Toronto News ~ Toronto Focus

One Cold Halloween
Published by Toronto Mike on October 30, 2010 @ 09:42 in Toronto News ~ Toronto Focus

HalloweenI guess I've been lucky. My first born is now 8-years old, making this my 7th Halloween going around the neighbourhood taking him trick-or-treating. I've always taken note of how seasonably warm each of these nights were, and been grateful.

They're calling for a high of 7°C tomorrow, but it'll dip to 2°C by the evening. That's friggin' cold.

Oh well... this is Halloween.


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How Toronto Voted for Mayor
Published by Toronto Mike on October 28, 2010 @ 16:48 in Rob Ford Watch, Toronto News ~ Toronto Focus

cityhallFrom the National Post, here's how Toronto voted in the mayoral election, broken down by ward.

mayoralwardweb2

The suburbs wanted Rob Ford, downtown wanted Smitherman.

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Rob Ford is Peter Griffin #VoteTO
Published by Toronto Mike on October 24, 2010 @ 16:56 in Rob Ford Watch, Toronto News ~ Toronto Focus

cityhallBack in March, I wrote "Rob Ford For Mayor? Not On My Watch...". With election day tomorrow, it's clear from the polls that Rob Ford hasn't gone away. As frighteningly inconceivable as it may seem to me, It's quite possible that he could be our next mayor. That's a scary thought.

I like what Accordion Guy wrote today about tomorrow's Toronto mayoral election. Rob Ford is Peter Griffin.

Family Guy is centred around the my-God-are-you-really-that-stupid antics of Peter Griffin, who somehow manages to come out on top despite his best efforts. Should Rob Ford become mayor, City Council is likely to become the same thing.

Ford’s campaign mantra is to “stop the gravy train” – to stop wasteful spending at City Hall. Hey, I’m all for cutting waste, but what he proposes to cut are either for show (things like free subway and zoo passes for City Council members) or useful and vital city infrastructure. To Ford, it seems that the Mayor’s number one job is to make things cheap.

grindsmygears

Accordion Guy also mentioned Eye Weekly's summary of Rob Ford.

Wait, you say the mayoral frontrunner is an uncouth, simple-minded loudmouth with a notoriously bad temper and a penchant for saying absolutely the wrong thing? And he wants to rip up streetcar tracks, slash city spending and dismantle service infrastructure? And to top it all off, he has a demonstrated inability to get anyone on council to work with him? Where do we sign up? Seriously, though: the best-case scenario with Ford is that he can’t accomplish anything. Worst-case, he ruins the city entirely.

Let's not ruin our city entirely. Don't vote for Rob Ford tomorrow.

Thanks.

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2015 Pan Am Games Logo
Published by Toronto Mike on September 29, 2010 @ 16:55 in Toronto News ~ Toronto Focus

cntowerI know you don't care, but we're hosting the 2015 Pan Am Games. We have also now have a logo.

to-panam2015-logo-wide-2909

What do you think?

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Toronto Doggie Daycare in the Junction: Tailwaggers
Published by Toronto Mike on September 18, 2010 @ 09:37 in Toronto News ~ Toronto Focus

toronto doggie daycareA week ago, while walking Dundas Street during the Junction Arts Festival, a new doggie daycare called Tailwaggers caught the corner of my eye. I was actually snapping the picture below when I heard a voice say, "Mike... Mike...".

Junction Arts Festival

That voice was from Cuz A, at least that's what I used to call her, and we used to run together before I was forced into early retirement. Cuz A has just opened Tailwaggers at Dundas and High Park Ave. and if you're looking for doggie daycare in the Junction or west Toronto, you'll want to check it out.

If you want more info on rates and services and such for your dog, email Cuz A at atk.tailwaggers@hotmail.com or call 416-760-9244.

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Junction Arts Festival
Published by Toronto Mike on September 11, 2010 @ 20:16 in Toronto News ~ Toronto Focus

PaintingI like the Junction. The Junction, for you out-of-towners, is an artsy neighbourhood in Toronto's west end, near Keele and Dundas. This weekend is the Junction Arts Festival so we made the short walk to check it out.

I was a little out of place in my Hackey Night tee shirt. Everybody was a little too cool for school, but that's probably the point. It's the Junction Arts Festival for crying out loud.

Here are a few pics from our afternoon with the cool people.

Junction Arts Festival Junction Arts Festival Junction Arts Festival Junction Arts Festival Junction Arts Festival Junction Arts Festival Junction Arts Festival Junction Arts Festival

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Dumb Shit We Do As Teenagers (or How I Saved Stuffed Animals on Black Monday)
Published by Toronto Mike on August 25, 2010 @ 20:34 in Toronto News ~ Toronto Focus

Tales From The ExIf you've been reading this blog the past week, you know I've been sharing old tales from my three years working a game booth at the CNE. This story is about the dumb shit you do as a teenager when you think you're fearless and feel invincible.

We called it Black Monday. Labour Day Monday was always the last and busiest day of the CNE. It was also well known as a day when crowds of youth would come to the midway and cause mischief.

In order to attract people to our game booth, the largest stuffed animals were hung around the booth as bait. They were hung from the rafters with S-hooks and string. That's it. On Black Monday, the game booth manager could expect the attempted thievery of a prize or two or three. In 1991, I was the game booth manager for Pop-a-Ball.

Pop-A-Ball

I can't remember what the wholesale cost of the jumbo prizes was but I think they were about $25 each. For whatever reason, we managers believed we had to protect these things with our lives. On Black Monday, the volume of business was staggering but I was obsessed with keeping my eyes on the prizes. No punk kid was going to snatch one of my giant pandas or pink elephants... not on my watch.

I remember one especially manic sequence in particular. One group of teens ripped down a prize on one end of the booth while another group grabbed a stuffed animal on the other end. Both parties began walking away in an attempt to blend into the thick crowd. I had to be a cowboy. I didn't even hesitate to think about whether these petty thugs were carrying knives or worse, I just knew they had property that I was to protect. I jumped into the crowd and snatched back the first prize, threw it in the booth and made a bee-line to the second. Again, I think I startled the guy making off with the loot because I came upon him out of no where and ripped the animal out of his hands. With both prizes back in the booth and with my blood curdling with adrenaline, I jumped back in and prepared for retribution. None came and I had saved Ardo some cash. More importantly, I protected my territory and won another battle for the good guys.

Today, I wouldn't risk a beating or my life for the sake of a couple of prizes, but teenagers seldom use such logic to their advantage. I was young, dumb and in charge that Black Monday. I haven't felt as powerful since.

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CNE Concerts: From Motorhead to Alice Cooper
Published by Toronto Mike on August 23, 2010 @ 11:44 in Toronto News ~ Toronto Focus

Tales From The ExYou know what I miss about working the CNE? The concerts at the old CNE Grandstand or Exhibition Stadium.

Working at the CNE you could always expect a concert crowd before and after that night's show at Exhibition Stadium. The concert ticket got you into the Ex for free so concert goers would often arrive early to play games on the midway and would do the same on their way out.

These concerts produced much of the clientele for the evening. The sort of crowd we got depended upon the style of music being performed that night. When Motorhead and other metal acts played, it was a typical head banger crowd with lots of leather and those classic rock tee shirts with the white sleeves and black chest. When the Cure played it was a sea of black. A band like YES (or Emerson, Lake and Palmer as the case may be) brought out the middle aged crowd. For the record, the big spenders were the Rolling Stones fans there to catch the Steel Wheels tour. There were many, they were a variety of ages and they seemed to always have a lot of cash.

There was a spot I would visit when acts I liked were performing where I could comfortably chill and hear the concert. I couldn't see the stage, but I was close enough that it sounded great. I have fond memories of taking a couple of hours off on a busy night to hear the entire Alice Cooper set. I wasn't quite eighteen but I liked it.

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Fear the Ardo
Published by Toronto Mike on August 21, 2010 @ 08:40 in Toronto News ~ Toronto Focus

Tales From The ExAre you going to the Canadian National Exhibition today? I'm not, but I do have a CNE story to share.

We called him Ardo and we feared him. Ardo was my boss when I worked a game booth at the Ex from '89-'91 and his persona was thug-like, a tough dude you didn't want to mess with. He did his best never to let you catch him smiling. With every snarl and command his legend grew.

The typical game booth attendant working one of his several games was either a teenager or in his or her very early 20s. To keep us working hard and in line, Ardo decided very early on that presenting himself in such an intimidating fashion was his best bet. He was right. Your biggest fear was getting an earful from Ardo or having someone escalate an issue or incident to him. People told tales of what Ardo once did to this guy or that guy. Fear was his motivational tool of choice.

This worked the first year I worked for Ardo, but at some point during my second year Ardo let his guard down. I was permitted to see him in a more relaxed state and he even began laughing in my presence. For Ardo, it was all about trust. Until he trusted you, he played the tough guy as well as any cast member on The Sopranos. Once you earned his trust, you could clearly see he was indeed a softy underneath it all. Ardo's bark, in all it's tenacity, was far worse than his bite. I'm pretty darn certain he's there right now glaring at his new game booth attendants while his legend permeates the midway.

In a previous CNE story, a girl who worked for me at Pop-a-Ball chimed in with a comment. Betty wrote the following:

I love reading your CNE stories every year. I worked with you at Pop-A-Ball and went to highschool with Ms. BlondAmbition (she got me the job). I also worked at the gambling booth right next door. HATED working the microphone!! I used to see Ardo for many years after that setting up every year. I remember him always threatening us about handling his cash, but his nephews (or maybe they were cousins) would steal from him right under his nose at the gambling booths.

The legend of Ardo grows...

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Louis Armstrong, Me and Summer Nights in Toronto
Published by Toronto Mike on August 19, 2010 @ 21:59 in Toronto News ~ Toronto Focus

Tales From The ExThe Ex opens tomorrow. That's a swell excuse to delve into the vault and share my memories of the CNE from when I worked there as a game booth attendant in my teens.

I typically closed up the booth at the end of the night. The park would close, I'd wait for the midway to empty and then begin bringing down the flash. The money would go to the office, the giant stuffed toys would come down from all around the booth and I'd lock up the game.

The game I worked and eventually managed was very close to the Polar Express. Every single night without failure the Polar Express' killer sound system would play Louis Armstrong's "What A Wonderful World" at the very end of the night. Every single night while I locked up the booth I'd find myself alone in the summer night with Louis Armstrong wafting though my ears. It was the ideal song to penetrate the silence in the wee hours of the night after another long day of hustling and bustling. It brought a wonderful blend of calmness and hope to an otherwise chaotic arena.

To this day I can't hear a note of that song without instantly returning to the summers of '89, '90 and '91. It remains a personal favourite.

Polar Express

[ripped straight outta this blog, originally shared on August 26, 2004]

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