From the Print Edition

The Informer

Real Estate

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The Chase: twin sisters take a chance on a bargain-basement fixer-upper


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The buyers: 29-year-old twins Jennifer Carroll, a health-care product reviewer, and Krista Carroll, a municipal project manager for Peel Region.

The story: In the fall of 2013, Krista moved home to Toronto from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where she’d been working for an NGO. Unsure about her next steps, she crashed at her twin sister’s condo, a 900-square-foot two-bedroom at Sherbourne and Wellesley. Jennifer was renting out the second bedroom, so Krista took the couch. It was a tight fit for three, but the twins loved living together. Determined to find a place they could comfortably share, they pooled their resources, set a budget of $500,000 and started hunting for the perfect house. Their wish list was ambitious—two bedrooms, a big kitchen, a lush backyard and a basement rental unit—so they focused their search on the northwest corner of the city, hoping to land a well-maintained home in an up-and-coming area.

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The Informer

Columns

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Dear Urban Diplomat: can I hate my fellow TTC riders for not giving up seats for me and my toddler?

(Image: Andrew Currie/Flickr)

Dear Urban Diplomat,

I’m a young dad, and I take my 16-month-old son to and from daycare on the subway during rush hour. Is it wrong to get annoyed when people don’t give up a seat and I’m stuck carrying a squirming toddler for the entire 10-stop ride?

—Last Man Standing, Bloordale

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The Informer

People

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Ten things Russell Martin can’t live without

Last fall, the star catcher signed a five-year, $82-million deal with the Jays. This month, he’ll make his debut on the field. Here, the 10 things he can’t live without


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1
My Lululemon pants
I’ve got really big thighs, so it’s impossible to find pants that fit right. The ABC pants from Lululemon are a life changer! They look great with a sport coat, but they’re as comfortable as yoga gear.

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The Informer

Columns

11 Comments

Memoir: my strict Muslim upbringing didn’t stop me from losing faith in God

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I grew up in an observant Muslim household in Hamilton. My parents were refugees from Afghanistan who spoke Dari at home, read the Quran in Arabic and recited salat, the five daily prayers. On holidays, we attended a takayakhana, a Shiite place of worship in North York—the men and women would sit in different rooms, a live feed of the service streaming in the women’s space.

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The Informer

Columns

18 Comments

Dear Urban Diplomat: how can I convince my racist boss to hire a black sushi chef?

(Image: Ernst Moeksis/Flickr)

Dear Urban Diplomat,

I manage a Japanese restaurant, and I recently interviewed a sushi chef who is insanely talented and happens to be black. Unfortunately, the owner has said that our predominantly Asian customers would never buy sushi from someone who’s black. He says he’s not being racist, just realistic. What’s the best way to get him to give in? Shame? Logic? Subpoena? Or should I relent?

—Hire Ground, Richmond Hill

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The Informer

People

6 Comments

Q&A: Säad Rafi, CEO of the Toronto Pan Am Games, on leading the most polarizing event since the G20

saad-rafiYou were the widely respected deputy minister of health, making $428,000 a year. Then you accepted this highly controversial job at Pan Am Games, a position packed with potential pitfalls. What were you thinking?
Every job has its downside. I was excited about the rewards for the region, which has never hosted an event of this size. We’ll have more venues than the Vancouver Olympics and twice the number of athletes, officials and coaches.

Your predecessor, Ian Troop, presided over a comical string of expense claims for pricy dinners, fancy wines, $2,946 for a transatlantic flight, and more. What have you done to rein in the extravagant spending?
Ian made some policy changes, and I made more. I now sign off on all international trips for staff, for instance.

In 2011, an employee expensed the cost of relocating a pet from Vancouver. Please tell me you fired that person.
No, look, I took psychology in undergrad, so I know that putting an employee on public display like that doesn’t change the behaviour of others. I prefer to talk to our new hires at the outset about expectations of working with public funding.

Included in expense claims you released was $1,288 for Harry Rosen dress shirts. Were those yours?
No, they were shirts for Mr. Troop, branded with the Toronto 2015 Games insignia, and meant to be worn at Pan American Sporting Organization meetings, where such clothing is standard.

Have security plans changed in light of the attack on Parliament Hill?
The threat level remains unchanged. I don’t know the technical term, but I think it’s at medium. Spectators can expect an experience akin to going to a Jays game.

So there won’t be snipers on the roof?
No. It’s a sporting event, not a security event.

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The Informer

Features

25 Comments

The Kink Club: inside the secret world of BDSM

A growing cohort of Torontonians are indulging their wildest fetishes—and negotiating every slap, spank and lash of the whip.

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The Valentine’s Fetish Ball, at the Opera House in Riverdale (Image: Craig J. Galbraith)

Lord Morpheous, arguably Toronto’s reigning king of kink, lives in a downtown penthouse with a panoramic view of the skyline. He’s one of the city’s premier rope-bondage experts, though nothing about his appearance conjures the clichés we normally associate with BDSM: he’s an affable, bespectacled man in his 40s, greeting me at the door dressed in a crisp white button-down shirt and a pair of faded blue jeans. His decor only hints at his adventurous sexuality, like a framed print of an Alberto Vargas pin-up girl and an oversized painting of sexy stiletto heels. He keeps his toys tidied away but is happy to showcase them when I ask for a tour. In the office there are boxes of coiled rope in every colour, and a small horse saddle designed to fit a human. The living room has a custom-built side table that magically converts into a spanking bench, with metal loops for convenient restraint. He doesn’t have any pets, but he keeps a large dog bed in the corner for role-playing games.

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The Informer

Culture

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Not Your Grandma’s AGO: how a century-old museum became the city’s hippest hangout

Not Your Grandma’s AGO

On a frigid February evening, 2,500 party­goers descended on the Art Gallery of Ontario for First Thursdays, the museum’s monthly late-night party. This edition, celebrating a massive new exhibit devoted to the street-turned-pop artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, had sold out in under an hour. It featured panel discussions, food stalls, cheap cocktails and a performance from the hip hop DJ (and Basquiat contemporary) Grandmaster Flash. While the tipsy throng swirled in a frenzy under Frank Gehry’s spiral staircase, nightclub reps lurked outside the gallery, greeting passersby with flyers for upcoming events. “I tried to get a ticket for weeks, and this is the closest I’m going to get,” one told me. I asked if she’d ever hustled outside a museum before. “I go where the party is,” she said. “And this is the hottest party in town.”

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The Informer

Columns

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Fair Enough: skin-lightening is potentially hazardous, politically charged—and disturbingly popular

(Image: Getty Images)

This past winter, a subway ad for Liberty Clinic sparked much controversy when it proclaimed, “Get brighter and lighter skin!” It showed two women, one black and one South Asian, with digitally altered faces—pale on one side, dark on the other. Outrage ensued, and Liberty Clinic asked the TTC to yank the ads. They also swiftly apologized for any “concern, offence or distress the ads may have caused.”

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The Informer

Columns

29 Comments

Dear Urban Diplomat: can I disobey the demands of sidewalk-hogging TV crews?

Dear Urban Diplomat: what can I do about dictatorial TV crews?

(Image: Alan Daly/Flickr)

Dear Urban Diplomat,

I work near Victoria and Adelaide, which is almost always occupied by TV crews. I can’t go anywhere without some dictatorial, floppy tuque–wearing third assistant in a headset ordering me to stop—walking, talking, laughing—lest his shoot be interrupted. What would or could he do if I just ignored him and walked right on through?

—Scene Disturber, Downtown

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The Informer

Features

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The Break-In Artist: the hunt for the cat burglar who terrorized Toronto’s wealthiest neighbourhoods

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The Fort Knox of Thornhill is a stucco mansion with a mansard roof, front-yard fountain and U-shaped driveway on the area’s most coveted street. It’s owned by a middle-aged couple named Tony and Sherry, who asked that we not publish their last name, and is equipped with every security measure on the market: eight interior and exterior video cameras, reinforced locks, motion detectors in all rooms, a siren, contacts on every window hard-wired to a central response station, glass-break sensors, a 1.8-metre-high wrought iron fence with a buzzer system at the front and a brick retaining wall at the back. In home security–speak, the place is a “hard target,” meaning most thieves will take one look and move along.

So it came as a shock when, at 6:06 on the evening of Wednesday, November 6, 2013, Sherry received a call from her alarm company, Vigilarm, informing her that the second-storey master bedroom window had been opened. At the time, Sherry was at the Richmond Hill Public Library with her 11-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter for the kids’ weekly tutoring sessions. If she were being robbed, the timing made perfect sense: every Wednesday between 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., just as it was getting dark outside, the house was empty. Tony, a manufacturing executive, stayed at work on Wednesdays until 7 p.m., and the nanny always left at 5. Sherry instructed Vigilarm to dispatch the police, called Tony and then, leaving her kids with the tutor, sped the seven kilometres home, weaving through rush-hour traffic and running amber lights down Yonge Street. She didn’t know what she’d do if she encountered a burglar, but in the moment, she didn’t care.

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The Dish

Restaurants

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Where to Eat 2015: our ranking of Toronto’s 10 best—actually, make that 20 best—new restaurants

It’s official: Toronto has too many great restaurants. Trying to keep track of every new omakase sushi savant, unmarked bar run by a star chef and game-changing nouveau Asian fusion debut by a pop-up prodigy is tougher than an overdone T-bone. And it’s easier to get courtside for the Raptors than score a table at the city’s newest hot spots. In the past year, more than 100 notable restaurants opened. The relentless Charles Khabouth is responsible for no fewer than four: the exquisite Middle Eastern lounge Byblos, the Trump Hotel’s sky-high (in price and location) America, the swish Japanese steak house NAO and the CityPlace trattoria Città. This year, the sheer number of excellent new restaurants persuaded me to expand my usual top 10 to a top 20—and it’s by no means exhaustive. These are the 20 places I want to visit again and again. Just give me a minute to catch my breath.

The Informer

Culture

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Disabled Theater stars actors with intellectual disabilities—and it’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen

The Argument: Centre Stage

(Image: courtesy of Harbourfront Centre)

Live performance can feel starkly, claustrophobically intimate. In Disabled Theater, a strange and stimulating new Harbourfront production, that closeness is cunning, because it forces the audience to look at people we might typically turn away from. The production is composed entirely of professional actors with Down Syndrome and other intellectual disabilities. If you are like me, you have deliberately trained yourself to ignore their difference. But Disabled Theater gives you no choice: the performers speak, dance and engage the audience directly without the filter of characters, telling you who they are and how they see the world.

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The Dish

Restaurants

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Best New Restaurants 2015: #1, Buca Yorkville

Best New Restaurants 2015: Buca Yorkville Buca Yorkville | 53 Scollard St., 416-962-2822

I’ve been daydreaming about Rob Gentile. I’m in love with his ricotta gnocchi, which he rolls out by hand at Buca Yorkville, his grand new restaurant on the ground floor of the Four Seasons condo tower. He dresses the airy pillows with a foam of creamy robiola cheese, fried sage leaves, crumbled roasted chestnuts and shavings of Molisan white truffle. That’s his signature: a rustic Italian recipe made luxe, like Nonna dolled up in Gucci. The dish rings in at $80, by far the priciest pasta per bite in town.

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The Dish

Restaurants

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Best New Restaurants 2015: #2, Dandylion

Best New Restaurants 2015: Dandylion Dandylion | 1198 Queen St. W., 647-464-9100

Jay Carter studied at the best cooking school in town: Susur Lee’s kitchen. He worked as the master’s sous-chef for four years, then as chef de cuisine for another six, then left to become exec chef at the storied Centro. Last summer he finally struck out on his own, taking over the lease of a narrow bar on Queen West, in the row of studiously cool hangouts that sprouted up between the Gladstone and Drake hotels. He cooks from a modest open kitchen at the back, assisted by a sous-chef and a kitchen porter. His starting menu was an inspired distillation of Nordic trends, a little Canuck and plenty of Susur. (Side note: I’d nearly forgotten what a pleasure it is to encounter a menu of appetizers and entrées, not a list of tastes or sharing plates or dishes organized by temperature or food group or some other pretentious whim.)

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