An Unfestive Mood
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An Unfestive Mood

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Photo by Blainekendall.com from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.
The Toronto International Film Festival is exciting as all get out. Everyone loves seeing foreign films that might not otherwise get screen time in this city, and it is a little thrilling to see famous Hollywood types having breakfast in your neighbourhood diner.
The problem with TIFF is that it’s just too long. By day three, many of us just want these filmic types to go back where they came from and let us get on with our day-to-day.
So how do you avoid TIFF once it’s stopped being fun if tremendous swaths of the city have been taken over by movie stars, black-clad art types and film critics from the Benelux nations? Presented for your approval are five of the city’s most unfestival places to be.

Vietnamese Restaurants

09_08_2007_pho2.jpgToronto is a good eating city. Unfortunately, most of our name brand restaurants are currently filled with filthy actors. Your local Vietnamese joint is probably not. You can be guaran-damn-teed that image conscious celebs would rather be caught dead than slurping greasy, carb-heavy, beautifully nourishing beef and beef tripe pho.
Just in case Sean Penn decides he wants a little local flavour, you’d be well advised to steer clear of the big name noodle houses like the legendary Pho Hung, Restaurant Makeover darling Saigon Flower, and the newly tarted-up Pho 88. Instead check out the ultra low-key Saigon Palace (454 Spadina Avenue), which claims to be Toronto’s oldest Vietnamese restaurant, or the safely west of West Queen West Hanoi (1285 Queen Street West), where the servers often wear plastic sandals.

Out Improving Yourself

While everyone else is discussing the relative merits of Control and Persepolis, the clever Torontonian could be out there making themselves a better person, or trying to get rich quick, depending on one’s priorities.
For the environmentally-minded, fitness conscious or just plain broke out there, The Community Bicycle Network is running a Flat Fix and Tune-Up Workshop on September 12. The workshop starts at 7:00 p.m., takes place at 761 Queen Street West, and costs $30.
For those of you who are more concerned with getting paid, local real estate demigod and former Torontoist Tall Poppy Brad J. Lamb is running a seminar on real estate investing. Inexplicably, the seminar promises a musical guest to accompany the real estate advice. Music or no, the seminar costs $35 and kicks off at 7:00 p.m. at Lula Lounge (1585 Dundas Street West).

Disreputable Bars

If ever there was a week (or two) to steer clear of Richmond Street and West Queen West, this would be it. Sure The Drake and The Social have extended hours of operation, but a fat lot of good that will be when you can’t get served and Mark Wahlberg’s entourage has just taken over your table.
If you’re going to go out for a social pint this week, it’s best to hit somewhere out of the way, cheap and mildly intimidating if you want to get served in a timely fashion. Unglamorous-but-highly-recommended places to get your swerve on without having to rub shoulders with Fest folk include Andy Michael’s Restaurant and Deli (566 Queen Street West), where the beer is almost offensively cheap and the regulars don’t acknowledge celebrity status. Classic punk rocker hangout Bistro 422 (422 College Street) is another option. To the untrained eye, it’s grotty basement where you can never find a seat. The trained eye sees pretty much the same thing, but with dirt cheap mixed drink pitchers and nary a festival swag bag to be found.

At Home, Learning About Mixed Member Proportional Representation

10_09_2007queen%27spark.jpgWhile everyone is going movie mad, the rest of the province is considering revamping the way we elect our provincial government. Mixed Member Proportional representation is an electoral method that is currently used in South Africa, Germany, Venezuela and parts of the United Kingdom. There are valid arguments for and against, but either way, it’s worth remembering that the famous folk will be gone by mid-month, the provincial legislature is here to stay. Check out Chris Tindal’s excellent Torontoist article about Mixed Member Proportional Representation.

Pacific Mall

Having arguably surpassed Chinatown as the epicentre of all things Chinese in Toronto, Pacific Mall (4300 Steeles Avenue East) may seem like an odd choice to avoid celebrities. Where else in the city can you score fresh output from Asia’s hottest young streetwear designers. Frankly, Pacific Mall is just too far north of the party circuit for anyone to be bothered, which makes it ideal for those trying to duck the marauding hordes.
In addition to having cell phones that won’t be out in this country for eighteen months, more medicinal herbs than you can shake a stick at and a stall that sells curried cuttlefish on a stick, Pacific Mall is also famous for its bootleg DVDs. Indeed, no matter how hard York Region’s finest try to crack down on the sale of fake copies of Ratatouille, Kennedy Road and Steeles Avenue East still has pirates like it’s the Caribbean.
While Torontoist in no way advocates the purchase of bootlegs, if you were going to by some illicit DVDs, TIFF would be the perfect time to do it. That way, if you do happen to bump into someone famous, you can smirk while trying to get them to sign an illegal copy of their latest release.
According to the Pacific Mall website there is some sort of ballroom dancing festival going down on the September 15 from 2:30–4:00 p.m. Sadly, many of the details seemed to be in Cantonese. Ask a friend for a translation.
Pho photo by the mkt. Queen’s Park photo by Sabocracy. All photos from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.

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