Best of Toronto Mike

The Crocs Conundrum

hangerI remember when I first saw them. It was about two years ago and I was in the waiting room of my kids' pediatrician. An entire family came in wearing these colourful shoes that looked like plastic Dutch clogs. I snickered to myself and shook my head. These things looked very uncool.

Shortly thereafter, I learnt these shoes were called crocs, and they were becoming very popular. I laughed at croc wearers. Then, Taryn bought me a pair and I tried them on to see what all the fuss was about.

They're both convenient and comfy. They're ideal if you're around water, and they're breezy and cool on summer nights. This is the great croc conundrum. They look nerdy, but they feel good. What's a guy to do?

My self imposed rule is that I won't wear my crocs more than 15 feet beyond my property limits. In the house and backyard is cool, but if I'm going out I'm switching into my sandals. That's just the way it has to be.... for now.

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One Hell of a Journey

tvMy favourite movies and television shows stick with me. Days after I've seen it, I'm still thinking about it. That's a sure sign I enjoyed myself. Once something I've seen bounces around in my head for a while, I'm a happy guy.

On Saturday night I watched The Sopranos series finale again. It's been eight days now since I first saw it, and I'm still thinking about it, formulating theories and gaining new perspective. It's been one hell of a journey.

Immediately after the episode originally aired, I wrote this. I initially felt screwed over, and then I warmed up to the ending. A couple of days later, I wrote this lengthy analysis in which I pronounced my love for the ending. I saw Tony and his family together, I had closure. Then, three days after I wrote that entry, I wrote this entry in which I wondered aloud if Tony was dead. That's a 180° turn on my part, further evidence of David Chase's genius.

After watching the episode again on Saturday, I'm certain Tony is dead. If you've been surfing around and reading analysis, you'll know why. Here's a great write up on the finale I strongly recommend you read, assuming you've seen the episode.

Tony Soprano, rest in peace. Now I have closure.

Cut To Black

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Sam the Record Man on Yonge Street to Close

Sam the Record ManIt's the end of an era in Toronto. Sam the Record Man at 347 Yonge Street is closing its doors for good.

I haven't read about this in the press and I haven't heard this news on the radio or television, but I have friends on the inside who have provided me with enough proof that I'm comfortable calling this a sad certainty. Earlier today, Sam the Record Man sent out letters to all their suppliers saying that they wanted all orders cancelled because they will be closing their store June 30th. Employees are actively looking for new work and are aware the flagship Sam the Record Man location in downtown Toronto is about to enter its final month after 46 years at Yonge and Dundas.

This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, but it's still very sad for this long time fan of the store. Unlike HMV at 333 Yonge, Sam's had character. You could read the history written on the walls in the words of the many artists who had visited. The official site stopped selling music online a month ago and is now a static store hour information page. A good indicator a business is about to go under is a barebones or offline website.

Sam the Record Man will most definitely be missed. Here are entries in which I remember better days at Sam's.

Is there any chance we can preserve those two neon records that have become a Yonge Street fixture?

Sam the Record Man

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State v. Greg Chao and Toronto Mike

justiceThe Deputy District Attorney for Clark County in Las Vegas left me a voice mail and email yesterday regarding the State v. Greg Chao. He wanted to speak with me about a high profile trial starting up in Las Vegas this week. Greg Chao, a Canadian poker player, has been charged with murdering Donald Idiens, another Canadian poker player.

I've never heard of Greg Chao or Donald Idiens, I've never been to Las Vegas and I don't really play much poker. A little Googling quickly revealed how sensational a case this is. Here's an article about the case from

Chao is charged with robbery and murder with a deadly weapon in the brutal slaying of fellow Canadian and avid poker player Donald Idiens, 53, on the night of December 8, 1997.

Prosecutors say Chao went to Vegas on a desperate bid to win enough money to pay back Canadian loan sharks, to whom he owed tens of thousands of dollars. Chao borrowed $1,000 from Idiens, lured him back to his hotel room to ask for more, then killed the land developer for his bankroll when he refused to lend any more money, prosecutors have said.

Idiens' battered and nearly naked body was found in a stairwell one floor below room 18136, where Chao was staying. Police also found Idiens' blood in the room.

A DNA analyst said Monday that a blood sample taken from a strip of carpet was identified as belonging to Idiens. The chance of the sample coming from someone else, a police DNA analyst told jurors, is 1 in 600 billion.

Chao's public defender, Timothy O'Brien, has said that his client merely lent Idiens his hotel room for a meeting with the person or persons who must have killed him. When Chao returned to his room, O'Brien claims, nothing was astray, save for some liquor bottles on a dresser.

Why did the DA want to talk with me? How could I possibly be connected to this 1997 crime? All day yesterday I was trying to figure out where I fit in.

I just heard back from the Deputy District Attorney and it turns out the case has a reference to "Toronto Mike". They have questions for Toronto Mike, and in a desperate attempt to find Toronto Mike they Googled the name, found and took a shot in the dark.

They're now pretty sure they're looking for a different Toronto Mike, and I'm positive they are. The 1997 Toronto Mike was a pretty good poker player. At the time, my game was euchre.

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Toronto Mike Visitor Types: An Analysis

infoI've been doing this for almost five years now, and I monitor the site statistics fairly closely. I think I've got a pretty good idea as to who reads this content and the raison d'etre. People typically fall into one of six groups.

1. Family, Friends and Acquaintances
These are people who know me in the non-virtual world. Family will visit to see what I'm up to, see pictures of the kids, etc. Friends and acquaintances will do the same, because they play ball with me, run with me, are fellow playoff poolies, work with me or are just buds or buds of a bud. This type of visitor is almost always a repeat visitor, often dropping by at least once a day.

2. The Locals
As you may have noticed, there's a rather Toronto-centric quality to this blog. Fellow Torontonians enjoy reading about other Torontonians and keeping up with local happenings. The "Toronto Blog" crowd drops by for a second opinion on Toronto topics and usually returns on a regular basis.

3. The Former Locals
There's a group of visitors that used to live in Toronto, and enjoy checking in on what's happening back home. Some of these people now live elsewhere in Canada, have moved to the States or are now living overseas, but they're naturally curious as to what people are talking about in their former city. Again, these visitors either subscribe to the RSS feed or drop by regularly.

4. Those With A Specific Overlapping Interest
Because it's all about me, there are certain topics I cover more frequently than others, because they're personal passions. Someone who is a die hard Toronto sports fan may keep their eyes on the category pages for the Leafs, Raptors, Jays or Argos. Fellow Hip fans watch related entries and my Hip page. Simpsons fans enjoy Homer's Quote of the Week and related entries. You get the idea...

5. Toronto Mike Fans
This is my favourite group, because these people don't know me in the non-virtual world but somehow stumbled upon this blog and liked it enough to bookmark it and return regularly. Some leave comments, most don't, and some have became friends in the non-virtual world by way of this virtual world. Often these people discover the site via a Google search or a link from another blog, but the fact they return means there's something here they enjoy, and that's pretty cool. Interestingly enough, I find people in this category are far more likely to leave a comment then those in the first category.

6. The One Offs
These are people who come here via a Google search, get the information they seek, and disappear into that good night never to be heard from again. This is the majority of traffic on this site, people hunting for wedding playlists, a particular Homer Simpson quote, information on whatever happened to Humble Howard and Freddie P, an MP3 of Gord Downie's Hallelujah, a celebrity death watch or the Alphagetti Gobbler. Sometimes these visitors fall into the 5th type and become fans of the site, but more often than not they stay in #6. That's okay, I've usually got the information they're looking for, and if I can help just one person learn a little bit about Bill Barilko, I sleep well at night.

There you have it, the six types of Toronto Mike visitors. Some fall into more than one category, but typically you're in one of these six. Which one are you?

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The Alphagetti Gobbler

rewindYesterday Michelle was Wonder Woman and James was Spider-Man. They asked me to be the Green Goblin. Somehow, at that precise moment, "goblin" sounded like "gobbler" and I blurted out something I hadn't thought about in at least a couple of decades. I told them I was the Alphagetti Gobbler.

I remember these ads for Alphagetti, or is it Alpha Getti, Alphaghetti or perhaps Alpha-Ghetti? A kid would say to this flying spaghetti monster-like creature "You're the Alphagetti Gobbler!" I went to YouTube in the hopes I'd be able to see the Alphagetti Gobbler but came up empty. Googling this creature from my youth didn't help either.

Taryn remembers the ads, but I'm wondering if this was just a Canadian thing or perhaps even more localized than that. Do you remember the Alphagetti Gobbler?

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The Strange Essence of Time

clockAs I age, I find it harder to interpret the distance between the current time and a memory. For example, while reading the paper this morning I got lost in a synopsis of the Blue Jays' first 30 seasons. There was a blurb about Dave Stieb losing a no-hit bid with two out in the ninth against the Yankees. Roberto Kelly hit a two-out double in the left corner to ruin the perfect game.

I have vivid memories of Roberto Kelly getting that hit and Stieb coming oh so close once again. In my mind, that feels like ten years ago. It actually feels more recent than that, but even ten years is way off base. That game took place on August 4, 1989 which is almost 18 years ago. How is that possible?

It doesn't seem very long ago that my wife and I bought her a dog but in reality that was over a decade ago. There are ball players and hockey players I remember watching recently and then I'll learn they retired in '92. I could swear the Chris Webber NBA draft was just a few years ago but he's now a 13 year vet. What is it about memories that they always appear closer than they are?

I remember the Blue Jays tenth anniversary crests they wore on their uniforms like it was yesterday, and now the franchise has hit the big 3-0. It feels like I watched James enter this world for the first time but a month ago, but he's a big five year old boy now. I could go on, but this will only depress you.

James' Birth

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My Personal Offline Challenge

runningI've been looking for an offline challenge. I've noticed that outside of fatherhood, all my recent personal challenges have involved a computer. It's time to set a goal that doesn't involve staring at an LCD screen for hours at a time.

I was inspired by Saint Ralph. For some writing about Saint Ralph, check out this page. Ralph needed a miracle, so he set out to win the Boston Marathon. I don't need a miracle, but for a guy who hasn't run since the 4x100m relay in primary school, challenges don't get much bigger than this. I'm going to run a marathon.

I made this decision a couple of months ago, and the first thing I did was contact a reader who left a comment about having run the Boston Marathon. He put me in touch with people who could help transform a total noob with no running experience into a marathoner. I'm literally starting from square one.

Since this blog is all about me, I'll blog about this challenge. I start clinics in a couple of weeks. I'm currently out of breath if I run a couple of blocks, so this should be interesting. When I need inspiration, I always have that song.

I did my best, it wasn't much
I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
And even though
It all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

I've also registered to run in The Terry Fox Run in September. It's no marathon, but it's for a great cause. You can sponsor me here.

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A CFNY Gallery

picturesI spent the morning in Brampton with Freddie P. I was greeted with a great cup of coffee and a raisin bran muffin from Tim's, a perfect way to start a Saturday morning.

I was there for our Movable Type education transfer. His web site is now a real blog powered by Movable Type and I was giving him the 101 review so he can maintain and manage everything by his lonesome.

Freddie P has a cool collection of CFNY-related images in his basement. For a long time fan of the radio station, this was ultra cool. I created a photoset because that's the kind of guy I am.

P2245161 P2245156 P2245164 P2245163

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The Saint Ralph Soundtrack

cdI have a copy of the unreleased soundtrack for the movie Saint Ralph. If you shrugged your shoulders and muttered "so what" under your breath, I encourage you to read the entries on this page.

Now that you're up to speed, you know I've been in love with Gord Downie's cover of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah since I first saw the film Saint Ralph. You're also aware that this song isn't available anywhere. You can't buy a copy of the Saint Ralph soundtrack, you can't purchase the song online and it has never been released as a single. It simply doesn't exist anywhere other than in the movie, and a version ripped from the DVD is all I've had for the past year.

After years of hunting, I now have the unreleased soundtrack. A wonderful person who shall remain anonymous became aware of my plight and blessed me with not one, but two studio versions of The Tragically Hip's Gord Downie singing Hallelujah. This is truly a rare beast as only a few copies were pressed when they were trying to get it released as a soundtrack back in 2004.

So you don't think I've lost my mind, here are pics of the CD. Before you ask me to share with you this official copy of the Hallelujah audio I'm afraid I can't. Part of my deal with this anonymous donor is that I can't share it. I will, however, continue to share the version ripped from the DVD. For now, the polished Hallelujah is for my ears only, unless you want to drop by for a listen.

The Cover of the Saint Ralph Soundtrack The Back of the Saint Ralph Soundtrack The Saint Ralph Soundtrack

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