.  But curiously that is not what this post is about.

I went on this lovely excursion with my friend Kim and her father, Harry.  In her youth Kim was a punk rocker and prone to sporting all the fashion that such an affiliation brings.  Harry was a school teacher.  Kim related a story to me about how she had been yanked from class and threatened with suspension for one of her more daring outfits which I believe was a pair of clear plastic pants, modesty guaranteed by the strategic placement of duct tape.  Harry was called and instead of delivering a stern lecture he drove from his school to hers to patiently explain the concept of “Freedom Of Expression” to the offended officials.  100 points to Harry for supporting his daughter and her right to speak (or wear) her opinions.

Kim is one of the most generous people I know but she wouldn’t want you to know that.  This post was inspired by the fact that after our walk we were talking about what the rest of the week held for us and she mentioned that she had to do a driver’s training class for Meals on Wheels.  I told her I was impressed and she shrugged it off.  She recently started driving again, thought about how lucky she was to be able to do so, and thought she should give something back.  This is natural for her and it isn’t the first time it has happened.  After taking the George Brown pastry degree she looked for a charity that she could bake cookies for.  She found one and moved from baking edible donations to sitting on their board for several years.  She organized her local street fair. She donates to charities.  And all of this comes as easily to her as it does to me to take the last slice of cake (And I will. Oh yes I will.  And then I will deny it.).

Altruism is defined as the “regard for others as a principle of action; unselfishness” and Kim is a altruist in the truest sense of the word.  She doesn’t need the accolades, she just is compelled to do good for those less fortunate.  She and her father are cut from the same cloth and I am humbled and impressed by them both.

Who knew you could learn about being grounded at a thousand feet in the air?

Paddle Board

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

The other day in an attempt to keep up with my “try every new crazy sport there is” manifesto I took an introduction to Stand Up Paddle Boarding which is exactly what it sounds like.  You stand on something that resembles a surfboard, and you paddle it around.  It looks a little like this:

Actually, when I do it it looks a lot more like THIS

but I went with the previous shot so as to give a better impression of intent.

It was rather windy so instead of blissfully drifting over the glass-like azure of Lake Ontario I found myself in a slight crouch with toes gripping the board trying not to go ass over tea kettle into the surf.  You are constantly making micro adjustments in your stance in order to avoid falling and as such my stabilizer muscles all got one hell of a workout.  Plus I seem to have reverted back to my reptile brain and assumed the paddle was some kind of weapon vital to my survival that I kept clenched in a Vulcan death grip, resulting in forearms of fire (which sounds like something a superhero might have but most emphatically does not).

I had done a rather tough shoulder and chest workout the day before so the net result is that I am moving like an arthritic sloth and not wearing anything that involved complicated closing devices.  Buttons are out of the question and I am truly regretting my wardrobe’s utter lack of velcro.  I had the sudden realization despite my constant exercise I could easily be outrun, out punched and generally out maneuvered by an octogenarian on a a Rascal scooter as my efforts generally cause me to be in at least a moderate amount of pain and stiffness at any given time.

This whole issue is made especially evident by the surfeit of Olympic gymnastic programming that is available to view.  I crimp myself upon my couch, bowl of some unspeakable snack item balanced on my breast and watch the nimble little minxes flip around on balance beams like they are extras in a production of “Jiffy Pop, The Musical”.  I satisfy myself by uttering comments such as “that one looks like a real bitch”, which would actually be justified if one were 17 and had spent the last decade of one’s existence eating nothing but lettuce and committing to a brutal workout for eight hours a day but I must admit it is envy and astonishment that begets such comments. I am hardly the shape nor did I ever have the inclination or drive to be one of their brethren. And no one is judging my less than graceful “dismount” from a paddle board. One hopes.