A good view, even from well inside

This is another coffice space review. You can listen to the audio version on Patreon.

On the north side of Queen Street a block east of the Don River is a busy branch of a popular local chain of coffee joints.

Don’t go in there. Go in the coffee joint facing it on the south side. The window says it’s The Cannonball Coffee and Bar. Their wifi and Foursquare and Google Maps say it’s F’Coffee. Whatever. The place across the street may call itself Dark Horse but this is the real dark horse around here. Continue reading

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Time to work.

Listen to me read this if you prefer.

It’s like 30 degrees Celsius (that’s 89 Fart-and-hide for you Americans) and it’s soaking humid and the cleansing torrents of thunderstorms seem to be bypassing Hogtown on the north (waves hi to all the drenched 905ers), so I’m sitting outside this arvo, perched at a wobbly boulevard table on the brick sea of the Distillery District. All the passing traffic is on foot or bike or Segway. The guy at the next table has his phone on a gimbal and is taking 360-degree video shots of his female companion as she reads a book.

Sitting outside to work on a hot day may seem like an odd thing to do when I could be inside where it’s air conditioned, but it’s not air conditioned inside this coffice space, so the main difference is that the air is moving faster out here. Also I’m hearing the quadrophonic chirps of urban birds rather than the occasional grinding of the coffee crusher and the quiet mellow music on the speakers. And I’m still in the shade. And once that rain I thought would miss us comes anyway, I can go inside and that quiet mellow music will keep me working. That plus caffeine Continue reading


A summer of young childhood is an entire life preserved in a magical crystal that you can look back into. You hold up different facets and see moments, places, stories. To a child everything seems timeless and famous and momentous and legendary, and that’s because it is. Adults walk in a faded blue world where all the strings are connected at the ends, a world that is endless sums of numbers that always add up the same and if they don’t you know you’re missing something, a world where even the most foreign places are on the same surface as you and can be reached by taking an ordinary trip in a well-known vehicle with everyday dirt on it. For a young child, even a door to the next room may be a portal to the golden kingdom you were sent from as an infant; nothing needs to be the same twice, and logic is just the cleverest trick. When your adult self looks back into the crystal, it all glows transparent gold, and you are famous to yourself, a glittering dragonfly darting and hovering.

I spent a few of my youngest years in Exshaw, a village at the mouth of the mountains in Alberta. Across the valley was a mountain with a large heart on the top, and another mountain that looked like the grade four teacher’s nose. On our side was Exshaw Mountain, gradually being blasted flat by the cement plant, and Cougar Mountain, a big bristly hump that of course we were afraid to go too far up because of cougars. On a summer day my brother and I, and perhaps another kid such as Tommy Lewis or Ricky Korzeniewski (both friends of my brother), might go exploring. We could visit the Candy Man: just one of us, never me, would go up and knock on the door of a small old house at the end of a street as it gave up against Cougar Mountain, and he would hand over a candy bar for each of us. My brother once offered to give me five bucks if I would hop on his back and let him throw me off, and, after I had let him toss me five times as from a horse, he informed me that I had just gotten five bucks. (He bucked me five times, if that needs explanation.) And sometimes we would go to Dragonfly. Continue reading


Cuneiform is kind of a wedge issue.

OK, ha ha, you see what I did there. Cuneiform means ‘wedge-shaped’, from Latin cuneus ‘wedge’ plus form. But really, cuneiform was a wedge – one that slowly divided things that had been connected, but also one that slowly worked its way in, like a foot in the door.

I’ll give you an analogy. It won’t be exact, but you’ll get the idea. Continue reading

The Only Café

The view from my “desk”

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If you’re the sort of person who always checks the backs of wardrobes, behind the old coats, in the hope of finding a door to another time and place, The Only Café is the one for you. Maybe the only one.

Scene: A disgusting day in February. I’ve just had lunch with friends and am looking for a place to go sit and work on a white paper for a company that makes a mental health app. The first bus that comes along goes to Donlands Station, a part of the Danforth I almost never get to. I get off and look for a coffee place. There’s one by the station but it’s small and not good for three hours of sitting working. I go around the corner and, a few addresses down, find a doorway to a kind of place I used to hang out in 20 years ago. A place that even then would make you wonder when the last time they redecorated was. Continue reading

Pronunciation tip: Toronto places

Toronto’s street grid looks on a map like it was set in place by people who had competing ideas about how it should go. But Toronto’s street names– and some other place names – often seem to have been set down by people who had competing ideas about what letters should stand for, and what letters could be silent. I decided to do a streetcar trip west from my neighbourhood to show you a few Toronto names that are apparently there to trip up visitors: