The Cannonball

I’ve been in my job a year, it feels like it’s been 5. Work is good and I’ve managed to avoid the 15% per month work travel that was part of my contract. I didn’t think I’d get so excited about not traveling, but I managed to find things to do, like see my family more often, join a dojang and a running group and become addicted to all three.

I built a routine. Something I hadn’t done ever and you know what, those feel-good books are right. Routine is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G and oddly grounding :-P. It’s a breakthrough perhaps only for me and +30 years late but there is no time like today.

So I escaped work travel and I was sad about that, but now that 15% travel in my contract is coming at me full force, “You missed a whole year of work travel so we are bumping your travel up to 90% for this year. How d’ya like us now!”

Ok so they didn’t really say that to me and it’s not 90% but for now there is a “plan” where I’ll have to be packed for 5 weeks straight.

That concerns me slightly – WHAT DO I PACK!

A uniform, I’ve decided. Black dress pants and fitted dress shirts. Boring and functional.

And that is how I ended up on Queen Street East.

After a futile shopping experience where the kids in the Retail shops ignored me and what I did try on just didn’t fit, I resorted to the Internet.

Tailored clothes!

Ok so it feels a little like I am back in the 30’s but I’ve also done my research and the price difference that I am paying between something off the rack that sags in the wrong spots, that will to rub to shiny within months and something that is fitted to me and will last year’s, is minimal.

What has The Cannonball Coffee and Bar have to do with Tailored pants?

Nothing really except it is a Toronto GEM and happens to be just down the street from the Tailor. It has great music, the yummiest breakfast bagels (served after 5pm even!!) I have ever tried, plus their coffee is pretty good.

And the only reason I am here is because work asked me to travel, I need pants, I found a tailor and am enjoying an impromptu evening at one of my favourite coffee house’s in the city.

Moving The Gold

It’s been 11 months since I joined the dojang.

We pick places that smell and we keep going to them because we like the people, the people like us, there is an accountability and we encourage each other to do better. There has been progress, I no longer trip, as frequently, over my two feet; I can punch something in front of me and I can stand my ground without flying through the 2nd story window (that right there is accomplishment!).

Three weekends ago – it’s been that long – by Sunday afternoon my body was screaming at me and I was wiping sweat from my brow. The sweat was the physical indicator that I’d been pushing myself out of my comfort zone. The screaming was my brain telling me I was done absorbing new information. What I could not have predicted is this particularly physically and mentally draining weekend would help me through the next three weeks.

Serious.

“When I punch towards your face and you parry without moving your head, what happens?” Master Ramirez questioned us. I sat there on on my knees, surrounded by my classmates, speechless – did he just ask us to solve an algebraic problem ? It felt like it.

“I’ll steal The GOLD,” he exclaimed, where the gold was a reference to our heads.

I snickered to myself, since when does “The Mummy” and Kru Muay Thai ever intersect? Here on the dojang mat, apparently!

Master Ramirez continued, “When your opponent strikes, your parry is a distraction and you move The GOLD while they are distracted.”

He stopped, he turned to face us, “Is this only true in Kru Muay Thai, in the ring?”

“No sir,” we state loudly and in unison.

“Everyday someone is trying to steal The GOLD. Work, for example, there is always someone competing with us, trying to outperform, beat us in ‘the ring’ and what do we have to do? Move the goods, move what ever it is they are after, that thing we are defending. Move The GOLD!”

And as my reward for snickering silently in my head at this solid life-advice, I’ve been busy “Moving My GOLD” for three weeks solid.

If I thought I was exhausted three Sunday’s ago, I am officially all tapped out!

Can I simply leave The GOLD in one spot for one full week? Please?

“There is power in knowing that our moments can, and will, inevitably shift. Knowing the good won’t last forever gives us permission to embrace the moment fully without clinging or depending on it. Acknowledging the bad won’t last forever gives us strength to move forward instead of being caught up in helplessness, and insight to make shifts and changes if need be. Impermanence is a blessing in disguise. And non-attachment is the only way to truly forgive and love another person.” ~M. J. Ross

My Disappointment

I am preparing for a trip and I love taking books with me.  It’s my equivalent to music. I love looking through my “library” and remembering where I was when I read my books.  The sounds, the smell, the experience’s all come flooding back.

This trip is no except.  I want a book and I know which one.

Off to Indigo.

I find my book.  Stand in line at the checkout.

When it’s my turn the cash associate turns my book over and reads the authors name and exclaims, “You know I didn’t know what Nick Hornby looked like until today.”

I was intrigued.  She continues.

“He came into this store today and came up to my cash and said, ‘I am Nick Hornby, an author stranded in Toronto and I would like to sign some of my books.'”

“Are you serious!” I exclaimed.

My excitement was rubbing off and she lit up, leaned over the counter slightly and jubilantly replied, “Yes, he was here literally 15 minutes ago!!”

Nick Hornby.  I missed him for a pair of shoes and all of a sudden their newness doesn’t seem so bright and I didn’t even get a signed copy of his book.

🙂

Breakfast at CANADIANA

Breakfast at CANADIANA

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Weekends are for adventuring, specifically trying out new brunch locations.

This past weekend I convinced a friend to go for a walk to my favourite coffee shop.  I like to think he wanted to spend time walking, talking, looking at all the houses we pass but I know the real motivation for his joining me was to try out a new brunch location he’d spied a few weeks back.

The exterior of the restaurant is dark, hidden behind a few signs from other stores.  If I was to describe it in one word I’d say it looks = shady.  After seeing multiple coppers on multiple days dine at the little place, we decided to give it a try.  At least we’d be “safe”.

Turns out it was to be one of the more stressful eating experiences of my life. It wasn’t a fear-for-my-life experience like the other place I’d tried once and the Hispanic guy was yelling at the Caucasian woman about what he perceived to be her eight year-old son’s racist stares, “do you want me to go out to the trunk of my car and come back in?!”  At which point I left the restaurant – that morning I wasn’t in the mood to see blood spatter.

It was stressful in another way.

The interior of the restaurant had the appearance of an old 70’s diner. A stucco ceiling, exposed beams painted brown complete with a bar that included a polished brass foot rest.  There are two distinct rooms, divided by a half wall and window-like spaces.  The front half is mostly bright from the front windows; the back half of the diner is darker with light filtering over the half wall.

We were seated in the back half of the diner, right outside the kitchen, in front of the bar and the pass station.

There are four ladies on duty.

–        One owner/co-owner, we aren’t quite sure but she looks to be “running the place”

–        Two seasoned staff members who spent a significant amount of their time running around heckling the co-owner with random outburst such as, “well at least I didn’t kill the boss; I just hurt him so he can still pay us our wages!”

–        One newbie who was running around silently, filling up coffee mugs and shuttling plates back and forth throughout the restaurant.

After being seated for 15 minutes our order was taken by one of the more seasoned ladies.

Once our order was taken, she moved to the next table, leaned towards the seated bleached-haired lady and scolded, “I told you your food was going to take 30 minutes minimum . Let that be your expectation, I don’t want to hear any more complaints!”

We should have known right? But we stayed seated.

Good thing we’d overheard our server or else perhaps we would have been getting a little anxious ourselves. Leaning back in my chair, I to peeked into the kitchen….no wonder it took 30 minutes a plate, they were cooking each egg in its own frying pan!  Amusing.

Not everyone in the restaurant had our service knowledge.  Too bad because their expectations were just too high for this place and they up and left after waiting 30 minutes for their food.

A kerfuffle ensued.

It was the newbies table!  What to do?  The customers just UP and LEFT.  What was she supposed to do?  She was panicking, running up and down her aisle of tables at the front of the restaurant, yelling towards the two seasoned waitresses in the back.

“The food is on the table,” she shrieked.

“Who’s going to pay for their food,” the seasoned lady replied to the non-question.

“The food, the food, I’ve put it on their table,” the newbie’s voice went up an octave.

“Just take it back to the kitchen and have someone else buy it,” barked one of the seasoned ladies.  Apparently this restaurant doesn’t believe in food hold time or in safe food handling practices.

The new lady didn’t follow the instructions and instead continued to flap up and down the aisle, fretting about who was going to pay for the food.  She ran outside to see if the customers were outside smoking, they were long gone.  I don’t know what happened to the food.

Thankfully we’d already received our breakfast – but not the food we’d ordered.

When my friend pointed this out to our server, she took his plate off our table, went back to the kitchen where we overhear her sarcastically inquire, “Does this look like Sunny Side up to you!!!”

The cook said something in return and out she flew from the kitchen, back to our table.

She slid the same plate back in front of him and said, “It’s not what you ordered but its good enough to eat.” And away she went..

I do not suggest CANADIANA to anyone except perhaps coppers who likely get their breakfast for free!

🙂

Little Big Guy Coffee

Little Big Guy Coffee

wpid-20140310_121341.jpgThis weekend I visited a new coffee shop on Lakeshore West, New Toronto to be specific. It was suggested to me a month or so ago by a local business owner who was adamant the coffee shop was a “super friendly”, “really nice” and “the best on Lakeshore West”. I didn’t want to argue, I have my bias, and instead made a mental note to check it out…one day.

I’ve driven by it a few times on my way to work. I’d slow down and peer towards the store in an effort to distinguish from my driver’s seat whether it was worthy of a “stop-and-see”. To be honest, it never looked open.

I decided this weekend was as good as any time to try it out and instead of turning right onto Lakeshore, I turned left.

As I walk towards the store it continued to look closed with the exception of the two jolly ladies sitting on chairs on the sidewalk directly in front of the shop. There are two doors to this coffee shop, one is for decoration, and the other is the actual door. Unlike regular doors of stores, this one had a door knob at the same level as my ears (or so it seemed) with a little sign above that says “pull”.

I pulled, the door opened and there I was standing inside the coffee shop. The room isn’t very big. There are 2 or 3 mismatched tables with mismatched chairs. Halfway along the left wall is a doorway that leads to the second side of the shop, the side that belongs to the door that isn’t meant to be opened.

Along the back of the first side of the shop is the coffee bar. Not one that you might expect, a low counter that crosses the width of the shop with nothing to distinguish it from a regular counter in a kitchen. It reminds me of a table at a fair where people showcase their goods.

Behind the bar is a large man. He is friendly just like the lady said he’d be. I ordered a “mostly-dark-roast” coffee and crossed to the second room to the left. There are more tables and chairs in this room.

An old drafting table with an array of counter and bar height chairs, a long interesting wooden table from an 18th century pub house (not really), including a bench that ran the length of the table, some leather chairs and regular height tables and more mismatched chairs.

The small metal encased radio sits on a corner shelf that is filled with books, pens, pencils and paper. Some of the pencils are loose, rolling around the floor. I’ve arrived in someone’s kitchen in an old farm house where I can put my feet up, fart and just be. The atmosphere is welcoming for sure with the 1980’s radio was blaring out 1980’s tunes, it’s antenna reaching for the ceiling.

The shop has a musty smell, a mix of old deodorant, unwashed hair and dirt stuck to the base boards. It may be the two older gentle men sitting at the front who are busy banging on the window, making faces and hand gestures to the women sitting outside, I can’t be sure.

Friendly, cosy, smelly, delicious coffee.

With a some cleaning TLC, a fresh coat of paint, an update to the entrance, a coffee bar that isn’t so confusing, I could then call it a hidden intimate gem, good for farting around 🙂

A Coffee Shop Date

A Coffee Shop Date

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It had to be their first date. It seemed they’d not met before, at least not in person. Perhaps not even on “the internet” *gasp*. Maybe he responded to a newspaper ad, or maybe she did?

Or could this be a blind date, set up by two of their best-friends who knew they’d “click”.

I can’t be certain how they found themselves sitting across from each other, sharing nothing but dialogue, but there they were.

Updating each other on the most intimate details of their lives in a public space:

“How old are you.”

“Do you have siblings?”

“Do you have a job?”

His opening lines upon settling into their unforgiving wooden chairs, hot drinks in hand,

“Literally I can rip apart a house”

“If there is a problem, I can fix it right away.”

Then he moved on to the brass-tacks on why he possessed such mad-skills setting himself up for date number two,

“The job market was tough; I voluntarily left my position in the finance industry, other people had children and mortgages and I had an opportunity to work with my uncle.”

His uncle isn’t just a contractor. He’s a Valentino contractor. He’s the contractor everyone wants to hire and everyone wants to work for. They wear tuxedos when they work, and dust? Did someone say dust? Dust is non-existent under his uncle’s watchful eye. It’s more like magic than it is like actual hard work contracting.

Did he learn. He learned all the trades while working for his uncle. How to rewire a house, install everything from insulation, drywall, shingles, bricks, roofing, lawns, driveways, duct work, cement, foundations. After 2 years of tutelage under his uncles watchful eye, you name it, he learned it and a pro he is! All while wearing a sharply pressed, dust-free tuxedo.

She blissfully watched him. Taken by his oratory prowess and general expertise, not one word escaped her lips. She leaned into the table to get a little closer to the story and probably to him too.

After his stint with uncle Valentino he moved on to the shipping and receiving industry. And boy, he’s taken the industry like a storm.

Yes-sir-ree. It took him 6 months to turn around that loading dock. Counting boxes on skids is hard work, so is reducing shrinkage, checking for damaged goods…too many acronyms and terms for me to remember. The story goes that he was promoted to be come their leading Sales Agent!

Top grossing Sales Agent to be correct and are we surprised?

I can see him selling me something, maybe not a date, but he could definitely sell me some shipping if that’s what I needed.

His closing lines to seal in date number two with his lovely doe eyed lady,

“If she shows up in daisy dukes,” rolls his eyes, “she might well as not have showed up at all”, and continues pointing at himself “see what I am wearing, jeans, sports jacket and a nice collared shirt,” he self-congratulates himself, “why can’t a girl just show up in modest clothing.”

She quickly jumps in not wanting his disapproval, equally eager for date number two and points out, “yes, like I wore my yellow coloured khaki’s and this smart, light-purple sweater set.”

How old were these two potential remote-controlled lovebirds?

25.

And how do I join their cool club?

I wore a ratty sweatshirt and jeans, and I am eavesdropping!! Do I make the cut?

Maybe.

501 Queen Street Westbound

501 Queen Street Westbound

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The streetcar was swaying back and forth.

It’s close to midnight and most of the seats are filled.

The only empty seats are at the back of the second car.

He finds a seat, facing south. He is sitting across from her. He can’t believe his luck. This will be a second encounter with this creature, this femme fatale.

Her nails are painted black and decorated with little sparkling gems. Her hair is jet black with peek-a-boo red highlights. Legs crossed. She is absorbed in her music blaring from her ear buds. She is madly texting on her phone. Her face expressionless, eyes outlined in black, lips coloured deep red. Her stockings are fishnet, ending just below the hemline of her tight short mini-skirt. There are 2 inches of bare thigh, exposed and he notices.

She is a mystery, that is precisely her allure.

She doesn’t notice him sit down across from her. The man-boy, holding a take-out bag and jug of milk, wearing nondescript grey jogging pants with a dark blue jacket. His mouth is gapping.

He stares intently at this woman. She isn’t noticing him.

He reaches across the streetcar aisle and taps her on the knee. She looks up from her phone, her music still blaring.

He sweetly tilts his head, smiles and manages a mock-surprised, “Wow, we meet again, how are you doing?”

She is polite and responds with “It’s good to see you, I am doing well,” and brings her eyes back down to her phone, dismissing him.

He isn’t sure what to do. He wants more. He wants a conversation. He wants to let her know how much he’s been thinking about her since the last time they met.

“I’ve tried calling you a few times but I never got an answer from your calls.”

Pause. She pretends not to hear him.

“I hope you are doing alright. I’ve thought about you an awful lot.”

Pause. This time there was a slight kick of her foot in acknowledgement. This gives him wings to fly.

“You look really hot tonight.”

Pause. There is no response. Not even a kick of the foot. He sits in silence. Watching her. He can’t take his eyes off her.

She ignores his presence and continues texting and turns up her music.

He fumbles with the pocket of his jacket and after a few moments produces a notebook. It’s a small, softcover notebook with an elastic band to keep the pages in place. He reaches back in his pocket to retrieve his pen. He keeps his eyes on her the entire time. He organizes himself, with one hand on his book, the other holding his pen. He opens up his notebook and for the first time, he looks down.

The page before him is blank.

He panics. What has he done. He has nothing to write. All he wants to do is talk to the woman, the creature who is tantalizing him from across the aisle of the streetcar.

He realizes his error in judgement, closes his book, caps his pen and puts them back in his coat pocket.

He sits a few moments longer contemplating his next move.

He stands up. His body swaying with the streetcar. The weight of his milk jug sending him twisting from side to side, back and forth. It’s hard for him to stand but he holds the hand rail above his head to steady himself.

He isn’t sure what to do. Maybe he should get off the streetcar at the next stop.

Instead he sits back down.

If she’s noticed any of this, she isn’t letting on. She keeps on texting with those long black, gem encrusted finger nails. And those stockings, riding down her thigh. He can’t keep his eyes off of her. His mouth is gaping slightly. If only he could get closer to her, perhaps touch her with his finger tips.

Then as if his prayers were answered, the couple sitting between him and his prize stood up to leave.

If his baggage was hindering him with his standing earlier while the streetcar lumbered along, it didn’t hinder him from gathering his belongings and snatching up the newly vacated, prime seating.

Within seconds he was beside her. His prayers answered. Her nightmare just beginning.

Community

Community

Ingraham ClockYou might know it as the smart NBC comedy that follows a tight-knit study group at a community college called Greendale.

I know it was my neighbourhood.

My weekends have mostly been reserved for walks to my coffee shop in an attempt to keep “last summer’s feeling alive”.

What a great summer that was. Mostly unemployed, basking in the sun, riding around on the GO train to keep entertained and taking up the Ukulele. The best part of last year is the people I met.

Last Sunday turned out to be a wonderful morning to go for a walk under the cover of sunshine and I choose a route that would take me through the local GO station. I couldn’t have imagined that I would end up in a cemetery, talking to locals about the history of my little patch of community!

But that is the fact of this little story.

I was heading towards my GO station, marching along with a mission to see the station again when I spotted to my right, the gates to the cemetery – OPEN. If you know something about me, I like to wander through cemeteries looking at the headstones deciding what these people’s lives might have been like. I suppose one day I’ll end up in a cemetery and perhaps someone will come by and read my headstone and they’ll say “She used to be SOMEBODY!” Aren’t we all “somebodies” 🙂

I wandered through the open gates and was checking the headstones as I strolled along the path when I noticed a man with a red cap, walking my way.

He introduced himself as the guide and he gave me a history lesson on all the Somebodies buried in this particular cemetery. There is only so much “cemetery” conversation two people can have, even if one of you is a guide and quite knowledgeable, after a solid 20 minutes I made way towards the main entrance.

Two older gentlemen stood at the entrance, seemingly lost in conversation and ignoring them I walked on by when the taller of the two shouted in my direction, “I have a trivia question for you!!”

I turned, looked at him, I might have even smiled, I can’t remember and said an unsure “Sure.”

“What was the original name of this road out here?”

Hmmm, this was tricky. How was I suppose to know? I guessed “Mimico?”

“Close,” he gleefully replied, and I MEAN gleefully. He had a twinkle in his eye and he wasn’t about to blurt out the original name of the street, “do you have another guess?”

“No,” I am not really good at guessing games.

He conceded, “It used to be called Church Street,” and with that he launched into a history lesson, tailored just for me, of the surrounding area starting with 1942.

I want to say my favourite part was learning why the names of some of the streets in the area are a little odd like, “Chimes” and “Clockwork” but the very best part was when the guide joined us and randomly blurted out a woman’s name adding “she’s a fantastic fundraiser!!”

I couldn’t believe my ears that we could possibly know the same dynamic, amazing woman that’d I’d only just met 15 months ago!

But she was one and the same and that made my day. I’d made three more connections in my Community 🙂 and to think it all started with open gates and my curiousity of cemeteries.

The Toronto Blizzard…

The Toronto Blizzard…

IMG-20130208-01056.jpgThere’s a blizzard happening in Toronto. No the army hasn’t been called in…yet!

After my work laptop ran out of battery and my boss negotiated with me NOT to drive in to work; I decided the best way to fill the wintery afternoon would be a walk in the winter wonderland.

Deciding that I was able to survive many summer walks to the coffee shop, I might as well attempt it during a blizzard.

What I can confirm about Toronto blizzards is:

1. Men in sidewalk snowplows really are gentlemen. I swear he knew where I was going and went out of his way to make sure my path was cleared. Thank you.

2. Snow, and lots of it, gives people something to talk about. They laugh, they smile and they talk to complete strangers! We need more snow days.

3. Just because it’s a snow day doesn’t mean you can take up space in the coffee shop. “People treat that chair at the front of the coffee shop like it’s their living room or something. Now I am going to have to go find another perch or so the exasperated grumpy old man loudly told the barista when he saw me sitting in what I can imagine must be his regular Friday afternoon reading spot. This could have been Horrible Joe but he was too Horrible for me to bother asking 🙂

The Curious First Date

Today at the coffee shop I am within earshot of a first date. I am amused. First dates are tricky business.

This particular first date is…………..hard to keep up with!!

“How tall are you?”

“6’3″, but I am the shortest of the guys in my family.”

“Right, well that’s a good height anything taller than 6’4″ is just too tall.”

“Well you are pretty tall yourself.”

“I am and I am wearing flats,” as she brings her foot from under the table up to the seat of her chair to show off her flat heel.

He nods in approval. I wish I could see the expression on his face.

She’s a pretty girl, he is good looking, or at least from the backside he’s a desirable man, in my opinion LOL!

She can hardly contain herself and good luck? for landing a date with such a man. The conversation is going a mile a minute. Hands in full motion to help with the verbal discussion.
Aren’t we woman pretty darn awesome when we are nervous?! 🙂

She points out what she likes about him after meeting him in the last 10 minutes, “you are easy to get along with but …. I won’t say the word,” laughing nervously. “Narcissitic,”

He reprimands her, “You said you wouldn’t use that word…”

Cutting in, she continues, “well self-absorbed. Not luxury, it’s self-absorbed. You are self-absorbed!!!”

The conversation is taking a manic turn and turns into a hardcore discussion on astrology signs.

She aggressively describes her sign, “We are passionate about everything, we are extremely loyal but if you cross us, we’ll never forget it and never be friends again. We’ll be nice to your face but that’s it.”

He nods and grunts

“We aren’t as jealous as our sign says. But we totally don’t forget. We don’t hold a grudge, but we never forget.”

“So ya, what else, we are very business minded. Strong and pensive. Not lying just not openly expressive.”

They spend time reading more about her astrology sign till her manic state starts to tumble when she cuts him off and declares, “enough of reading this, I think we should skip the rest.”

Laughing and teasing he asks, “Why now, we just started?!”

“Ya this is just getting awkward.”

Really?

He gives in and she changes the topic.

“It’s not often that I connect to people in Toronto.”

“Curious, your choice or what?”

“Well its probably because I’ve lived in so many different places. I really think differently. I have a super open mind”

He’s visibly uncomfortable, shifts in his seat and mumbles something in his deep voice.

“I am sorry, I am not trying to put YOU into that Toronto box, it’s just an observation I’ve made.”

Intense….I am so distracted and fear I am going to miss my commitment to finish my book if I continue to sit here much longer! 🙂