Thursday, August 31, 2006

Rant: Dr. Z

Daimler-Chrysler is running television spots during NASCAR races where a reporter asks Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche about the Daimler-Chrysler merger's benefits. The ridiculously-mustached Dr. Z hauls off in a Charger, drives around maniacally, and, when pressed about what kind of a "doctor" he is, crashes headlong into a barrier, brushes the dust off his suit, and takes off. Effective use of metaphor to show how two great companies are being recklessly driven into a wall by megalomaniac German bureaucrats who, ensconced in subsidized luxury, will walk away unscathed.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

Overheard in a conversation between a couple of 30-somethings flipping burgers in Toronto yesterday:

"George Bush is the stupidest guy in the world."
I bet W. doesn't have to clean out the grease trap at the end of his shift.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Review: Allen's

After some do-gooding went awry, the Webber and I found ourselves looking for dinner in Toronto's Dark Territory (east of Yonge). Allen's (143 Danforth at Broadview) displays a promising selection of whiskies behind a rough-hewn pine bar, rare in an age of over-varnished Fionn McCools/Firkin/Molly Blooms mahogany.

The meal started poorly when our waiter, let's call him "Chip" to be nasty, delighted in rejecting our Coors Light order because Allen's refuses to carry Labatt or Molson products. Alright then, how about a Schlitz, jackass? The best they could do was Amsterdam Light.

A startlingly pricey menu makes the audacious claim to have Toronto's best burgers, blood in the water for a pair of junk food warhorses. The burger is adequate. The thick, moist patty would make a good meat loaf. As with most gourmet burgers, however, the cook doesn't understand that a burger is all in the dressing, which at Allen's is left to the diner. If we wanted to dress a burger on our own, we'd do it at home.

Allen's is supposedly the owner's shrine to the Irish-American bars of a bygone New York. My guess is that, back then, two burgers and a couple of drinks would not have cost $80. Allen's is really just part of a snotty trend in over-priced faux-Irish pubs that has swept most cities. If you want genuine, go to the Old Sod in the Kingsway. If you want burgers, go to the Wheat Sheaf.

On a go/no-go scale, I give Allen's a "no-go".

Monday, August 28, 2006

The Dirtiest Toilets In Ontario

The Globe and Mail reports on some some filthy bathrooms along the 401. Methinks them a tad delicate. Gas station restrooms are for only the most desperate of bowel evacuations. Beggars can't be choosers. At least there was toilet paper, a necessity absent in this concrete can I ran across in China. Here's where to go along the 401 if you can hold it:

Whitby - Brock Street Wendy's/Tim Horton's
Clarington - 5th Wheel truck stop
Cobourg - East Side Mario's
Belleville - Chapters
Kingston - Swiss Chalet

Saturday, August 26, 2006

2006 Song of the Summer Recap

Voting begins on Monday in the Parking Lot's 2006 Song of the Summer Contest. Recapping the contenders:

Rascal Flatt's Me & My Gang
Brooks & Dunn's Building Bridges
George Strait's The Seashores of Old Mexico
Aaron Pritchett's Hold My Beer
Brad Paisley's The World
Sorry, Brian. K.T. Tunstall doesn't qualify for this contest.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Everything I Love: The Chill of an Early Fall

"There's a storm coming on, it won't be too long till the snow falls. Oh I'll be sobersome, But when October comes and goes and no time at all I'll begin to feel the chill of an early fall." - George Strait
August's cool nights are a welcome reprieve from southern Ontario's oppressive July. You're so startled by the cool morning that, for a delusional moment, you think you'll see your breath if you breathe hard enough. Less healthy trees preview fall with their premature colouring and back to school commercials remind some of us of one more year in the classroom. Going back to school is an entirely different experience when you're thirty than when you're thirteen - you actually look forward to it and lament that it will certainly be your last. I didn't appreciate my last year of school as an undergrad and I implore all the other members of the class of 2007 to enjoy every moment - because work lasts a horribly long time.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Rant: Reply To All

To become known among your coworkers as a complete simpleton, use the "reply to all" email function liberally.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Catfish Update: Let's Get Some Perspective

Riverkeeper isn't satisfied with the explanation for last week's catfish kill on the Ottawa River and seems to want a human trigger to blame. I'm surprised, because I thought Riverkeeper had the most clear-headed explanation from the start, which was, for the most part, supported by the evidence. She may find little more than a perfect storm of high temperatures, excess run-off, a crowded fishery, and bacteria. Hypoxic water and fish kills predate the advent of fertilizers and pulp mills. Nevertheless, this demonstrates what can go wrong, whether caused by nature or man. Pete, at Fishing Jones, directed me to the issue of the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico, which is the worst example of what is taking place along the world's coasts.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Envy: British Columbia


My friend, and fellow Iv'y Rod & Gun Club member, Ryan is closing out the summer in British Columbia. He has to deal with this every day. There aren't many days that I'd trade Ontario for BC (save and except the Adirondack chairs at Lou's Bar & Grill in Kits), but today is an exception.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Catfish Update: Mystery Solved

The puzzle surrounding the catfish deaths on the Ottawa River last week has been solved. High temperatures, excessive run-off, crowded fishery, and bacteria.

Coffee Time: Do You Want Crack With That?

I don't buy drugs, but if I did, I'd go to Coffee Time Donuts in Toronto, where every degenerate and n'er do well seems to spend his day. Until Pastor McGuinty brought nicotine prohibition to Ontario, the Coffee Time in Bloor West Village had a smoking room where solitary men would hack spittle into their coffee while blue smoke leaked through the partition. At night, the Coffee Time at Dupont and Lansdowne is a haven for junkies, hookers, and applicants to the local crack syndicate. A friend of mine was once assaulted by a couple of skin-heads outside the franchise at Bay and Gerrard. How did Coffee Time develop such a strong brand loyalty among the down and out?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Song of the Summer: The World

Brad Paisley has been dominating country radio all summer with his chart topper, The World. Brad opened his concert in London back in March with this tune and the audience of southwestern Ontario farm kids went nuts. If this blog wasn't so damned democratic, I'd declare this the 2006 song of the summer, but we'll let the voting begin next weekend anyway.

Between now and the end of August, the Parking Lot will reveal its nominees for 2006 Song of the Summer. The song must be country, appear on the Billboard chart this summer, and not be a ballad. Voting starts August 28th.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Everything I Love: Catfishing

I became fanatical about catfishing on a September evening, casually flipping a jitterbug off the jetty in the flickering twilight on Chats Lake. A fish hit my topwater lure with such force that I thought I'd hooked a trophy bass. My delusion grew to a muskie during a fight that tested every ounce of my $25 Canadian Tire rod and eight-pound monofilament. When I finally pulled the fish from the darkness, my lunker turned out to be a two-pound channel cat. From that night on, I became obsessed with a fish that is both easy to catch and, pound-for-pound, the best fighter in fresh water. I ignored the sophistocation of trout and the technical complexity of bass in favour of the the worm-and-cane pole simplicity of catfishing. I can't count the times I watched Doug Stange and Toad Smith chum the water with chicken blood in Catfish Secrets or the afternoons wasted, on my employer's dime, scanning pictures of Catfish Ed's Clear Lake monsters and studying three-way rigging.

My best catfishing was over two days I spent with my dad on the Ottawa during Arnprior's annual catfest. On the second afternoon, we took the cedarstrip outboard to the narrows at Blackhead Island where we anchored in the shadow of the railway tressel. The bite was off, but, under a royal blue sky, an afternoon could not have been more perfect - our little boat twisting in the eddies against the taut anchor line. Attempting a Hail Mary, I took a page from Doug and Toad's book and dug deep in my tackle box for the foulest-smelling brew I could find. Like ringing the dinner bell, the stink bait brought them swimming and every cast hooked a three- to five-pound grey-beard. As though onto billfish, at times I had to jam the rod butt into my hip to drag the muscular fish against the current. Three years later, I return often to the photo Dad took that afternoon of my excited grin and a midnight-coloured channel cat cradled at my side.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Catfish Tragedy on the Ottawa River

Although the test results won't be ready until tomorrow, I am ready to get into some half-baked conjecture about what will emerge. Generally, I think Riverkeeper has it right, though I don't agree that the sewage spill had much of an impact. Chats Lake, where the carnage has been worst, at the confluence of the Ottawa, Madawaska, and Mississippi rivers, is very shallow and water temperatures rise quickly in hot weather like we've had this summer. A fatal coincidence of events took place when heavy rains filled the Madawaska and Mississipi rivers with farm run-off from Lanark and Renfew counties, pouring nutrients into Chats Lake and creating a warm hypoxic soup. The resulting algal bloom deprived the heat-weakened fish of oxygen and made a crowded catfishery particularly vulnerable to bacteria like columnaris. An MNR study several years ago revealed that there are over 90,000 channel catfish in this part of the river, contained by four dams. At as much as 90% of fishery, if fish are going to die, they'll be channel cats.

I spoke with my mom this morning and she reports that the smell of rotting fish is tapering off so maybe we're close to the end. I hope the damage hasn't been too severe. I've got $400 worth of catfishing tackle that will be pretty darn useless if those catfish are all dead.

Rant: TTC Conductors

As long as it has riders, people will lean on the doors of the subway. The sanctimonious conductors hate it and routinely launch into winded sermons over the P.A. system, admonishing patrons. More futile these lectures could not be, since nobody knows which of the forty-five offenders the old coot is scolding. Let's return to the days when conductors had nothing more than a whistle to signal the all-clear.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Chats Lake Catfish Catastrophe

A couple of weeks ago, I found it strange that I didn’t hook a single channel cat while fishing with dead bait on the Mississippi below the Galetta dam. Bass and walleye were biting, but the only cats I saw were a couple carcasses floating by the dock in Pocket Bay. So it was with some alarm that I received a call from my mother on Sunday night reporting a mass catfish death on the Ottawa River between Cheneaux and Fitzroy Harbour. My brother buried ten that washed up on the White Cottage beach alone. Devastating.

Update: Ottawa Riverkeeper has the most complete version of this story. Interesting that the Quebec Ministry of Natural Resources is not alarmed. The Ottawa Citizen has this creepy slideshow on the carnage.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Review: Morton's of Chicago

I've been itching to visit Morton's since Pauly Walnuts suggested to Christopher that they skip an assassination and go to Morton's in Atlantic City instead. The Toronto franchise scores on style, ambiance, and presentation. The room is dark and leathery, raw meat is carted to your table for pre-meal inspection, and the portion sizes are sufficient for three. The Colossal Shrimp live up to their name, the broccoli is served by the forest, and we're still eating the prime rib three days later. At the end of the day, however, the steak is better at The Keg and you're saved the irritating company of Yorkville patrons.

On a go/no-go scale, I give it a "no-go".

Monday, August 14, 2006

Celebrity Sightings

On vacation at home this weekend, we swung through Yorkville, where the family CFO spotted Rob Lowe shopping in a pink shirt and white shorts. I'm proud to say that she wasn't half as excited to see Rob as she was last weekend when she passed the great Timber Jack outside "Marmra" on highway 7.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Song of the Summer: Hold My Beer

This week's nominee is courtesy of the Road Hammer himself. In Hold My Beer (While I Kiss Your Girlfriend), Vancouver's Aaron Pritchett sings about asking some goober to assist him with his drink while he puts the moves on the guy's woman. For a man with earings in both lobes, I do believe Mr. Pritchett would end up on the wrong side of a crunchy beating if he suggested this at a honky tonk. However, given that his nightlife probably consists of candy-ass nightclubs in Kitsilano, he needn't worry. This guy isn't going anywhere without the crutch of Canadian content rules, but he has released a decent song this season.

Between now and the end of August, the Parking Lot will reveal its nominees for 2006 Song of the Summer. The song must be country, appear on the Billboard chart this summer, and not be a ballad. Voting starts August 28th.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Everything I Love: Solitude

Last weekend, the Rubber Duck and I took grandpa's cedarstrip Peterborough downriver, under the railway span, to Black Bay. The Duck took a dip, I lost a couple of bass, and we had a memorable chat about politics, careers, and easy chairs. Black Bay couldn't be more peaceful. With few cottages and fewer people, I thought of its serenity when I read this Newsweek piece (hat-tip: Fishing Jones) about how under-rated solitude is. Nobody needs to be a hermit, but there's nothing wrong with enjoying your own company from time to time.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Rant: Sunglasses as Headwear

Sunglasses shield the eyes from the sun. They belong on your face, not on your head. If you need to decorate your head with something other than a hat, buy a barrette - it's just as feminine and twice as effective at keeping hair out of your eyes.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Review: Like Red On A Rose

Alan Jackson digs deep in his most recent single, Like Red On A Rose, with one of his best vocal performances since his cover of The Blues Man. Fusing country with blues, this Alison Kraus-produced piece leaves you chomping at the bit for September's full album release.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Rubber Duck of the Bailey

Best wishes to my cousin, Rubber Duck, who begins a brilliant legal career on Bay Street this morning. Looking forward to lunches at Bardi's.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Song of the Summer: Seashores of Old Mexico

This week's Song of the Summer nominee is George Strait's cover of the Merle Haggard classic, Seashores of Old Mexico. An easy-going and Buffett-free beach song that drifts you down to the Gulf. Happy Simcoe Day weekend - see you on Tuesday!

Between now and the end of August, the Parking Lot will reveal its nominees for 2006 Song of the Summer. The song must be country, appear on the Billboard chart this summer, and not be a ballad. Voting starts August 28th.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Everything I Love: Roadside Attractions

I pursue giant roadside attractions with all the lust of a big game hunter. Some stalk big-horn sheep or lions, but my prey is a giant ball of twine. If you think this comparison to be excessively dramatic, I assure you that this pursuit imperils both life and marriage. Paul Bunyan and his blue ox have eluded me more than once as, in full highway hypnosis, I drift by their perch below Eagle Rock Lookout in St. Ignace, Michigan. My figurative trophy case includes The Big Apple (Colborne, Ont), The Giant Wooly Mammoth (Nova Scotia), the Big Goose (Wawa, Ont), the Big Twoonie (Campbellford, Ont.), and the Giant Rainbow Trout (Sault Ste. Marie, Ont).

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Rant: Museum Station

Other than delay, what purpose does the TTC's Museum Station serve? The routine is the same every day: a train packed with commuters stops at Museum, the doors stay open for the requisite half-minute with nobody boarding or disembarking, and it carries on. I can't think of many places around the station not already served by St. George, Queen's Park, or Wellesley.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Regular Programming to Resume Shortly...

With a twist on the Mark Chesnutt tune, it's too hot to fish, too hot to blog, but a cool twenty degrees at Grandma's house...