Friday, November 28, 2008

Frugality Index: Toronto Life Versus New York Magazine

New York, a city of plutocrats, trust-fund kids and $1-million studio apartments. A city where billionaires hire millionaries to be their butlers and servants, and where money, until recently, splashed about like tap water.

Toronto is certainly no stranger to wealthy enclaves, but $1-million will still get you a whole damn house and our plutocrat population can be counted on one hand, with several leftover fingers. Thus, a penny-pinching contest between these two cities would appear to be a no-brainer. The problem, until recently, was proving it.

Good news. The cover of the November 10, 2008 issue of (New York Magazine) ($3.99 at newsstand) promises “Live Well, Spend Less” while the November 2008 cover of (Toronto Life) ($4.95 at newsstand) features a guide entitled “Look Rich (Even If You Feel Poor).” Prepare yourself for some cheap thrills as we compare salient economic benchmarks from these two publications.

Toronto Life: For short-term auto jollies, head to ASG Exotic and Luxury car rentals, where rocket-ready six-speed Porsche 911 Carreras ($550) await open roads. For longer-term indulgences, The Private Collection allows for fractional ownership at an annual cost of $31,000, plus $5,000 initiation fee. That nabs 40 to 60 driving days, depending on dates and models; rides include a 007-worthy Aston Martin DB9 and a Lamborghini Gallardo— a car that begs for endless laps of Yorkville, subtly broadcasting “I’m a human penis!” to the world.

New York Magazine: Okay, a taxi is (sometimes) faster, (sometimes) cleaner, and (sometimes) safer than the subway, but a cab is never more economical. If you commute to work from the Upper West Side to midtown, say, you’ll spend around $12 each way (including tip) or $24 per day. Multiply that by 250 or so work days a year, and your annual transportation outlay—without a single weekend ride—comes to $6,000. At $2 per ride twice a day, the subway will set you back just $4 per day, or $1,000 per year. That’s a $5,000 savings. The next time you’re tempted to hop a cab, try whispering this to yourself: Prosperity now.

Toronto Life: If the old boys from UCC don’t like the cut of your jib, stick it to them by commanding the waters in a skippered yacht. Cruise the harbour, islands and shores of Lake Ontario in the Teddy Graham, a 38-foot Hunter sailing yacht from Sailing for You (packages from $450), complete with skipper, drinks, meals, beds, and an interior so rich in teak, it would make a Danish furniture designer jealous.

New York Magazine: Take the free water taxi to the Red Hook Ikea.
And then skip Ikea. Hang out on the esplanade for an hour or two, then water-taxi back.

Toronto Life: A full-time cook may not be in the cards in the near (or far) future, but inner gourmets can be at least temporarily satisfied with a private meal by a famous chef. Even busy Marc Thuet has been known to make house calls, with cooking utensils and organic ingredients in tow ($60–$200 per person). Thuet loves to create exotic tasting menus using rare and seasonal ingredients—think white Alba truffles and wild game tastings of Scottish grouse and mallard duck—but he’ll just as happily prepare a meal for Thanksgiving celebrations, or some freshly caught Nova Scotia lobster for a homesick East Coast transplant.

New York Magazine: Steak for Two 
For many red-meat aficionados, an $85 Peter Luger porterhouse for two can’t be beat. Call it apples to oranges, but we’ll take the General Greene ’s (229 Dekalb Ave., nr. Clermont Ave., Ft. Greene; 718-225-1510) remarkably beefy Niman Ranch flap steak (a seldom seen but up-and-coming cut) any day. In fact, at $12 apiece, we’ll take two.

Toronto Life: Canoe—140 seats, regional Canadian cuisine, dazzling 54th-floor views and similarly lofty menu prices—can be had for a mere $14,000 minimum tab on Saturday (Sunday is half-price, $7,000; a private sommelier is extra). While the elegant, modern space isn’t exactly shabby, guests often customize it: for a wedding, antique bird cages were filled with cupcakes; another affair featured million-dollar diamond displays and accompanying armed guards. Go-for-broke guests even bring in their own entertainment, including Celtic dancers and Chinese dragon dancers.

New York Magazine: Regular Slice. 
New York’s favorite slice now goes for the eyebrow-raising price of $4. But that slice, found at the Midwood pizza mecca Di Fara, is meticulously hand-formed, and distinguished by a contrapuntal cheese medley. A plain old slice at 99¢ Fresh Pizza (151 E. 43rd St., nr. Third Ave.; 212-922-0257) makes a quick and satisfying lunch, if not exactly a life-altering gastronomic experience. With tax, it’s $1.07.

Toronto Life: Mobile Spa Toronto specializes in primping parties, from stagettes to teen birthdays. À la carte house call services include waxing ($15–$60), makeup application ($60), mani-pedi ($60), therapeutic massage ($100) and facials ($75). There’s a minimum in-home charge of $120 for an aesthetician and $100 for a registered massage therapist with at least two spa professionals booked per visit. Hygiene freaks, take note: all implements—scissors, tweezers, files—are individually wrapped and opened in front of you.

New York Magazine: Paint Your Own Damn Nails. A mani-pedi may seem like a quick, cheap form of pampering, but a biweekly treatment at Rescue Beauty Lounge, say, will set you back $2,080 annually. Owner and author Ji Baek graciously offers tips for stay-at-home beautifiers.

Toronto Life: Marco Enterprises co-founders Deborah Zwicker and Marlee Novak have been in the luxury property management biz for 10 years and manage more than 80 ogle-worthy mansions across the city, stocked with such Entourage essentials as indoor pools, tennis courts and private movie theatres. Clients tend toward the famous and fabulous (Bono, Hilary Swank and John Travolta have stayed in furnished homes on such stylish streets as the Bridle Path, Roxborough and Hazelton), but a Hollywood pedigree is not required—just an ability to afford the $10,000 to $50,000 monthly payments. One month minimum rental. 416-410-4123,

New York Magazine: Whittle Down Your Mortgage. Nicole and Anthony (who asked us not to use their full names) live on the Upper West Side in a two-bedroom they bought for under $800,000 in 2003. They want to lower their monthly nut, and Melissa Cohn, of the Manhattan Mortgage Company, offered her advice.

Toronto Life: It’s tough to hold a fabulous dinner party when the guests outnumber the chairs. For a Versailles-in-the-Don-Valley feel, Kennedy Galleries offers a suitably opulent selection of traditional furnishings ($200 a week and up). For parties more P. Diddy than King Louis, Contemporary Furniture Rentals has a dizzying array of modern chairs, including Philippe Starck’s translucent Ghost chair (call for prices).

New York Magazine: Restoring a Dresser.
All Furniture Services.
They’ll send a workman to your home to restore your beat-up chest of drawers for $145 to $275—and they’ll try to do it with nontoxic chemicals so you don’t have to air it out afterward.

When Bear Markets Attack

* America's Panic Attack
* The Joke's on US
* Invisible Hand-Wringing
* Capitalism on the Ledge
* The Economy on the Couch
* Future Shock & Awe
* Hitting the Wall And Falling on the Street.
* America Sucks Right Now
* US: Out of Order

(Suggested names for ongoing cable news coverage of economic disaster).

The Conversation of Strangers On a Train

I was going through a notebook today and found this snippet of dialogue I had written down while on the train between Montreal and Toronto this summer. The following is courtesy of a retired couple sitting a few seats ahead of me. They were watching No Country For Old Men on a portable DVD player.

Her: I think it’s over.
Him: How could it end like that?
Him: But it was a great show.
[clicks something]
Him: 122 minutes. Huh.
Him: That guy was strange though, eh?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Pyper at the Gates of Don Valley

I don’t have many scintillating comments about Andrew Pyper’s recent book The Killing Circle (which is mostly set in Toronto), but damn if I’m going to let a pun that great go to waste.

Art and Commerce Redux

Forgot to post this awhile ago, finally did, but now it's buried in the October section of my blog. It's about a Toronto Life article being integrated into an Audi ad: (Really?).

Two Quotes For The Next Time You Walk Ossington, South of Dundas

There must be a rate at which one forgets, and as long as a city changes at that rate or a slower one, change registers but it doesn’t disorient, for there are sufficient points of orientation and triggers of recollection. […] Every city changes, and walking through a slowly changing city is like walking through an organic landscape during various seasons; leaves and even trees fall, birds migrate, but the forest stands: familiarity anchors the changes. But if the pace of change accelerates, a disjuncture between memory and actuality arises and one moves through a city of phantoms, of the disappeared, a city that is lonely and disorienting.
-- Rebecca Solnit, Hollow City

No matter how long you have been here, you are a New Yorker the first time you say, That used to be Munsey’s, or That used to be the Tic Toc Lounge. That before the internet café plugged itself in, you got your shoes resoled in the mom-and-pop operation that used to be there. You are a New Yorker when what was there before is more real and solid than what is here now.
-- Colson Whitehead, The Colossus of New York

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I Predict Gil

Last year I predicted Lullabies would win, but I failed to put it on my blog. This year, not going to make that mistake. I predict:

"Actor Nicholas Campbell defending The Outlander by Gil Adamson."

(Canada Reads 2009).

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Meh Hits the Big Time

(Meh hits the big time, 2008).

(Meh is tapped as the next big thing, 2007).

(In a press release from yesterday, Meh was quoted as saying, "Meh.")

She Used a Real Life Lawyer, However

Last year, Ms. Taylor suspected her husband's avatar was cheating and hired a Second Life private detective to catch him in the act.
-- from the Globe and Mail, November 14, 2008 (link).

How is "Second Life private detective" not the best phrase ever? Can you imagine a noir/pulp detective novel based around such a person? That would be amazing.

As of Last Wednesday, That Is Incorrect

The Lakeview Lunch, an institution at Dundas and Ossington best known for its milkshakes (although not for much else, in recent years), was put up for lease in August. It recently re-opened under new ownership.
-- Eye Weekly article on diners, November 13, 2008 (link).

The Lakeview is not open yet. It certainly wasn't on Friday (four days ago).

Eye regrets the error.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Izzy the Zombie

There had to have been a more subtle method of disparaging the competition than turning Izzy into the undead.

Brains! Brains!

Monday, November 03, 2008

My Advice Is Not To Screw Up Like This Again

November 2, 2008 NYTmagazine:

Minutes before my first lunch date with a man I met online, he called to cancel because he was hit by a bicycle and was in the emergency room at Roosevelt Hospital. I later called the E.R. to check on him, and a nurse said he was never there. Weeks after that, I heard about another woman with whom he used the same excuse: hit by a bike; in the E.R. Is it dater beware, or is there an obligation to be honest even online? — BETH ROSE FEUERSTEIN, LONG BEACH, N.Y.

While there is scant expectation of integrity in online dating (six feet tall? 35 years old? full head of hair?), the obligation of honesty persists even at JDate or As does the duty not to be a goofball: can this guy not simply cancel? Must he concoct so baroque a lie — one so easily exploded? Has he no professional pride?

From my narrow, crackpot’s point of view (my favorite), the real harm here is not to you but to the many tens of thousands of New York City cyclists. This fellow promulgates the canard of the pedestrian-threatening bicycle. Average number of pedestrian deaths attributable to cyclists each year here? About one. (There were 11 between 1996 and 2005.) Yet in 2006 alone, cars killed 156 pedestrians (and 17 bicyclists) in New York City and injured more than 10,000 pedestrians (and more than 2,800 bicyclists) badly enough to be hospitalized.

The still greater tragedy? Some of the dead and wounded might have been men you could date, gents who would not invent ludicrous excuses but would stand you up honestly.

September 28, 2008, New York Times Sunday Styles (SOCIAL Q’S)

Five minutes before my first meeting with a man I had met on a dating Web site, he called to say that he couldn’t keep our date — he had just been hit by a bicycle and had landed in the emergency room. Something sounded off, so I called the hospital and was told that no such person was there. When I called him back, he insisted he was.

Several weeks later, I spoke with a woman who also had a date with this man, and he canceled — claiming he had just been hit by a bicycle. When I confronted him, he insisted that bike accidents aren’t so unusual. How would you handle this?

B.R.F., Long Beach, N.Y.

Poetic justice probably requires that you and your friend track down a bicycle-built-for-two and show your online Casanova what the inside of an emergency room really looks like.

But I have an even better idea: Stop communicating with him. This guy is a creep and a liar, probably married, and even worse, using seriously outdated pictures of himself in his online profile. Nothing good will come from continued engagement with him.

Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a perfect delivery system of eligible men and women. And what the online world offers in terms of increased volume and speed, it tends to subtract with its profusion of cads and game-players. Next time you find one, simply report him to the site’s complaint desk, and move along to the next guy.

I know it’s frustrating when you think you’ve met someone promising, but rehabilitating online frauds is not your job, and hoping that you will, through protracted interaction, will only lead to apoplectic seizures.

For my money, the Ethicist is a much better writer. And here, of course, the difference in quality is clear, given the same question.

Update: I caught this error on my very own, using something called my memory box, located in my brain. However, I just checked and Gawker did indeed beat me to this story: (link). That's what happens when you read the Sunday NYT across multiple days.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Klute Kuote

Fonda: Well, tell me Klute, did we get you a little, huh? Just a little bit, us city folk? The sin, the glitter, the wickedness? Huh?

Klute: Ahhh – that’s so pathetic.

One Post, Two Links

Wishing Toronto had a Gawker: (link).

Here's why not: (link).