Friday: TheBizMedia’s Holiday Party
Last Friday night, I went to over to TheBizMedia’s holiday party downtown. I met Guy Gal and the rest of TheBizMedia’s crew this spring when they helped out with Microsoft’s Make Web Not War event in Montreal in the Spring and have been going to Guy’s parties whenever I’ve had the chance; he throws a pretty mean hootenanny.
The neighbourhood gets sketchier as you walk east on Dundas from Dundas square, with the Imperial Public Library and Tavern being the point at which the weirdness begins.
A scrawny older woman stumbled towards me and asked, “Hey honey, d’you have any money?”
I had no cash – just tokens and credit cards. Guy’s parties are always open bar and free (and good) food, so I hadn’t hit an ATM.
“Sorry, don’t have any,” I replied.
“Drop dead,” she said, with teeth clenched and a cold stare straight from a Stephen King story. It was the evening’s only weird note.
In the elevator on the way up to the party, I met Nicole Simone, who asked me about my accordion. It turns out that she’s an alt-rock singer/songwriter going by the moniker Late July and she’s looking for an accordion player – one who’s more Tom Waits than Myron Floren. I got her card, and we’ll be in touch; I’ve been meaning to play with a band for a while.
Guy usually books the rooftop party room of the Merchandise Loft for TheBizMedia’s bashes. You get a pretty good view of the city from there, and in the summer, it’s a great place to spend a party. Although there were some outdoor propane heaters set up for the benefit of those looking for fresh air or a smoke, most people stayed indoors.
“Check out the Chanukah bush!” said Guy, pointing out the centrepiece.
Note the jelly-donut like ornaments. They’re buns of some kind.
The evening started with live music…
…and then came the DJ set, which was driven by this massive touchscreen:
…at which point the party got into full swing.
I tried out a pose at the “photo booth” area, a corner of the room set up with a DSLR camera on a timer, a really bright flash, a white drop sheet and several props:
I wasn’t the only person at the party who goes by a descriptive pseudonym. This guy was here too:
His jacket’s a bit hard to read in the photo above, so here’s one with the flash on. You lose the effect of the LEDs on his jacket, but now the text is legible:
Flyerman is an Accordion City fixture and a regular on the club scene. His alternate identity is Mark Vistorino, and he is Toronto’s best distributor of flyers. Give him a stack of flyers promoting your event or service and unleash him upon the attendees of a club or party, and in no time, everyone in the room will have a leaflet in hand and will be dancing with him, resplendent in his trademark electronic marquee jacket.
“Flyerman!” I said. “Been too long.”
“Hey, Accordion Guy!” he replied.
It must’ve sounded like a meet-at-greet at the League of Second-Rate Superheroes.
And finally, Guy brought out the Domo-Cake, a dessert in the shape of Domo-Kun. It was long before the end of the evening, but I’d been out four nights in a row already.
Saturday: Several Attempts to Pay
17 Steps (7:30 p.m.)
I started Saturday evening with my longtime friend from Crazy Go Nuts University, Marichka, and her husband Matt, the chef from the local foodie group, the Secret Pickle Supper Club. We decided to go out for dinner somewhere near my neck of the woods – High Park – and Matt suggested 17 Steps. I’d never heard of the place before, even though I passed by fairly regularly.
I met them at the restaurant, and as soon I got to the front door, I realized why I hadn’t heard of it before. For the longest time, probably dating back to at least the eighties, it had been a German restaurant that had floundered over the past few years. Since May of this year, someone else had taken over the place, given it a new name and a new menu: tapas.
The food is tasty and cheap, just like tapas should be, and the service is friendly and very helpful. I’m thinking of a return engagement when I step out with my friend Verna later this week.
- Dolmades (grapevine leaves stuffed with rice and meat, which Marichka described as “like cabbage rolls, except they don’t suck.”)
- Shrimp with chorizo and black beans
- Moroccan chicken kebabs
- House dips with grilled flatbreads
- Truffle frites
- Pasteis de bacalhau (cod cakes with chili aioli)
- Chef Marc’s bread pudding (made with croissants)
- Greek nut cake
- Strawberry panna cotta
- A couple of bottles of decent red wine (we deferred to Matt’s judgement)
Marichka and I did our level best not to bore Matt with reminiscing about Crazy Go Nuts University, but our time there was so crazy-go-nuts that it was hard not to.
At the end of the meal, I started pulling out bills from my wallet, but Matt would have none of it. “Next time,” he said.
Epique (11: 15 p.m.)
Marichka and Matt went off to a family holiday event, and I went eastbound to Yorkville and walked into Epique Lounge on Cumberland. Lee Dale was spinning a set there, and a number of the Social Media Usual Suspects were in attendance, including Rachel Segal and her husband Adam Bullied.
I ended up in a great conversation with Rachel that started with my grand scheme for personal reinvention/renewal plans for 2011 (“My new role model shall be…Tony Stark!”) and turned into some grand scheme to save Remy’s, a Yorkville bistro whose star has fallen over the past 15 years.
“We have to save Remy’s! I’ve been drinking there since I was 17, and it cannot go quietly into the night!” I said.
“It’s trying too hard to be Hemingway’s,” said Rachel, referring to another Yorkville bistro that stays in business only by grace of its prime location and space and not because of the service, food, drink or any other area where a bistro should aim to excel.
“Remy’s has a great location. They’ve got a great rooftop patio. They just need to – to shed their Yorkville-ness. That’s it. They’re trying to be upmarket in a neighbourhood where everyone’s doing that. They need to go the other way.”
“You mean –?”
“Get this,” I said, positioning my hands so that they formed the outline of a skinny picture frame, “…Wide Open.”
“I can’t believe you went there,” said Rachel, clearly impressed by the reference to the cramped, friendly but oh-so-divey bar on Spadina just south of Queen.
“We worked together for months! You know I always go there.”
I talked shop with Lee for a little bit, and then attempted to buy a drink. One of the people behind the event – I can’t remember who — stopped me, pointing to his table where they’d set up champagne ice buckets filled with bottles of rum and vodka, several carafes filled with coke, orange juice and ginger ale and a large bowl of ice.
“S’free, Accordion Guy,” he said, “go nuts.”
I mixed myself a couple of stiff rum-and-cokes, danced a little, played accordion in key and to the beat of the dance music, collected my applause, and then Lee invited me along with the gang to go for some apres-party food.
Sneaky Dee’s and Mars Food (1:30 a.m.)
We hit the street and after entertaining a couple of random women on the street with an accordion rendition of Cee-Lo’s hit single Fuck You, we piled into Randeep’s car and made our way to Sneaky Dee’s in the hopes of catching last call and nachos.
On the way there, I was introduced to the only guy in the car I didn’t know: Angus. It turns out he works at Microsoft. Usually in a contest between me and any given Microsoft employee, I would be deemed as having the cooler job. But Angus works on games for the Xbox, so I must concede victory to him.
I am too damn old to be here, I thought as I squeezed my way through the huddled masses of Generation Y that had packed themselves into the place. We’d missed last call, and there wasn’t room for additional molecules, never mind a free table.
“C’mon,” I said. “Let’s go hit someplace a little less crowded…”
A pair of impossibly cute, impossibly young girls squeezed by us.
“…and a little less…uh, statutory. How ‘bout Mars?”
Mars was pretty empty, so it was a cinch to claim the big table in the back. We talked about all sorts of things, including Angus’ life in Redmond, and I recommended 13 Coins as a place to go for late-night post-carousing eats in Seattle.
“Imagine Mad Men directed by Quentin Tarantino,” I said, describing the place.
With pre-breakfast over, we all reached into our wallets to work out the bill, but Angus fished out a credit card and covered the meal. “No worries, guys.” My third attempt of the evening to pay, thwarted.
As I was about to leave, one of Lee’s friends entered the restaurant and Lee greeted her with a big hug and a “Happy birthday!”
I quickly took my accordion off my back, strapped it on and said “Did someone say…birthday?”
Finally (2:30 a.m.)
I finally did spend some money that evening: for the cab ride home.
Sunday: Family, Kinect and Indian Food
A nice Sunday evening with my sister, her husband, Mom, her friend Steffie, my nephews and a whole lotta mutter paneer. I brought my Xbox and Kinect over; the boys love playing the Scott Pilgrim game and Kinectimals.
Monday: Congee, Hacklab and Sean Ward’s Electric Xmas
Followed by a visit to the Hacklab, where I hung out, helped make a Xbox 360 and Kinect available for the HoHoTO “Hangover Auction” for the Daily Bread Food Bank and talked to Hacklab co-founder Leigh Honeywell, whom I haven’t seen in ages:
…and his lovely assistants:
I’d missed most of the show, save the final act: a little group put together by Sean called “Gift Receipt”, whose slogan was “Given’ you what you really want for Christmas!”
Gift Receipt was Sean on keys and lead vocals:
Dwayne Christie from Wildlife on drums:
Alex Pulec from The Ruby Spirit on lead guitar:
And Michael “Nus” Nussbacher on rhythm guitar:
We were even treated to a drum solo by Raymi the Minx:
Here’s Sean’s highlight reel of the evening:
And for the super-curious, here’s a video of the end of the evening, complete with impromptu performance of Fuck You with me on accordion and Aidan Nulman on drums:
Tuesday: Yellow Griffin
Hanging at the slow-but-good burger pub in Bloor West Village with Kevin, my buddy from all the way back in high school, his wife June and his younger brother David, who’s visiting from Korea.
And Tonight, Wednesday Night?
I’m thinking about taking Wednesday night off.