When we moved to Toronto I got more diligent about checking in using Yelp, using the app to track the various cafes and restaurants Kelly and I have been trying out. It’s less true now than it was, but in our first few weeks here I was often sitting in a perfectly nice joint with no real clue as to where I was.
And then, when I would get the I wanna go back to that place, where was that place? itch, I didn’t have to try to remember its address–which would be impossible. Or even its name–honestly, that’d be pretty unlikely. The incomparable Sense Appeal was, until I looked it up, “that place with the black and white bags that I posted on Instagram.” But I didn’t have to know! I just scrolled through my check-ins until the answer turned up, in red and white, complete with map. Turns out it was less than a kilometer from the house.
I am apparently the only Yelper currently active in the West Queen West area, though. Eight weeks of trying to track my own movements has netted me a handful of Dukedoms, on just about every place I’ve been more than twice. True, I’d been auditioning a lot of coffee houses, looking for the all important remote work site, but still!
Speaking of apps, the one that counts the number of days I’ve been here would also like you all to know it’s 160 days until December 25th.
Toronto seems to have more work-at-cafe culture than Vancouver. A lot of places are jammed with computer-using busy people by as early as ten, and there’s a very serious air about it.
Also, they seem to think you should be tall. One of the reason for all the auditioning was I kept finding perfectly nice places whose tabletops were too high for me to either write long hand or safely type.
Seriously! In the end, I had to go to MEC and buy an inflatable camping pillow. Which I now carry in my portable office along with all my other carp! How crazed is that?
I write in the mornings at Cafe Calabria on Commercial Drive, where the coffee is strong and the decor is opulent. The proprietor, Frank Murdocco, has been passionate about music since he had a job, in the Sixties, at a big record store in Montreal. Here are some bizarre picks from his holiday mix to offset what you’re probably hearing, every day, in all the stores.
My dreamed-of WiFi workathon with view got a bit of a trim this morning: I was going to hop aboard an Amtrack train at the crack of dawn and write about seven billion things by the time I got to Portland. However, the train gods decreed that something was wrong with the track. Amtrak told us mudslides in Everett. CBC says protesters in White Rock. Anyway, they herded us onto buses and cleverly filtered us as we went: the peeps going on from Seattle got an express bus, while the folks going to a zillion points between Vancouver and King Station got a slow boat.
The best part of this development was that I got to Seattle an hour earlier than expected, with plenty of time to go to Zeitgeist Coffee. Kelly and I had been here in 2009 when we went on the Tucker Family Cruise-o-rama and we love love loved it. They have boiled eggs and fruit along with caffeine and bready things and Intrawebs.
The bus was completely full and though the guy next to me was nice enough, and also mostly comatose, he was taking up his entire seat, which meant I didn’t have the extra elbow room I’d have needed to break out the keyboard even if there’d been somewhere to put it. So I spent the first half of trip making myself just a leetle bit carsick by reading a book. It was a good book, and enjoyable enough to justify the nausea.
Oh! And I got a very jolly border guard.
After the coffee I got on the train, had no seatmate, and yay, the WiFi was working. Prose ensued. I got to pause thoughtfully and admire the view several times, and took many questionable pictures of same. I fancy this one is quite arty. I’m probably wrong.
The train got in and I walked to my hotel, which is all of three blocks from Powell’s downtown. After nine continuous hours of sitting, I desperately needed a real walk, so I hoofed off in the direction of the bookstore. What I didn’t know was that the Powell’s is right next to a Doc Marten’s outlet.
Some of you know I’d generally rather have arrows shoved through my cheeks than go into a shoe store, but I’ve been thinking about summer footwear lately. Thinking lots. There’s stuff about my heels, and stuff about my toes, and the general Shoe Law of Me states that all shoes must be good for at least a five kilometer walk, at the end of which they must look presentable enough to pass for girly grownup work shoes. Being shoe picky is fine if you like shopping for the things, but in my case it’s rather ridiculous.
But, having now gotten myself a pair of Docs that’ll do a 10K day and a pair of Fluvogs that’ll go that far, too, I’ve decided I prefer the Docs. So in I went, and what did I find but these?
Pretty, huh? They have the not-open back that my heel needs, and the holes in front that mean stretch–I wanted this so my toes can spread out, ducklike, in the front. And they’re pink! Pink pink Barbie camper pink!
I had other adventures, and much fun just walking around downtown Portland, a city I’m so very fond of visiting, and a pretty decent supper, but I think I’ll shelve those for now. Tomorrow I will have more adventures, with wonderful lovely people, and there will be even more pictures. Some will almost certainly be of Xerxes. How lucky am I?
Being displaced by the window installers meant that last week was not a nutritionally adventurous one. I made a peanut-pumpkin Badger recommended, but otherwise dinner mostly consisted of things from the freezer and stand-by meals.
I did end up at a new not-coffee house though: the Urban Tea Merchant.
There’s this place on Alberni Street, Thierry, see, that I like very much. It’s not too far from Kelly’s office, and they make decent coffee and tea. They sell pricey macarons and very nice little pastries, and the two of us often go there for a quick cup early Friday mornings. After we discovered Thierry, I had thought it might make a good place to hole up and work now and then in a couple of other little windows in my week–times when it’d just be nice to pause and sit before lunging off to the next thing in my day.
Unfortunately, everyone else loves Thierry, too, such that the only time you can get a seat there appears to be at the crack of dawn Friday. They tend to be packed, packed, packed.
So Thursday before last, when I was displaced by construction, I peeked through their door, saw the throng, and walked on half a block to that pretty tea store I’d never gone into.
Urban Tea Merchant is basically a wine bar for tea snobs. They have a tea list, broken down by country and then again by blend, as well as a menu. A pot of tea can go for as ‘little’ as $6*, or you can splash out and spend, I kid you not, forty eight friggin’ dollars on a single pot. They have linen napkins and lovely bone china and an extremely unhurried atmosphere, and since they don’t serve coffee at all, it seems as though one can always find a seat in their tiny tea room, at least at the times of day when I’m looking for somewhere to park my butt.
They also do high tea in a number of forms, including a full-bore splashy morning tea service with baked treats, wee sandwiches, and champagne or tea-infused prosecco. Check out their menu. Marvel.
Having only just discovered the tea room, I haven’t had the opportunity to try a full range of the baked treats, but I will say their chocolate scone is godlike, and comes with a tablespoon of the freshest, most vividly-flavorful jam I’ve ever had.
I’ll be headed back there next time I need a little tea-flavored self-indulgence, and I’m seriously considering saving up some dosh so I can take my honey for one of the splashy tea cakes and sandwich events.
*That $6 pot of tea is quite huge, I should add. It’s pretty typical downtown to pay half that for a wee tiny pot o’ tea, and this is a huge portion of really good stuff. And they’re in no hurry to get you in and out, so if what you’re doing is paying rent on a table where you can scribble fiction for a couple hours while getting caffeinated, it’s not too bad.
I am slowing down on To Each Their Darkness, because it’s less about writing so far, and more about a whole lot of films I haven’t seen. I plan to keep inching through it–so far, it’s had two absolutely harrowing anecdotes that do genuinely touch on the subject of darkness–but I’ll move at a slower pace.
I will also slip away, behind its back, to start up with a book I’ve been waiting for forever, even before I knew it was finally getting written. It’s called Remote, it’s by Donn Cortez, and speaking of darkness, it’s the sequel to a truly horrific novel called The Closer, which in addition to being one of the spookiest thrillers I’ve ever had the privilege to read, is set in East Vancouver, and features big parts of my backyard terrain, including Bon’s Cafe and the annual Parade of Lost Souls. The Closer has one of the best final lines of any novel I’ve ever read. I won’t excerpt it… it only makes sense in context. But I assure you, it’s killer.
I don’t know anyone else who’s read it… it’s so dark, it falls outside what most of my friends prefer. It’s like Dexter dialed up. Anyone know it?
So I am keen to see where the story goes next.
And while I’m talking books, Elizabeth Bear’s Range of Ghosts is out! I reviewed it extensively here, and recommend it wholeheartedly.
In food news, I’ve finally made the pumpkin peanut soup recipe posted by Badger, from Vegan on the Cheap. It was nummy delicious.