Thursday December 25, 2:33 p.m.
Well, it's been quite an interesting week for me since I officially went on Xmas hiatus. The plane ride was actually rather uneventful, and I think the stopover in Vancouver was better for me than a direct non-stop since it gave me a chance to stretch my legs and look at something other than the personal screen for 13 hours straight. The only downside was having to wait over half an hour at both VCR and YYZ for my suitcase to pop out of the carousel.
Meterologically, Toronto hasn't let me down. It has been a showcase of all kinds of weather...the climactic version of "A Night of a Hundred Stars". First off, we've had two or three snowstorms blast through T.O. but today is a balmy 6 degrees C and Saturday promises to be a blistering 11 C. All this after going through the first few days of -15 C weather.
My social calendar has been OK although the first five days were spent virtually at home or in the immediate neighbourhood. Actually, I had my first outing with friends a couple of nights ago with some of my old classmates from university. We were supposed to have met on Friday night, but the first storm left those plans in tatters. And that other night wasn't exactly the greatest night either. Ironically, the guy who planned it all, Ol' Sam, ended up taking 3 hours to get from his place to The Keg since traffic was tied up from the snow. Still, he and his wife made it to see me, The Engineer and his new wife, and some of the others for dinner. Our waitress was almost annoyingly perky...still, I gave a generous tip. The Engineer remarked that a lot of these food service professionals are trying for thespian careers.
Yesterday on Xmas Eve, I pulled off a double by meeting The Entrepreneur for lunch at The Mongolian Grill near Don Mills, and then braving the horrible slush downtown and meeting up with Shard in his renovated house. Muddy slush is one thing I will never miss being in Japan.
Back on Monday, I met up with my old student, Mrs Tulip, at Hospital for Sick Children. Her elder daughter has been hospitalized for about a couple of months, but hopefully, she'll finally be discharged tomorrow. I am hoping for good news there. I'd never been in the world-famous institution...so I was rather impressed to see that one wing looked like the atrium of a huge hotel. Beforehand, I had walked through the deserted environs of U of T since it was on official holiday. Ended up having lunch at Swiss Chalet, one of my must-dos whenever I get back into Toronto. I wasn't disappointed although I waited for over half an hour to get a table. The special sauce is one of the most hotly debated topics anywhere. The university always seems to gain some new sparkly building. There was another one at the north end of the St. George campus which looked like Kal-El's crystal ship.
Today, it was the usual thing of getting up early and then being whisked off by my brother to the morning church service. His family has started going to another bigger church with more developed facilities. The main sanctuary looked like the bridge of the Enterprise with its own wide viewscreen at the front. There was a little play performed on stage about the reason behind Xmas...one guy did act like Shatner.
Every time I get back home, I usually fall into the habit of catching one particular show on the telly. Last time, it was "CSI: Miami" but this time around, I've been catching a lot of "Robot Chicken" and "Family Guy". Would love to grab those DVD sets.
The other strange theme I've been encountering this trip has been one of life and death. Since I got back here, I've been encountering new and upcoming births and the pitter-patter of little feet. Ol' Sam's wife is expecting, Chip Guy has just gotten a second daughter and of course, my niece is just running and gabbing around. But to counter that, I found out from The Bohemian that his grandmother had just passed away...which adds a third person to be excluded on the don't send list for nengajo. Unfortunately, he didn't send me the news until two days after I'd already sent out the cards. But the somewhat surprising news was a celeb death on Xmas Eve back in Japan. Ai Iijima, the hardcore porn actress-turned-TV personality, was found dead in her apartment yesterday. I found out the news yesterday morning during breakfast; my jaw hit the table momentarily. But then again, I shouldn't have been surprised...she'd retired from show biz less than 2 years ago under some mysterious circumstances with the rumours of serious disease and depression swirling around her. It's definitely a very sad end, though. Iijima was one-of-a-kind for show biz....anywhere on the planet. Porn actresses have ended up breaking into other genres or completely different industries (such as that woman in Italy who ran for its parliament) but they still built their new fame on top of their old one. Ai Iijima was also well known for her original career and it did help her get into the more mainstream one. However, she's the only ex-porn star I know who was able to make the full transition into regular tarento without ever needing to use her former status as a crutch....unless it was to make a point, which she did several years ago with her book, "Platonic Sex" which was made into a movie and a 2-part TV special. Although I have no doubt that most people beyond their teens knew about her more sordid past, they saw Ms. Iijima as just that regular talking head on the tube...bantering about food and throwing insults at the comedians. As I said, a very sad end to a woman who had a tough but interesting life.
Speaking of colourful personalities, I finally did get a chance to take a close look at cooking's enfant terrible, Gordon Ramsay, on The Food Network, the other day. I knew about his reputation as a profanity-spewing, chef-destroying force of nature and figured him to be a vainglorious bully opportunist. However, after having caught an episode of "Restaurant Nightmares", I've changed my mind on him slightly. He was called in to save an Italian restaurant from the mismanagement of its young and arrogant chef-owner. What I saw wasn't an ogre breaking down a chef into little bits just for some psychopathic fun but a version of a military drill instructor showing a raw recruit a bit of tough love...breaking him down of his ingrained bad habits before building him back up into a better chef-businessman. It was interesting to watch; Ramsay showed up on a local interview show last night as well...he came off as being quite personable although with some very straight answers.
Anyways, just got off the phone with X. Looks like everything is coming into place for Saturday's get-together at Yonge-Eglinton. Tomorrow will be a day with The Anime King and his Court. And in a few hours, it'll be Xmas dinner with the whole family.