Archive for the ‘Toronto’ Category

The Bag Collector

There’s probably no better time than when I’m looking to move from my apartment to bring up a rather peculiar aspect of my life, and that aspect is that I collect bags.
When I say that I collect bags I don’t really mean that I collect them. I don’t go to antique bag stores in dingy alleys on a search for rare, old bags in mint condition. When I say I collect bags I mean that I find it hard to throw bags after I use them.
If you will open the cupboards under my sink or look above the desk in my workplace you will come upon hordes (okay, not hordes, but too many) bags in different shapes, sizes and texture. Stacked or meshed together in a dizzying display of colors and logos. In many of them you may find old receipts, which hearken back to the day the bags were originally used. Canada, where I reside, environmentally-conscious as it is, has recently implemented a five-cent price tag on carry bags. You bought something? You want a bag? Pay up. This can be annoying because sometimes you’re just walking down the street from somewhere to somewhere and want to buy something and you don’t carry a bag, because when you left the house/office/Turkish bath you didn’t know you were gonna buy that something and you find your self having to pay–

But I digress. The bottom line is that it is a good thing. No, not for the environment, for me! Yes, finally I have use for all the bags I’ve been saving! It even makes the bag-collecting more special, because each bag that is stacked in my house has been bought and paid for. It is a product, exactly like the things it’s carrying. So now I may have fewer bags, but the value of the “collection” is much higher. Of course, once in a while a bag is thrown, especially if it serves as a garbage bag. So yes, I don’t necessarily horde them, I use them when I can.
Because you see, that’s the whole point. My mother is a bag collector, and for some reason I followed her footsteps with the same twisted psychology which lies behind this bag-collecting perversion, and here it is:

You never know when you’re gonna need a bag.

That’s right. You never know! Why waste a good bag after a one-time use? Yes! I am the original environmentalist! I didn’t throw bags away before I used them at least a second time after the original usage. Now, I am sure I’m not the only one who doesn’t throw out bags after a one-time use, especially in this environmentally-conscious day and age, but still, I believe that I have taken the bag-collecting skills into a new height, because, well… you never know when you’ll need one!

I can say it without it sounding inappropriate so I’ll say it: there is something very Jewish in the not-throwing-stuff-away school of thought. Jews have been persecuted for many generations by many persecutors and always found it hard to stay in one place, so the order of the day was to move. Move. Move. And when you move, you need to pack, and when you pack, what do you need? You got it. Bags. Lots and lots of bags. So I’m pretty sure it is in our collective gene pool – to not throw packaging materials away. If I could save boxes without filling up my apartment and suffocating on carton fumes, I guess I would’ve collected boxes too, because, you know… you never know when you’ll need a box.

One of the greatest scenes in modern cinema is the scene from American Beauty – pretty much the thematic centerpiece of the film – where the bag dances in the wind, and it is indeed beautiful. One of the reasons it’s beautiful is because it is a bag being set free. It does not need to carry anything anymore. It does not need to obey the whims of man. It is a free spirit, doing as it pleases, jumps here, flies there, and dances.

If I had the guts to do it, if i could let go, I would’ve waited for a particularly windy day, and then take all my bags outside and set them free. I would watch them fly down or up the street, or get caught on a tree branch, or stick to a window like a squashed bug. I would let them all go, all the bags I’ve collected, and let them do as they will, or rather, let the wind do as it will with them.

Yeah, yeah, I know. It’s not really “green” to throw plastic bags all over the place, but it’s a metaphor, right? The metaphor.

Hmm… or is it?

Yeah, it’s a metaphor.

For now.

Canadian For Beginners

If you are coming to the great and wonderful land of Canada you should learn to communicate with the locals. It’s not easy sometimes, and most times it’s frustrating, but still, once you get the hang of it you’ll be like a fish in Lake Ontario.

I have been here for almost two years now and have compiled a short thesaurus to help you navigate the rough waters of Canadian lingo*:

“It’s cool with a nice breeze” – It’s cold and windy.

“It’s cold” – It’s freezing.

“It’s freezing” – You better leave for the equator.

“It’s hot” – It’s rainy

“It’s rainy” – It’s hot

“What are you doing tonight?” – Wanna go have a drink?

“We need to talk”  –  Wanna go have a drink?

“God, I’m won’t finish this before seven” – Wanna go have a drink after seven?

“I’m unhappy” – Wanna go get drunk together?

“I’m happy” – Wanna go get drunk together?

“I Love You” – Let’s go have a drink in a really nice place.

“Let’s have sex” – Let’s go have a drink in the nude.

“You guys want more beer?” – Beat it or pay up.

“Can you split the bills?” – It’s not like splitting the atom, you know.

“Oh, I’m sorry” – Oh, I’m sorry you stepped on my leg by mistake.

“I apologize” – I apologize, I didn’t notice you pushed me.

“Next stop College street” – You will all be able to breathe soon. (this is more of a Toronto speak, actually).

If you know of more Canadian speak please feel free to add it!

*This list is based upon findings in the Province of Ontario. I wouldn’t count on it being relevant in Quebec. They all speak French there. Not to mention British Columbia, where they all speak British.

Winter is Coming

Ha. There we go again. How’s that Weather Girls song goes? “Humidity is rising, barometer’s getting low”. Only in Toronto it doesn’t rain in the winter, is snows and freezes.

We had a fairly wet, cool summer. Now it’s fall, and it starts getting colder and colder. Last winter was very hard for me. Up to that point, the coldest temperatures I’ve ever experienced were -5c, so it’s understandable that finding myself in -15, -20 territory was a… revelation.

As a general rule, I dislike coats and sweaters and layers of clothing. I feel most natural in a t-shirt. The immense cold of the Toronto winter, including the lack of sun, has had a real effect on my mood last year, and when spring finally came, I felt as if I’ve awakened from a deep slumber.

The winter actually scares me. I remember quite well how I roamed (stupidly) around the streets last November without any head cover and lost sensation in my ears. I remember walking up Bathurst street, arriving to the streetcar stop, and trying to ask someone something, only to realize my jaw is numb and no words, only gurgles, are issuing forth from it. I remember going out on Christmas Eve and taking off my gloves and taking out my camera to snap some photos at the ice rink next city hall – and it was so cold that I couldn’t hold the camera for more than a few seconds.

It might well be I’m overly sensitive because I hail from a warm country, but it doesn’t change the fact that I suddenly feel this sudden urge to book a ticket to California and come back in March. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love the snow and all – it was the best part of the winter, although it too overstayed its welcome – but this is really going too far.

One of my great pleasures is too just walk. To walk around town and see places. And no, I haven’t yet seen everything Toronto has to offer. In the winter you just can’t do that. You hurry from one warm place to another, trying to minimize your outdoor time as much as possible. So that sucks, because you get four months where you’re an indoor prisoner. I don’t even remember where I walked or what I did last winter. It’s all a blur. To me, it was if I experienced one long snowy, frozen month. Come on, No human is meant to experience this shit. Why can’t we do like bears and hibernate?

The funny thing is Toronto got it the easiest compared to the rest of Canada. To other Canadians, we’re like a friggin’ resort town in February. It’s true what they say, that everything is relative.

There’s only one thing i can’t understand: Where do all the squirrels dissappear to for four months?

But that is for another post.

Here comes the rain again

The Hype production is hitting some snags again. The weather is the main problem now. Despite my best efforts to finish shooting all the exterior scenes by the end of September, scheduling problems have pushed the dates into October, and it’s been raining here in one form or another for almost everyday now. Mostly it’s light rain, but still, it makes you miss all those nice, warm, sunny or partly-sunny days which seem to have only been two weeks ago. Wait! They were two weeks ago!
Also, the temperature is much colder. From around 20-25 degrees Celsius in September, we’re down to 10-15 degrees.
Dates for the shoot have originally been pushed by one week because of the rain, and the forecast promises some more rain at the new dates scheduled. If I push it further, into November, most likely it will get worse, not better.

There is an option of transferring at least one of the scenes, which is a scene where our heroine gets a wedding proposal, into an interior location. But again, because that would mean finding a suitable venue for such a scene, i.e, a nice restaurant, for example, it makes it harder, not easier. It’s very hard to get a permission to shoot in a place of business when you have no money to offer them. Especially in places of business where people eat. One idea was to shoot this scene on a high roof (instead of High Park), but it’s still an exterior scene, and everyone will be much colder standing 50 feet or more above the ground.

And anyway, I feel I need to open the film a bit. I have too many scenes in enclosed places where characters sit next to each other and talk. It’s boring visually. Ever since the script- writing stage, This scene was devised as a romantic walk OUTSIDE. It was devised like that for a reason, and that reason hasn’t changed.

Rain will cause a lot of problems, beginning with the threat to equipment and ending with the fact that people will feel wet and icky. There are certain things we can do to cope with that. The camera can be covered and protected (but not the microphone, sadly), A PA can cover the actors with an umbrella right outside of frame, and the rain (and even umbrella as a prop) can even factor into the scene to make it even more romantic. Nevertheless, we’ll have severe lighting problems. The ground will be muddy. People will be cold. A thermos with a coffee might help, but we won’t be able to really eat and drink in a comfortable manner like we did when we shot the bar scene. That concerns me.

Yes, it’s a forecast, and forecasts can change. But last week’s forecast was right on the money, and anyway, you take a chance, because you won’t know for sure till the actual day arrives. So you can pray. How about that for practical solutions?!

I’m thinking of going ahead and shoot anyway mainly because I don’t see any other choice. Again, the weather in November might be worse. Another option is to just wait on those scenes till summer. Oh, my. I really wouldn’t like to do that.
The momentum of the shoot has been trashed by a month long delay. You pay a price when you employ people who work for free. You save money (and are able to use it for hard production stuff like rentals), but you lose a certain degree of commitment. This movie couldn’t have been made with a paid-up crew, though. That would’ve added hundreds of dollars to the budget.
There’s a fear. a great fear, people will lose interest in the project because of the delays. I’m starting to feel it now. The e-mail traffic has decreased. That means that people don’t care as much as they did when we first began, and I can’t blame them. I’ve sent out so many false dates I lost track of it myself. Only yesterday I got word from a location owner that the weekend I planned to shoot on and already told everyone about, is a no-go. My level of exasperation is at Defcon 4, reaching Defcon 5.

Not to mention the fucking outdoor-shooting permits I am not able to attain because the film office in Toronto seems to be under the impression that everyone who makes a film in this town has 5 trucks and 17 trailers, and therefore needs a 2 million dollar insurance policy. It’s time to change the rules. The digital age has ushered a new stream of indie filmmakers who shoot their stuff with small crews and almost no budget, whether it be a short of a feature.

Waiting for the weather to clear is tempting, but might cause a reverse effect. Procrastinations are psychologically harmful. I wish I could do a poll among my crew to see what everyone thinks. Is filmmaking a democracy? I suppose not. Is no-budget filmmaking making a democracy? Will people stand in the rain for free? Will I find another video store on time? Will ruthless park rangers throw us in the slammer, or worse, tell us to go away? Will Steven tell his parents he’s gay?

Join us next time!

The King and I

I love the books of Stephen King.

Maybe that’s not the most original literary or cultural statement out there, because, I mean, the guy has a lot of fans, and I’m sure it would’ve been much more impressive if I came here and told you that my favorite author is some unknown genius that I’ve discovered long ago and he’s my fun little secret. Well, that’s not the case here.

Because there’s no denying one simple fact: During the last 30 years, King has published 51 novels and short story collections, and I’ve read 26 of them. Now, that’s roughly half, and I’m sure there are far greater King afficionados out there than me, but the fact is that there is no other single writer of whom I’ve read so many books.

It took me some time to start reading King. As a kid, I was too frightened by his gruesome reputation, I guess… :-), but I think it was sometime in the early nineties when I picked up my first King, Gerald’s Game, one of his lesser known works but one of his most terrifying ones, and I was hooked ever since. To this day I think that Gerald’s Game is one of his best.
The Stand is an epic tale about the end of the world as we know it (Cell, one of his latest novels, a brilliant refelection on our cell-phone addicted society, reminds that classic in more ways than one). The Shining is a frightening piece about descent into madness, and It is a masterpiece about the pains and joys of childhood, with a shivers inducing twist.

Many have already said this before, but I feel I can’t write about King without saying that myself: The genius of this author is in his ability to weave the supernatural and the horrific into an everyday reality we all know and are able to identify. His stories do not take place in dark, grimy, cob webbed castles or in hunted forests, but in broad day light, usually in picturesqe American towns.
The real horror lies in the psyche, in the stuff men are able to do and dream of, in parallel realities just beyond our doorstep.
In his magnum opus,The Dark Tower, King plays the parallel reality idea to the hilt, along with countless influences ranging from Sergio Leone’s westerns to The Lord of The Rings books. It tells of a parallel world which at some point coalesces with our own and sends our heroes into an enormous quest.

The Dark Tower is super cool because it inhabits not only its own storyworld, but also many of King’s other stories, which, if you’re an avid King fan, makes for a lot of fun reading.
This series has its upside and downside. It is filled with amazing imagination and harrowing scenes (It is more Fantasy than Horror, but why pigeonhole it?), but it was not envisioned as a seven book series from the outset, meaning King basically made it all up as he went along – and sometimes it shows – But still, The Dark Tower is a wonder to behold. I wish I could make-up-as-I-go-along a story like this. 

Stephen King was in Toronto a few days ago as a guest of the Canadian Booksellers Association. The ceremony included some warm words from fellow writers Margaret Atwood and Clive Barker (who went up and spoke with such a husky voice, I wasn’t sure if it’s from cigarretes of if he just screamed all week at someone). Barker told of how Stephen King helped launch his career by calling his first short stories collection “The future of horror”. After that the both of them hugged. It was quite touching.

And then King went up for a one-on-one interview conducted by American writer Chuck Klosterman, which turned out to be poignant, informative and extremely funny. One only have to read a King book to know that the guy has a great sense of humor, but to see him on stage crack jokes is another thing entirely. After the interview was over, King recieved a life-achievment award, said a few words, and then it was over.
Here are some picturs (sorry about the blurriness…)

King gets his award…

…and the speech afterwards

Today King is probably the second most famous writer in the world (after J.K Rowling), and it was amazing to see the crowd’s enthusiasm when King entered the theatre. You could’ve thought we weren’t there to listen to an author speak of his work but to watch a rockstar doing his thing. King himself isn’t very comfortable with all of this, he admited, but he learned to accept it, and even enjoy it.

I think that a big part of Stephen King’s charm is his generosity and down-to-earth attitude. He doesn’t sit in his Ivory tower and looks down upon us mere humans, and he doesn’t carry himself with a dishonest humility. He knows he is good, but he knows that what he does is not some sort of humongous task that isn’t possible for others to tackle, and by that I don’t mean the fame but the success as a writer. One only needs to read his amazingly candid and inspiring work, On Writing – part autobiography (including the tale of his accident from 1999), part an unpretentious and extremely readable guide for the basics of writing fiction – to realize that.

It was really exciting and special to see and hear Stephen King in person. I don’t think even J.K Rolling has that – The ability to charm and entertain an audience to such a degree. In spite of what King says, I think he has some performer genes in him. He’s very good at it.

During the interview, he said that he’s not writing horror, but books. The reason his books are in the Horror section is “they need to be arranged alphabetically somewhere”. I think there is some truth in it, but I also think that Stephen King has managed to tap the the human psyche in a way that few authors – or artists for that matter – has been able to do. His characters, even the minor ones, carry within them a psychological whirlpool of amazing versatility, including pop-references galore. When he’s at his best, Stephen King forces us to peel our eyes, forget about all the bullshit which dominates our world – both our inner world and our outer world – and through his characters, makes us peer into our souls and seek out the truth. And although the truth is sometimes unpleasent and usually scary, it can also be liberating.

Summer in Toronto

The post below this one belongs to my favorite genre of posts, the Self-Pity Post. Isn’t it fun to read those? Well, fuck it. I felt frustrated and needed to get it out. But hey, let’s try to be a little more positive, or at least more cheerful, shall we?

It’s summer in Toronto, and I have nothing to wear. That is probably the gayest thing I have ever written. No, really, I left all my summer wardrobe in Israel because the suitcase was packed full of sweaters and large, bulky winter shirts, not to mention that stupid 400 shekels suede jacket I bought as if I was planning to go to movie premiers every week-

Oh, I’m doing it again. Ok, I’ll try to be positive. Think… concentrate… smile… alright, take two:

It’s summer in Toronto. and I’m buying summer shirts. For some reason, I found myself with three striped shirts. Someone told me that stripes make me look wider. So now I have three striped shirts. How about some variety, ah? Just call me Merril Stripe. So I went and bought a shirt that says “Kiss me, I’m Irish”.
Alright, I give up, I have no sense of fashion whatsoever. It’s hopeless. I might as well-

Arrr! I’m doing it again. I have to be more positive. Enough with these boring rants already!
Ok, here we go. Concentrate, breath deep…

It’s summer in Toronto. And it’s so fucking hot sometimes…
Ohhhhhh! 

It’s Summer in Toronto. People are chirping, birds are smiling, and the squirrels are running to and fro, carefree and happy. It’s a strange weather, dry but pleasent, but they say that it gets pretty sticky around August-
Alright! I give up! I mean, I’m talking about the weather here, people. What can be more BORING than the weather?!

Can we talk about something else please?

It’s summer.

In Toronto. 

I’m hopeless, aren’t I? 

Adverse effects on the apartment seeker

Exhaustion. Here’s what it does to you:

1. Last week, I was supposed to start my training at work on Monday. I came on Tuesday. Apparently, I read the diagram of the training plan from left to right instead of from top to bottom.

2. During the the past several weeks (including New York), I have walked 254, 870 miles in total. If you were to put all my travelling in one straight line, it would circle Earth 1.8 times (give or take a mile). As a result, I’ve developed foot pain and today I’ve officially started limping. Those Caterpillar shoes sure has their work cut out for them. Lucky I didn’t get cheap ones!

3. I went to see an apartment. I walked a lot to get to it. I waited on the stairs for half an hour. I thought we made an appointment for Tuesday. Apparently, it was for Thursday. Who decided how to name all these days, anyway?

4. While passing the time towards the meeting-that-was-for-thursday, I went to eat hamburger and fries. I sprinkled salt on it.

It was sugar.

5. At work, I tried to send an e-mail a couple of times and just couldn’t do it. The address book kept popping up. I called someone to help me find what’s wrong.

Note to self: Next time, click on “Send”, not on “To”.

6. I went to see another address. It was at no. 462. the street was very long. The sun was very hot. My mouth was dry and my feet hurt like hell. I stood near no. 100 and had no intention of getting to no. 462 by foot, so I stopped a cab. when we got there we discovered an empty lot. I phoned the guy and asked him what’s the deal. where’s the house?

The house was at no. 146. I took the cab back and stopped one hundred meters from where I first took it. I paid seven dollars to drive up the street and back again, or in other words, I paid seven dollars to advance one hundred meters.

And that’s very symbolic, you know.

Crazy White Male

Do you think that finding an apartment in Toronto should be so hard? so FUCKING hard?

Is it me? Yeah, it’s probably me. I’m too spoiled, too touchy, too finicky. Call it what you want. But I know myself, and I know that I won’t be willing to pay a lot of money for a place I don’t like.

Or is the universe? Is it some sort of conspiracy, that at the exact time that I’m looking for a place there seem to be such lame offerings?

It’s probably both. Either way, I think I’m going crazy. My life has turned into a fucking apartment-hunting never-ending nightmare. I’m hopping the subway, busses and streetcars and goes all over this enormous, maddening city in search of a place, but at the end of each day I feel empty, like I’ve wasted mine and everyone else’s time because I really don’t know what I want.

So what is it that I want? Let’s see.

I like being alone from time to time, but not all the time. After two years by myself in a one room apartment I know what it feels like. It suffocates you. So essentially, I’m looking for roommates, but I found it to be extremely hard. I don’t really have much experience with roommates, I only did it once. Anyway, what I realized is that I don’t want to live with roommates to pay a cheaper rent, I want roommates for the company. But problem is that most of the places I saw are houses where every tenant basically stays in his room. these people probably do it to save money. But if I’ll stay in my room all day and just go down to the kitchen once in a while and MAYBE meet someone there, then what’s the point?

And actually, it seems that everyone likes it that way. A place where everyone has different schedules is considered to be ideal. Some ads boast that “you hardly see your roommates”, as if it’s something very positive.

Well, again, the whole idea of roommates, to me – especially considering that I don’t know anyone around here – is to meet new people and not be alone, but if not seeing your roommates and stay in your room is considered a merit, then maybe I’m looking in the wrong place. Maybe apartment seeking isn’t the best way to find new friends. And maybe I’ve watched too many episodes of FRIENDS.

Then there’s the other option, that of living alone. Frankly, I’m torn. There’s nothing like having your own place. Nobody bothers you, you can use the bathroom whenever you want, listen to music, and most especially, watch movies until the wee hours of the night. You are the Lord of your Manor. after all, I’m 33. Maybe I’m too old for this roommates thing.
But the upside is the also downside. You’re alone. Yeah, I can get out (that’s why it’s important for me to find an apartment in an area with cinemas, bars, restaurants, and not a residential neighborhood for families with cars), I can find stuff to do, but every once in a while, I’m going to feel that loneliness, feel that I want to talk to someone, face to face. Hell, sometimes just hearing somebody else in the house (considering it’s not a burglar, of course) can alleviate feelings of loneliness.
And anyway, it’s nice to come home and have someone to talk to. The same someone who locks himself in the bathroom each morning for half an hour, or goes to sleep at 10 pm.

As always, I see the two sides of the coin and find it hard to decide. Indecisiveness is probably my biggest fault, a curse that makes my life pretty miserable, and what’s worse, I feel that it makes the people around me, if not miserable, then very annoyed.

Case in point could be the girl I called to say I’ll take the room in her apartment only too meet with her and discover that we’re not a good fit at all. She wanted to kill me at that moment. I saw it in her eyes. But I made that decision because I was tired of the apartment-hunting and wanted it to end. It was a mistake. Too bad my indecisiveness wasted her time and mine, and made her annoyed. I felt really horrible after that, and really hated myself for my foolishness. I still do.

There are many other factors, like price, area, proximity to the subway, length of lease. At first, I didn’t really know what I wanted. Now I have a better idea, but I’m not quite sure. I’m really all over the place with that one, and that’s no good, but I can’t help it. The inability to focus is my second great vice. Inability to focus and indecisiveness lead to lack of confidence, and that usually leads to writing long winded posts where you try to collect your thoughts together while wondering who will stay to read the whole thing.

So where was I? Oh, yeah, the apartment thing. I’m probably the worst kind of person you could send to look for apartments, yet this is the fifth time I’ve been doing it in the last seven years(!).

Maybe I should’ve been a real estate agent.