I spoke about my arrival in a previous post. The first evening, I had dinner with my cousin and host, Ruth-Ann, and then we went out to Bayview to try some gelato at Hollywood Gelato. It's great stuff, though I enjoyed my first flavor more than my second in my little two-scoop dish. I'd say give Skor a miss unless you really really like Skor. Another kind that had chocolate and peanut butter was awesome, though.
On the second day I met up with Paul and Liz and they took me out for lunch. We ended up on Danforth and went into Factory Girl. I had their Factory Pizza, and it was hot, spicy, and delicious - exactly what I wanted. It's big enough to share for two, though, or I think it would be if you were to pair it with a sharable appetizer. I also got to meet Autumn, who, contrary to what you might think, was born this summer. We finished off by chilling out at a Starbucks that had a prominently displayed food inspection flyer, with neither "pass" nor "fail" checked off, but something like "passed with conditions". It kind of made us wonder what the conditions were! I ordered their largest iced espresso, and it turned out to be far too much. Get a small or a medium. Or whatever they call them there, since neither national language of Canada appears to be good enough for them. ;-p
In the evening I met up with my cousin Cat and her husband Colin and we joined a few members of her board-gaming social group at the Carlton Cinemas for a showing of Beginners. I was quite taken by this movie - at times while I was watching it I might have said it was a new Love Actually. In terms of it being a good "date movie" that comparison might hold, but Beginners focuses on only two storylines where Love Actually might have twenty. It's more focused and also more melancholy (a large part of its theme is letting go), but it's a main of sadness with a side of happy. It's as if the creators said "Let's make a love story centred on sadness!" - absurd as that may sound, they somehow pull it off. This is not easy to do even if you decide to take what seem like two major shortcuts: set the movie in California, hire a gorgeous French actress to play a gorgeous French actress.
The actors are so good, they suspend your disbelief. You actually believe they're in love, which is great, because this is a romantic movie. Holy crap, it's Obi-Wan! Sorry, I wrote the outlines of those insights while I was still in the theatre, and I wasn't only being affected by the movie. One thing that gets me now and in sober reflection: How could a movie starring Obi-Wan Kenobi miss such an obvious R2-D2 joke? You'll know what I mean when you see it, and you should see it.
Finally, I must comment on the venue: While it's fantastic to be able to see a $5 movie in Toronto (even if only on Tuesday, even if only here), the perforation pattern in the screen bugged me. We were very close to the front of the theatre, but even when seen from there the screen ought to be of a kind that is solidly, thoroughly white. Perhaps such screens are more expensive, and new screens would make them unable to deliver that magical $5 pricepoint. Still, it's something I find mildly objectionable.
After the movie, it was time for game night. We went to the nearby Golden Griddle, open 24-hours. On Tuesdays they have all-you-can-enjoy (I suppose that's safer marketing than "all-you-can-instuff") pancakes - in fact, for a dollar less than a plate of five would be any other day. With this arrangement, you can keep getting plates of three again and again. The thing is, though, you won't want to: five was more than enough to make me plenty full. I mean, give it a try if you're super hungry, or just get it anyway without any expectation that you'll make it past the first plate. If you get a standard order, you also have more varieties of pancake to choose from (though it'll be a dollar more than the Tuesday-only all-you-can-enjoy).
We played a variety of Jenga and then we played Balderdash. Jenga wasn't bad. In retrospect I think a timed game like Scattergories would be better than Balderdash. It also took forever to get through the definitions and vote - we only got once around the table, but at least everybody got a chance to keep score. I finished second to an absurdly bright woman dressed in black.
And eventually it was time to go home. I got on the subway and then took a 2 a.m. Blue Night bus east on Eglinton. Nice to have that! For things like that, I wish I lived in Toronto. But I suppose I could just as (or more) easily move to peninsular Halifax and just walk home late at night.
I'll finish this in a second post.