Saturday, October 30, 2010

indie coffee passport series - part 8

the indie coffee passport is a fun initiative invented to get torontonians out to try the city's independent coffee shops. from september 1st, 2010 to march 31, 2011, $20 gets you a little paper pass that lists off 24 participating coffee shops, and allows you to a free coffee up to $5.

i'm not affiliated with the good people behind this idea, but i figured it'd be a blast to get a passport and try to hit up all 24 cafes in the next seven months. (in the interest of fairness, i will get the same thing at every cafe -- a large drip coffee, with cream but no sugar.) i love coffee - it's been flowing through my veins since i was fifteen - and given that i've been a barista, cafe supervisor and cafe manager across toronto and vancouver over the years, i feel like i'm up to the highly-caffeinated task!

passport stop: manic coffee

manic, oh manic. if there were ever a coffee-shop passport stop that i were to get effusively gushy over, it would be this one.

there's a bit of history here, though not really history with manic coffee per se, and it involves a boy. years ago, this space was the cobalt (no reason to the now-deceased vancouver punk venue of the same name, where i used to spend saturdays night drunk in the mosh pit), an uber-hip martini bar. as luck would have it, a particular male drummer friend of mine dj'd there on saturday nights. this was back when i was spending from 10:30-11 pm until last call on saturday nights at my favourite bar, the bovine sex club, drinking endless vodka tonics and smoking like a chimney with my friends in the back room. those were the days.

anyway, en route to the bovine, i would regularly stop in to the cobalt for an hour or so, perch myself on the back bench by the dj decks, and chat with my manfriend while drinking fancy ridiculous martinis. oh yeah, and i was commonly dressed in goth bondage clothing. and this was a hipster bar, where all the pretty young girls wore sundresses and too much makeup. to say i stood out is an understatement. to say i didn't give a shit is even more of an understatement.

nothing ever really happened with said boy, although i thought he was very cute and i drunkenly tried to seduce him one night. this didn't really go over as planned - as i said, nothing really happened - and in awkward embarrassment, we sort of stopped talking for many months. i didn't show my face at the cobalt for those many months (though i really did miss the martinis). at last, i got up the nerve to return, and we laughed it off, and became friends again. all's well that ends well.

then he got married and moved away and i never heard from him again. sigh.

still, that whole story flashed through my mind when i noticed that the cobalt had closed down a few years ago, only to have a much-needed indie coffee shop pop up in its place: manic coffee. of course, curious to see the ghost of my old saturday-night hangout (the bathrooms are more or less the same), i stopped in at manic once i lived in the area -- and then ended up making it my regular place to go for a fix. the coffee there was as close to my favourite coffee in vancouver (served at 49th parallel on west 4th) as i'd found - though these days, you can actually find 49th parallel brewed and sold at either dark horse espresso on spadina or krepesz in kensington market - and so i was in love, awkward drunken memories notwithstanding.

if there's any time i need to meet up with a friend for coffee, 99% of the time i suggest manic. it's got a really cool west-coast-y vibe, bolstered especially by the fact that they're one of the toronto's vanguards of the "no wi-fi" movement. yep, sorry people -- you can't occupy a table for hours and hours while you surf the web. (though there's really nothing to stop you from occupying a table for hours and hours just typing on your laptop, but...) presumably, the point of this is to bring back an approachable, more community-minded vibe to cafe culture, which i heartily approve of.

aside from a wide variety of coffee and tea-based beverages, they also offer some delicious-looking munchies (presumably baked in-store, though i might be wrong) that seem to go pretty fast. i've been in here at the end of the day and the pastry case is all but empty, especially on weekends.

don't expect warm service here -- it's perfunctory for the most part, short and to-the-point (unless you're one of their mustachioed hipster friends, that is). unfortunately, this sort of thing tends to paint coffee shops as being pretentious, so i can see how manic wouldn't have the best rep for this sort of thing. but seriously, fuck it. the coffee is so ridiculous good that i don't want to waste time making friendly with baristas -- i want to get it down my gullet as soon as possible.

[please forgive the return of the coffee claw.]

i mean, this is multi-layered complex flavour punching you in the face -- and that's just their regular brew (which was brasil on the day that i visited). they also serve a selection of clover coffee for a premium, and from my experience with clover coffee at crema, it's well worth the price. manic lattes are also very prettily done up with foam art, and there's basically always a lineup. it's a midsize cafe, yet seats can be hard to come by, though chilling on the bench outside with the hipsters is sometimes an option. i guess in that respect, the cobalt will never die.

okay, lastly, apologies that i haven't been able to keep up with this series of posts as much as i'd like -- as you may or may not know, i just moved downtown at the beginning of october, and yorkville isn't exactly a hotbed for cafes included on the indie coffee passport. nevertheless, i'm going to try and make it out to one or two each weekend, just so i can stay devoted. need discipline when it comes to my writing!

but for now: go manic.

Manic Coffee
426 College Street
Toronto, ON M5T1T3
(416) 966-3888

Monday, October 25, 2010


well now, this will be fun.

the backstory: in 2005, i kept a semi-private (later fully locked down) blog on diaryland at the same time i had and now there is this distance, meant to record the more personal thoughts and experiences i was having at the time. really, i've mentioned it before, but 2005-06 were the it years for me -- the years when i rose, then fell, then had to spend the majority of 2006 and 2007 picking myself back up again.

out of perverse curiousity - probably brought about by this recent nyc trip, given that nyc had kickstarted all the conflict and insanity in '05 - i started rereading these old blog entries (they don't exist online anymore, but i kept copies on my hard drive) and realized how epic some of them were -- and how much i could learn from my past self. really, i was sending my future self messages through my crazily detailed descriptions of my feelings at the time (though suffice it to say, i was also brash, stupid and constantly vacillating between overconfidence and low self-esteem), and now i'm finally getting around to reading them -- and maybe even understanding them, now that i'm in love (with a man who's a much, much better choice than any of the idiots breaking my heart at that point in my life) and satisfied and happy like i never was back then.

time and distance really does provide the best perspective.

i was 22 then; i'm 27 now. that's five years gone by, and now i'm going to post some of the parts i found the most interesting, illuminating, humourous, cringeworthy, or whatever. some of these are my private writings -- what i guess could be considered my unpublished works from my most turbulent, my-life-is-a-movie days. thus: if you didn't know me as i was back then, these snippets will probably give you a good idea. hope you get a kick out of 'em.

[me, as i was then.]


I will not get drunk and make out with the band. I will not get drunk and make out with the band. I will not get drunk and make out with the band ESPECIALLY NOT MY EX because I'm just not doing that anymore. Right? Right.

(good example of my state of mind for the majority of 2005.)


Do you remember years ago when you had none of this?

Do you remember years ago when you would have given up anything for this?

What does it matter if one boy cares about you or not? Look at all the people who do.

So: fuck boys. Fuck the drama they put you through. Good or bad, it doesn't matter what happens, as long as you can still go out and have nights like those. As long as you remember that you have a life like this -- a life you desperately wished for ever since you were a little girl and alone. As long as you remember how fucking lucky you are.

You're loved no matter what. You will endure.

(reminding myself that i was stronger than any heartbreak put upon me by stupid rockstar boys, late 2005.)


And I've also come to realize that I never feel truly alive unless I'm FEELING. All the intensity in the drama, angst, happiness and sadness in my life are what keep me alive. I thrive on emotional extremes, and I do it all to myself because I feel dead inside unless I'm truly, intensely experiencing emotion -- be it positive OR negative. This is the way I have to live.

Nevertheless, I do want to find a balance between the ego and id, the moralist and the hedonist, the puritan and the bohemian. I'm just so tired of fighting with myself, with who I feel I should be versus who I want to be. This is the year I come to terms with WHO I AM, and do what I can to realize my own happiness. This is the year I seize the day and I make the most of this wacky roller-coaster ride of a life I've chosen - and made - for myself.

I want to be cavalier, I want to be beautiful, I want to be shameless and I want to be wanted. But I will never be owned by a musician. Those days ended with my twenty-first year, in which I temporarily sold myself over to three different musicians and was consequently rejected to the gutter. I will no longer offer myself to them, ANY of them, and they will no longer have me, because it's never different. They're all the same. And it's silly that it's taken me this long to realize that.

But this time - this year - I'm going to be the one in control. This is going to be my year of taking back the power they've had over me. This year, I intend on being the motherfucking heartbreaker.

And it's going to be glorious.

Look out below.

(this was written on my 22nd birthday. i didn't fully learn my lesson until 3-4 years later.)


But no matter what the case there, I've made another startling realization over the last few days regarding myself and the musicians: Even with all the ways they've affected me and continue to affect me, I'm leaving an imprint on them myself. To these men, these rockstars whose music means more to me than anything....I'M affecting THEM. And this is hardly a position I - still that naive little farmgirl in my own mind, the one who always went unnoticed and unwanted - ever thought I'd be inhabiting. I mean, they used to be demigods to me. They used to be untouchable. But now, somehow, I'm able to reach in. I've endeared myself to them, I've hurt them, I've caused them to question, I've shown some of them how to feel again. Suddenly, somewhere in there, I became the girl THEY wanted, instead of them always being the guys I wanted -- but could never even hope to have.

So, then. When did I become the muse, the companion, the "part of the team"? When did I become the seductress, the liability, the temptation? When did I become what I'd always dreamed I'd be someday: the desired but untouchable, the intimidating, the indomitable leader of the fangirls?

("I mean, I know it's not really my business. It's between you and him..." I paused, then smiled faintly. "And I'm The Girl."

I swear I could hear him smile back on the other end. "You're The Girl.")

When did I become The Girl?

...I guess I might as well ask myself, "When did I grow up?"

Because I think it's all the same question.

(being both introspective and egotistical during a breakup aftermath, november 2005. boy in question might be reading this, and sweetheart, good fucking god did i ever spill kilobytes of online writing over you.)


Yet I had a rather amusing thought in the shower this morning: It's a shame we're so fucking attracted to each other. We'd make such good friends.

(we are not really friends anymore.)


But at least all of this is bringing out some of the best - albeit some of the most deviously evil - parts of me, as well as teaching me many important things. One thing I'm learning - and it's kind of dumb because you'd think I'd have learned it years ago - is that this world, the rock band subculture? Doesn't work the same way the real world does. It doesn't have the same rules OR the same playbook. After you've sold yourself over to the band world, you're playing a completely different game, and you have to learn that a lot of things you'd normally expect might not happen. Or vice versa. You have to suspend a lot of your (dis)beliefs and learn to go with the flow, know where to see the gray areas between the black and white, and decide for yourself how many of your morals you're gonna shelve. There are far too many opportunities for pure hedonism, and you have to set your own boundaries.

Unfortunately, with my eternal carpe-diem attitude and addiction to instant gratification, I've never been very good at setting boundaries for myself. And the more I'm becoming aware of my powers as an attractive female, the more my superego becomes easily tempted and swayed by my id. Goddamn you, id.

Well, if anything, 2006 will be an interesting year. Very interesting indeed. I had no fucking clue what 2005 would bring, but I think if anything, it was a foreshadowing of this coming year. 2005 was the coming attractions reel. 2006 is the feature presentation.

Holy shit, I'd better be ready for all this.

(aftermath of finding out that a previous boy had been cheating on his fiancee with me. early 2006.)


...I don't know. This is all very tough for me -- someone who's been entirely used to analyzing and rationalizing in order to make sense of things, people and situations. Here? Here, there can be no rationalization, and overanalyzation might be the biggest danger. There are no black and white areas. I have never been through anything like this, I'm not used to anything ABOUT this, and I have nothing to compare this to. This is nothing I can plan, control or predict. This is me continuing to fall for a man I can't have while being pursued by a man I'm not sure I want. And they are rockstars. And I am, still and always, a fangirl.

But now I'm a dangerous one. And I don't quite know how to handle that role.

(conflicting feelings between the boys referenced in the two sections above.)


Someday those issues are going to have to be tackled. I know this. I know how they still hang there between us, even when we're just in the same room. I'm ready to talk about them whenever, but I know he isn't. I know he won't be for a while. But I'll wait, and someday when we're comfortable enough with each other and our past, we'll settle all this. I look forward to it.

(about yet another boy, who actually preceded the other two. we have never settled anything; i won't even look him up on facebook. what's past is past, and there is nothing left to say.)


It means something to me, that song does. Something I have a hard time describing. It kind of rolls up all my life angst and boy angst and everything angst into one simple sentiment: I may hate you but I'll forever love you. And that's true for me. That's one of my little life paradoxes: The fact that there's so much I hate about this life I chose for myself, all the drama and emotion and unnecessary insanity, but I love it too much to ever let it go. Him. Any of them. I never could, not now when it all means so much to me.

Yet when the time eventually comes that I know I have to move on, this tattoo will always be there to remind me that I will never leave any it behind.

(part of the story behind the musical-notes tattoo on my left arm.)


Oh, and I should mention right now, for posterity's sake, that if I ever write a novel it's going to be a modern-day retelling of Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida, but with rock stars and band groupies. They say to write about what you know...and I'm pretty well fucking living it right now. I have my Trojan palace and my Greek camp, my Troilus and my Diomede, my comfort and my temptation. I have my choice to make, eventually.

And what did Cressida do, in the end? She deserted Troilus for Diomede, and nobody knows if it was to seek his protection or to attract his love. Nobody knows if Cressida was doing this for her own defense or for her own benefit. Nobody knows if Cressida held all the cards all along.

I don't know how many cards I'm holding right now. But I've got a few.

(cressida is spelled "criseyde" in the original story, for anybody who's ever wondered where my twitter handle came from.)

[ music | lady gaga, "bad romance" ]

Sunday, October 24, 2010

the dog days are over

[the site of my night of epicness, five years down the road. just having seen it and having taken its picture seems like a dream to me.]

now that i'm back here - and taking the night off to blog from my hostel, given that i was passed out from daytime drinking at 3 p.m. today - i've been thinking about my original reason to come to new york city for the first time, in fall 2005. it was, of course, for a boy, and that boy's been on my mind, no matter how much i grouse and grumble and roll my eyes at myself. why bother remembering?

because i don't forget any of them. i carry them with me -- them and our failures at not even relationships, but just relating to each other. (so yes, if you're reading this and you are one of my past, then you can know that i do think about you once and a while. thoughts of you don't invade my everyday life or anything, but i do remember -- and none of you with anger or spite, more with melancholy and nostalgic sadness.)

spoiler alert: i haven't had many lovers. because of my lifestyle when i was younger, a lot of people thought i got around more than i actually did, but really, there hasn't been that many. and i did outright admit in my last blog that i lost my virginity at the ripe old age of almost-22. for a groupie, that's basically inconceivable. but i had my personal reasons, though by the time i was 21 gaining on 22, i'd just about had enough. i wanted to be rid of the damned hymen, but - i had to get a good story out of it. that was my whole modus operandi at that time, after all.

but then i met a boy. or more accurately, the boy met me. he was entirely insistent on capturing my attention from the start, to an intent that i was both intrigued and a little scared. no guy had ever pursued me so hard and fast, let alone a guy in a band. up to that point, it had always been me doing the pursuing of band boys, which generally got me absolutely fucking nowhere. and so when this boy made his intentions known, it was pretty mindblowing -- and when i refused to give up the goods so i could lead him on a little chase instead...well, i think he was hooked.

and this chase led all the way to new york city in september 2005.

aside from the boy who brought me there/here, there were a few other boys that night in nyc -- they'll go unnamed here, but i do remember how clearly i sensed the possibility. there was something that could go further, and i recall thinking to myself, if i had the choice, i'd totally pick one of them instead of him. little did i know what would happen two years down the line and the impact that time left on me, trying to remember and trying to forget all at the same time.

(you idiot. for all the things that you did to me...or rather, all the things that i let you do to me.)

but i digress. i was never in love with that boy -- not really. i thought he was cute and fun, sure, and it's hard not to fall even a little bit for somebody who looks at you like you're the best present on christmas morning. seriously, this guy's eyes lit up when he looked at me. even today, i can remember that so annoyingly clearly. no guy had ever looked at me that before -- or since.

anyway, when this boy looked at me, face brightening like he'd won a million bucks just by being with me, was hard not to be swayed. but i was young and confused, constantly overanalyzing the situation and how i felt about it and him and everything. (what i know now that i'm older and wiser: if you have to question if you're in love or not, you're obviously not in love.) in the end, though, i figured hey, why the hell not. go with it and see where it goes.

this nonchalance went more or less out the window when his emails started to come weeks apart.

in the way of a lovelorn young girl, i started freaking out. what did it mean? was he just really busy with little access to email, as he claimed? was it me? was he rethinking things? as the days and weeks passed, though, i moved on to another flirtation target, deciding that if long-distance boy wasn't going to keep up the communication, i wasn't going to bother waiting around. but i vacillated every time a sporadic email came through, every time he called me once and a while. it was hard to give up on the thing that brought me to new york city (and later, on a second trip to boston).

eventually, after a messy second tour experience - the boston thing and all that followed, from connecticut to pennsylvania and long cold nights spent chain-smoking outside american bars from sheer emotional stress - and the online snooping/stalking that led to my discovery of his fiance, i sent him an email that said in no uncertain terms did i ever want to hear from him again. that email went unanswered, of course. but sometimes, in my longest hours, i can't help but ask myself: did he use me, for my virginity and my gullibility and my love for rock-band boys? or did i use him, as a stepping stone to garner my own power within the hierarchy of the band world?

even now, re-reading my old diary entries from those days gives me a goddamn headache.

so i guess you could say i'm not over it, but then again, as i said -- i'm not over any of them. and day by day, i'm becoming okay with that. there are some things in one's past that are best to put away and forget about, but with these such things, i can't. especially when i'm in a city that feels like a lost dream to me, a shade of what might have been and what actually was, a long time ago.

you can't carry it with you if you want to survive...

[ music | jay-z, "99 problems" ]

Saturday, October 23, 2010

live from new york city

greetings! i'm writing this from the cafe of the youth hostel i'm staying at, being a dick and taking up both available outlets with my laptop and mobile chargers, working from what's basically been my "office" for the last two days. in case you missed it, here's the thursday wrapup (friday's and saturday's will likely be published next monday and tuesday, since the chart office is closed on weekends obvs), and a couple of tumblr photosets for you to check out:

snaps from in and around nyc, october 21-23

first set of cmj 2010 gig photos from arlene's grocery (october 21) and pianos (october 22)

things i have noted about this big beautiful sprawl of a metropolis:

1. it's not incredibly hard to navigate. maybe it's because i have the google maps app installed on my mobile, or maybe it's because i have a very fine-tuned internal compass, but i've had few to no problems getting from point a to point b in this city. well, with the exception of getting lost on the subway twice, but i'm infamous for getting lost on public transit in strange cities.

2. basically every street is a one-way, therefore everybody jaywalks. old people, pregnant women, cops -- everybody. conversely, cars will basically mow you down, so you have to jaywalk fast. once you've been here for even a few hours, you pick up the habit naturally. i've jaywalked my ass off every day. (it's either on foot or by subway for me -- i'm only cabbing it when i'm out past midnight to review the cmj showcases)

3. it's very canadian (or, well, ontarian) of me, but i will never get used to seeing beer and wine being sold in corner stores. (nb to american/quebecois readers: in ontario, we have specialized beer/wine/liquor stores where it can only be sold)

4. i've been to trader joe's three times in two days (i went to two different ones yesterday). i am way too excited about the peanut butter cup trail mix i just bought there today.
4. a) there was no tax on any of my purchases at tj's. is there no tax in nyc? if so, holy shit!

5. if your hostel's website says it's located in "upper west side", they mean harlem. i'm basically right next to the projects. fantastic. (though i'm staying - even though i keep having to take $30 cab rides from the venues i'm at in the lower east side - if only because it was only $200 for four nights, and i haven't been bitten by any bedbugs which is a major plus)

6. basically everything i've bought has been grocery items. probably my happiest purchase yet: a bottle of stoli vanil (vanilla-flavoured stolichnaya vodka), which i was convinced they'd discontinued because i haven't been able to find it in canada for the last couple of years. and stoli vanil is my favourite liquor in the history of the world.

also, final observation: it's so weird to have this much...well, this much technology available to me now. in the years past when i was doing a lot of my traveling for/with bands, twitter wasn't huge, i didn't own a decent mobile device or a digital camera, and i certainly didn't have a laptop to bring with me. now, i'm basically carrying what could be a full-scale digital production (laptop, digital camera, mobile device, voice recorder, all required usb cables) in my backpack. i never really had the ability to broadcast my travels in the digital realm, but now i can blog, tweet, post photos, and tons of other things to keep my online readership updated and entertained while i'm here.

then again, this is when i actually have enough time and chances to do so. :P therefore, apologies if i'm not on here as much as i should be. this is sort of my vacation, after all. heh.

i'll try for more soon! in the meantime, tonight: off! at the fader fort (free booze and a new awesome supergroup!) and the windish agency showcase at santos party house. will probably roll back in around 1, but that's how we do.

happy weekend to all!

[ music | c'mon, "long grass of the killing fields" ]

Sunday, October 17, 2010

do you still dream

counting down: three more days until i leave for new york city. bus outta here late wednesday night, returning to toronto very early in the morning the following tuesday.

[photo via fuck yeah street lights]

for those of you who weren't aware (i feel like most of you are, but i've been getting significant new traffic over at my tumblr from current work colleagues across the country, and some are heading over here): i was/am a freelance music journalist. since i was 20, i've been interviewing musicians, reviewing cds and live concerts, and writing all manner of critiques, feature pieces, and basically anything else my editors ask me to.

it's never paid me enough to live on. ever. but the real reason i did it - and the reason i wish i still had the time and ability to keep doing it regularly - is because i loved it, and because the opportunities it afforded me were always far worth what minimal payment i got in return. seriously, for me, getting paid was a bonus. the things i've seen, done and experienced were all worth it to me.

as i talked about in great length in this post, i still want to be a full-fledged music journalist. it's just something i can't seem to give up on, somehow. (maybe youthful dreams are the ones that die the hardest.) which is why i'm taking a bus for almost 12 hours in order to get to new york city on thursday (flying was obviously out of the question for me) -- so i can once again wear the press pass, stroll through industry parties, scribble in a notebook as i watch bands play, and stay out all night in the thrall of live music. this was how i spent a good portion of my early twenties, and though there was a lot of bullshit and fatigue and problems, i still look back fondly on those days. those were the days when i was so close to who i wanted to be.

i'm not saying i'm sure i'll ever be able to make a lucrative career out of being a music journalist; nor am i saying i'd give up my current career path as a copy editor to pursue an uncertain dream. but a part of me used to imagine an universe where i'd finish university, then take my hefty portfolio down to new york city to pitch to all my favourite music magazines. one of them would inevitably hire me, and i'd be a music journalist living the dream in nyc. that was what i wanted. that was what got me through four years of university.

so for a few days this week, i'll get to pretend that this all actually happened, and that that's really my life. sad? maybe. but like i said, this is what's driving me to head down to new york city alone, to crash in a hostel and stay out all night seeing bands for five days. i'm forcing myself out of my comfort zone, out of my little box. this is what i have to do, for myself.

and so, here is my cmj schedule (pre/after-parties subject to change):

mosh potatoes book release party @ idle hands (5-7 pm)
m is for montreal showcase @ arlene's grocery:
- the luyas (7 pm)
- uncle bad touch (8 pm)
- ps i love you (9 pm)
- random recipe (10 pm)
- red mass (11 pm)
- the pack a.d. (midnight)
- radio radio (1 am)

no fun city screening @ norwood (12-1:25 pm)
fader fort party @ 38 delancey (2-6 pm)
tee pee records showcase @ union pool:
- weird owl (6:45-7:25 pm)
- hopewell (7:30-8:10 pm)
- mirror queen (8:15-8:55 pm)
- atomic bitchwax (9:00-9:40 pm)
- quest for fire (9:45-10:45 pm)
- priestess (10:30-11:10 pm)
- naam (11:30-12:10 am)

fader fort party @ 38 delancey (2-6 pm)
the windish agency showcase @ santos party house (upstairs):
superhumanoids (8 pm)
royal bangs (9 pm)
cults (10 pm)
asobi seksu (11 pm)
school of seven bells (12 pm)

sunday will be spent at the sunburnt calf and their all-you-can-drink brunch. this may be an unwise idea, given that the majority of cmj industry parties (which usually happen before/after the showcases) are open bar, but hey. this weekend's going to be all-out war on my lungs, my liver and my sleep patterns. bring it on, i say -- we're gonna do it up 2005-06 style.

festival and conference coverage will be happening at chartattack; quips and photos will be posted sporadically at my tumblr, quarterlife quandary; all other longer writings and reflections will be posted here. (this is all starting thursday/friday, basically.)

for now, though, it's getting ready to go, making sure i have everything i need on my pack list, and continuing to feel mopey and sad that i'm enjoying our awesome new apartment all by myself. miss that boy.

[ music | editors, "in this light and on this evening" ]

Thursday, October 14, 2010

happy days are here again

back in the city, back to the grind.

the birthday was its usual fun, somewhat disconcerting self. it's like, remember when you were a kid and your birthday was the biggest deal in the universe and you couldn't imagine a time when your date of birth wouldn't be the day you look forward to the most (besides christmas)? and then one of your parents bursts your bubble by informing you that by the time you're their age, your birthday won't be that big of a deal?

i'm there now. sigh.

but it was a very good 27th, don't get me wrong -- went to brunch with the boy, ran some errands, met up with a friend for sushi dinner, watched the leafs absolutely annihilate the senators, then got to see the almighty c'mon decimate the horseshoe tavern. it's funny -- a lot of people assume i like c'mon because my boyfriend's the drummer, but i liked them way before i ever met dean (and before he'd joined the band, even). i actually have a written review somewhere on my hard drive (it was never run) of a live c'mon gig at cmj 2005 or something, and i think i gave them a score of 98 or 99 and said "if any of these three were to leave the band, it just wouldn't be the same."

and then their drummer left. but then the man who would later become my boyfriend stepped up, and the rest is history. (it definitely didn't hurt when he sent me that original friend request over myspace and i saw that he was the new drummer for c'mon...a sucker for awesome drummers in rock bands, i am.)

but i digress. headed home to kingston on sunday, spent sunday/monday/tuesday there with the family, enjoyed copious amounts of turkey and received numerous gifts of monetary and certificate value (stuff for clothes, coffee and shoppers' drug mart, basically). i also got this nifty little thing from my father:

it's a recipe journal, which i am currently in the process of filling up with all the best primal/paleo recipes that i can find. i know, it's antiquated and almost quaint to have a notebook, but i prefer to have something written with me in the kitchen rather than my laptop balanced precariously on top of the microwave or whatever. (i mean, hell, my mother still has a recipe box that's bursting at the seams with recipes clipped from magazine)

it was also my father's birthday on monday!

[this is my father in 1969, when he was 28. pretty much the same age i am now. craziness.]

the old man turned 69 this past monday, a date which was celebrated by me visiting my paternal grandmother along with my dad and stepmother. my grandma's hanging in there - she's turning 92 this year, but freely admitted that she wishes she'd kicked it at 75 - but the nursing home is alright, even if belleville is still the tired little burnout town that i remember from all my visits to grandma's as a child/teenager. but it was good to get as much face time with as much family as possible, especially when my visit to kingston was so short. (couldn't really be helped, since i'm off on vacation next thursday and need as much time as possible to get things ready and transitioned for the week and a half that i'll gone)

and now it's back to toronto, where i'm trying to deal with this crushing two-day headache that's undoubtedly the result of me drinking 4-5 cups of coffee per day at home, but none at all here. ugh. i love my coffee, but caffeine overload then going cold turkey is not a good call.

so, there's your brief life update from my end. the boy left on tour on monday, though it's a bit of a strange jaunt since he's only actually gone until the 29th, and then he's back for three days, and then he's gone again for four days from november 3rd through 6th...and then he's home for good. i miss him, as always; like i said on my tumblr here, it's just like there's an emptiness in my home environment, a boy-shaped hole in my everyday life. this perpetually makes me sad and moody, but it does at least give time apart and temporary distance and all those things that are necessary for a healthy non-clingy relationship. thus.

in the meantime, i need a hobby.

[ music | the stone roses, "i wanna be adored" ]

Saturday, October 9, 2010

on the date of birth

roll on into my 28th year of life. (yes, i know that sounds confusing - i turn 27 today)

here's flashbacks from my blog birthdays throughout the years:

2009, my 26th birthday: nothing to report. (no seriously, i all but abandoned my blog in october 2009, therefore i have no recollection of what i even did to celebrate. i think i went to spin class, though, and dean and i might have had a dinner & movie date, but man i can't even remember)

2008, my 25th birthday: i did a recap of how i spent my birthday one year prior, which was of course my second day of living in vancouver. it was rainy and cold and sort of miserable, but i had jenna to hang with and chili at the templeton and a new city to explore, so it wasn't all bad. (i'll also quote this from that old blog post: "although i do remember that somewhere along the way, i received a sweet happy-birthday text message from a drummer friend of mine in toronto that i'd just hung out with the previous week. it made me smile then and it makes me smile now, though suffice to say for entirely different reasons.")

2007, my 24th birthday: it was, as i mentioned above, my second day in vancouver, thus i created a "to-do" list of things i wanted to do now that i was a denizen of the west coast. i was also "trying really hard not to let the panic set in" and grappling with the massive life change i'd just conducted. unfortunately, i don't think that panic ever really left, hence my return to toronto six months later. oh well, i tried. (and as i said on my tumblr, a small part of me misses vancouver, every single day.)

2006, my 23rd birthday: i was home in kingston, as usual, and i remember doing a lot of long, melancholy walks, trying to deal with the messy boy-related situation i was in at the moment. (if you were a reader of my old blog - though it was actually my third blog - you'll know all about those situations. they came up a lot.) aside from the angst, i was also "fĂȘted by my friends with celebrations that included alcohol, gossip, good music, and a rather obscene (but also creatively artistic) cake in the shape of a certain piece of genitalia". yes, my dear friends made me a vagina cake. let the googling commence. (there's pictures of it somewhere - as well as me being required to "eat out" the timbit that was stuck up inside it - along with pictures of me with icing smeared all over my face and up my nose)

2005, my 22nd birthday: i was deep in the thralls of serious music love, having received albums by the cure, franz ferdinand and nine inch nails for my birthday. i was reading a shit-ton of books and most likely trying not to think about the boy that i'd just lost my virginity to a few weeks prior. (he was, of course, not responding to my emails. of course.) also, this quote is a perfect snapshot of my life at that time: "my october social calendar is currently full and it is a blur of concerts, parties, sexy-outfit shopping, boozing, road trips, and attempted rockstar molestations." oh, my early twenties.

and now, i'm up god-awful early in order to get in a morning workout before the day starts (plus the boy got in from his gig in hamilton at like 4 a.m., so he won't be moving til around noon anyway), which will include a day of hanging out with the boy, sushi with amanda this evening and then the rock of c'mon later tonight. good times.

as for the serious side of things...i guess i learned and experienced a fair bit in my 27th year. i was unemployed for the first time in my adult life, thereby learning to 1) always have a backup plan and 2) trust your instincts. i picked up a new career job that i'm satisfied with. i live downtown now. my financial situation is solid and stable. the relationship with the boy was its usual rollercoaster self, but that's how it's always been and that's part of the passion of it -- and we're still together, so we must be doing something right.

i don't think i'm totally at the point yet, though, where i can ignore what other people think and just live for myself -- just be the person i want to be, without insecurities and self-consciousness and judgment getting in the way.

maybe another year will do it.

[ music | roxy music, "slave to love" ]

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

indie coffee passport series - part 7

the indie coffee passport is a fun initiative invented to get torontonians out to try the city's independent coffee shops. from september 1st, 2010 to march 31, 2011, $25 gets you a little paper pass that lists off 24 participating coffee shops, and allows you to a free coffee up to $5.

i'm not affiliated with the good people behind this idea, but i figured it'd be a blast to get a passport and try to hit up all 24 cafes in the next seven months. (in the interest of fairness, i will get the same thing at every cafe -- a large drip coffee, with cream but no sugar.) i love coffee - it's been flowing through my veins since i was fifteen - and given that i've been a barista, cafe supervisor and cafe manager across toronto and vancouver over the years, i feel like i'm up to the highly-caffeinated task!

passport stop: crema coffee (bloor east)

crema coffee has dual locations in toronto, one far out in the junction (which actually called me for an interview back when i was funemployed last winter and considering getting back into the barista biz -- but there was something weird about the call that turned me off...i think the woman was really demanding of my info or that i call back or something) and one more conveniently located right downtown. this crema coffee is a strange little installation inside a freshii location just east of yonge on bloor. it's almost like a tiny kiosk, manned by one barista (in all fairness, there probably wouldn't be room for more than one), which always gives me residual shivers because it's rather stressful to try and run a cafe, however small, by yourself (you generally need at least two -- one to work the cash and one to work the bar).

the partnership of freshii and crema is a pretty smart one, when you think about it. sure, you wouldn't necessarily think that someone would go in for a salad and a coffee, but in the area that it's located - almost right at bloor and yonge, in the heart of hotel-and-office-tower land -
it's easy to assume that many of the high-powered businessmen/women would go for both health (the salad) and caffeine (the coffee). trust me, i work in this area/industry, and i know that after the meetings full of pastries and bagels and sweets, the one thing you really want at lunchtime is a big friggin' salad. and also, caffeination to get you through the afternoon. so here we are. think of it as a better-for-you version of those wendys/tim hortons amalgams that exist at truck stops across canada.

[there's also a selection - somewhat depleted on weekends, though - of tasty-looking goodies, in case you completely want to negate the healthfulness of your lunch.]

anyway, i ended up here last sunday afternoon due to 1. a hungry boyfriend and 2. a distinct post-move lack of dishes and cutlery in our new place. boyfriend wanted soup and i wanted a coffee to wake me up, and we were both en route to the grocery store, which took us right past this freshii/crema location. therefore: our destination decided!

interestingly enough, the barista informed me that they didn't have drip coffee on weekends - my only option was clover coffee, which was 100% okay by me. clover coffee is brewed using a special machine that makes one cup of coffee at a time, brewed by standards that are custom-controlled by the barista. (check out this link from the crema website for more on how clover machines work -- it's very cool science) crema says on their website that they're one of only two coffee shops in toronto to offer clover coffee (the other is most likely manic coffee on college, which i'll be getting to soon), and given that a cup of clover generally runs almost twice as much as a regular cup of joe, i was pretty stoked that i could cash in for one.

[coffee, art. or just me being pretentious with lighting and a finicky camera.]

i picked the ethiopia yirgacheffe - which i've bought a pound of before in vancouver at 49th parallel and enjoyed immensely - and stood around for the wait. that's the one downside of clover coffee, besides the price -- it takes a few minutes to brew the cup, but whatever. science! and science made me a relatively mild cup of coffee, with not much of a strong aftertaste but a slightly fruity undertone to the brew. this actually made for a really nice drinking experience, since i wasn't clamoring for a piece of gum immediately afterward, and it definitely hit the spot.

[does this mean you get a stamp every time you get a coffee somewhere that isn't crema?]

all in all, it is a totally weird spot for a specialty coffee shop, especially when it's small enough to basically be a closet. but given that the other options in the area are all monster chain coffee shops, crema's definitely a decent alternative. (and come on now - clover coffee is definitely worth passing up timmy's for) particularly if you're craving a bigass salad at the same time.

Crema Coffee Co.
53 Bloor St. East, Toronto, ON
M4W 1A9

(416) 962-3131 ()

Sunday, October 3, 2010

stop the presses

super-mega bonus time: i'm still attending cmj in three weeks; however, now i will be attending it with a press pass around my neck.

[this is my collection of laminates to date. i started keeping them since i saw a musician then-boyfriend do the same; later found out that most of them do.]

sure, it sounds real dickish to say that i enjoy the feeling of wearing a laminated pass, but there are honestly so few perks to being a journalist that i kind of take what i can get. and one of the things i do enjoy is the validation i feel when i'm wearing a press pass: yes, you are a music journalist, once again and always. and it'll be nice to feel that way again later on this month.

because really, i still feel like a music journo at heart. i've had to go on hiatus for the time being, given that my day job takes up all of my time and the majority of my energy (and both of which are necessary when it comes to maintaining a healthy band-interview schedule). but it still pains me not to write; not to put together lists of questions to ask rock stars, not to feel the high i get before/during/after the interviews, not to enjoy the rush as i piece together an article out of quips and sound bytes. that is what i love to do, truly.

unfortunately, in this day and age, that will never make me enough money to comfortably live off of.

and here's the real bitch of the thing, as it were: imagine that, as a teenager, you pick a career you aspire to have as an adult. then imagine that, once you finally get there, you realize that technology has basically rendered your proposed career obsolete. and that's what it's like to have aspired to be a music journalist back in the early '00s -- now, with blogs and the interwebs killing print magazines, there aren't a whole hell of a lot of jobs left for those of us who want in. and those that have them are clinging to them for dear life.

i'm not saying the digital way is wrong and that we need to shut down blogs or any of that craziness. i believe in progress. but what i'm saying is that it's hard to try and figure out how to adapt to being a music journalist in the digital age and still make a living. and honestly, i feel like the industry hasn't even figured that out yet. fuck, the music industry itself has been bleeding money for years. we're just one of the inevitable casualties.

and so what do we do? a lot of us - myself included - abandon it; we take other jobs elsewhere, whether temporarily or not, in the interest of being able to make money to live off of. some of us - the ones i admire - stick it out as freelancers, basically living the same life that the musicians do: paycheque to paycheque, abject poverty, all because they won't give up on their dream. i don't know how many of us fool ourselves into thinking that some day it'll get better - some day, somebody will figure out how we can make careers for ourselves again - but all i know is that, for myself personally, i may love the feeling of writing (and a press pass around my neck) but i love having the means with which to support myself much, much more. and that was the deciding factor for me to put the burgeoning music journalist career on hold (and by my early twenties, i'd interviewed/reviewed a lot of bands, including many actual big names), rather than struggling through multiple part-time joe jobs just to make ends meet while i chatted on the phone with rock stars.

i guess that makes me a sellout.

don't get me wrong, i do love the romanticism of the latter option -- but i also know the harsh cold reality, because i lived it for a few years post-university. i do have the greatest respect for any and all of my friends who still choose to stick it out in the freelancing world, because sometimes it does feel that to have an "adult career job" means to close the book on youthful freedom. and i wish more than anything that i could get that back...but at the same time, i have student loans to pay back, and rent and bills and necessities to buy, and i like money. which probably makes me both a sellout and a capitalist fuck. but whatever.

and so i don't know if i'll even feel right about walking around cmj as press once again. i don't know if i really will feel like a sellout, like i don't belong in that world anymore. but either way, i can say i truly am looking forward to spending my post-cmj mornings in new york city coffee shops, typing up reviews on my laptop. and maybe that's one of the fundamental reasons i'm returning to nyc in a few weeks: to figure out who i really am deep inside, and if i need to let the dream go or hang on to it a little longer. (i still do list my occupation as "music journalist," after all.)

we'll see.

[ music | joy division, "warsaw" ]

Saturday, October 2, 2010

just keep breathing

so, we moved on thursday.

does anybody out there even enjoy moving? i'd like to find that person, because i'm sure they're an absolute rarity. granted, we didn't have as hard a time as we could have, and i feel like we loaded in/out fairly quickly, but it was still just the two of us - my boyfriend and i - moving all of our life's possessions out of a downstairs basement and into a top-floor apartment building. (the move in, with the usage of the freight elevator, obviously went much faster than the move out.) suffice it to say, there's still some achy muscles and bruises today.

so we finished loading three-quarters of our stuff into the apartment itself, leaving behind some things that we'd decided to drive out and store in dean's mom's garage. but first, dean's ladyfriend - whose apartment we're taking care of - suggested we all go get some late lunch at the pub across the street. we agreed, figuring the drive out to mississauga could wait until after rush-hour traffic had passed. and so the four of us (dean, myself, dean's ladyfriend plus her manfriend who's also a longtime pal of dean's) headed over for a pint and some burgers and some quick relaxation before the final round.

it was all going fine until i idly glanced over the moving van rental contract i'd signed. and i realized that the return time for the van was not, as i initially heard, 2 a.m. -- it was due back at 2 p.m.

it was just after 4 at this point.

panic set in quickly. i called the rental place but got no answer. dean called them, got the guy on the phone who demanded we return the van by 5 because he had booked it to somebody else, then hung up. dean sort of rolled his eyes and said "well, that's not gonna happen" -- but i was freaking out at this point, thinking about what kind of additional late-fee charges they were going to load upon my credit card. (also, it was my name on the signed contract, thus i was responsible for taking the hit on this, thus i was basically mortified.)

and so i called the guy myself, apologized roughly a dozen times, and was nearly brought to tears as he screamed at me over the phone for inconveniencing his business. i promised that we'd have it back by 6 p.m. (5 o'clock would have been impossible -- we were still at the pub, and we still had to dump the rest of our stuff) and he spat back that we'd better, threatening "...or else i don't know what i'll do!" thoroughly chastised, i hung up and we considered our options. fortunately, dean's friend mentioned that he had a storage garage about halfway to the rental place, and we were welcome to stash our extra stuff there instead of going out to mississauga (which would have been impossible given the time frame, and the rush-hour traffic).

so then it was a nail-biting wait as dean's friend first got the address of the garage (it was new to him) and then had to go home to get the opener as we drove slow loops around the neighbourhood. i was still so rattled that i think my complexion was bone-white (all my colour drains when i'm nervous). at last, the garage was located and opened, and we pretty much did a throw and go...

...only to be caught in diverted post-construction traffic right as we neared the van rental place. i was all but chewing my nails down to the quick. we finally made it, and buddy was waiting for us. we immediately started in on the apologies (dean wanted to give him a piece of his mind for yelling at me, but i told him that we had to be contrite because we were totally in the wrong), but the guy wordlessly strode past us to the truck, then back to the office again, then the truck again, completely ignoring us standing there, dumbfounded and confused. when his inspection was done - and when dean had had enough of the weird evasion and confronted him in the office - he brusquely informed us that he wouldn't overcharge us, but we needed to fill up the gas tank to 3/4 full, which was what it'd been at when we'd picked it up (and a stipulation in the rental contract says you have to return the van with the same amount of gas).

uh. that was it?

still confused, the boy and i got back in the van and drove to the nearby gas station, where i insisted we fill it up to full, as part of our apology for fucking up. then when we returned it, the guy shook his head and quietly said, "aw, now you didn't have to do that." no, really. it was actually funny -- more than anything, he reminded me of my dad. not because he was an old man, but because instead of still being angry, he was more acting like he was disappointed in us. like our own shame should be our punishment. (and trust me, it was.) also, i sort of got the impression that maybe he felt bad for yelling at me earlier. i'm not a dude, but i hear that it really makes you feel like shit when you make a girl cry.

so that was that. i went back to his office to finish off the contract, expecting to find shit-tons of overtime charges, but instead? nothing. standard rate of $70 for the rental. "you understand that it was a huge inconvenience," he told me sternly, "but we try to be fair." i exhaled mentally and thanked him again and again for his leniency, and he shook my hand. then i left.

yeah, i know. i'm still waiting for the other foot to drop and to find those shit-tons of overtime charges put to my credit card in post. but no, my card was only charged $70. bizarre.

anyway, now that the adventure is done with (well, until we have to go pick up the extra stuff from the storage garage and take it to dean's mom's place), we're settled in, and will be looking after this place while the ladyfriend is away on business. that will at least buy us some more time before we set out to get our own "real" place after this; i feel weird basically living in somebody else's home, with somebody else's furniture and things everywhere. but! will make the most of it, for sure. how could you not, with a view of the city like this?

and now for a day full of running errands (so far, the household-needs list includes bathroom wall shelves, a garbage can, and a plunger), gym time, and running amok at nuit blanche with my friends. downtown living!

[ music | the horrors, "sheena is a parasite" ]

Friday, October 1, 2010

indie coffee passport series - part 6

the indie coffee passport is a fun initiative invented to get torontonians out to try the city's independent coffee shops. from september 1st, 2010 to march 31, 2011, $20 gets you a little paper pass that lists off 24 participating coffee shops, and allows you to a free coffee up to $5.

i'm not affiliated with the good people behind this idea, but i figured it'd be a blast to get a passport and try to hit up all 24 cafes in the next seven months. (in the interest of fairness, i will get the same thing at every cafe -- a large drip coffee, with cream but no sugar.) i love coffee - it's been flowing through my veins since i was fifteen - and given that i've been a barista, cafe supervisor and cafe manager across toronto and vancouver over the years, i feel like i'm up to the highly-caffeinated task!

passport stop: red rocket coffee (wellesley)

red rocket coffee and i have something like a past. granted, it's not this red rocket location, but the one on the east end - which i was privy to viewing the construction/imminent opening of, since it was right on my walking route to work every day. yes, if you didn't already know, i'm an old east-end girl -- lived and worked in the outer beaches for almost three years (interspersed with a couple of years in the annex downtown, after which i quickly headed back to the beaches again). and i can remember that one of the things i really lamented about my part of the beaches (the border of leslieville, really) was that they didn't have any good indie coffee shops. like, none. so when the charming little red rocket coffee showed up in a neat basement location near queen and greenwood, i was stoked. finally, a coffee place for me to stop at en route to work!

and i loved that place, i really did. i haven't been back since i returned to toronto from vancouver -- and actually, it was a trip to red rocket that decided my escape to the west coast. i remember i was considering it at the time, and i was looking for a sign...and just as i made it to vancouver avenue - the street next to red rocket - interpol's "heinrich maneuver" (the song that opens with the line "how are things on the west coast?" and contains lyrics that i used to name this blog) came on my ipod, thus deciding my fate. i wasn't gonna argue that, for sure.

anyway, i've got plenty more stories relating to red rocket coffee, but maybe i should save those for when i make it out to the original location (the indie coffee passport has both locations listed, so you have to hit up both). this time, i happened to be ambling about on the wellesley side of town, heading for the no frills on sherbourne (probably the only cheap grocery store in proximity of our new place in yorkville), when i realized that the new red rocket was totally in that area. and hey -- there it was! never mind the fact that i literally drank half a full pot of coffee at breakfast -- there's always room for more caffeine. so in i went.

first thing i noticed is that this definitely isn't the cozy little basement of the east end. it's on the ground level of a shiny new condo at wellesley and sherbourne, so everything's all polished glass and newness. i can't say this appealed to me much - i'd feel too much like a yuppie douche hanging around there - but the menu and delicious-looking goodies remained the same from the first location, and so i was pleased.

i have to admit that i deviated from my self-imposed indie coffee passport rule here, but for good reason: back on the east side, i was hooked on their namesake coffee concoction from the start (the "red rocket" is like a mocha, but made with coffee instead of milk -- so it's espresso, coffee and chocolate syrup). as you can imagine, the thing's pure undiluted caffeine and sugar, it often got me through plenty of long, painful work shifts. so in the interest of nostalgia, i ordered up a red rocket instead of a regular old coffee, but got it half-sweet (been trying to cut down on my sugar intake) and took the new option of mayan chocolate over regular, because i'm also a sucker for chocolate with spicy flavours.

they aren't for the faint of heart, red rockets - they're incredibly strong and bittersweet - but if you want to stay up all night, these are your drink. and this one was very much like i remembered, but even a little different because of the spicy chocolate. the sweetness doesn't really hit you at first, until you get about halfway to three-quarters of the way through; then the mocha flavours start to come out. and with the added punch of pepper (cayenne, i think), it made for a complex mouthful. seriously, red rockets are like lattes on speed. (i've never understood why people drink lattes to wake up, really -- i mean, you drink hot milk to make yourself sleepy, fer god's sake. why combine an upper - espresso - with a downer? it just cancels itself out. if you want to wake up, drink a regular medium-brew coffee -- it has more caffeine than espresso.)

that said, though, i don't think i'd drop in to this location on a regular basis. it's just missing the charm and cuteness of the red rocket coffee on the east side, which was all about having a fun indie coffee shop off the beaten path. this one just feels too much like corporate condoland. but i suppose if the craving for a red rocket hits (or if i need to be up late for whatever reason), the wellesley location is indefinitely more convenient than hiking out to the greenwood.

Red Rocket Coffee
154 Wellesley St. E
Toronto, ON