road tripping

My Crazy Summer 2018

It’s taken me a while to get back to posting on here this summer, ’cause like last summer and the summer before: I am too damn busy in the summertime. There hasn’t been a whole lot of gaming, but a lot of other stuff happening…Rust never sleeps, and apparently neither are we at the House of Sim! This here is an abridged update of what I have been up to. It was monumental to say the least!

Part 1: A trip back home.

First stop, Sudbury, Ontario. This time last year, no one thought we’d be cleaning out a house that has been lived in for 42 years, with the plan to put it up for sale. Alas, that is what happened. My husband’s mother, newly widowed, recruited a team (us “kids”) to help her downsize and pack. Her hope is to move away to the Ottawa Valley this coming Fall to be closer to the grandkids. The majority of our time up north was spent on this emotional task, and mission accomplished; we were successful! The house is currently up for sale…but it was a backbreaking (and heartbreaking) haul. A lot of beer and chocolate were consumed. The ordeal was mostly unpleasant, but it emphasized the importance of family. Thankfully, the house was equiped with a pool so we would be able to cool off. Damn, I’m gonna miss that pool…

It wasn’t all a slog, however. We managed to step out and have some day trips around the city, including a stop at Dynamic Earth, Sudbury’s tourist destination on the history of mining in the region. I hadn’t been here since a class trip in grade 6…And, it appears they polished up the Big Nickel just for us!

I was also thankful to spend time with my family which I needed desperately. We planned a day trip that saw my whole fam jam loaded up into a mini van and embarked on a brief stint to Manitoulin Island, the geographic epicentre of my maternal heritage. This might sound morbid, but we spent our time visiting grave sites. Grimesthorpe cemetary in Spring Bay basically holds a large portion of my maternal lineage, including my Grandparents. It’s so peaceful there, the only thing you hear are the squirrels protesting you are around their domain. Then, my great uncle is buried in another quiet cemetary that has the cleanest outhouse. We rounded out the day with ice cream from Farquhar’s Dairy. These things might sound mundane, but this is the kind of subdued activity I needed.

Part 2: Get out get out get out of my house!

Clearing out my husband’s childhood home got us to thinking about our own “stuff.” Let me put it out there: My husband and I collect things. We love video games, books, movies, music and other sorts of pop culture memorabilia. We got stuff. But, after spending 12 days straight pitching other people’s stuff, it got us to thinking about our own cherished items. Are they really cherished?? We both conceded how anxious we were feeling about our own stuff cluttering up the house. A proposal was given from the hubs – let’s go through our stuff. Let’s decide what is important, let’s pitch what isn’t. Let’s lose the stuff meant for “one day…” If you haven’t touched it in 5 years, you don’t need it. We’ve lived in our current home for 12 years; we have STUFF.

My name is Sarca and I hoard books. Things haven’t gotten much better from this 2014 post, except I read around 5-10 books a year now, which is an accomplishment. Last summer (2017) I activated my Markham Public Library eBook account, which is another avenue to read…I just never stopped buying the physical copies. I know Mr. Books will have a heart attack (brace yourself Aaron…), but I packed up the majority of my books, and sent 10 boxes to the junk shop! Yes, 10 boxes. I have kept key ones from my favourite authors as well as graphic novels that will never be digitized…the rest went. It wasn’t easy, but I feel a weight lifted and some control over my stuff. I found myself looking around my house critically and asking, “What else can I lose?”

Part 3: Get out get out get out of my house!! (part 2)

Time to catch that guy!

But before the purging of our stuff began, imagine coming home exhausted from a trip up north only to find your house scattered with mouse scat. This happened. I noticed poop on the kitchen counter, and then in the living room. We then noticed our Ikea couch had been scratched up a little. We sprung into action immediately, cleaning and disinfecting every room. I wanted to clean under the beds while on vacation, I just didn’t want to clean them in such an emergency! We discovered through trial and error the little guy was living under our kitchen sink in the space between the cabinet and the floor. We can only suspect he got in through the door to the garage (we have had some issues in the past with mice on our property getting into our garage looking for seed). No food was ever eaten from our kitchen, and the mouse was eventually caught. Talk about the best case scenario of what could have been a disasterous situation.

Part 4: Chicago!

After spending less than 6 hours in Portland, Oregon and the ordeal behind such a short trip, I developed some adverse reaction to travel. I didn’t want to go anywhere, nor drive, nor navigate anywhere unfamiliar. An opportunity presented itself that would allow me to be a passenger on a trip to Chicago, Illinois to attend the inaugeral Cartridge Club Con, and I jumped at it. I rode in a van with my husband and 3 other guys and it was good times.

There were several highlights from the drive up:

A pit stop in Detroit, Michigan to Third Man Records was pretty cool. This is Jack White’s pressing plant and storefront. It oozed coolness.

We stopped for supper at a diner in Toledo, Ohio that had 20 different kinds of pie; I tried the Scutterbotch pie, which was a butterscotch pudding filling and whipped cream. Delish!

Along the way we stopped in to a Dunkin’ Donuts for coffee. Let me give you a short “For the Love of ‘Fee”…Dunkin’, your ‘fee ain’t worth the $2.50 U.S. for a medium. It tasted burnt, and what is with the price point; are you trying to be Starbucks? An interesting side-note – the coffee cups were made of styrofoam, which is not something we see in my area any more (ours are paper; styrofoam is not recycled).

Did you have any doubt there’d be coffee-drinking?

We stopped in to a Walmart in Elkhart, Indiana. Cheap liquor, weird sugery cereal and Chicken in a Biskit crackers couldn’t keep us away. I was most pleased to find Downy fabric softener balls which are no longer sold in Canada; I picked up three.

This pic doesn’t do it justice – over 600 cabinets!

It was exciting to go to Chicago. I got to meet up with some friends from the Club, try some Chicago deep dish pizza, and go to Galloping Ghost, a legit arcade. The unfortunate part was that there just wasn’t enough time to do any Chicago sight-seeing. We were only there for 2 days. We’ll have to go back…

Giordano’s stuffed crust pizza rocked!

Part 5: Montreal

Two weeks ago, we went to Montreal. Planning this trip was like, “It’s a long weekend…Let’s go to Montreal!” Alrighty then! The plan was to go record store shopping. I’d only driven past Montreal on the way to Old Quebec City (grade 8 class trip…), so this was going to be fun.

The hubs lined up the Hotel Brossard, a hotel off the island. We managed to get there with only one detour away from the toll road. It was a lovely hotel – King sized bed and terrycloth bathrobes! Our first night, we had sushi from a local joint; it was awesome!

The next day, we embarked on a full-day record store shopping spree. We just had to wait for the record stores to open! So, we went to see a Picasso exhibit at the Musee des Beaux-Arts. Picasso is my favourite, so I had a good time…

The record store pictured upper right is Beatnik’s

We then walked to three record stores. It was a hot one that day and none of these places were air conditioned; I never sweat so much! But, it was loads of fun and we picked up a good haul (pick up video to follow on the hubs’ YouTube channel).

The hubs also wanted some Montreal Smoked Meat. We tried to get into Schwartz’s deli, a world-famous joint, but the line was a mile long. We went across the street instead to the Main Deli. He had his smoked meat sandwich, and I had a chicken sandwich with fries. So good! We rounded out the day with some ice cream from a parlour close to our hotel.

I tried to practice my French a little while in Quebec, but no one in Montreal would have it and would speak to me in English (I suppose it was my mangled Anglicized accent that gave me away!). Overall the trip was successful, and we hope to go back soon.

And there you have it. It’s been a short summer, with a lot of stuff crammed in. I hope you enjoyed reading! What have you been up to this summer?

Road Tripping Part 2: Finding Nostalgia and the Motherlode in Barrie, ON

In 1998, the hubs and I moved into our first place together. It was a one-bedroom apartment on the second floor of a mostly elderly tenant building on Wellington Street West, in Barrie, Ontario. Our apartment overlooked Highway 400 – the predominant route for traffic going from the big smoke of Toronto to the Muskokas and Northern Ontario. We lived in that apartment for four years until we bought our first home. In total, we lived in Barrie for 7 years, and saw the town grow from a bedroom community to a bustling city where roads were often gridlocked and the vacancy rate near 0%.

It helps to know your way around Barrie, and lucky for us, when we decided last-minute to make the hour-long trip recently we maneuvered our way around the back roads to avoid the busier arteries. This day, our trajectory pointed us toward a few key gaming and thrift shops that historically we’ve had some luck in, and maybe get a bite to eat. Because we know Barrie so well, we could leave our TomTom GPS in the glove compartment of the car instead of relying on it to take us down some cow path to Barrie.

The challenge that we normally face commuting to Barrie from our home base of Stouffville is there is no direct route from where we live. Lake Simcoe takes all our “direct route” real estate, which means the easiest way to get there is to cut through the Town of Newmarket. This summer though, Newmarket is a nightmare to drive through. Every major road running east to west has some type of construction inhibiting access. But, we planned accordingly and got through it with the least amount of aggravation. Highway 400, on the other hand, is a different story. This highway has seen a lot of accidents. It can be a perfectly sunny day and some accident can cause a 3 hour backup. Lucky for us, today would be smooth sailing.

Our first stop was to our old stomping ground around our old apartment on Wellington Street West. At the back of it is a strip mall with a Shoppers Drug Mart, No Frills Grocery, a restaurant and some shops, including a Value Village. One stop shopping! We headed over to Value Village, and I am sad to report we didn’t find much (Boo!).

Not yet tasting defeat, but feeling hungry, we walked across the parking lot to the Little D’s Diner for a satisfying bite – a hamburger and fries for the hubs, and a club sandwich for me. This little understated hole in the wall is a bonafide diner: all-day breakfast, soup of the day, hot turkey sandwiches and delicious coffee. I have never walked away having eaten a bad meal at Little D’s.

Where to next? Right next door to the diner is Bandito Video, a store we haven’t been to in ages. Evidently, unlike many other cities in Ontario, no one told Bandito that it was time to hang up its movie and game rental/retail business when Blockbuster shut its doors. The blue and gold used to EVERYWHERE and was the one place you could find used movies and games for a decent price. Movie rental joints are becoming few and far between as Netflix and Red Boxes are taking over. Rogers Video outlets used to sell used entertainment also, but Blockbuster’s mighty fall must have scared the hell out of them as they no longer exist.

Bandito Video was once a chain of movie rental stores. Sooner or later however, the chains broke, leaving only one living store in Barrie, Ontario. When the hubs and I moved to our first apartment, we were delighted that there was a movie rental joint close by. Both movie lovers on a limited budget, we could rely on Bandito to provide us with a very large selection of movies – at the time in VHS, later in DVD – in a very large store. Teal-painted walls, teal and red checkered floors, and fake cacti and sombreros dressed their store. Free popcorn was constantly being made, and the place was always a madhouse as people planned their weekly movie-watching in-store. Today, it was “same as it ever was,” except…it wasn’t.

Entering the store, that distinct smell of freshly made popcorn was present, and if it wasn’t for the meal I had just consumed, I would have insisted on a small bag to take on the go! Still the same teal walls and checkered floor donned the decor. I was happy to be back among the familiar surroundings!

But, browsing through the store, you start to notice how things have been going for Bandito over the past few years. First and foremost, the large expanse of the store was no longer: it was now half the size. A wall had been built, cutting off a large portion of the area that housed their older stock. A small area was being used to sell used video games. Another sad reality: another area of the store was kept to liquidate stock from one of Bandito’s last chains that had recently shut down in Angus, Ontario. And lastly, the store was eerily quiet – us being the only customers for the full 45 minutes we were there. To be fair, it was a Monday afternoon, and probably not their busiest time. Still, I couldn’t help but notice that the movie rental business isn’t as lucrative as it once was. Walking the aisles, I thought about all the times I browsed and found those hidden sleeper films that later became a part of my own DVD collection…and then wondered to myself if this would be one of the last times I’d be at Bandito Video. I hope not.

One store’s decline can be one man’s win fall, however. Ask my husband! Bandito was selling off their stock of used console games – 2 for $10, 2 for $20…the credit card took a hit this day. I can’t possibly name all the ones he found, but he had been searching for some of these games for a long time. The prices were too good to pass up!

We left Bandito with a bag of goodies, and headed towards another favourite movie rental place – VideoTime – a store situated in the Kozlov Centre, a mall off of Barrie’s main drag, Bayfield Street. VideoTime is also a movie rental joint that like Bandito Video had a few locations around Barrie that have since closed. Today, VideoTime still offers movies for rent, but their selection is less than ever from what I could see, and it appears they are concentrating their efforts more on selling their large selection of used games and gaming accessories than movie rentals. Because of its location, the hubs and I would never rent anything from this store, but we would often stop by to dig for deals on used games. Most of the more common games are kept out on the floor, while rarer games and consoles are found locked tight in showcases. Prices vary at VideoTime. It would seem that what they deem precious is what you pay top dollar for, while what is out on the floor is more affordable. Collectors of pristine copies of games may be disappointed here, however: to VideoTime’s detriment, their showcases use mostly fluorescent lights to highlight their stock, fading the covers of those rarer games. Too bad.

The stock out on the floor, mostly Xbox, Wii and PS2 and PS3 games, was still worth checking out, and the hubs found some more games to add to his booming collection.

At the back of the store, VideoTime keeps a small dusty collection of old PC games, which is right in my wheelhouse. I don’t often find anything that interests me at VideoTime, but this day I couldn’t believe what I discovered.

Anyone familiar with Bill Kurtis and his shows on A&E, American Justice and Cold Case Files? I used to LOVE those shows. Unfortunately, they are no longer on air, and are hard to find to watch them on the interwebs (someone posts them on YouTube only to have them pulled off). At any rate, who knew a game was created based on one of my favourite shows?! The narration is done by Bill Kurtis himself! I have since played the game, so watch for that review shortly!

After the credit card took a hit at two stores, and with the afternoon waning, we felt it was time to head back home, happy with our new additions! It was fun taking a trip down memory lane. Here’s hoping these stores will still be kicking the next time we make the pilgrimage to Barrie, Ontario. We had a nice time and we hope to do it again.