Shhhhhh! Grumbels has seating!

One of the nice things about having a blog with few (but excellent) readers is that I can share finds without overpublicizing them. Away in the back of the Grumbels German deli and baked goods store, you can have a nice cup of coffee at one of a few cozy, lamp-lit tables, surrounded by curiosities.


From the outside, and even the deli counter inside, you might completely miss the dark little cubbyholes at the back. Frantzy (spelling?) the proprietor says she has “many intellectuals” as regulars … doctors, psychologists … and quiet pensioners, too, who come in when cheques arrive and the luxury of coffee with some nice baked goods are possible. Rowdies are not welcome.

I was delighted with the place and will return with Danica soon. There are far too many old photos, bits of kitsch, antiques and marvels to describe. And this is only part of what once was! Grumbels has a long history in the East End, having moved up from Queen East some 17 years ago. The Queen store was much larger and only part of the collection could fit into the Main and Danforth place.

Here’s a link for location and more information. Google searches will reveal more stories, but many of the entries misspell the name as “Grumble’s”.  Can’t resist showing you a bit more of the atmosphere …


In the words of JRC

On a Photograph Taken by Bill Andersen
by John Robert Colombo

The photograph features the escalator of the Glencairn Subway Station in North York. The skylight overhead illuminates it, but the day was grey so there was no heavenly illumination here, no pillars of light, no sunbursts now.


The scene reminds me of sequences from Fritz Lang’s film Metropolis [Watch it here.] with its futuristic cityscape and its regimentation of the human spirit. The future is already here, science-fiction writer William Gibson noted some years ago, adding that as yet it is not evenly distributed.

Here is the beach-head of our future, our years ahead in miniature in a subway station set in an out-of-the-way part of our present-day world: mechanical, moving, working, streamlined, art deco, brutalist, sterile, impersonal, people-less, yet in a unique and inhuman way memorable, as caught in this image.


Thank you for your email message, John, and for your remembering of a photo I took 3 years ago! Do you think any other film has had as much influence on cinema, photography and video … ALL of the visual arts … as Lang’s Metropolis? I know Metropolis has been mined over and over again by art directors in the advertising game.

UPDATE: Rita Letendre commissioned to reinterpret Glencairn Station art

New work to be completed by 2017 ← (PDF with illustrations)
Glencairn Station’s brutalist architecture certainly fits Lang’s vision. According to Wikipedia, “Glencairn formerly featured a multi colour stained glass skylight entitled Joy designed by Rita Letendre, which was removed at the artist’s request after it became faded, and replaced with clear glass.”

JOY! I love it. What’s going on here? Warring visions? The grim architecture of Adamson Associates being humanized by the uplifting colours of a renowned Canadian artist? Or has the artist being hired to add a touch of Orwellian “Newspeak“? What’s your take?


Guild Inn gets new life soon

This is good news. The old building has been decaying for years, but restoration is in the plans and work starts in a couple of months.

Danica and I first discovered the Sunday brunch at the Guild Inn back in the 1980s. It was terrific. White table cloths and a lovely buffet that included roast beef sliced just the way you wanted. The gardens out back were even more beautiful than they are today, because they came right up to the back patio.

Set near Scarborough’s bluffs, there is a spectacular lake view from the foot of the gardens. The buildings have suffered neglect, but the gardens have been maintained. Wedding parties go there for photos, especially because the grounds are studded with old architectural features rescued from demolitions in Toronto. Pieces that were too nice to toss have a home there.

It would be great if they brought back the Sunday brunch, wouldn’t it?

Here is a rerun of a visit we made with Kathleen (who lives almost next door). We had gone to see an outdoor play that was delayed until evening, so Kathleen and Danica put on their own show. They had no music. I added that later.

Another photographer steps in

Ali Mir is Mary Dykstra’s husband. (Did I get the link right, Ali?) He was recording the art opening (post below) with a large-lensed, serious camera and noticed me snapping away with my little point-and-shoot. Very kindly, he took shots of me and Danica posing alongside Jeremiah Hill. He sent the shot in this morning’s email.


Thank you, Ali! And thank you for the good news … more than half of Mary Dykstra’s paintings sold on opening night. They will still be on view at the Flying Pony until the 28th.

Mary Dykstra’s vernissage

Vernissage? See post below.

Danica and I headed over to the Flying Pony early to see Mary Dykstra’s new show of paintings that will be hanging until the 28th. Andrew Horne introduced us to the artist and she shared some of the background leading up to her imaginative evocations of remembered stories.

Danica and Mary Dykstra pose with acrylic paintings on panel.

I always feel hesitant about photographing people in public places and artists’ works, with all the anxiety over privacy and copyright. The slides aren’t intended to give you a proper look at the works themselves … better to visit Mary Dykstra’s website for that. My pictures just offer a look around the Flying Pony, where fresh-baked goodies were served and Jeremiah Hill sang to appreciative listeners. He has a very pleasant, unaffected style.

Andrew Horne’s gallery café provides a relaxed, accessible place for many artists to show, but he’s having none of the sterile, white wall, nothing-but-the-art approach. His growing display of curiosities always gets my attention, so I threw some of them in, for atmosphere.

I enjoyed my response to Dykstra’s work. I hope she sells a lot of them, and she should. They are very reasonably priced in the hundreds of dollars and they will fit comfortably on small wall spaces in downtown houses and condos. Parents might create lifelong memories for their kids, if they let them grow up with one of the paintings.

You don’t stand back to look at Dykstra’s imaginary rooms and landscapes, you enter into them, picking out characters … the organ grinder, the little Dutch girl, Wonder Woman … you find whales splashing in canals and windmills on fire. Dykstra’s heritage is Dutch and she is realizing memories of stories her grandparents told her as a little girl.

The neat thing is, there’s no tight story line. You can make up your own story, and you could keep inventing variations forever. There is a nostalgic feel to many of the images … a 1940s car, for example. Some figures appear in multiple paintings.

Dykstra moves around from dark pictures to lighter ones, but she has a solid, gem-like rendering style that’s quite consistent. Some of the pieces reminded me of enamel work, vivid and shiny. Her imagery is easily recognizable, but not photo realistic.

My favourite piece is the one chosen for the show’s poster… the one with the flying clown head spewing flames. Not only are the colours bright, we get an aerial point of view of a little town, a circus parade on the street below, kids floating in the air. It’s quite an ambitious composition and very engaging.

Coffeemaker research results

Bill Byres set us on the right path by saying his Walmart Sunbeam model made a perfectly fine cup of coffee without the ridiculous expense of trendier brands.

Model # 3335-33: Sunbeam 8-cup programmable thermal carafe coffeemaker

There are many makes and models, even within the Sunbeam line. There are retailer prices to compare, features to analyze, consumer reviews to read. Danica knows how central coffee is to my existence and she was willing to do the research so I’d be happy.

Naturally, there had to be comparisons with other brands and models, too, but the Sunbeam came through. It’s smaller than the 10-year-old Bunn that had started to leak, so that’s a plus. Saves counter space. It’s a paper filter coffeemaker, as was the Bunn, and (bonus) our supply of filters fits. It takes whatever coffee we choose, rather than locking us into those disposable cups that go to the landfill.

I like a thermal carafe to keep coffee warm, rather than a hot plate which eventually turns a brew into something that tastes like varnish. The Sunbeam carafe works better than the old Bunn did, keeping coffee drinkably hot for hours.

The programmable part is something we could have done without, but it comes with the model. The unit makes good coffee, is easy to use and clean up. Fifty bucks on sale. I’ll bet it lasts for years. Happy! Thanks Danica and Bill.

Scoring shwarmas at Al Premium

Brian and I give them a very high rating and we have reasons. I speak for the beef today, because I bought chicken last time. Brian wanted to try the new falafel model. Falafel left, beef right. One bite gone, to show inside.


First, of course, is taste. Definite winners, both, on that count. They also win on price. $8.99 for 2. Amazing! Healthy choices? You should see the variety of veggies that are piled into the pita pockets. They have got to be good for you.

What we especially like about the Al Premium shwarmas, we agreed, is the way they are put together, wrapped and then heat-sealed in a little oven. Shwarmas are sometimes a drippy mess to eat, with the wrapper getting soggy and falling apart. Not these. They are a nice size, not too huge, but big enough to satisfy. They are moist but not soaking and the way they are seared shut really works. They are easy and pleasant to enjoy.

Awwww, too bad


Nothing compares with a cruise through the aisles of Active Surplus. Follow the link and see what I mean. If you have any love of hardware stores, curiosity shops, crazy bargains, project supplies or electronic bits and bobs, you’ll understand my sense of loss.

There’s still the Active Surplus on Steeles, but we need one closer. Word is that a new location is being sought. How about Lower Gerrard? Rents are still reasonable and the street is becoming a destination, like Queen West used to be. I’ll send an email message.