Thumbs Up – The Poet

TT

The Skinny

For the next entry in my Toronto Thumbs writing feature, I would like to talk about a gent that lives half a world away.
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On Top of the Job

Roof - Before
The state of our roof before we had it fixed.
Click to Enlarge…

“A new roof is one of those home improvements that is painful because the results aren’t really obvious to you. ” These words were spoken by a friend of mine when I was talking to her about the sorry state of my roof (and how I was looking to have it repaired or replaced) . I didn’t really understand exactly what she meant until I started getting quotes to have my roof redone.

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Off the Hook By Going Off the Airwaves

Avoiding Getting Wired

In the place we used to live in near High Park, we used to have cable. When we moved into our new home, we opted out of paying for cable and watched whatever we could pick up from the analog feed to our house. The TV we had was not the greatest and picked up a small number of channels (most of which were fuzzy). Even though this wasn’t the greatest option, we didn’t mind as our TV wasn’t awesome and wouldn’t take advantage of the Holy Grail that is HD.

Fast forward a few years and the TV started to show its age; we finally ended up getting a new TV (more at my insistence). Due to me getting my wish, Mrs. J made a simple ask: CTV (which never showed up using cable or a simple antenna using our old TV). The decision was made to get an antenna that would allow us to pick up digital signals. Due to my fear of heights and the fact that I had no idea how to install one, we decided to call some professionals.


Geoff does some prep work.
Click to enlarge…

The Antenna Guys

A friend of Mrs. J’s sent her an article about getting HDTV channels using an antenna, and had a helpful link to company called The Antenna Guys. It is a small operation (based in Toronto) made up of a few guys that will come to your house and install a Channel Master antenna (or another one available from their inventory listed on their home page) and wire it to your distribution point so that you might be able to take advantage of the airwaves.

I spoke to Geoff (the owner) to get a quote and the cost of installation was relatively affordable (they even take off $25 if you provide a ladder and are easily reachable by TTC). Really, when you think about it, if you’re not really a specialty-channel-kind-of-person, you’re really doing yourself a disservice by buying basic cable, especially considering the fact that a lot of the channels that you watch are probably available using an antenna. The one-time charge of installation of an antenna is recouped in a few months in terms of saving money by not paying for a cable provider for your TV.


The Channel Master antenna and neat wiring.
Click to enlarge…

I touched base a few times with Geoff to make an appointment. Accommodating and polite, he explained what they did and we worked out a time when I would be home so they could do what they needed to do. As his partner was riding a bike to get to our place, he did all of the prep work so that when his “climber” arrived, there would be no delay. Installation took a few hours (which was impressive considering how icy the roof was) and we received a decent number of HD channels which is impressive considering where we are located.

One thing to keep in mind when working with The Antenna Guys: make sure you are explicit in how you want things wired; this is something that they appreciate. For instance, I asked Geoff not to anchor the cable he brought into the house (he had to drill in) so that I might have some slack to do some rewiring if I needed to at a later time. He did exactly as I asked, and left a good length of coil which I have stored in my laundry room.


Antenna mounted and pointed towards the CN Tower.
Click to enlarge…

Another awesome thing they did: fixed up the wiring outside the house. Geoff tie-wrapped and straightened a lot of the messy wiring job of previous folks. He even left me extra caulking to plug up some of the other holes that he found that had been drilled before he got there.

The Antenna Guys are a great group of dudes who will help you unshackle yourself from the expense that is cable and reap the benefits of free off-the-air digital signals. I would recommend these guys to anyone interested in this kind of thing.
Geoff is a salt-of-the-Earth kind of guy whose business is in its infancy and he could use the support of word-of-mouth advertising; if you or anyone you know is thinking about going aerial, check out their web page.


Jorge’s Guide to Toronto – IV

And the Fun Continues…

It has been a little while but I am back with the next chapter in the ongoing guide to the city in which I live.

In this installment, I will make reference to one of the more colourful characters that frequent the streets of Toronto, as well as a breakdown of the major Ukrainian section of the city.

Toronto is a city of the world. A multi-faceted diamond of culture and diversity. Not only do we have a great number of individual ethnic backgrounds, but we also have a plethora of exceptional people that call the city home…



Zanta

If you’ve ever spent time on our public transit system in T-Dot, then you’ve probably seen a man with no shirt doing pushups while wearing a Santa hat.

That’s right. No shirt. Pushups.

Santa Hat.

His name is Zanta. He is the more muscular, fit version of Santa.

You will see him parading about, in only his jeans, a pair of boots, and his Santa Claus hat. He is an anatomical dynamo, keeping his rock-hard physique by doing an extreme number of pushups ever day.

Indeed, he is a self-proclaimed extreme pushupper, and he will drop and give you twenty in the blink of an eye.

What’s his story? Well, there are many different versions floating about. I have not had the pleasure of speaking with him directly about it. But I know that he loves his daughter, and his quest to make her smile will never end.



Ukrainian

Just west of High Park there is an area of Bloor Street West known as Bloor West Village. It stretches from Kennedy Avenue across to the South Kingsway.

It is an area filled with chic stores and great restaurants.

There are a great number of bakeries and delis that have a Ukrainian flair. One could spend a great many days wandering the streets with an unlimited amount of money and still not try every delicacy that the area has to offer.

At the end of every summer, the Ukrainian Festival takes place.

Bloor Street West is closed to traffic between Runnymede Avenue and Jane Street, making way for various kiosks featuring art and cuisine from the Ukraine.

The intixicating smell of perogies wafts through the air, pulling your body in many different directions. Sausages and other delicious grilled foods sizzle over flame. The sound of mirth is all around you.

There are usually several beer tents offering sudsy bevvies to help quench your thirst, rounding out the experience for your mouth.

Just typing this article will lead to me buying a new keyboard not coated in my own dripping saliva just thinking about my culinary experiences at this festival.

Make sure if you are in Toronto that you time your visit to coincide with the Ukrainian Festival. Your mouth will thank you.




Index

  1. Introduction, Italian, Chinese

  2. CN Tower, Portuguese

  3. TTC, Greek

  4. Zanta, Ukrainian

Jorge’s Guide to Toronto – III

We’ve Only Just Begun…

The guide to the city I live in continues…

In this chapter, I will be dealing with another section of town, as well as a small section on how to ride our public transit system.

Toronto is a large city. It’s certainly not as populous as, say, New York, but it’s got its share of people.

If everyone drove cars here, it would be a nightmare. The city follows a loose grid system, and thus is not all that efficient when it comes to moving traffic around.

This is where our public transportation system comes in…



Ride the Rocket (Or, a Quick Breakdown, So to Speak)

There is no need for me to go into too much detail when it comes to the Toronto Transit Commission. If you want to read a bit about the history of the TTC, this page is a great place to start.

I will simply be giving some tips to getting around this fair city.

Before I begin, you might want to open another window and have these maps handy.

The core of the TTC is the subway. It is the backbone of the public transit system. There are four main lines that run through the city. Two of the subway lines basically end up uoutlining downtown (Bloor/Danforth and Yonge/University/Spadina). If you look at the map you will see.

Supporting this spine would be the streetcars. They run along some of the major streets downtown and just outside of downtown. Their point of origin is usually a subway station.

Last, but not least (and definitely most numerous) are the buses. If the subway is the spine, that would make the streetcars the skeleton. Obviously the buses would be the skin.

Er…

Anyway, the buses crisscross the city, allowing for (somewhat) convenient transportation from one area of the city to the other, provided you have the time.



The Better Way (Or What to Do When Riding the TTC)

You will probably notice more courtesy on those trucks in Jamaica that carry a thousand people (riding in, on top of, off the side of, and possibly underneath the vehicle) than you will on a civilized system.

Our public transport system is not primitive. Just the people are.

Here are some helpful tips to keep you sane when on the move…


  • When a subway arrives, make sure you stand aside so the people on board can get off. There are times when people are slow to realize it’s their stop. They might be asleep, or perhaps drunk, so they realize at the last second that it is time for them to get off. They usually run into you on their way out as you enter the vehicle, because you’ve usually waited for a reasonable amount of time and have figured that everyone has exited already. They will usually be rude, and will confront you to make themselves feel better. Make sure you don’t kick them in the crotch or punch them in the face, because you can stil go to jail, even though you are in the right. Try and be more subtle. Step on their foot by accident, or step on their laces so they become untied, and will possibly trip later.
  • If you are entering a vehicle, try your best to move to the back. It is also acceptible, if you are going to be only going a short way, to stand near an exit. This will facilitate your speedy exit from the vehicle without getting everyone to get out of your way twice. That being said, try to make sure you keep a patch clear so people can get in and out without too much difficulty
  • If you see a free seat, take it. WHen you are sitting, that is room for another person to stand. If an elderly, disabled, or pregnant person enters the vehicle, offer them your seat. There are too many young people who don’t respect people, and thus don’t offer them a seat. Come to think of it, there are too many older people who have no respect, too. Do the right thing.
  • Don’t stick your face out in front of an oncoming subway to see if you’re fast enough to pull your head aside in time. You are not that fast, and it gets messy.
  • You will notice that there may be an announcement over the loudspeakers while riding on the subway. This message will ususally be indicating that there is a problem somewhere. Unfortunately, the person that designed this speaker system is the same person that designed the drive-through speaker system, too. You will not be able to understand what is being said. Feel free to look around at your fellow passengers and make humorous comments about it like did he just say what I think he said? or I wonder if we should get fries with that?
  • Almost all bus drivers hate you.
  • Closing your eyes to nap on the subway deprives you of one of the best forms of free entertainment ever: people watching.
  • If you ride the TTC there is a chance I will write about you on here. Don’t be a prick to me.



Greek

A visit to Toronto would not be complete if you didn’t at least visit Greektown. They even have their own webpage!

Greektown is located along Danforth Avenew between Chester Avenue and Jones Avenue.

This is the largest openly Greek neighbourhood in North America. It is an excellent place to find Greek culture and thus, there are some pretty amazing places to eat.

Certainly you will find various franchises all around the city that have a Greek theme. But the Greek food along the Danforth is to die for. Don’t get me wrong, these franchinses do have good food. However, it’s like saying McDonald’s is the ultimate place to get a hamburger.

When you are in Greektown, you will notice that people are very friendly. They all want to shake your hands and hug you. It is a warm atmosphere.

Make sure, though, that when you introduce yourself to people, you should only ask them for their first name. Trying to pronounce Greek last names will usually lead to a brain hemorrhage.

Seriously, with names like Cosmopolotipolis, Frangalankalopopopolis and Cantseemtofindsnuffalupagus you can see why.

You should also make sure you bring one of your new Greek friends to any restaurant you might want to go to. They will be very helpful in pronouncing some of the food names that you encounter.

Once a year (usually for a weekend) there is an event called Taste of the Danforth. It is an excellent event that has childrens games and other activities. There are usually specials at all the restaurants along the Danforth (not just the Hellenic ones). Over a million people attend this event every year.

Oh! Almost forgot. Mind the flying plates and flaming cheese. It’s a dangerous world out there!




Index

  1. Introduction, Italian, Chinese

  2. CN Tower, Portuguese

  3. TTC, Greek

  4. Zanta, Ukrainian

Jorge’s Guide to Toronto – II

The Journey Continues…

Welcome back to my guide to the city I live in.

In this chapter, I will be dealing with a few more cultures, as well as some extra points you may want to consider.

Landmarks are an important part of travel. They are usually famous places that you can use as a point of reference, so you don’t get lost. You can also learn interesting things about the history of the city from some of the major landmarks, as steps have been taken to ensure that information is posted at these places. Landmarks can also make up part of the unique skyline of the city.

These skylines are like fingerprints. Every major city has a recognizable skyline. If you don’t know what the skyline of your city looks like, just go to a book shop or souvenier store and check out some postcards. A pattern will make itself apparent.

Toronto is no exception. In fact, it has one of the most recognizable skylines of any city in the world…



Is That a Landmark Or Are You Just Happy to See Me?

I have come to the conclusion that if the city of Toronto was a gender, it would be male. I’m not referring to the smell, or stuff lying all over the place. No, I am referring to the giant penis along the lakeshore in our downtown core.

The CN Tower was first conceived as a communications platform (radio and television), a testatment to Canadian ingenuity and probably a healthy dash of my-dad-can-beat-up-your-dad machismo.

From what I gather, the observation decks were added later on in the plan. Construction of the CN Tower was worked on non-stop for over three years. When it was finally completed, it was a sight to behold.

On top of being a communications nexus and observation tower, it also acts as an entertainment centre, complete with revolving restaurant and other goodies. If you decide to try to stand on the transparent floor and pretend you are Superman (the floor looks down several hundred metres to the cold, hard ground below), make sure you wear a diaper.

Visit the CN Tower if you ever find yourself in the neighbourhood. You won’t be disappointed. Following are two links to more information…



Actually, I just checked what I wrote against the Wikipedia entry and I was right on the money! Not that I would have changed anything if was wrong…



Portuguese

There are two major subgroups in this category: European and Brazilian. Since I haven’t been able to find the geographical distribution to indicate distinction, I’ve thrown them both into one category.

This could be considered a faux-pas, as I have observed that the older generations of European and Brazilian Portuguese people have some kind of long-standing feud based on something lost to memory. The younger generations don’t, though, which makes visiting these parts of town a lot more comfortable.

Another interesting distinction is the language. While they both speak Portuguese, they each have their own variations. European Portuguese is a clipped, sharp-sounding latinesque language. The Brazilian version, on the other hand, is softer and more sultry.

Vocabulary is also tricky. A Brazilian acquaintance of mine told me once that he was in Portugal, and someone asked him (in European Portuguese) to stand in a queue to wait for the banker. In Brazilian, the European word for queue translates to homosexual. Needless to say my acquaintance was momentarily taken aback. Brazilian contains a lot of slang, usually double meanings of a sexual nature. Hell, I think every word in Brazilian contains some sexual connotation.

From my observations, there are two major sections of the city that can be classified as Portuguese


  • Bloor St W from Ossington to Dufferin

  • Dundas St W from Ossington to Lansdowne


These neighbourhoods have some great little markets to do grocery shopping, as well as a lot of bakeries. You can’t visit one of these neighbourhoods without trying one of the infamous Portuguese custard tarts called pasteis de nata. These heavenly baked treats simply melt in your mouth. Each bakery and coffee shop has their own unique flavour. Ironically, in my opinion, the best pasteis de nata can be attained at Caldense, which is nowhere near the neighbourhoods listed above. These tarts are almost if not as good as the original pasteis from Belém in Porgugal.

When strolling around in these areas, you might also be lucky enough to see a game of Capoeira in progress. Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art, which you can read about here. You should join in the music by clapping to the rhythm (if those in the circle are clapping). Don’t stand too close to the inner circle surrounding the action, though. You might be asked to play.

Every lunch and dinner hour are bustling around these neighbourhoods. Weekends, there are probably even more people out for walks with their families, chatting with neighbours, and so on. Yes, in true Europen fashion, there are also old men wearing hats, playing cards and possibly soccer.





Index

  1. Introduction, Italian, Chinese

  2. CN Tower, Portuguese

  3. TTC, Greek

  4. Zanta, Ukrainian

Jorge’s Guide to Toronto – I

Jorge’s Guide to Toronto

Welcome to my guide to Toronto. This guide will give you my view of the city. By no means will this be a guide you can actually use, so don’t get your hopes up.

Best to try toronto.com or something like that if you want to be all snooty and such.

I decided to write this guide because blogger extraordinaire Jay and her dashing husband have relocated to a secret base hidden in the GTA somewhere. Jay was wondering about this fair city that I call home, so as a personal favour, I am sharing my unique point of view.

I plan to write this guide sporadically, as the mood takes me, possibly modifying existing posts as I go. It will gain its own category along the side so one can access it. I might even make a custom section for it.

Let us begin…



The Greatest City in the World

This was Mel Lastman’s proclamation at almost every public event he spoke at. While I am from here, and proud of where I live, I found that it wore thin. Mind you, Mel managed to make almost anything he did quite tiresome, except for that time he wrote a letter to Geri Halliwell, pleading with her not to leave the spice girls. Tiresome? No. Spooky? Yes.

Toronto is a great city though. If I was to sum it up in one word, I would probably have to pick the oft-used cliché of alive.

It’s a huge organism, spread across Southern Ontario like concrete jam on a bread made out of…er…Earth.

Toronto proper has many neighbourhoods with cultural overtones. They are usually indicated by headers on the street signs. You’ll notice them on your travels through the city in most areas…


  • Corso Italia

  • Fashion District

  • Stinky Armpit Area

  • etc…


These indicators are deceiving.

Reading a sign that says Corso Italia would make you think that there is only one section of Toronto dedicated solely to Italians. This would be false.

How do I know this? Research.

Well, the research was really a by-product of me being caught in traffic when I used to live in the East end and commuted to the West end for work.

World Cup Soccer will always show you the true breakdown of culture in any city…



Italian

To my knowledge, there are five distinct Little Italies in Toronto…


  • St. Clair Ave W west of Bathurst and East of Old Weston

  • Weston Rd North of Sheppard Ave

  • Part of College St (2 blocks)

  • The intersection of St. Clair Ave W and Scarlett Rd.

  • Woodbridge


The first one is the official Little Italy (although I think that the town of Woodbridge would have something to say about that).

The smell of bread is something you will notice when in one of these areas. And not just any kind of bread. A certain bread. Usually accompanied by the smell of garlic, cheese, and simmering tomato sauce.

Little Italies are the best places to visit a deli for some sandwiches. Considering that there are seven delicatessans on every block, believing this is not really a leap of faith.

Like any respectable European city, you will notice an abundance of old men in hats wakling around, chatting, pointing at things, or laughing while playing a game of cards that not even they know the rules to anymore.

These are happy places.



Chinese

There are probably eighty Chinatowns in the GTA…


  • Spadina Ave between Queen St W and College St W

  • Parts of Scarborough

  • Slightly East of Woodbine Rd and Danforth Ave, Gerrard St E as well

  • Stretches of Kennedy Rd

  • Parts of Markham

  • Richmond Hill (Due in no small part to the Pacific Mall, which seems to have been teleported here from another planet)


Chinatown proper is located on Spadina. It’s a hustling, bustling place, where you will see hollowed out coconuts (with straws sticking out of them) lying all over the place (they don’t fit through the slot in the garbage cans). Vendors with dreams of riches hock their pirated (yet convincingly real-looking) DVDs on folding card tables, while once a week the garbage from restaurants is piled out along the curb in alarmingly high stacks, teetering with every puff of wind that happens by…

The other Chinatowns are simply named such for convenience. There will usually be a Dim-sum establishment and several electronics stores with neon signs in eight different languages. Something about Chinatowns is that they magically hold more people than physically possible.

Richmond Hill swells with people on the weekend, all on their way to the Pacific Mall. For about two hours every weekend, the Earth’s rotation either slows down or speeds up depending on whether people are all walking into the mall (opening time) or out of the mall (closing time).



More to Come…

This is the first installment in the Jorge’s Guide to Toronto series. Suggestions are more than welcome.





Index

  1. Introduction, Italian, Chinese

  2. CN Tower, Portuguese

  3. TTC, Greek

  4. Zanta, Ukrainian