Sometimes there are a lot of things and thoughts that collide at once, that all deserve their space, but are more suitable for a bar stool conversation. Semi-related, but not really, this week is a bright spot: an awesome movie find, the close of an exceptional book, a new downtown patio to drink upon and the ongoing obsession of finding a house to call ours.
In no particular order, this is what has been trending in my week.
#Jeff, Who Lives At Home
Any film with Susan Sarandon listed in the credits is a shoo-in for me. Jeff (Jason Segel) is an authentic 30-year-old slacker inspired by the movie Signs. Consumed by finding and following the semi-obvious “signs” that appear to him in his mother’s (Sarandon’s) basement, Jeff is certain that he is within reach of his destiny. His brother, Pat (Ed Helms), opposite in all possible ways, is a twitchy paint store manager blow-hard who thinks a new Porsche will cure his tanking marriage. The brothers ram heads like rutting elk and can find little common ground outside of a blood tie. Their lives tangle into a fisherman’s knot when they witness Pat’s wife obviously in the throes of an illicit affair.
While the boys duke it out, Jeff’s awareness and perception—often lost in the haze of his chronic pot smoking, begins to make sense to Pat. What happens next unfolds without a sign for the audience. The emotional impact of the final scene is wholly unexpected and will leave even the steeliest of hearts feeling like they’ve swallowed knives instead of popcorn. Yes, you will cry. Like a child with a skinned knee. You will ache for Sharon’s (Sarandon) lonely existence, longing for attention and affection despite her brave exterior and I’m-just-fine-on-my-own stance.
The writers weave in surprising twists and earn kudos for a tight and realistic script. Jeff, Who Lives at Home is an honest portrayal of how easily relationships can dissolve—whether it be with a spouse, brother or mother. And the signs, well, they’re everywhere. You’ll see.
#One Bird’s Choice
On my list of (probably) 138 books To Read, One Bird’s Choice by Iain Reid was chosen primarily for its portability. I have finally caved to the sensibilities of my right shoulder. I am a firm believer in “fashion hurts,” and I insist on carrying my oh-so-cool shoulder bag from Amsterdam because it is oh-so-cool. What I refuse to carry now is hard-copy books. I can’t. Unless I skimp on the weight of my lunch, I just can’t tote hardcovers anymore in my sub-5K walking commute.
So, One Bird’s Choice was the likely choice due to its featherweight category designation—in addition to the rave reviews and firework displays it received for his porcupine quill-sharp writing. I packed the book for our getaway to The Pinery Provincial Park. I read the entire book (nearly) to Kim, out loud on the beach.
Apparently I’ve got a trending theme of slackerness this week. One Bird’s Choice chronicles Reid’s decision (and aftermath) to move back in with his goofball parents on their serene “Lilac Hill” hobby farm in Ottawa.
As the seasons shift from the winter of Reid’s discontent to a spring fever of renewal and gratitude, life with his parents is a quiet riot. There are generous doses of melancholy, comic encounters with the resident guinea fowl Lucius and a gentle meditation associated with life on the farm. His initial resistance to admitting to his permanent covert accommodations eventually twists into what life should be. Time spent wholly engaged in conversation, petting cats, drinking coffee, musing, napping, observing, Hockey Night in Canada, digging the shit out of sheep barns, eating mom’s lemon loaves (and cookies and apple walnut cake) and just being. And, lucky us! We get to eavesdrop on all those conversations and cheer the emergence of a wayward urban refugee writer finding solace.
#Poetry Jazz Cafe
As much as I adore the beer taps and smart handle of the place, Thirsty & Miserable in Kensington Market smells like a dog that has swum in brackish water. The wet dogness doesn’t dissipate, even after 3-4 pints. I know, I’ve tried. However, just south of the great-named-bar-that-smells-like-the-fish-market-next-door, there’s Poetry. Dark as a carnival haunted house, it has groovy by the neck. Kim and I feel our way to the back to where we’re meeting my friend Keph. Earlier in the day I had read online about their intimate patio. From here we can still here the jazzy beats, but at a level that still permits conversation. Weathered mill carts, makeshift benches, Adirondack chairs and bistro tables fill the tidy pea-gravelled space that is bigger than any Toronto backyard. The tall boys (Guinness , Stiegl, Strongbow), and the pints of Steam Whistle, Keith’s and Hoptical Illusion (Flying Monkey’s Brewery) fuel an easy night of chatter. We chatter even longer when a bowl of super-salty popcorn arrives by surprise. Which, in turn, encourages another pint.
The patio fills before dusk. Unpretentious and as relaxed as hanging out in your own leafy space, this place is going to be a future soupy night go-to for Friday night flat-lining.
#Banh Mi Boys, 392 Queen West (at Spadina)
Their lemongrass pork sub stuffed with daikon, pickled carrot, cuke, mayo and cilantro gets kicked-up a few infernos with three different hot sauces. Bahn mi subs from this joint (the 5 spice pork belly with pickled relish is love in a bun) make me want to wear only sweat pants, watch thirtysomething re-runs and eat only these. For breakfast even. Less than $5 bucks a pop and paired with a blood orange San Pellegrino, they push Subway to the curb.
I think Kim and I have looked at over 548 MLS listings. I “drive” around Guelph in circles (I could find a quick job as a cabbie with my new found directional sense of the city), waiting for the dream house listing to FINALLY appear. We have moved our initial search out of Dundas, Waterdown and south Burlington. We want a place with personality that bleeds charm right out of its brickwork. We’d be smitten with anything that ticks off 97% of this checklist:
No pool (due to previous experience and severe novelty worn-off-ness)
Absolutely no hot tub (due to previous nightmares)
No finished basement (we are both basement-haters)
Pedestrian-friendly location: just far-enough from the traffic hum but close enough to find a pint or Americano
Preferably old hardwood, exposed brick, wainscoting
A backyard suitable for bonfires and plein air dining
Kim would like a furnace that doesn’t tick
I would like a fridge that doesn’t operate at the decibel level of a Mack Truck
NO TENANTS (especially the type that re-enact Jurassic Park scenes from above)
No white-fluffy, ribbon-wearing, below knee-level barking dogs in a 100 foot radius
A Wolf stove would be really nice
A workshop space so Kim can be all handy and build remarkable things with her tools and saws that every man envies
Front balcony for morning coffee-drinking and nosey-neighbour-type spying
Barn board, exposed timber beams—bonus: attic space for writing the Next Great Novel
Century home or raw loft space WITH balcony (no concessions)
A scalding hot shower with endless water pressure unlike my parents (the equivalent of being pissed on by a horse). Clawfoot tub separate. No wrestling two shower curtains around claw foot. Been there.
Gas fireplace for wintry nights and wintry wine-drinking. One in the bedroom too, best yet.
Kim’s request: “no messy trees” (i.e. wind-weary willows or berry-bearing trees that attract birds that shit purple bombs on her highly-polished black Saab
That je ne sais quoi. The kinda place you walk into, close the door, breathe deep and contemplate never leaving.
What’s trending in your life?