Life and Times

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Toronto 2019

Part 1 – Part 2 – Part 3 – Part 4 – Part 5 – Part 6 – Part 7

Part 3

On Friday, April 12, we got started with another fun day in Toronto.  Right out of the gate, we hit up Rabba Fine Foods on Charles Street.  That store was on Today’s Special in “Food“, back when it was called Variety Food Fair.  There, Sam and Muffy, after discovering that they had no food for their rooftop restaurant, went grocery shopping for their restaurant, only for Sam to discover at the checkout that he had forgotten his wallet – thus all of their shopping had been for nothing.


The former Variety Food Fair, now Rabba Fine Foods.

The former Variety Food Fair, now Rabba Fine Foods.


Except for the name change, made as the company expanded from this original location into a local grocery store chain, this place is readily recognizable from Today’s Special.  I was surprised about how small the store was.  Most of the aisles were arranged along the short axis of the store, and could be completely crossed in a few steps.  The largest section was the produce.  I was singing, “Oh, come, come and explore the aisles of the grocery store!” to myself as I was checking it out, until Elyse stopped me.  I always had to remember that Elyse didn’t grow up with the show, and she has no frame of reference for a lot of this, and that she had great patience while I was nerding out for the better part of a week.


A view across Rabba, from right to left.  The main entrance is to the left.

A view across Rabba, from right to left.  The main entrance is to the left.


The cereal aisle, showing how short these aisles are.  The cereal aisle, showing how short these aisles are.

The cereal aisle, showing how short these aisles are.


The soup aisle, along the long axis of the store.

The soup aisle, along the long axis of the store.


The produce section.

The produce section.


Posing for a selfie with the cat food, now on an endcap.  Muffy did much of her singing and dancing in front of the cat food while here, so a photo with the cat food only seemed fitting.

Posing for a selfie with the cat food, now on an endcap.  Muffy did much of her singing and dancing in front of the cat food while here, so a photo with the cat food only seemed fitting.


The area around the cash registers.  I spoke with the lady behind the counter while we were checking out, and she remembered Today's Special, and was tickled that their store had appeared.

The area around the cash registers.  I spoke with the lady behind the counter while we were checking out, and she remembered Today’s Special, and was tickled that their store had appeared.


Leaving Rabba, we headed east on Bloor Street, past the other Bay store in downtown Toronto (where a woman got locked in after closing a few years ago), and then, after the road became Danforth Avenue, we found ourselves at Carrot Common.

Carrot Common, prior to 1986, was the home of Peter Burdon Pontiac Buick, i.e. a car dealership.  In this guise, Today’s Special filmed scenes for the episode “Cars“, where Sam was trading in Gertrude, his Ford Model T, for a new car.  The dealership played the role of Smiling Jack’s used car lot.  Much of the property is now unrecognizable from its time on the show, as it was extensively renovated in the conversion to Carrot Common.  All of the dealership scenes from the show were filmed outdoors, behind the main dealership building, but that area might now be inside of The Big Carrot, a natural foods store.  I can’t say for sure, though, since satellite imagery on Google for that area only goes back as far as 2002.


Carrot Common, formerly Peter Burdon Pontiac Buick.


The area behind Carrot Common.  The windows on the building matched what was seen in "Cars", but I wasn't quite sure what I was looking at as far as the show went, due to the extensive renovations that occurred in the conversion.

The area behind Carrot Common.  The windows on the building matched what was seen in “Cars”, but I wasn’t quite sure what I was looking at as far as the show went, due to the extensive renovations that occurred in the conversion.  Perhaps this is something that was on the show, but it might have been closer in.

The area behind Carrot Common.  The windows on the building matched what was seen in "Cars", but I wasn't quite sure what I was looking at as far as the show went, due to the extensive renovations that occurred in the conversion.

The area behind Carrot Common.  The windows on the building matched what was seen in "Cars", but I wasn't quite sure what I was looking at as far as the show went, due to the extensive renovations that occurred in the conversion.

The area behind Carrot Common.  The windows on the building matched what was seen in "Cars", but I wasn't quite sure what I was looking at as far as the show went, due to the extensive renovations that occurred in the conversion.


Leaving Carrot Common, we headed over to Nina Keogh’s studio.  There, we had a wonderful lunch, met Muffy and Mrs. Pennypacker, shared experiences, looked at the various things that Nina had saved from her time on the show, including the script for the full live show, and watched the Today’s Special outtakes reel.  The script for the live show was quite a treat, because it contained far more material than we saw in “Live On Stage“, including “Yo He Ho” (which we saw in “Sam’s Speech“), a few more songs including two more original ones, and the acting out of a story.  It also answers the question of why the magic spell used to bring Jeff to life outside of the store was never used again: because it was a one-time thing that would only work for a little while, with Waldo’s admonishing Jeff not to stay out for too long, and to be back before the magic wears off.


Mrs. Pennypacker sits in a chair, wearing the outfit that she had in all of her 1984 appearances.

Mrs. Pennypacker sits in a chair, wearing the outfit that she had in all of her 1984 appearances.


Muffy poses for a photo.  Shs is wearing the outfit that she wore at the beginning of "A Visit to the Opera".

Muffy poses for a photo.  Shs is wearing the outfit that she wore at the beginning of “A Visit to the Opera“.


Mrs. Pennypacker and Muffy pose for a photo together.

Mrs. Pennypacker and Muffy pose for a photo together.


This is Dr. Beryl Freud, with whom Nina performs in a one-woman puppet show aimed at adults.

This is Dr. Beryl Freud, with whom Nina performs in a one-woman puppet show aimed at adults.  The puppet that is now Dr. Beryl Freud originated with the Punch and Judy show on The Santa Clause.  That was the puppet show that was going on when Tim Allen’s character was at the North Pole early in the movie.  Nina Keogh performed this role along with fellow Today’s Special alumnus Bob Dermer.  The puppets both turned and screamed when Allen’s character took off the Santa pants.


Afterward, Elyse and I went out in search of what she believed would be a vintage elevator, but the building was inaccessible.  We then navigated over to approximately Yonge Street and Eglinton Avenue.  Navigation was a little different in Canada, because Google automatically switched to metric.  I freely admit that the metric system is a far superior system to what is customarily used in the States.  I only find it difficult because I’m not used to using it in everyday life, i.e. I can’t picture a kilometer in my mind as well as I can picture a mile.  But Google was still Google otherwise, so I managed.  My distance units just counted down a little more quickly than they would otherwise, since a kilometer is a little less than two-thirds of a mile.  I also had offline maps downloaded for the entire Greater Toronto Area, so I would never be left mapless, even if I had no signal.  Having no data initially once we came over the border was a surprise to me, and even though we got our data back, I wasn’t taking any chances.  I had looked up the big drive up to Toronto many times over, but I would have been in a very uncomfortable situation without Google Maps in the city.

When we got to Yonge and Eglinton, after stopping at a PenguinPickUp store to use the restroom, Elyse and I went different directions.  She got something to drink at a nearby A&W, while I walked over to 2180 Yonge Street.  For those not familiar, 2180 Yonge Street appeared on Today’s Special in “Our Story Part 2” as two different places.  The loading dock on the Berwick Avenue side doubled as the store, where the delivery driver brought Jeff into the store for the first time.  Then the main entrance was used as the main office, i.e. the place where Jodie ran with the photo of the plaque in hand in order to save the store from demolition.  In addition, TVOntario, the organization which made Today’s Special, is headquartered in the building.

The walk there was a lot longer than I had anticipated.  Normally, one would just walk down to the light and make a left to get there.  However, due to some significant construction that blocked a lot of the pedestrian walkways, I ended up walking an extra block west on Eglinton, and then went down Duplex Avenue (who comes up with these names?) and then back to Yonge Street via Berwick Avenue.  I quickly discovered that the loading dock door was closed, and then headed around to the front.  I wasn’t too disappointed about the loading dock’s being inaccessible, though, since it was after normal business hours, and I would expect the door to be down at that time.


2180 Yonge Street, which houses offices for Canadian Tire and TVOntario, among others.

2180 Yonge Street, which houses offices for Canadian Tire and TVOntario, among others.

2180 Yonge Street, which houses offices for Canadian Tire and TVOntario, among others.


The loading dock at 2180 Yonge Street, where Jeff arrived at the store.

The loading dock at 2180 Yonge Street, where Jeff arrived at the store.


The entrance to 2180 Yonge Street.  The area above the door was solid rather than glass when "Our Story Part 2" was filmed.

The entrance to 2180 Yonge Street.  The area above the door was solid rather than glass when “Our Story Part 2” was filmed.


The entrance in more context.  The "Canadian Tire" sign is in between the building's two entrances.

The entrance in more context.  The “Canadian Tire” sign is in between the building’s two entrances.


I met back up with Elyse in front of the building, and then we went in together.  In true Today’s Special form, I went all the way around the revolving door, acted surprised that I was back outside, and then went in for real, just like Jodie did.


The same door, viewed from inside.

The same door, viewed from inside.


We made our way up to the fifth floor, and saw where TVOntario was located.

We made our way up to the fifth floor, and saw where TVOntario was located.  They were already closed, so I just got a quick photo of the lobby through the door.


Elevator buttons.  I found it curious that this building has a 13th floor.  Many buildings that have more than twelve floors omit 13, as it is viewed as bad luck.  Our hotel, which went up to 27 floors, omitted 13.

Elevator buttons.  I found it curious that this building has a 13th floor.  Many buildings that have more than twelve floors omit 13, as it is viewed as bad luck.  Our hotel, which went up to 27 floors, omitted 13.


We then wandered around the immediate area, where Elyse was in search of elevators.  We ended up in an office building across the street, where Elyse filmed an elevator.  In the window of that building, they were running advertising for a condominium development going up on nearby Soudan Avenue.  Among other amenities, they described how they were close to the Yonge Street subway line.  We were very surprised to see the footage that they used to illustrate the subway.


That is most definitely not the TTC.  That's Metro in Washington DC.

That is most definitely not the TTC.  That’s Metro in Washington DC.  I’ve seen that same clip on one of my local TV stations’ news programs, and they use it whenever they’re talking about Metro.  I assume that whoever made the advertisement didn’t know (or didn’t care) what the TTC looked like, and pulled this out of a stock footage repository to fit the spot.


We then went east on Soudan Avenue and up Lillian Street past a construction site.  We stopped to notice that someone had written messages on the signs about 28 trees that had allegedly been removed from the site for the construction.


Messages written on various signs about the removal of the trees.  Messages written on various signs about the removal of the trees.  Messages written on various signs about the removal of the trees.

Messages written on various signs about the removal of the trees.


The construction site.

The construction site.


I also photographed the area around this construction site, showing two other high-rises going up nearby.

I also photographed the area around this construction site, showing two other high-rises going up nearby.


Coming back to Eglinton Street, we went to an LCBO store, and then to a Loblaw’s grocery store.  Elyse got a few drinks at the LCBO (which we had taken to pronouncing as “lick-bow”) that we couldn’t get near us, including alcoholic Snapple, of all things.


Elyse shows off a can of Snapple Spiked Peach Tea Vodka.

Elyse shows off a can of Snapple Spiked Peach Tea Vodka.


We then went to Loblaws, housed upstairs in the same building, where I bought two sticks of deodorant.  Why deodorant?  Because why not.  The way that I figured, I knew that I only had one stick in reserve at home, so I stocked up, and the bilingual packaging was something that you didn’t typically see at home.  We also looked at the sodas, with the intention of bringing some home, but we passed, as neither one of us was particularly impressed with the selection at Loblaws.

For those not familiar, sodas in Canada do not use high-fructose corn syrup as a sweetener like they do in the States, using a glucose-fructose sweetener instead.  The result is a much cleaner, crisper experience overall, since the soda doesn’t coat the inside of your mouth the way that high-fructose corn syrup does.

Returning to the car, we headed down to the Esplanade, where we had made reservations at The Old Spaghetti Factory.  We chose that restaurant because it contained a vintage elevator car that had been turned into a dining booth.  When we made our reservations that morning, we made them specifically for the elevator car.


The elevator car, now a dining booth.  The elevator car, now a dining booth.

The elevator car, now a dining booth.


The button panel on the elevator car.  Unfortunately, many patrons before us had carved their initials and such into the woodwork.

The button panel on the elevator car.  Unfortunately, many patrons before us had carved their initials and such into the woodwork.


Stained glass light fixture overhead.  I suspect that this is not vintage, but rather is part of the restaurant's decor.

Stained glass light fixture overhead.  I suspect that this is not vintage, but rather is part of the restaurant’s decor.


Elyse holds up the bread that the restaurant gave us.

Elyse holds up the bread that the restaurant gave us.


When we finished up at the restaurant, we headed back to the Chelsea.  There, we took a dip in the pool up on the 27th floor before retiring for the evening.  The pool is something that has changed in some ways, but not in others.  Back in 1999, Deck 27, as it’s called, was only for guests 19 years and up, since it contained a bar.  Nowadays, the age limit is 18, since the bar has been walled off from the pool, and now is part of a club lounge area that’s an extra amenity for the top tier rooms, fully separate from the pool area.  The rest of the space is exactly the same, complete with the Normandie and Queen Mary posters still hanging on the wall.  We had a good time, alternating between soaking in the hot tub and playing in the pool.  We also had good conversations with the other patrons, often starting by asking where people were from.  There was a considerable mix, with about equal representation between Canadians and Americans, and as many reasons for travel as there were people there.

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Part 1 – Part 2 – Part 3 – Part 4 – Part 5 – Part 6 – Part 7

Part 3