Mr. Cellophane

In a location adjacent to a place in a city of some significance, what comes out of my head is plastered on the walls of this blog.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Two days in Toronto.

Earlier this year, I decided - on a whim - to take a two-day trip to Toronto. I'd go to Fan Expo Canada on Saturday and the Canadian National Exhibition on Sunday. Of course, this meant buying tickets and setting up hotel reservations. (It's a little sad that I've probably reached a point in my life where I'm pissed that doing the things I want would involve...doing things.)

Still, I pressed on, hopeful to glean some fun out of the weekend, especially given the massive bed shitting that the summer's first trip to Toronto turned out to be (long story short: missed the Mac and Cheese Festival, could only use my phone as a glorified camera, drove all over the place in vain because I didn't bring any maps or directions, got to see Wonder Woman, so the day wasn't totally shot).

Helped by a significant financial windfall by an outburst of work at my job, I couldn't help but be emboldened.

Saturday - Driving to Toronto takes (on a good day) two hours. It might've been smart to consider a rest stop so my legs wouldn't be super fatigued by the time I finally got there, but I was only able to enjoy one day of Fan Expo Canada, so straight driving it is.

For a long trip, I needed something to eat, so I stopped off at Tim Hortons for some Timbits. Also, there was a two-liter bottle of iced tea that I stuck in the freezer. Unfortunately, it took a while to thaw out. Still, the good news is that I was able to carry it around in my backpack. Beats having to pay four bucks for beverages on the property.

My original plan when I got to Toronto was to root around for a parking space. I checked Fan Expo Canada's website and found something called Parking Panda, which allowed me to reserve a space in a nearby parking lot. How fortunate for me.

First panel of the day: Voice Actors Script Read of The Princess Bride. I got in around 20 minutes after 11, so I missed some scenes, but the panel of VAs was amazing. The standout was Nolan North's Gary Busey doing Inigo's backstory. His Busey...it's like when you hear Tom Kane's Morgan Freeman for the first time; 'You're sure it's not really him?' Just astounding. Also noteworthy was Jennifer Hale; while her Sofia Vergara was...interesting, her Ellen DeGeneres (as Dory) gave Nolan's Busey a run for his money. I'm just upset that the panel stopped before it got to the battle of wits scene. Could you imagine where they'd have gone with that?

The reason I chose Saturday to go to Fan Expo was because of all the celebrities that would be there that day. The sad irony, though, was that I didn't have enough time to see them as I was rushing around. I did manage to sneak a pic of Barry Bostwick, but I think he caught on because when I tried getting another, he moved behind someone who'd actually approached his booth. (Side note: with all the panels and celebrities and vendors and cosplay to see, I cannot fathom how anyone could go to a convention for one day...at least one as big as this. The local cons are much more forgiving in that regard; the comics are the main focus.)

Speaking of comics, maybe I should just consider special-ordering them from now on. None of the vendors have the ones I really want and the selection they do have is ridiculously disordered. I'm not in the mood to buy whatever; I want specific titles! I did luck out with a Disney booth selling a collection of their Disney Princess comic.

The cosplay was, as expected, terrific. (Special mention goes to the duo of John Hammond and Ellie Sattler of Jurassic Park. Remarkable.) Of course, there were more that I missed out on than I got pictures of, a good reason to go more than one day to a convention like this. There was also an impressive (and cute) Wednesday Addams cosplay. Sadly, she didn't want her picture taken. Witness protection can be a real bitch. Seriously, what other reason could she possibly have for showing up at a convention - in costume! - and not wanting her picture taken?

Feeling hungry, I ventured outside to find some lunch. However, , the trucks weren't yet parked and I was hungry right now. I headed to the South Building for some eats, but - despite the wide selection on display - nothing tickled my fancy. Frustrated, I went back to the North Building, forgoing my initial selection for the cuisine of local food truck, Gotham Grill. (If you're ever in Toronto, do try the Gotham Poutine.)

Lunch in my hand, I headed for room 206A for the Famke Janssen panel. The moderator wasn't present (and danged if I know what happened to him), so she and her friend led the way, making it into more or less a Q&A. I had planned to ask her something that had been roiling in by brain for roughly the last three years: 'Was she upset that she didn't have more to do in the Taken movies?' It wasn't (quite) cowardice or apathy that stopped me like it has at similar events over the years. In addition to talking about her career and how she tried to break out of various boxes (supermodel, Bond girl, superhero), she mentioned wanting to speak out against human trafficking much like what happens in the first movie. At that point, I was sufficiently humbled into keeping my mouth shut...or, perhaps, she sensed that I (or someone else) had planned on asking that and beat me (us?) to the punch and gave us reasoning deeper than getting to kick ass. Maybe, she has Jean Grey powers after all.

I should digress from the pre-established schedule to note that, instead of staying at a hotel which likely would've been really expensive (or a motel, which would've been slightly less so), I considered making arrangements to stay at someone's house through Airbnb. I would like to try that someday, but since I dithered about in making living arrangements until days before the trip, the places I wanted to stay at were gone and the places left available cost way more than I wanted to spend (to the point where I'd have been better off with a night in a hotel). Unusually, there was a place available, dirt cheap with access to the subway and the entertainment district.

Much to my surprise, when I found the place I made the reservation with, it was a nail salon in Chinatown. What in the hell? However, the owner showed me the apartment building adjacent to it. There were rooms available. Mine had a kitchen and a bathroom and two bedrooms. A further surprise came when I found that there was someone staying in the other bedroom. So, I was renting half-an-apartment in a building in a nail salon. That didn't even have a TV. This is what happens when you wait until the last minute.

I dropped my stuff off and took my car back (and thinking about it, I feel it would've been easier on myself if I took my briefcase out of my car, walked up King Street, took the train on Spadina and walked the few blocks to my 'hotel' rather than taking my car out of the parking garage - wasting more gas - trying to navigate the insane Toronto traffic and looking for a space. Jesus H. Christ, I'm not perfect and it's a fool's errand pretending to be!).

With the traffic and the walking and the huge crowds, I found myself only able to enjoy the last 15 minutes of the "Student Bodies" reunion panel (and, at the time of posting, it hasn't been put on YouTube)...but what I did get to enjoy was a total gas. If you were to tell me that the cast members hadn't interacted since the show ended, I'd have thought you were taking the piss. Terrific chemistry even today. Someone floated the idea of bringing the show back, a nice idea in practice, but I'd personally be happy with a complete DVD box set. Then again, I could always watch the reruns online (thank God for YouTube).

The hour was getting late and I had paid extra to be part of this next panel, so I made my way to room 106 for "Last Fan Standing". Funnily enough, I managed to get the internet on my phone, which made waiting in line more bearable. As we get into the theater, we are given little remote controls. These are buzzers to help us answer the (softball) multiple choice questions for the first round. Whoever got the highest scores would be invited on stage. I still maintain that if my score was better, I would've dominated. And, like it needs to be said, Bruce Campbell was a riot.

Afterwards, I had planned to dine at Quiznos for supper, but the darkness and my relative unfamiliarity with the city caused me to settle for Pizza Pizza. Don't get me wrong; it was good, but it wasn't what I wanted. After that, I took my car back to Chinatown Family House and settled in for the night. Given that my phone's juice was depleted, I charged it while working on Sudoku puzzles. Once the phone was recharged, I decided to get my fix of Svengoolie by watching suites of between-movie material on YouTube (seriously, how were we able to function before the advent of this site?). After two, I was ready to hit the sack.

Sunday - Around 7:00am, I woke up. I washed my face and was considering showering, but then the whole 'sharing my suite with a complete stranger' thing reared its head. One look at the soap told me, in capital letters and 72 point type, 'The shower can wait'. Still, I got dressed and, after a few YouTube videos (okay, I'll stop now), I was ready to check out.

Unfortunately, the owner hadn't opened up the nail salon yet. 'No problem', I thought. 'I'll just get some breakfast'. Even more unfortunately, the place I'd hoped to dine at wasn't yet open. What a crock. By the time I got back, the salon was open and I was able to drop off my room key. Given that CNE wouldn't be open for some time, I figured maybe I'd go to Sonic Boom Records. Also closed.

Still, walking down Spadina (and leaving the car parked outside the motel; thank goodness, they don't start charging anything for parking until 1:00pm) had its pleasures. I was still hungry so I happened upon What a Bagel. I didn't really feel like a big breakfast because I was expecting to stuff myself at CNE, so I decided on an apple juice and an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie. Man, did I love that cookie.

I also encountered a weird situation, as a man pulled up in his car and yelled at a woman walking by. Canada, eh?

As I mentioned before, I couldn't enjoy the internet on my phone, but you can't keep me from trying. Still, no luck, but my futility carried me to 10:00am...and Sonic Boom. As an antithesis of the soundtrack section of Record Theater (RIP), there was remarkably little to crow about here. Still, the layout of the store is something to cherish. Store level has books, knick-knacks and vinyl, but down the stairs, CDs and DVDs.

It took me a quarter of a tank of gas to drive up to Toronto, but feeling that I was better safe than sorry, I stopped at a 7-11 for a fill-up and some snacks. Sadly, nothing caught my fancy, but I did grab something to drink.

Then, it was off to CNE...at least, once I figured out that the street I turned onto was but a couple of blocks away, something I found out when re-checking my Streetwise Toronto map. I drove a good 30 miles (or 40 kilometers?) away before I had to turn around. I hate getting lost in a city where I don't have phone service.

I finally found Exhibition Place and damn, is it big! No wait, that's just the parking lot. And parking costs $35! Note to self: definitely consider the subway if I go here again.

Again, this place is ginormous. So many people. So many things to see. All I really wanted to see was the place where the food was being served. There was a lot of walking to be done, and even consulting the map didn't quite get the results I wanted, but I kept at it.

Ultimately, I made it to the Food Building. Even now, I couldn't believe how many restaurants there were; cuisine from all over the world and it was mine for the taking. The only question: where to dine first?

Curiosity led me to a place called 'Hot Bunzz', which specialized in buns stuffed with food. They had a lot of interesting flavors, but I decided on the Surf 'n Turf (hey, I may never get to experience the real thing). Tasted...not bad; it was good, but not as amazing as I was expecting.

Of course, though, I wanted to experience even more. Unfortunately, I had taken my debit card out of my wallet to pay for parking, which wouldn't matter so much except I didn't go in through one of the regular entrances and to get back in, I'd need my hand stamped and...well, that would just open a chest of problems, so I decided to utilize my bank card...but that was depressingly useless at their ATMs. This left me with far less money to play around with than I would've liked, which is probably just as well; $50 dollars and several trips later, who knows how constipated I'd have felt later on?

I decided to switch things up and get some dessert. 'Cookie Dough Me!' offered deep-fried cookie dough and brownie batter. I opted for the latter. Some of the toppings were expensive, but thankfully, the powdered sugar was free. Again, not too bad.

The (depleted) money still burning a hole in my pocket, I went for the Arts and Crafts Building. Some interesting exhibits, like what looked to be a multi-colored mural of scout patches, magic tricks, various pastries and a booth selling rare DVDs.

I got back out and, eager to quench my thirst, I stopped by a stand that was selling cups of root beer for two dollars. Sometimes, you just need a drink.

Feeling particularly bored, I took a ride on a trolley, hoping to retrace my steps and remember where the hell I parked. That by itself would seem a hassle, but then it started raining and with all my rain gear safely in the car.

There were some cool rides there as well, but from the moment I laid eyes on it, I wanted to go on the Euroslide. I hadn't been on a slide like this in years and it was just as fun as I barely remember.

I then returned to the food building, desperate to find something - anything - to spend my last few dollars on (and failing that, I would stop at a store and buy something). All I could afford with my endless searching was 'Primo Spaghetti' renowned for their 99-cent spaghetti. Unfortunately, toppings were extra, so I was stuck with bland spaghetti. Quite a finish for this trip.

After the revelry of the weekend, all I wanted was to get the Dodge out of dodge, so isn't it lucky that I got stuck in the mother of all traffic jams on my way to the expressway. Cars all around me, moving inches every few minutes. I probably could've made it halfway home in the time I was waiting there. Okay, slight exaggeration, but shit was taking forever.

I managed to turn onto less congested streets and make my way to Gardiner Expressway. However, even with a good night's sleep, you can find yourself nodding off while driving a great distance. Perhaps, I could've easily stopped somewhere and taken a nap or gotten something to eat, but it (as with many things) never occurred to me at the time. Thankfully, I was able to keep myself alert thanks to a steady series of junk punches. Painful, but they kept me alive.

As with any endeavor where I enjoy myself, there are some things I wish I could've done differently and some things I wish I did more of. In addition to going more than one day, I've learned something else from this trip: I'm reserving a seat on a Megabus. Some things, you just can't do on your own.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Just felt like getting this out there, after reading the tweet of Paramount defending their latest movie, mother!:

Audiences: "This movie is disgusting! It's distasteful! It's horrible!"
The blackmail material that got it greenlit: "Hold my beer."

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Thursday, September 14, 2017

Pulp Fiction was seriously influential, wasn't it? Not so much in the obvious ways, but watching the Wolf sequence, I immediately spotted specific bits lifted for episodes of "The Penguins of Madagascar" (Work Order) and "How I Met Your Mother" (Arrivederci, Fiero). At least, that's how I saw it.

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Friday, September 08, 2017

Missing my dad.*

(Yes. I know how it looks; eulogizing a composer I've never met and not my own father. If laziness is a crime, you best have that electric chair ready.)

How do you...how can you say goodbye to someone you've known your whole life?

Not a few weeks ago, my father's birthday came and went. It felt beyond weird going through the day without seeing him or giving him gifts. He would've been 65 years old.

Towards the end of July, he succumbed to illness. Even now, it's impossible to believe I'll never see him again.

Even now, I sometimes think to myself, 'Dad's been in the hospital a while. I hope he gets out soon.'.

He was a big man with a big voice. I have no problem admitting that, even to the end of his life, I was scared of him. More recently, it was because of his sickness. It was scary to have to face him every day, as much for the illnesses as much as the fact that this man who I'd seen as nearly invincible reduced. This is not to denigrate him; even to the end, he still had a sense of humor and love for his family.

He was very devoted to us; my mother, my sisters and me. We were always taken care of.

I remember when I or my sisters would get out of line. He brought the hammer down, so to speak. It hurt at the time, but looking back, if he wasn't firm with us, I shudder to think how irresponsible and insufferable we'd have turned out to be.

For moments like this, there would also be moments when he come home with some kind of snack, or when he'd take me along on a trip with the kids he mentored, like when I went to a Toronto Raptors game.

Even earlier than that, I remember one day when he took me to the theater. The movie we saw was The Adventures of Milo and Otis. I enjoyed the film and I suppose that I could look at that as one of the moments that inspired me to pursue a career in movies. It may not have been the only one, but it was certainly the first.

I have more memories and feelings about my father than I can possibly express in a blog post. I just hope that one day soon, I can prove myself to be the man he expected me to be; the man he often saw me as.

* - It took all my strength not to use some kind of pop culture reference as a post title. There's a time and place for it and this is neither.

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