November 23, 2006

Toronto Thursday

Dateline: Far Coast, Toronto

I investigate a coffee shop.

I'm sitting in the Far Coast coffee shop in downtown Toronto, enjoying an OK cup of morning java and a damn good ginger loaf. In case you hadn't heard, Far Coast is the stealth flagship brewed-beverage store of Coca-Cola. The local liberal free rag (NOW) opines that Teh Evul Coke Overlorrds Are Poysining Us With Coffee-lies and Confekshunery-dreams. OH NOES!

It's not at all the sinister corporate front it's made out to be. True, their mission of eco-friendly coffiteering is half-realized at best. They did use a lot of reclaimed wood in the interior design and made an effort with cups and stirs to be green, but a coffee shop is a coffee shop and that can only go so far. Coke, the parent company, is under a lot of criticism for its practices in other countries and has intentionally created this store to be as distant from their softdrink image as possible. Their money, though, is evident. This is the first three-story coffeeshop I've ever been in and the orange, teal, cream, and brown color scheme smacks of expensive design teams. This is the first time I've seen such a brightly-colored sip lid and it hurts my eyes. However, I like their bamboo stirs, which make wonderful five-stick wooden throwing stars. (Remember those?) The picture shows their sugar/cream station, which is a weak point in their design. It's too neat and contained to allow for adequate flow-thru of customers. Because we all know that the only good coffee is coffee REGULAR, you hear me you black-coffee-drinking sonsabitches?? I predict they'll change these stations out for more open counters in six months or so.

Well, it's been an interesting short week here in Toronto. During my three days of teaching, I didn't get a single run in. At nights I was reviewing the next day's material and I really needed to get eight or nine hours of sleep before I teach - it's the only way to stay focused. Because if I don't stay focused, I start making bad puns and inappropriate references to Office Space and that's just not professional. So it was with a great feeling of freedom that I was able to enjoy myself last night. I was a good boy and did not patronize the strip club across from the hotel. Instead, I caught the latest Bond flick and then went out with a complete stranger for some drinks.

I take in a movie.

It can only bode well when an action movie's star has two first names. As if to prove it, Casino Royale is supremely well-done. Daniel Craig's Bond is, as some reviewers have said, "not your daddy's James Bond." He's meaner in all ways, tougher in most ways, and downright sick in the head at many moments. He is a hired killer and spy for MI-6, period. That is the core of the new Bond character and there ain't much veneer around it. This new Bond is in many ways far more thrilling and captivating than even Sean Connery's. (Don't get me wrong: Connery was a complete Bond, the embodiment of Bond and had there never been another, I would be happy; I still hold his characterization in high regard.) Daniel Craig's Bond, however, is written far closer to the books' Bond than his movie predecessors and, indeed, it is an appropriate choice, as Casino Royale happens at the beginning of Bond's career. As such, it is a story based more in intrigue and cat-and-mouse games than it is in gadgets, charm, or easy one-liners. (In fact, the highest technology we see in this movie are cellphones and a defriballator only slightly smaller than the ones now adoring airport walls these days. There IS a brief moment of tracking chip technology - essentially a human Low-Jack - but this technology never even comes into play. As for one-liners, there are quite a few, but none have the cheese factor we've come to expect - they're intelligent and witty!)

This is a spy novelist's movie. You don't have to have seen a Bond movie before or even read one of the books to instantly be drawn into Casino Royale and enjoy every minute. It is also a movie that chicks will enjoy almost until the end. This Bond is not a silver-tongued devil, though he does get his fair share of women. He admits easily that his job comes first and that he's not particularly connected to the fairer sex except physically. One whip-sharp exchange goes:

Bond: Don't worry, you're not my type.
Vesper: Smart?
Bond: Single.

Daniel Craig also is the first Bond to go full monty, IIRC. The way Craig is built, ladies and gay men everywhere will pass right the fuck out.

The film has plenty of action sequences that will get the blood going, of course, but like Bond's character, the action relies more on brute force than technology, the camera work taking you in close and fast in a way that touches your gut. (In a way, it's like comparing all the old footage of helicopter shots of marathons to the close-up blood-sweat-and-tears shots of the front runners.) This Bond chases people on foot. A lot. He also kills people. A lot. He gets roughed up in the process, too, ending up in the hospital at least twice and temporarily dead at least once. The ending may shock you. It does NOT end like every other Bond film and this particular Bond's character is thrown into sharp relief against the light of reality. And it isn't until the very last line of the movie that we get to hear the signature "My name is Bond. James Bond." Bond fans everywhere: prepare to reboot.

I go out.

After the movie, I had a message from an internet acquaintance I've never met before, Andre, and we decided to go get a drink together. We ended up in a small, fairly deserted tappas bar that I'm sure is packed Friday and Saturday nights. The music was excellent; the Italian hottie manning the bar was courteous, charming, and quick with the liquor; and the atmosphere relaxing. Their martinis were large and I was pleased to find out they were half-price on Wednesdays. Ladies, it only took two of these to have me three-quarters drunk. $8 Canadian. I'm such a cheap date.

Andre turned out to be a sharp guy. A few years ago, he started working out and now sports a fitness-mag physique. Just been working up to it, he says, slow and steady. We compared notes a bit on the differences between his training and mine and he gave me some pointers on starting a core-excercises program. He thinks my idea of getting a climber's fingerboard for my wall at home is a good one. Andre is well aware of American politics, too, having lived in Florida during Dubbya's first election, and as dangerous a topic as politics is, we had some good conversation.

I run.

Getting up this morning was harder than hell. But I wanted to get a run in before I had to pack up and get out of the room, so I was out of bed by 10. Unfortunately, another goddamn bloody nose ambushed me and I lost 30 minutes to getting it stopped. The dry air here, combined with the dry heat in the room and my propensity to leak blood from my beak, is the culprit. I'm surprised it hasn't been a problem over the last four days. Still, I strapped on the watch, the shoepod, the heartrate monitor, skinnied into my running shorts and a long-sleeve tech T and headed out.

I've been wearing my new pair of Adrenaline 6's since Sunday, except during teaching, when I had dress shoes on. Today was the first run with them. The shoes felt really REALLY good on my feet and it highlighted for me just how quickly running shoes wear out. My old ones have definitely lost something that these shoes still have.

It was cold out - I could see my breath - but not cold enough to opt for pants. I didn't jackrabbit the start, just took my time and started jogging up Yonge street. I only had time for about three miles, reckoning on an overall 12-minute pace due to coughing fits, crowded sidewalks, and waiting for lights. While moving, my running pace was a steady 10:15 mile, though. It felt good. My legs have recovered from last Saturday's long run and carried me well today. I needed this run as I'd been feeling stiff from being on my feet for three days and my legs feel better right now than they have in a week.

I mapped out my route before hand, noting that a building I'd done some 3D modeling for while it was in the construction stages was nearby. Google maps said a round-trip would be just over three miles, but it turned out to be 2.64. Oh, well. The building itself (1 King West) looked exactly like the promotional pre-visualization renderings had pictured it. I did the modeling for much of the lobby and I couldn't believe how close our furnishing layouts had been followed. It was really something to see the product of my work - to whatever extent I had contributed. The tower above the old converted bank building is a modern glass tower in an elliptical shape - every bit as imposing in real life as in the renderings three years ago. Finished my run in 32:44, about a 12:25 mile pace. I got to see some of Toronto and have fun doing it and managed to get back, shower, and check out of my hotel room with five minutes to spare.

By the way, I'd like to remark on how clean Yorktown (downtown Toronto) is. Smokers are few and discarded butts are almost nonexistent. The streets and sidewalks are very clean and remarkably gum-spot free. This area is very mixed-use, too. Condo towers reside next to office towers and the lower floors are almost all shopping and restaurants. It's a business district that has a night-life and a weekend-life. Nice to see. And in general, it's a very nice, calm, peaceful town. Even their manhole covers look like peace symbols.


Yvonne said...

dang, that picture of your ginger loaf is making my mouth water!

Anonymous said...

i agree with yvonne. the ginger bread rather than the bond will make me pass out! the bond is too beefy he should lean up a bit. perhaps he should pick running - an idea! :-)