Friday, April 29, 2016

The Meaning of Life

One of my friends was lamenting about his situation in life and asked aloud what the meaning of it was. I didn't have an answer for him then and I still don't. Though when I thought about it recently I questioned, why does there have to be meaning behind it?

When I got home I looked up some quotes on the subject and a number of authors seem to agree with my point of view.

“Life has no meaning. Each of us has meaning and we bring it to life. It is a waste to be asking the question when you are the answer.” 
― Joseph Campbell

“There is not one big cosmic meaning for all; there is only the meaning we each give to our life, an individual meaning, an individual plot, like an individual novel, a book for each person.” 
― Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1: 1931-1934

“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.” 
― Albert Camus

Live your life. Don't be concerned about why you are here, for what will that accomplish? You may be rich, you may be poor. You may be smart, you may obtuse. These things won't necessarily shape your destiny unless you let them. Perseverance and hard work count for a lot.

So, take the bull by the horns and point it in the direction you want to go and hang on for the ride.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

My Wonderful Kitchen

(Now, just to be clear... this is not my actual wonderful kitchen, but a restaurant in Richmond Hill named, My Wonderful Kitchen. Because, if you know me, you know I hardly spend any time in my actual kitchen. So I certainly wouldn't know how wonderful it may or may not be.)

I met a couple of friends here after work on Wednesday. The restaurant is located on the north side of Highway 7, east of Bayview. Even though it faces Highway 7, the entrance is around back. Kind of weird, but whatever. The restaurant, itself, looks fine. Not fancy, but not too plain either.

It wasn't very busy when I got there. But it was mid-week, so it wasn't surprising. Since it was my late day... I was late. By the time I arrived my friends had already ordered and eaten. They ordered rice soup with minced pork, dried fish and oysters and fried rice noodle with beef. That's one of the dishes I normally order when I got out for lunch on Sundays after church.

I was considering noodles this time too. But, compared to Rol Jui (my Sunday lunch stop), most other places are a good deal  more costly. So I opted for beef and tomato on rice. This restaurant added a nice twist - egg. It made the tomato sauce that much thicker and creamier. Very good. We finished dinner off each with a complimentary bowl of red bean dessert soup.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

My Journey - Donna Karan

I took Donna Karan's biography, My Journey, out from the library recently. I saw it sitting on the featured books shelf near the entrance while I was there a few weeks ago. Biographies of successful people fascinate me. I always wonder what sort of adversities they've had to overcome to make it to where they are.

In the past, I've had the opportunity to read the biographies of Second Cup co-founder, Frank O'Dea's and Magna International founder, Frank Stronach.

Both of them came from humble beginnings. O'Dea was actually raised in a middle-class home in West-Montreal. Though through a set of unfortunate circumstances (his addiction to alcohol being his main demon) he ended up homeless on the streets of Toronto. In the end he rose through the ashes to found Second Cup with his partner Tom Culligan.

Stronach came to Canada by himself from Austria at the age 21 in 1954. Coming from a working class family, his parents, if I remember correctly, were machinists there and that's the trade he picked up. It was a struggle for him to get by in the early days, but he was extremely hard working and determined. It was with that determination he built an automotive parts manufacturing empire that employs thousands around the world today.

Donna Ivy Karan (nee Faske), came from well-to-do beginnings. She born in Queens, New York, but spent much of her formative years on Long Island. Her father, Gabby, made custom suits and her mother, Helen (a.k.a. Richie and Queenie), was a model and salesperson and a bit of a nutjob. Karan also had a sister named, Gail, who was eight years older.

In 1952, when Karan was three, her father died suddenly in a car accident. Afterwards her mother re-married a gentleman named Harold Flaxman. He owned a dress business in Brooklyn which sold less expensive knock-offs and "schmatta" (Yiddish: clothing, textiles; pejorative- Rags worn by a person, old tattered clothing). So when people ask her how she got into fashion she tells them, she was born into it.

Fashion was Karan's "destiny". Her first job was selling clothes at a trendy boutique; designing was second nature to her. In high school she loved and excelled in art.

After graduating high school, Karan, attended Parsons School of Design in New York City. That's where she gained her sense of direction and purpose. It's also where she met her lifelong friend and off and on collaborative partner Louis Dell'Olio. Of the more than 200 students in their class, they were the only ones who made the daily commute on the Long Island Rail Road.

Karan got her first hands on experience in the industry at Anne Klein when she had to intern there one summer to earn an extra class credit for Parsons. She loved it there and gained a lot of valuable experience. When summer was over Anne told her not to go back to school. "This is what you want to do, right?" she asked. "Well, then stay. You'll learn more here than you ever would at school."

Everything was falling into place.

There are a lot more adventures in the book from this point on. There was an engagement to her first steady boyfriend and soon-to-be husband, Mark Karan. Shortly after she broke it off because she met an older gentleman, her true soulmate and future second husband, artist Stephan Weiss. I know... it's complicated.

There's her meteoric rise along side Anne Klein in her company. Then upon Anne's death she was her successor. Karan had many years of success there only to be pushed aside when she wanted to pursue personal dreams. Though things actually turned out for the best in the end. Because the financial backers at Anne Klein totally had faith in her and offered to back her if she wanted to start her own company. She took them up on that and never looked back.

Donna Karan New York was born shortly after she was fired from Anne Klein. It was a hugely successful company which was based on her Seven Easy Pieces philosophy where a handful of interchangeable items work together to create an entire wardrobe that goes from day to evening, weekday to weekend, season to season.

DKNY came next. It was geared towards a younger crowd. Karan wanted to dress her now 15-year-old daughter, Gabby. Karan got her assistant from her Anne Klein days, Jane Chung, to be its lead designer. DKNY would be the pizza to Donna Karan Collection's caviar, equal but different. One is not better than the other. You need both. This line would represent Karan's other side, yet there would be no overlap with Donna Karan New York whatsoever.

Fast forward to the future and you'd have DKNY Jeans and DKNY Accessories. DKNY Hosiery, DKNY Shoe, DKNY Kids, DKNY Eyes, DKNY Men's, DKNY Underwear, DKNY Fragrances, DKNY Swim, DKNY Home, DKNY Infants and Toddlers, DKNY Men's Tailoring and even... get this... DKK9 for dogs. They did everything and had retail locations worldwide.

Karan says she's often asked what it takes to be successful. Her answer is, don't think about success. Do something you believe in, something that speaks to your needs, your lifestyle and your passions. The minute you focus on what you think will make money, you're sunk. Words to live by.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Moving Day

No, not for me. My friend, Willy, asked me and another friend, Chris, to help him move some merchandise from a client's storeroom on Castlefield Avenue a few doors down to a new retail location.

His client, Dave, owns a store that sells vintage lighting as well as other vintage items such as advertising signs, architectural finds and industrial furniture. A lot of the stuff is really neat.

I particularly like the old signs. They're ultra cool. You may want to display them in your rec room or, if you have a restaurant or bar, on the wall there. Some of the items are quite expensive retailing at $1000-$4500 or more though.

Dave drives around shopping for these vintage finds. I believe he shops here in Ontario as well as going down to the U.S. in New York and Pennsylvania among other places. He told me he's been in business for 41 years.

I got there around 12:40 Saturday afternoon, while Willy and Chris arrived earlier. I made up for it by not taking lunch while they grabbed a bite at a shawarma place at the corner of Dufferin and Castlefield.

Most of the stuff we moved was large and awkward. We had to move it from a second floor storeroom about 40 metres down the street to a retail outlet. It was next door to Dave's regular store and was in the process of being renovated.

We carried the lighter things by hand and used a dolly for the heavier items. The heaviest item we moved was a huge, iron gear from some sort of industrial machine. It was probably 5-feet in diameter and weighed over 500 pounds.

At first we tried lifting it onto a dolly, but it was too unstable. So the three of us rolled it along the parking lot from one store to the other. There are two more. But we were too tired to move them after the first one.

Another heavy item we helped lift was a sold slab of marble that the workmen were installing in the new place. It was around 8-feet long, 2-feet wide and 2-inches thick. It took five of us a huge amount of effort to move it a few feet off a cart onto it's place on the floor.

I think we finished around 5:30 or so. Willy went to talk to Dave about our compensation. When he came back he told us Dave wanted to give us $200. Each. That was way too much. Willy accepted $150 each on our behalf and we went back to the shawarma place for chicken and fries for dinner.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Landmark Seafood Cuisine

My family and I went to dinner at Landmark Seafood Cuisine on Victoria Park at McNicoll on Good Friday. We had gone there a while back when it was called Elegantview Chinese Restaurant.

The interior of the restaurant was your typical Chinese restaurant decor - a traditional red and gold-coloured interior with gold statues of a dragon and phoenix at the front of the dining hall. I can't say it stood out, one way or another.

For me, the main attraction was the food. I have to say it was really good. Most of the time when I eat Chinese food it's either a plate of rice or noodles with different toppings. Though, that's because I usually go with two or three others and we only order for ourselves.

This time we ordered shared dishes of beef, fish, veggies, tofu and chicken along with white rice. With a larger group you're afforded the luxury of greater variety.

Along with tasting good, the dishes were presented in an attractive manner. It was nice to see that attention to detail.

Of course you're going to pay a little more for of that, but the bill wasn't outrageous. It came out to $145 after tax and tip for the six of us. The most expensive thing was actually these mug-sized bowls of soup with sea cucumber at $15 a piece. We ordered two. They were quite flavourful though.

This restaurant is definitely step up over Congee Wong. A nice treat every now and then.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Board Game Café

My friend Gabe and I grabbed dinner at Congee Queen at Centerpoint Mall last weekend. It's a newer location that I've never been to before. I thought I'd try it because I was planning on going there with the guys from hockey the following week.

Like the rest of the chain, the restaurant looked nice inside. Service is decent and the food comes pretty quickly. Since there were only two of us we didn't order much. Just a plate of soft-shell crab fried rice and rice rolls. I was hoping for the beef rice rolls, but we got plain ones.

After dinner my friend wanted to try out a board game café. He found one called, For The Win, located on Yonge, a bit north of Lawrence. So we drove down there to have a look.

Even though we got there fairly late, being a Saturday night it was full. Still, we waited less than 10 minutes for a table.

It's kind of like a library inside. But, instead of books, the walls are lined with board games. The tables are in the back half of the café, while the area where they sell coffee and snacks is at the front. You can also purchase games from a selection up by the entrance too.

Gabe picked a couple of games from the back - Guillotine and Jaipur. Out of the two, we only played Guillotine. It's a pretty simple card game where you have to collect different valued cards (out of 15 lined up on the table) in three rounds. Each player is give action cards which enables them to manipulate the order of the cards on the table. The player with the highest total value of their cards at the end wins.

I then went to the back and found a game that looked all right - Word on the Street. To set up the game, seventeen letter tiles (all the consonants in English other than j, q, x, and z) are placed in a strip down the centre of the game board – the median strip of the street, if you will, which has two "traffic lanes" on either side of it.

On a turn, one player/team is presented with a category such as "types of fruit" or "something a player is wearing", and that team has thirty seconds to come up with an answer in that category, then move the letters in that word toward their side of the game board. Any letters in the word that are not on the game board are skipped. If the answer were "pineapple", for example, the team would move P, N, P, P and L.

If a player/team moves a letter off the game board, it has claimed that letter and that tile will not move for the remainder of the game. The first team to claim eight letter tiles wins.

It was pretty fun. Most tables had at least four people. I think you have more options with the games the more people you have.

It cost $5 per person (no in and out privileges). The have beverages and snacks. We had an Americano (coffee) for around $3 which tasted awful. I also bought a board game that I had tried previously and liked - Code Names. I really enjoy it.