Monthly Archives: July 2018


“Stunning but nondescript.”

That’s how, fifteen years ago, Aina summed up several hours of Icelandic scenery along the road from Reykjavík to Akureyri: incessant mountains and dales and hills and valleys and nary a tree in sight, every bit of it scraped from the primeval earth by the palette knife of a beardless flat-haired Bob Ross. For the first hour or two you are in awe. Eventually you are still in awe but also in “aw, come on.” It is all breathtaking but there is nothing that makes any particular bit of it stand out. It is not really descript. Continue reading


You’ll have to come see the baristas for yourself.

This is a coffice space review. Listen to the audio version on Patreon.

Two things keep me coming back to Fahrenheit every week or so: Continue reading

Pronunciation tip: Toronto places 2

I had so much fun last week doing my trip west across Toronto that I decided to walk north on Yonge Street this time and help you with some more street names that you might be unsure about:


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


I have my farlages.

I would like to think most of us do. Every so often we reach into the pockets or purses of our memories, pull one out, unwrap a corner, nibble on their half-stale sweetness, enjoy it for a few moments, rewrap it, and put it back.

I think of A—, who I helped study for a test, sitting facing her in her room, class notes spread on the bed between us. I told her the questions I thought would probably be on the test and what the answers would be to those. I had actually been to all the lectures; she was very smart but very busy. She was taking extra courses and rehearsing and performing in plays. When we sat down for the test the next day, she looked at it and, with her bright lips and braced teeth and surprised mascara, she gave me a jaw-dropped glance: I had nailed it. She got an A– on the test without having read any of the texts. I wrapped that look and put it in my pocket.

I think of R—, who I had taken a class with once and, a few months later, encountered in a theatre lobby while I was with my girlfriend of the time. R— and I chatted briefly and she moved on, but my girlfriend simply observed, “She likes you.” I was surprised, but I stopped and thought for a moment about the conversation, the look in her poster-girl eyes and her glossy half-smile. I wrapped them and put them in my pocket.

I think of – what was her name? I can’t even remember now. I’ll call her J—. We were in a drawing class together. She had a blonde bob and a lean and very smart face. On the last day the professor and the rest of us went to a cafeteria on campus and sat and drank tea and talked, and somehow I was sitting across from her in conversation. And somehow we kept locking eyes, each daring the other to look away first, neither acknowledging in any other way that we were doing that. As we were all finally getting up and going our separate ways, she accidentally said “Goodnight” instead of “Goodbye” to me although it was only a late afternoon in April. I wrapped those devious stares and put them in my pocket.

I didn’t take any more art classes, as it happens, and I might have seen J— half a block away on campus once, but I might not have. I never saw R— again, though I can see her eyes now in my mind. After the end of the semester, A— graduated and I have never had evidence of her again on this earth.

You could tell me these were all missed connections, and I could tell you that rain falls down and is wet when it lands on you, if we’re going to exchange obviousnesses. Of course I should have done something to stay in touch. If you’ve never had a paralyzing anxiety that prevents you from making an obvious social move, I don’t want your lectures, and if you have had one, you won’t be lecturing me anyway. But these memories are not burdens for me now. I’m happy. The missed connections are losses in their way, but the pocketed glances are all gains, gifts that I didn’t ask for or expect, each telling me in its little way that I had less to worry about than I felt. All three of them, and all the other givers of all the other farlages I have, have moved on in life and are no doubt doing well, as I am. That just makes the taste of the farlage sweeter.

Farlage was once defined – by at least one old author – as a wrapped piece of cake from the wedding of someone you were secretly in love with. More generally you could think of it as a treasured moment from an impossible – or at least unattained – emotional connection. But the cake is the clue.

A farlage was, before all the figurative talk, a share of cake or biscuit wrapped and kept in your pocket for a snack. It probably comes from farl, a small flour or oatmeal cake, from fardel, not the ‘burden’ sense known in Hamlet’s most famous soliloquy (although you could toss in a bit of that for measure if you must) but a sense meaning ‘fourth’ as in ‘quarter’ and referring to a quarter of a thin cake. I can’t help but think that another farl, a variant of furl, might help account for how it’s rolled up in the pocket.

I can’t help but think it because I decided it. I decided all of this. All these old farls are real, but farlage is in no dictionary and was not written until last night, when I saw its letters in a Scrabble rack and decided to make a lexical replicant of them. But the thing I have decided to name with farlage is real. As are the memories. And now you will always be able to come back to this new old word.


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”

Listen to me read this coffice space article to you for free on Patreon. Then subscribe so I can keep doing it!

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: