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Grocery Store Apocalypse

Until recently, along the front of my local No Frills store, there were bins full of empty boxes, the idea being that customers were welcome to take a box or two if they needed them, and I suppose since the store had to dispose of the cardboard in any case it was a win-win kind of situation, even if bins full of boxes was less than attractive. One day, everything at the front of the store disappeared.

Today I popped over to the Frills today to the get some dog biscuits and a little something for dinner, and I could not help but notice the front of the store is now filled with what appear to be large stainless steel lockers. I asked the cashier about it. “It’s for Click & Collect”, she told me. “The idea is you can order your groceries from home and we shop for you and all you have to do is come pick them up.” I imagine there are some people who are physically unable to shop for whom this is a good thing, although it’s hard for me to imagine this being a successful business model. As well, they’ve spent some serious coin on these lockers, so they must be committed to the idea.

Sometimes I think there must be a bunch of people at the HO of grocery store chains, meeting after a two three martini lunch to sit in a board room and come up with this stuff. It occurred to me the same people work on pricing. The other day I bought a jumbo tub of a brand-name ground coffee for $6.97. Today, the half size containers are $5.97, the same ones that were $2.00 last week. It’s as if somebody throws darts to determine coffee prices from one day to the next. And don’t get me started on blueberry prices. I’m convinced when they hiked them up to $3.97 for a half pint, most of their stock rotted. I tried to be helpful though. I suggested to the cashier that next they should individually wrap blueberries and sell them on a per berry basis.

Meanwhile, they made other changes in the store. For instance, they moved the lunch meat to where the cheese was and the cheese to where the lunch meat was. This likely took a couple people a few hours to accomplish. Somebody must think by doing this, they can sell more of something more profitable, right?

As much as I sometimes think these kinds of decisions are made by half-soused corporate executives, I know better. They study this stuff. After all, they collect enough data from points cards to sink a ship. They have invested in the “Click & Collect” business because data has strongly indicated it will work. Still I think they’re wrong and it will be a monumental fail. Time will tell, I suppose.

The cashier also told me they are installing self-checkout at the No-Frills. Oh boy. For my convenience, no doubt. I don’t much like self-checkout. First of all, I don’t work for Loblaws. Second, I like having a real human I can interact with. And thirdly, I’d like my cashier to have a job next year. My cashier surprisingly disagreed. “I used to think that way too,” she told me, “but it’s not so.” “Sure it is, ” I replied. “Why else would they do it? Why would any company reduce service if they didn’t think there was greater profit in doing it? “Nope,” said the cashier. “We won’t lose our jobs. We’ll just be doing different work, that’s all.” I suspect the Kool-aid she’s been drinking came from the grey-market dispensary down the street.

That’s my shopping rant for today. Don’t get me started on the diagonal aisle-ways at the liquor store. That must drive the employees batty.

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Imagination Station #1

Development in Long Branch has extended to the local supernatural beings. I was out cleaning up the back garden today and noticed a small subdivision has popped up in Imagination Station #1.

It seems it has become an attractive spot for pixies, faeries, trolls, elves and other supernatural being to set up housing, ever since mail service commenced to this Imagination Station. A large frame has appeared on top as well. I suspect this is going to be a rooftop garden.

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A Hidden Gem

The other day Tuffy P pointed out a review of a little Alderwood lunch joint in the Etobicoke Guardian. It’s on Horner near Thirtieth and it’s called Cafe Tutti. I had noticed it driving by recently but hadn’t stopped in – but I had made a mental note to do so. It’s not big – I think there are 4 tables. I suspect much of their business is take-out but there were a few people in their enjoying lunch while I was there. The place is located in a little nook on the north side of Horner with a few parking spaces in front. I decided I had a duty to 27th Street readership to check out the place so I stopped by just before noon today while I was out running errands.

I had a veal sandwich with mushrooms and hot peppers, washed down with a chinotto beverage. It was an excellent sandwich with lots of yummy mushrooms, served on quality very fresh roll. Some other customers were there for pizza slices, and they looked great too.

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A Blast from the Past

Looking through some old photos on my computer I came across a photo of a painting I did in……..I don’t remember what year. I do remember a few things about it though. It’s maybe a metre wide, done in acrylics and acrylic spray enamel on canvas. I also remember the title. It’s called Terminal Beef. The title came from a sign on St. Clair Ave West back in the day. I don’t know if it’s still there, but I suspect not, since the old stockyards area has changed so much over the years. Maybe I had intended it for an exhibition I was involved with organizing called Meat. I’m not sure.

I don’t think I’ve ever exhibited this one. Even at the time it was somewhat of an oddball in the context of the rest of the paintings I was making. OK, and it’s a little bit goofy. It makes me smile when I look at it. I think that’s why I still have it (or at least I’m pretty sure I still have it – maybe enjoying a good rest in our storage locker). I hope it makes you smile too.

Filed under: Art
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Rounder or Trout Hound?

I was looking through some old family photos and came across two of my favourite photos of my father. One of the reasons I really love these two in particular is that they present two very different personas.

The first one is my Dad as a young man, with his John B and a cravat. As a boy I heard stories of his days as a rounder – betting the ponies, playing poker, and blowing sax and clarinet in dance bands. This was a different guy than the dad I knew, who ran a business, worked lots of hours, and never dressed this flashy.

Now this is the Dad I knew. More comfortable on a trout stream than just about anywhere else. There would often be trout in his creel, even on tough days. He was an unrepentant bank-napping worm plonker, and he was very good at it. When I was a boy he taught me to love nature, to get excited when I stood in front of some little trout stream in the middle of nowhere. And he taught me important lessons, like how trout like the edges of things, dark and light, deep and shallow, fast and slow.

One of my best childhood memories occurred when I was allowed to tag along with Dad and my big brother on a fishing trip. Dad used to drive these big old station wagons and he drove fast, very fast. We’d be roaring up the highway on our way to some fantastic place or another. For me they were all wonderful exotic places they took me to. They knew where all the trout were and I was crazy excited to get in on the action. I’d be in the back seat, and Dad and the brother would be up front, singing Wreck of the Old 97, loudly and off key. I was the only kid at our school who knew all the lyrics to that song before age 10. I was a lucky kid.

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Humber Bay Nature Walk

Male and Female Brown-headed Cowbirds

Today’s nature walk with Miles Hearn took place at Humber Bay East. This is the park just south from Parklawn, on the west side of Toronto. The entire park exists on landfill which has only been there since 1984. It’s a wonderful place to look at birds. The pair of parks are located on either side of Mimico Creek. The mouth of the Humber is a short way further east.

My city from Humber Bay
Female common Goldeneye
Male Common Goldeneye

There were still quite a few winter ducks around, including Goldeneyes, Buffleheads, Long-tail Ducks, Red-breasted and Common Mergansers.

Male Long-tail Duck
Red-breasted Mergansers

There were plenty of Red-necked Grebes around, and of note we saw some Horned Grebes in both winter plumage and summer plumage.

Horned Grebe in winter plumage
Horned Grebes in summer plumage

Mute swans are a common sight in our waterfront parks, but usually they’re in the water rather than on land. Today we had a swan step out of the water and waddle over to us in an unsuccessful effort to score a snack. They have remarkable feet which look as if they are made from rubber.

Mute swan mooch

There were quite a few Golden-crowned Kinglets flitting around today, but I didn’t get any good photos, as these birds just don’t like to stand still and pose. The same goes for Winter Wrens. We saw a few of them today. These are tiny birds which you typically see right on the ground. Each time I saw one it was gone by the time I raised my camera.

Brown Creeper

We saw quite a number of Brown Creepers today. These little birds can usually be seen climbing around trees, often near the base. They have distinctive curved beaks.

Brown Creeper

We also saw – and heard – plenty of song sparrows. These birds say, “maid, maid, put the kettle on.”

Song Sparrow