Category Archives: Toronto

Two HUGE Things

I’m crazy busy but, because I don’t want you to miss me too much, I wanted to quickly let you know about two giganticly exciting things that happened to me recently. You’re welcome. ;-)

First, and most importantly, I was one of ten Toronto bloggers selected to blog for the CBC during the G20 as part of the CBC G20 Citizen Blog Team! Not just a huge feat unto itself, but a huge honour, too. You’ll be able to follow all the goings-on of the G20 and the police state into which Toronto has turned, along with photos and videos from yours truly.

Secondly, I was in an earthquake today. Yeah, you heard me.  Toronto went and had an earthquake that measured 5.5 on the Richter scale. I mean, if I hadn’t thought I’d already seen and done everything there was to do in Toronto, I did after today.

I’ll be back here to chat again soon, but, in the meantime, I hope you follow me as I help cover the G20 Summit as a citizen blogger for the CBC!

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Filed under I Love Narcissism, Toronto

My Own 50 Reasons To Love Toronto

Just when I thought I couldn’t love a city any more, Toronto Life magazine goes and publishes an issue — and a video! — with 50 reasons to love Toronto now.

You all know that I could easily come up with about one bazillion reasons to love Toronto, but in the spirit of the article, I’ve decided to list my own 50 reasons to love this fan-freaking-tastic city! And these are just the ones I came up with on the fly! I guess it’s not so hard when you’re in love.

1. When the sun shines and lights Lake Ontario up as blue as a sapphire
2. The cuisine. Enough said.
3. Art Gallery of Ontario
4. Nuit Blanche
5. The awesome Metro food writer, Stephanie Dickison
6. Independent bookstores that are still in business
7. A festival for every neighbourhood and ethnic group in the city every single weekend during the summer
8. That people call me back when they say they will
9. The Toronto Reference Library
10. Allan Gardens
11. How serious its people are about recycling. A PhD is required to figure it all out. Thank god I live in a building. ;-)
12. Toronto Cat Rescue*
13. Wychwood Art Barns
14. The Distillery District
15. That I can count on one hand the number of times someone’s been rude to me here
16. How people generally do not care about your race. Seriously, America — get the eff over it
17. The 401, better known locally as the Highway of Heroes
18. Mother’s Dumplings
19. The astonishing number of museums: art, sugar, shoe, police, and of course, hockey
20. Toronto Botanical Garden
21. Honest Ed’s
22. The sheer number of cupcake shoppes
23. Beaches, parks, hiking trails, and ski runs within a two hour drive
24. The weather, by which I mean no humidity
25. Nuit Blanche
26. Luminato
27. Toronto International Film Festival
28. Canada Reads
29. CBC headquarters
30. Second City
31. Frank Gehry
32. Volleyball on Sunday at Ashbridges Bay
33. Brunch. That is all.
34. The Mies van der Rohe-designed TD Canada Towers
35. Doors Open Toronto
36. The Junior League of Toronto
37. DJ skating parties in winter at Harbourfront
38. That gay people can get married here
39. Winterlicious/Summerlicious
40. The Drake Hotel
41. Trinity Bellwoods Park on the first “warm” day of Spring
42. The DVP when the trees are changing
43. Downtown coming into view when I drive south on the DVP every single day. Not a day goes by that I don’t smile when I see it.
44. The lookout from the Don Valley Brick Works
45. Watching the brightly coloured kayaks bob and float in Lake Ontario
46. How quickly the city clears the roads when it snows
47. Massey Hall
48. Double-decker tour buses in Summer
49. Even though the Toronto Maple Leafs haven’t won the Stanley Cup in 40+ years, 99% of people here are still die-hard fans
50. As much as they hate it, how damn nice Torontonians are, especially my amazing friends

I don’t know what Toronto Life’s 50 reasons are, but I can’t wait to find out!

P.S. I’ll link out tomorrow — I’m too tired right now. Must. Go. To. Bed.

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Copious Amounts of Sugar: CupcakeCamp Toronto

Cupcakes: those yummy, tiny little personal-sized cakes that are, without a doubt, the most popular sweet in the world. How do I know this? I know this because there are no fewer than 16 cupcakes shops in downtown Toronto alone (and those are just the ones I know about). I also know this because of an event I attended today; an event that was all about cupcakes, sold all 150 tickets, and had more than 40 volunteer bakers. The event? CupcakeCampToronto!

Born in San Francisco, the second annual CupcakeCamp Toronto was held today at a way cool space called 52 McCaul. The gallery was amazing — open, bright, and full of wicked original street and contemporary art. While the space was fantastic, the word “fantastic” doesn’t even begin to describe the cupcakes. For a mere $10 donation, part of which went to the Daily Bread Food Bank, more than 2,200 cupcakes were brought by bakers from across southern Ontario. The cupcakes were in every imaginable shape and size. There were mini cupcakes, regular-sized cupcakes, cupcakes in chocolate “glasses”, cupcakes in flower pots, and every conceivable flavour: half baked (part cookie dough, part cupcake), blue curacao, strawberry daiquiri, “cheeseburger”, lemon curd, monks tea*, s’mores, blood orange with olive oil, and about 30 other delicious flavours. There were even cupcakes with bacon and Spam** sprinkled on top! Starbucks donated coffee, and bottles of water — an absolute requirement — were only $1 (proceeds which also went to the DBFB).

My personal favourites were the lemon rhubarb red velvet and orange dreamsicle cupcakes. I reeeally wanted to try the s’mores cupcake, but by the time they came around in group nine of eleven (!), I may or may not have hit the proverbial wall and gone into the proverbial sugar coma. Seriously — I never thought I’d see a day where I’d eat too much sugar, but today was that day. I started to feel weird, left early and, by the time I got home, my head was pounding. I was on a serious sugar high! I just wish there had been doggie bags because, even though I practically OD’d on sugar this afternoon, a key lime cupcake sure does sound good right about now!

Check out my Flickr set from CupcakeCamp Toronto here.

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Toronto The Good. No, Really.

I was parked in a parking lot one day last week and grabbing some stuff from the backseat of my car, when another car pulled up next to me. The driver rolled down her window and asked if I knew where the new Winners* was located. I didn’t, but I’d seen a billboard in the area saying that Winners had, in fact, moved. All I could remember was that it said the store was now located on Laird Drive…the same street we were on. I said to the lady “oh yes, I saw a sign that they moved somewhere on Laird, but I haven’t seen anything around”. We laughed about it, she drove off, and I went inside the store.

I was standing in line at the PetSmart counter to return my items** when, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but the lady who had just stopped me in the parking lot — and she was walking straight towards me. I thought to myself “surely she came back in to pick up some dog food, or some cat litter, or to shoot me or something”, but, alas, no. She marched right up to me and said “I wanted to let you know that I found the Winners; it’s at Laird and blah blah blah***. Then she turned around and walked right out the store!

I stood there in shock. I think my mouth actually dropped open slightly. I seriously don’t remember where she said the store was because I couldn’t believe what had actually just happened! Had this woman really driven off, found Winners, turned around, parked her  car, gone inside Petsmart, and found me just to tell me where Winners was?! I mean, who does that?! I’ll tell you who — Torontonians the Good, that’s who.
 
 
 
 
* For my American readers, Winners is the Marshalls of Canada
** I bought my foster cat a super soft, super fluffy $24 cat bed that she literally never touched. Tonight, I brought home a box top — you know, the kind that pops off of a paper box — that was FREE, incidentally, and she won’t get out of it. Go figure.  Anyway, I was returning the cat bed to PetSmart which is where the incident occurred.
*** Like I said, I couldn’t get to the new Winners if I wanted to because I didn’t hear anything the woman said. Either that or I’m finally losing my hearing. ;-)

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To Market, To Market

I didn’t grow up going to Farmers’ Markets. There aren’t many in Houston and the ones that are there are quite small. In fact, I didn’t go to my first farmers market until I moved to Toronto. It seems that every neighbourhood in the city has its own farmers market with all kinds of locally grown produce. Those markets, though, are dwarfed by the mother of all farmers markets — Toronto’s legendary St. Lawrence Market.

The St. Lawrence Market is a complex made up of three buildings, including the North Market, which was established in 1803 (!) and is known primarily for its Saturday Farmers’ Market where producers from across southern Ontario sell their wares seasonally; on Sundays, the North Market turns in to a giant antiques fair. The South Market, and the larger of the two, has more than 50 specialty shops selling everything from rare French cheeses to Moroccan candies to olive bars into which I’d like to dive.

I never really got into the habit of going to the Market on Saturday like so many of my friends. Rather, I got into the habit of going to Loblaws on my way home from work on Fridays, so I didn’t have to deal with the crazy grocery store masses on the weekend — you know, like strollers the size of Hummers packed with screaming triplets and lines wrapped through the store. Anyway. With the invention of my Toronto Bucket List, though, I decided I needed to spend a Saturday morning roaming through the St. Lawrence Market.

I saw so many delectable, delightful goodies that my eyes nearly popped out of my head. I can’t list every store I went into simply because I pay by the inch* and it would be cost prohibitive. :-)  Some of my favourites, though, were Kozlik’s Canadian Mustard (honey and lime mustard FTW), Scheffler’s Deli & Cheese (where they sell hanging cheese!), Everyday Gourmet (for delicious, delicious coffees and teas), and Di Liso’s Fine Meats, where I snagged 4 pounds of extra lean ground steak for $12. Sweet. I have a serious addiction to olives, and I saw an olive bar so vast that my eyes welled up with tears. The Carousel Bakery, a Toronto institution, is also inside the Market and sells its “world famous peameal bacon sandwich” in droves — people were literally snaked through the market standing in line to buy a sandwich. I tried one, of course, but not being a huge fan of “back bacon”, or peameal bacon, I didn’t really care for it. Apparently, I’m the only one, though, so don’t listen to me.

The St. Lawrence Market is the world’s largest indoor farmers market and it’s been right in my own backyard all this time. I’m sad I didn’t take advantage of it sooner than I did, but better late than never. Reason # 54,912 to love Toronto.

P.S. Check out a few photos I took while at the SLM.

* kidding

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Four Times The Fun! (Day 23)

Summers in Toronto are filled with every kind of show, festival, art crawl, exhibit, and exhibition you can imagine. In fact, coming to Toronto in the summer is like hitting the motherlode of outdoor activity. Then, November comes — that dreary, wet, gray month — and everyone packs it in and goes a) home and b) inside.

This year, though, we had an unusually cool Summer and, naturally, an unusually warm Fall. I’m practically dying of heatstroke in my now-that-it’s-fall-the-A/C-is-off-and-sweltering  condo, although the warmth means fewer days I’m required to wear my down feather coat in which I look fiercely hot1. But I digress. What does this have to do with Toronto’s activities? I don’t really know — my funny is out for a smoke break tonight, but my point is that I had an awesome weekend that can be summed up in four short words: photography, food, wine, and sex2. What could be better than that, you ask? Well, for me, not much. Not much at all. 

The Royal Ontario Museum has an exhibit of Vanity Fair portraits and photographs from 1913-2008 which I could hardly wait to see. Relentless in my own personal quest for documentation, not to mention a 14-year subscriber to the mag, meant that a trip to brush up against photos taken by Annie Liebowitz, Edward Steichen, Helmut Newton, Nan Goldin, Cecil Beaton and Man Ray <swoon> was a requirement. And were there photographs! Indeed! Seeing the stars in photos doesn’t really do it for me — I find them infinitely uninteresting. The photo that sticks out in my mind turned out to be a small portrait of  Claus von Bülow, who infamously posed for the Vanity Fair photos mere days after he was accused of attempting to kill his wife, Sonny. Von Bülow was ultimately acquitted on all charges and Sonny lived in a permanent vegetative state for 28 years until her death. The film “Reversal of Fortune” eventually told the story of the von Bülow family and is one that has always fascinated me. Also, because, being a 14-year subscriber means that I’d already seen many of the photos they exhibited, so I was kinda b-o-r-e-d3. A trip to Hemingways for drinks and appys followed and a lovely evening was had by all.

The monolithic Gourmet Food and Wine Expo rolled into Toronto this week, which usually means two things: I’ll be tipsy the majority of the weekend and will inevitably spill red wine on,and ruin, a perfectly good silk blouse. Good news, though — neither of those things happened this year! Yay me! Rather than going three nights in a row this year, I refrained and attended only on Saturday night to help my friend Angela Aiello of iYellow Wine Group fame. Ange happened to be on a press trip to Chile (yes, she leads a tough life, doesn’t she?!) and therefore needed lots and lots of help to ensure that iYellow got the mad props it deserved during the show. Props, indeed! The show was packed — literally — and ended up selling out. I tasted quite a bit of good food (lobster! thai shrimp!), wine (madeira! riesling! icewine!), olive oils (can’t remember the names!), but my favourite food/drinkstuff was a “mini ice cream cone”: think ice cream cone lined with a hard chocolate shell, filled with a (very strong) french vanilla liqueur and topped with chocolate whipped cream. Zomg. It was sinful. The party itself was basically controlled chaos and you could hardly move without stepping on the 4″ heel of the whorishly dressed well-dressed girl in front of you. In fact, when I gracefully departed around 10pm, things were just getting into full swing. The Gourmet Food and Wine Expo was a definite “see and be seen” scene. And one that should *not* be missed.

That takes care of photography, food and wine. And now, the sex. (Warning: parental units, the squirmish, and/or the +60 set, you may want to skip this part altogether) Ahem. The Everything To Do With Sex show is apparently as Canadian an institution as maple syrup, roaming moose and igloo-living. There may be shows like this in the States, but shows like this in Houston, TX, there are not. Therefore, being the consummate Canadian tourist, I felt like it was something I could not miss during my time in Toronto. ;-) Also, because what else does a Texas girl do on a Sunday in November? 

I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I arrived, but was surprised to see *every* kind of person there — young, old, gay, straight, preppy, goth, fat, thin, tall, short. There were the typical vendors you’d expect to see at a show about being intimate, like masseuses, photographers, hair straighteners, body painters, tattoo artists4,  and the ubiquitous firefighter’s calendar (!!!). Then, of course, there werer those unexpected vendors such as Cowboys of the Caribbean, Straptease, the Sexerciseme Ball, and Orgasmatron. I saw things that angelic Texas girls like me could only imagine (and then some) including, but not limited to, penis-shaped ice cube trays, chocolate-dipped penises5, things that vibrate in time with songs on your iPod (incidentally called “iBod”), and other varied and assorted accoutrements, at which time I decided that the motto of the show should be “come one, come all6“!

Photography wasn’t allowed, although I can assure you that as soon as the fashion show began, cameras were whipped out at breakneck speed. Always playing by the rules, I, of course, took only one photo inside (and only after I asked permission), so I have nothing to show you other than the chocolate-dipped privates. ;-)

Needless to say, my weekend was filled with food, wine, friends, and debauchery. My prior method of operation has always been “fear and loathing” of November; after this weekend o’fun, however, it has officially changed to “bring it on, baby”! 
 
 

 

 

1 By which I mean the Stay-Puf Marshmellow Girl. Yes, I know it’s an image you can’t get out of your heads, but try to restrain yourselves, gentlemen. ;-)
2 Not what you think!
3 But not from the company. Lisa, you rock as a ROM date!
4 Called the “Nude Buddha Tattoo Studio”, natch, and where people were actually getting tattoos. If I was planning to get a tattoo, I don’t think I’d wait for the portable booth set-up at the Everything To Do With Sex show to get it. But maybe that’s just me.
5 Made out of strawberries and bananas — clever, if you ask me.
6 But is actually “Admit it. You’re Curious”.

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A Picture’s Worth A Thousand Words (Day 21)

Photographs have always, always, always been a gigantic part of my life. Since getting my first pink round Le Clic when I was about 13, I have been a serious photo-taking shutterbug. Thumbing through the stills in Life Magazine always fascinated me and to this day, I love photos way more than video. Photography exhibits are my absolute favorite and I could easily stare at a photograph all day — taking in its single moment in time; the looks on faces, whether those of shock or happiness or discovery; and the natural and man-made environments. I’ve passed by the Toronto Archives on many an occasion and had heard it was lovely, but was not at all prepared for the bigosity of it! It’s an enormous space filled with huge range of documents and photographs documenting the city’s heritage. The best part is that you can either spend tons1 of time in the building proper or you can plop down on your sofa in your comfy pajamas like I am right now and surf the archives in the privacy of your own home. There’s just nothing better than using all the tools in the nerd kingdom to make life easier. Le happy sigh.

I had an interest in seeing photos from the area of Toronto in which I’ve lived for the last two and a half years and there were a plethora of them available. It’s so cool to see how cities change and grow, and Toronto is no different. While you may not know the area, I hope you appreciate the photos as much as I have.

As an aside, I checked to see if the city of Houston had a similar archive, but was unable to find anything. Rather, they have an archive of only modern day photos, but looks like it’s definitely worth a look.

1 or “tonnes”, if you’re Canadian

 Spadina at Front Streets, ca 1960.

A TTC bus, ca 1935. Not much has changed. :-)

Looking east from the Fairmont Royal York hotel, ca 1930

Lake Ontario in the Beach, frozen. 1924.

 

Queen Street West at Spadina, ca 1935

 

Front at Peter Streets, 1926

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Toronto Gives Voice To Art (Day 16)

(Note: I have no idea why my font is both microscopic and not the normal WordPress font; however, I am far too exhausted to try and figure it out right now. I *can* say that after a quick forum search, I was informed that you are unable to modify fonts on the WordPress.com platform unless you have serious knowledge about CSS, which I do not. Does that seem silly to anyone else but me? It seems like pretty basic functionality in, I don’t know, 2009. Le sigh.)

You know how you can walk down the same street every single day and not notice something that’s been there forever? I try to be an “explorer in my own city”, which is really still very new to me, but I consider myself to know my ‘hood pretty well. Very well, actually. This week, though, I noticed something different on a lamppost across the street from my building. I noticed a hot pink sign, not necessarily because of what was on it, but because it was hot pink, natch. When I realized it wasn’t just another flyerplastered on a post announcing the next rave at The Guvernment or that male models are in serious need, but something from the city of Toronto about art, no less, I stopped to take a look.

The sign said simply “artbuzz” with a phone number and two other digits, and was near the Chinese Railroad Workers Memorial (sign # 1-3). I’d walked by the very large structure before — it’s huge and not something you can miss; not to mention, I’ve lived nearby for two and a half years and, being the consummate tourist I am, had to check it out. That was long ago, though, and I’d never noticed any pink signs. So, I did what anyone would do and phoned the number hoping upon hope that it wasn’t some kind of porn line or ruse to steal your credit card number. Alas, no! You get a lovely little tale about the work of art, how the idea was conceived and anecdoates from either the artist or art experts. Don’t believe me? Try it! Call 416.338.3331 and punch in 1-3. Pure art goodness.

Artbuzz1 was commissioned in 2002 by the Cultural Services division of the city of Toronto as an audio tour of the city’s outdoor art. Why no one has notified me of this goodness prior to today is beyond me. I have walked all over this city in the time I’ve been here and have never, ever noticed any other pink signage, with the exception of said male model necessitation. Ahem. The odd sign is still affixed around the downtown core, but apparently fifteen pieces were included with the project launch — including Montréal artist Gilbert Boyer’s curiously obscure granite plaques in the ground called “I Looked For Sarah Everywhere” in St. James Park at King and Church (sign # 2-1), as well as at the elevated wetlands in Sunnybrook Park (sign # 1-6). What this all means is that there are fourteen other outdoor art pieces I’ve yet to see. Fourteen! For shame. It, of course, may or may not have something to do with the perpetual foot of snow on the ground six months a year, but that’s neither here nor there. Artbuzz is definitely one of Toronto’s (many) best-kept secrets.

1 I scoured the intertubes trying to locate a website for artbuzz and I can assure you after an exhaustive search that one does not exist.

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Toronto Chinatown Festival

Chinatown Festival 150Smoke billowed from gangs of barbeques lined up as far as the eye could see. Bunches of Hello Kitty balloons neatly tied together gently waved in the afternoon breeze. Tourists clicked their cameras incessantly and nearly tripped over each other with excitement. Traditional arts and costumes from the eight Chinese provinces were featured on stage and performers under intricately embroidered red-silked dragons danced through the streets at the Toronto Chinatown Festival.Chinatown Festival 051

My nose led me to open-air street vendors selling skewers of pork and beef, fried rice, lotus paste sandwiches and steamed breads; at times smelling putrid, rotten, rancid and sour and at other times sweet, aromatic, and occasionally perfumed like a newly-planted taro bush on the Hawaiian coast. Fused together, their fragrant flavours transported me to the Orient with a single inhale.

I sauntered through the colourful displays and couldn’t help but bite into Takoyaki and curried fish balls, while double fisting a strawberry bubble tea and a fresh coconut sliced open specifically for my consumption. I sipped Chinatown Festival 126the last bit of coconut water, and spied both boiled white radishes and chocolate wasabi ice cream. Something told me I was required to make a detour, as the streets of Chinatown invited me to indulge, again.

 

 

 

 

P.S. Take a gander at the rest of my too-good-to-be-true Chinatown Festival photos here. ;-)

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This IS Rated PG-13

iPhone 009So, remember that time when I was walking down Queen Street minding my own business and, lo and behold, saw crazy people on bikes? And then that other time when I was walking down Queen Street minding my own business and saw even crazier people on bikes, but completely naked?  Well, guess what? It happened to me again!  True story. Only this time, I wasn’t walking, but was on the streetcar and I wasn’t on Queen Street, but was on Spadina *near* Queen Street. Crazy, nón? And this time, they weren’t on bicycles, but were on skateboards. And, sadly, they weren’t naked, much to my chagrin.

I had been navigating the shark-infested waters  streetcars of the Toronto Transit Corporation after a very long day of walking, shopping, and free massage-getting (i heart you, universal healthcare!), when I finally found a place to sit on the eternally-crowded, I’m-going-to-grow-out-of-clothes-waiting-for-the-g******ed 510 streetcar. I had just purchased a new mattress topper and two new pillows, and for those of you thinking “why would you buy those things knowing you had to lug them all the way home?” – I’ll tell you, I asked myself the very same question with full knowledge that I’d have to tote them all the way home from Yonge and Bloor to my house near Front and Spadina.  Those kinds of ludicrous decisions are what happen when you haven’t slept a full night in, oh, about fourteen days and are desperate — DESPERATE — to get a full night’s sleep. But I digress.

So I was squashed into my tiny seat with my two pillows and my giant bag containing the mattress topper, when I heard a bunch of cars honking theiriPhone 010 horns on the other side of the street. When I looked up, I saw about 1,000 kids crazies skateboarding up Spadina through the cars and the traffic!  For the uninitiated who have never been on Spadina near Chinatown on a Saturday, take note and heed this advice — don’t do it. You will lament the days you owned a car because your car will overheat from the sheer amount of time you sit on Spadina waiting to move just an inch. Anyway. So all these horns were honking at all these kids skateboarding up the street and I thought “ooooh, if this was in Houston, there’d be some serious back-up grabbing right now! But alas, none of the drivers looked angry; rather, they were all smiling, rolling down their windows to W00T!, and laugh at the entire incident. Well, at least they were where I was. The mo-rons driving on the other end of Spadina on a Saturday afternoon were probably grabbing their back-ups due to their anger at the traffic in which they were trapped, but I just didn’t see them.

I think it’s funny that I randomly see all of these street goings-on all the time^.  Luckily, I always, always, always have my camera with me, and, now that I’ve welcomed myself to the 21st century by joining the iCult, I also have that electronic device with which I can capture all of this Toronto street goodness, too!  I do this all for you, my fair readers. All for you!

You’re welcome.

P.S. Because I know you are dying to know, my mattress topper is fab!  A little warm because it’s down, but lest ye forget, I live in Canada, so I just have to wait five minutes and it’ll be -375C. I think, though, that I’m going to return the pillows. They were so high and firm that I practically gave myself a broken neck due to my spine being in a 90 degree angle for eight four whole hours.  Can you even return pillows? I don’t understand how you’re supposed to test drive a pillow in the store since they refuse to let you lay down on the display beds? Quite the conundrum, if I do say so myself.

 

^ By which I mean thrice.

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