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Lost Moments #7: Scenes from the Birthday Fortnight

And now, another “lost moment”: a blog entry that’s been sitting in my “Drafts” folder for far too long, set free at last. This one’s about the week before and after my birthday, Saturday, November 5th.

Welcome Back, Sprouter!

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A rare photo of a conscious Jon Crowley! They exist!

On the Thursday before my birthday, I dropped by Sprouter’s “relaunch party”, an event thrown to celebrate the return of the entrepreneurs-helping-entrepreneurs organization thanks to their acquisition by Postmedia Inc. They provide a service that’s been useful to many people starting their own businesses, and it’s good to see them back in action.

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Erin Bury, looking great as always.

Naturally, Sarah Prevette and Erin Bury (pictured above), the faces of Sprouter, were there. The usual suspects from the tech community were also there, along with a large contingent of new faces. Postmedia people? Financial types invited to the event by the National Post? I didn’t have too much time to chat with them, as I had to run off to…

Dinner at Marben

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Marben’s charcuterie board.

Katie Hrycak was in town from Ottawa to fly to Cuba for her birthday and wanted to catch up at one of her favourite restaurants in Accordion City: Marben. Marben is the sort of restaurant that does comfort food really, really well and embraces a “farm to fork” philosophy. We shared a selection of dishes, including the charcuterie board above. Katie’s friend Heather, who was flying to Cuba with her and who also works at Marben, made good food and wine recommendations.

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Katie Hrycak is always great company.

We had great conversations all through dinner. The topics ran from what’s happening with her hardware startup, Commentair Tech, to the goings-on at Shopify, the Toronto tech scene, travel, life in Toronto and a few ideas for a phone app for which I am notorious in some circles.

After dinner, Katie and Heather went northward to pack. I hopped on my bike and made my way west to…

Shameless Karaoke at the Double Deuce Saloon

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Wil McLean: half Scot, half Korean, all party!

The Double Deuce Saloon is one of those long, narrow establishments that occupies the zone on the south side of West Queen West bounded by the Drake Hotel on the east and the Gladstone Hotel on the west.

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Mike D sings under the big cock.

Every Thursday night, Wil McLean hosts Shameless Karaoke, an event that often packs the place solid with people. Assisting the mood are some pretty interesting drinks specials, from the $5 giant can of Steigl (I like to call it “PBR for people with better taste in beer”) to the $20 teapot full o’ liquor.

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A very sharp-dressed customer!

Shameless Karaoke isn’t as long-running as Carson T. Foster’s Kickass Karaoke (where Wil cut his jaraoke jockey teeth) or Jason Rolland’s Loser Karaoke (or his many other karaoke nights), but what it lacks in being established, it makes up for with its energetic vibe. And hey, it’s much closer to my place than the other two.

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I accordion karaoke’d my way through Men Without Hats’ Safety Dance and AC/DC’s Highway to Hell, backed up someone with Pulp’s Common People, had a couple of Steigls, called it a night and biked home at about 1:30.

Whiskey Live

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It always helps to have an actual Scotsman in a kilt peddling your scotch.

It was about 4:00 p.m. the next day when I got the phone call from my friend Keith.

“Hey, Joey, are you available this evening?”

“Yeah, no plans here. Thought I might make it a quiet night before my birthday party, but if something’s happening, I’d be up for going. What’s up?”

“There’s a whiskey event happening at the Convention Centre around six. I wanna go, but don’t want to do it alone. You in?”

“Whiskey tasting? You bet I’m in. Where do you want to meet?”

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Glenlivet: Reliable, but not at the top of my list.

The event was Whisky Live Toronto, the local stop for the whiskey tasting world tour. For $65, you got access to about two dozen different whiskey vendors and a handful of vouchers to redeem for shots of various kinds of whiskeys, from scotch to Irish whiskey to Japanese whiskey to bourbon to rye. A better-than-average buffet dinner was also included in the ticket price.

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Nadurra. The black sheep of the Glenlivet family.

I’ve found the younger Glenlivets decent, but not outstanding, but their Nadurra took me by surprise. It’s very un-Glenlivet-y, from its very attention-getting nose, to the taste: a sweet start followed by a surprisingly spicy finish. I made a mental note to pick up a bottle soon.

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Spicebox: It’s a dessert whiskey!

Spicebox is a new entry into the field: a flavoured Canadian whiskey. Normally, I’d dismiss this sort of thing as a gimmick to sell whiskey to the Bailey’s Irish Crème crowd, but they had a really cute server, so I decided to try it anyway.

I was surprised: it turned out to be rather nice. It still had the familiar whiskey taste, but backed up with a fair bit of toffee, vanilla and cinnamon, and quite smooth. I suddenly found myself craving a slice of chocolate cake or one of those big-ass chocolate chip cookies from Le Gourmand.

“This is…a dessert whiskey!” I exclaimed. I made a mental note to pick up a bottle of Spicebox, in addition to the Nadurra.

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Aberlour’s A’Bunadh. At this point in the evening, I’d stopped taking notes. Also good stuff. Will also have to pick this up.

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Keith and I took a dinner break. Prime rib, chicken kebabs, taters, salad and a pretty good cover band that played 60s music at 6, 70s music at 7, 80s music at 8 and so on.

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I met my booze hero!

The highlight of my evening was meeting Tom Bulleit, as in Bulleit Bourbon, my favourite bourbon and the unofficial bourbon of the South by Southwest Festival regulars. I walked right up to him and introduced myself.

“You’re my alco-hero!” I told him, and thankfully, he didn’t run away screaming or call security to haul me away. Instead, we got into a ten-minute conversation where he answered all my questions about his company and booze, told me that they also made a vodka and very kindly posed with me for the photo above.

The Birthday Party

Joey deVilla self-portrait in bathroom mirror

Rrrrrrrrrrico. Suave.

The self-portrait above – that most bloggy of photos – was taken on the evening of my 44th birthday, Saturday, November 5th. I marked that event with a party at my place, the sort of thing that hasn’t happened there in well over a year. The place has been ready for company for a good long while and a shindig was long overdue.

Here’s a shot from the start of the evening:

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It was a mixed crowd of people who came: friends from high school, Crazy Go Nuts University, neighbours, local bloggers, various workmates and colleagues from the tech industry, fellow members of Hacklab, pals from my old drinking club (the Thirsty People of Toronto) and various co-conspirators. I’m like “Tom Sawyer” from the Rush song of the same name: “What you say about his company is what you say about society…”

Here were are at the “standing room only” portion of the evening:

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It takes a lot of flabbergast Marichka.

It’s been a long-standing rule of mine since our days at Crazy Go Nuts University: it’s not a party until Marichka (pictured above at the right side of the photo) is flabbergasted.

Keith (the guy who invited me to Whisky Live the day before) showed up and brought me both a bottle of Nadurra (score!) and his own homemade vodka in a skinny icewine-like bottle. His vodka was exceptionally smooth, and I drank most of it – straight – that night.

The kitchen is always a good rocks/sucks gauge for a party. We’re definitely on the “rocks” end of the scale:

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Trysh smiles for the camera; James is busy contemplating his beer.

Daylight saving time ended that evening, which meant that the last guest left at 1:00 a.m.. Cleaning up was a quick affair, accompanied by some M83 on the stereo and some of the Jack Daniels Honey that Rob brought to the party, after which I went to…

Marichka’s Bingo Birthday Bash

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Marichka’s birthday is the day after mine, and she wanted to do something a little different this year: Bingo at Delta Bingo, located on St. Clair just east of Keele. She put out a call to all her friends, who are all lightweights and didn’t show…except for yours truly.

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Maricha and her husband Matt (as in Kantor, the chef of the Secret Pickle Supper Club and many other interesting foodie events in Accordion City) were running a little late, so they asked me to save them a table. I arrived at Delta Bingo, introduced myself as part of Marichka’s party, and they immediately set up a table for us, complete with special tablecloth, balloons and other birthday decorations. They also gave me a quick run-down of how bingo works in a proper bingo hall (I’ve only played in bars, where it’s done ironically, and for much smaller stakes). The staff were all very friendly and helpful.

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Marichka was beside herself with “old folks have more fun than I thought!” delight. I want to be there when we introduce her to shuffleboard or canasta.

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Bingo is a little more mentally demanding than I thought it would be. When you’re playing with a set of six cards and the numbers are being called out rather quickly, you have to be on the ball. I get the feeling that bingo is what keeps a lot of seniors’ mental faculties sharp.

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We had one very happy birthday girl in the house.

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I had missed lunch, so it was my opportunity to sample the cuisine. It was hospital cafeteria-grade and easy on the teeth. Good thing I was going to have a nice dinner with the family later that evening.

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I wouldn’t normally associate the phrase “bingo hall” with “zero tolerance policy”, but apparently the two go together.

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This was the only down moment of the fortnight: the smash-and-grab of my GPS, which I’d forgotten to put away. What kind of lowlife cruises the parking lot of a retired persons’ hangout looking for stuff to steal, and in broad daylight?

fixed car

The damaged was quickly repaired by the fine folks at Centre Honda, who also fixed an exhaust problem for me, as well as clean-air certified my car (I need the inspection certificate to get a new set of licence plate stickers). Luckily, Centre Honda is a hop skip and jump away from Shopify’s Toronto office, so it wan’t too much of detour.

Toronto Techie Dim Sum

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Once a month, I hold a Toronto Techie Dim Sum, where I invite people in Toronto’s tech scene, whether developers, IT pros, designers, businesspeople or students to come and chat over some tasty Chinese food at Sky Dragon. Kristan “Krispy” Uccelo started this event, and since he’s gone off to Mountain View to work for Google, I’ve taken it over.

“So why are you going to Chicago next week, Joey?” asked one of the guys.

“It’s a booty call!” replied Sandy, well before I’d even started to open my mouth.

“D’you have to make it sound so…sordid?” I asked Sandy.

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It’s always good to see Greg Wilson, who I like to think of as the adult supervision of Toronto’s young tech scene and startup community. He brought along Heather Payne, founder of Ladies Learning Code, and we got to talking about how I can help her organization out in the coming year.

It’s always great to see my fellow geeks at dim sum – I think I’ll declare one for next week!

Chicago Bound

landing at midway

On the final Saturday of the birthday fortnight, I boarded a Porter flight bound for Chicago’s Midway airport to do yet another week’s worth of birthday celebrating. That’s another story for a later time.

2 replies on “Lost Moments #7: Scenes from the Birthday Fortnight”

Hi! I saw that you were tasting various whiskies there….I have the Nadurra myself, and it’s very good. But the one I absolutely adore, is Ardbeg (also from the Islay). I’ve had only the basic 10 year-old, but the taste is not from this world. Check it out if you have the chance!

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