Sixteen seconds, Swamis Beach

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Let it snow

I had a wonderful trip to Canada. Cold but not too cold, about 17 below celsius with wind chill at the worst.  Timed my visit perfectly, with the first real dusting of snow. I hadn't seen my brother Buzz in a while, nor his wife, children and grandchild, they were all wonderful company and it could not have been a nicer time.

The trip out was uneventful. I arrived at the airport and was sent to the TSA pre clearance line which means belt and shoes stay on and Bobby walks right through. "Wait a second, how can this be? I'm a nutty, subversive writer and I should have a file this thick?"To my chagrin, my protests fell on deaf ears.

My plane flew into Detroit, I got a first blast of icy air debarking between the plane door and the ramp. Strange to see one's breath again after a protracted absence. Detroit Airport has a tunnel between terminals that is an odd and quite wonderful light show. I also took this picture of an airport restaurant with my cell phone. Rather bizarre message they are sending. Marketing genius, obviously trying to appeal to the large untapped shithead demographic.

Toronto is a special city. Not particularly beautiful, it lacks the copper domed elegance of Quebec and the sheer beauty of British Columbia. Dismal in a way that many northeastern cities appear where the winter brings so few hours of sunlight. Yet it is one of the most advanced cities I have ever visited in many ways. People in Toronto seem to be totally color blind, it is the most blended and tolerant city I have ever visited from a cultural standpoint. Quite commendable. And the people by and large seem pretty hip.

Like the rest of the Canada the people are all so nice, almost fatally nice. I believe that they are inwardly kvelling with delight over the Mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford's recent implosion. They can finally show the rest of the world a little street cred, that they have the capacity to be bad like the rest of us. Nobody has really acted up since Margaret Trudeau. And now Rob Ford is doing his best Belushi impression at the same time Prime Minister Stephen Harper is embroiled in a big payola scam of his own. You've made it Canada...

I watched a lot of hockey highlights, my nephew is a local sports radio announcer. Discussed the finer arts of curling, the miserable NBA basketball franchise. And ate a lot of good ethnic food. Toronto is such a vast repository of good, cheap, ethnic cuisine, my favorite kind.

The first night we walked over to a neighborhood joint, Pho Spring Garden, Koreans that served vietnamese, thai and korean fare. I had maybe the best bimbimpap of my life, the spring rolls sucked but after all, I was in the middle of the tundra, so what did I expect? Buzz ordered the pho. My brother definitely knows his way around food. A lawyer turned restauranteur,

Yonge Street is chalk full of interesting foods, you could eat at a different place every night and never get tired. Middle eastern, chinese, tea houses, curry, pinoy, kabob, izakaya joints, hungarian, and everything in between, it is a veritable smorgasbord of gustatory delights.

The first morning I woke up and walked to the park across Doris and tromped through the snow. Some kids in the park offered me a toke, which I graciously declined. Didn't want to cause an international incident or anything. It was fun to get my sea legs or should I say snow legs back?

I felt something strange occurring with my left foot and gingerly limped back to the small apartment I had rented, turned out that I hadn't paid proper attention to my toenails and I had a quite bloody toe. One of the worst problems with getting fat, the physiologic and structural impediments to good toenail maintenance.

Buzz drove me over to the venerable St. Lawrence Market. I choked down a peameal bacon sandwich, a local signature dish, pretty much required but not one of the greatest things I have ever eaten. Hey, nobody put a gun to my head. This is one of the world's great markets and I loved looking at all of the varied food, ukrainian, mexican, any cuisine you could think of.

I also ate a portuguese flan at the market, which my slightly younger brother commented was odd because apparently we regularly had a similar dish when we were young boys in El Paso that I don't particularly remember at present.

I had an appointment to talk to a woman about a painting at the University of Toronto and than scurried over to talk to a man about another canvas. As I peered into the gallery, a man walked up to tell me that the man  I sought had passed away. He owned another gallery now at the same location and we exchanged business cards and pleasantries after a bit of requisite butt sniffing.

Zachary came over and joined us, we all went out to an excellent dim sum place for lunch called Pearl BayView which was situated in a mall somewhere. No carts, one orders from the kitchen off the menu.

Food was nice and tasty!

Afterwards Buzz drove me over to Soma in the distillery district. Leslie and I went to this place, my favorite chocolate shop in the world, on our last trip to Toronto ages ago and could never forget it. Soma makes the best hot chocolate you have ever tasted this side of machu picchu anyway, a spicy, chile filled mouth orgasm. I bought a king's ransom worth to bring home.

Soma has this wonderful ninety something year old chocolate press, maybe imported from Spain?

Next door to Soma is the very cool and futuristic shop, Bergo the Gallery of Industrial Design. I missed my wife a lot, she would have really enjoyed herself this afternoon. Very cool place. Check out the link.

I don't want you to get the impression that all I did was eat. I am sure that we did other things too, like discuss Proust and solve the world hunger problem. But I did put it away.

That night we ordered in West Indian from Island Foods. We dined on oxtails and curried chicken. I had the boneless goat. All delicious and simply unavailable in the land where I live. Of course you can't get a decent burrito up there either or so my brother tells me. If you love curries, Toronto has to be close to heaven.

Thanksgiving day, we drove to Waterloo to see my niece and her family, the first time I would ever set eyes on the newest addition to my clan, my great niece Rosalyn, the most adorable girl. Stopped for jelly doughnuts, apparently a Chanukah staple I was never clued into, never celebrating much in my strange childhood.

The family is very tight, loving and supportive and it was an honor to spend time with them, to a person. Sorry I missed seeing my nephew Jake, away at graduate school, I am told a very smart young man.

My sister in law Julia was really great to me and made me feel most welcome. A wonderful visit with the whole family, something that I have neglected for too long.

I took a long walk up Yonge the next day. Watched the cranes operating on the rooftop and enjoyed the very crisp morning. Visited a little cemetery, tombstones topped with winter's frosting.

I love walking in big cities, especially New York, but Toronto is an able substitute. I lose myself in the anonymity of city streets, rediscover a forgotten piece of myself while striding alone across great avenues.


The culture of cold is much more developed in Canada. Snow tires, snow pants, these people are professionals. Most American winters pale next to what they experience up here and the folks in Saskatoon have it even worse.

I heard the weather people talk about so many different levels of snow, dusting, blowing and corn. My brother talked of a snow with the consistency of kosher salt. The weather people issued weather statements. It is definitely a new frozen lexicon. I realized how little I actually knew about the subject.

I decided to learn a little something about snow, perhaps something I could share. I started researching snow and found the new terms graupel, firn, névé in my dictionary. Graupel is the soft snow pellet that forms when supercooled droplets of water are collected and freeze on a falling snowflake.

Firn is rounded, compact snow that is over a year old.

Névé is young, granular snow that has been partially melted, refrozen and compacted but still has not had a birthday.

Snow cognoscentis and I assume most Canadians fit into this category, can readily tell you the difference between a snow flurry, squall or burst. I assuredly, can not.

Read this website and you too can understand all the various snow formations, tell a cornice from a barchan and hoarfrost from perennial. And no, you can't get sastrugi at a goulash restaurant.

If I am unable to write after tuesday I wish you all the best of Decembers.



Sanoguy said...

Best of luck with your surgery and recovery!

Anonymous said...

Nice, a fine read. Happy December.
Deli guy.
Speedy recovery.
Deli guru

Brigitte S. said...

Makes me miss my birthplace. Occasionally I still dream about walking through the silent stark birch trees... at night with a bright moon lighting the way... and the crunch crunch of the snow under my boots....