Turmoil in the world of children

CBC Radio is reporting that Santa’s Woods in North Rustico burned down this weekend.

This, on top of the ongoing shifts at Blue’s Clues must make it particularly hard to be a child this week.

Santa’s life in turmoil, Steve off to college and replaced by his seedy looking brother Joe… what’s a kid to think?

For those of you confused by the big “Steve out, Joe in” movements at Blue’s Clue’s, here’s some helpful information from the official FAQ:

Why does Joe wear a different outfit than Steve did?
Blue’s Clues with Joe will be both the same and different as it was with Steve. Blue’s Clues will maintain the same structure and game play but will incorporate many new songs, educational concepts, and locations. One of the things that’s changing is Joe’s clothes. While Steve had a multitude of identical shirts, pants, and shoes, Joe wears shirts in multiple colors to reflect his whimsical nature.
And they said that after September 11 whimsy was dead!

La Stampa comes to Charlottetown

La Stampa CoverLa Stampa and Corriere della Sera are two of the most influential papers in Italy. They are controlled by the same Agnelli family that controls Ferrari. And they are coming to Charlottetown. Maybe.

The chichi cruise ship Silver Shadow is coming to Charlottetown as part of a late summer New York to Montreal cruise. The cheapest room on the 11 day cruise goes for about $13,000 CDN, or about $1200 a day (this includes North American airfare). This seems a somewhat expensive way to spend less than two weeks. It’s also a down payment on a very well-equipped house.

Apparently one of the perks of shipboard life on Silver Shadow is access to a wide variety of reading materials: during my weekly stop at Tweel’s to pick up The New Yorker the cashier showed me a fax from a cruise organizer containing a long list of newspapers they want to have available to their guests and that they want Tweel’s to procure. On the list were such papers as the Financial Times and Le Monde, as well as the aforementioned La Stampa and Corriere della Sera. They also wondered if “any Japanese papers” might be available.

The cashier’s reaction to this? Well, after wondering with me whether La Stampa was Mexican or Spanish (neither of us are well-travelled or all that literate, obviously), she remarked “well, we can get them, but it will take a month, not a week.”

So if you find yourself in mid-October at Tweel’s and see some exotic looking newspapers on the rack, now you’ll understand where they came from.

Watch out: Smith Sisters are Back

Catherine Hennessey, who for the past 3 weeks has been playing host to her left coast sister Betty, adds her Alberta-based sister Mary Clare (or is it Marie Claire? who can remember!) to the fold today. So, at least for the next week until Betty returns west, there will be three Smith Sisters haunting the society hotspots. Honk if you see them roaming.

Uncommon Grocer, Rest in Peace

Our only Big News from Lida, who was staying in our house while we were away south, was that the Uncommon Grocer had closed. We’d included it on a list we made for Lida of places to buy good food.

For the uninitiated, the Uncommon Grocer was a small grocery store, initially located on University Avenue in the middle of the stripdrech, and recently moved downtown about a block from us.

The store was perhaps best known for its defiance of the “can ban,” selling fruit spritzers in cans, and the subsquent charges and court case surrounding this (they lost).

The Uncommon Grocer was a weird mix of some of the same “health food” you’d find at places like the Root Cellar, along with some “gourmet” items, some very good soup and sandwiches at the lunch hour, and a scatterling of books and baskets and kitchen items. It was run by a very nice woman named Barb, who obviously put most of her heart and soul into starting the place and keeping it going.

From the outside looking in, it always seemed as though the store never quite hit its mark. It didn’t know whether it was a health food store, a gourmet foods store, a deli, or a kitchen supply store. It was some of all of those, but not a a compelling enough stand out at one in particular to allow people to hang their hat on the concept.

That said, I’m very sad to see it go. It was a breath of fresh air on the downtown food shopping scape, and with some time to mature it could have grown into something even better. I talked to someone over the weekend who was there when the end came, and it sounds horrible: the owner and staff were given 5 minutes to vacate the premises before it was closed and locked up.

Let’s hope that the market that it was managing to grab little parts of doesn’t disperse entirely; for we “downtown livers,” a good food store is important to the health of the neighbourhood. And best wishes to Barb in her future endeavours; it was great while it lasted.

Public Spaces and Secret Bunkers

When my brother Steve was in Pusan, South Korea back in the late 1990s, I paid him a visit. One of the things from that visit that stayed with me is the different notion of “public space” in Korea.

Many Koreans have very small apartments or houses, and so they seek places outside the home to socialize and wile away the hours. One example of this is the ad hoc bars — called soju tents — that spring up every night on the streets of suburbia. In these tents, the men of the neighbourhood gather, drink sujo, and eat snacks cooked in the knock-down kitchens set up in the tents. Another example is the proliferation of very comfortable coffee houses throughout the cities, places you can happily go and spend 5 or 6 hours doing, well, whatever while you’re drinking coffee.

We don’t really have analagous public spaces here in Charlottetown. There are coffee shops — Beanz, GrabbaJabba, and the ubiquitous Tim Hortons — but with the exception of Tims they keep anemic hours, and are never open when you really want to get out of the house (at, say, 11:30 p.m.). And if you’re at Tim Hortons at 11:30 at night you’re widely considered to be worthy of scorn are at least derision. There are bars, but because of our bizarro liquor laws, they aren’t really bars, more restaurants posing as bars. And if you don’t smoke, even that option is out.

Not being a bona fide Islander, I’ve always had my suspicions that people born here, or at least people who have been here more than 13 years (which, Catherine Hennessey says, is the qualifying period of Islander status consideration) have secret bunkers where they gather to make secret Islander plans. I’d welcome any true Islanders in the readership who are willing to break ranks with the fold to confirm or deny this fact.