Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Free Hugs

            On Tuesday morning I couldn’t stand the silence of doing yoga without listening to Radio Canada, so I made the decision to go out and get myself another receiver. A little after noon I rode to Best Buy, but before going in I figured that since I was downtown already I might as well look for a Picardie tumbler to match the one that got broken in January.
            At the corner of Yonge and Dundas there was a smiling guy holding up a sign offering free hugs. He didn’t have any takers as I walked by.
I went to Winners first, which was the place where I’d found the first one, though even when I had that one I kept going back to Winners to find more but they never turned up again, and that was the case this time as well. In fact, they seem to have stopped selling housewares at Winners altogether these days.
I went into the Eaton’s Centre, past the guy with the “Free Hugs” sign, still smiling but still with no one taking him up on his offer. I walked south through the mall and it was the first time I’d been in there since Sears closed. It seems that all of the space that Sears occupied has been taken over by Nordstrom, but they’re not really a department store in the way that Sears or Eaton’s were. It’s all clothing, shoes, accessories and makeup but no bedding, appliances or housewares. I went all the way through the mall to the redesigned and much nicer now glass bridge over Queen Street to the Hudson’s Bay Company where I took seemingly endless escalators to the top floor to find the glassware.
Nobody in housewares at The Bay knew what Picardie glasses were at first but a woman in charge of the department walked around with me a while and as we looked around and I made comparisons she remembered that they’d had them on sale for a while but they were gone. She recommended Williams and Sonoma in the mall on the second floor. I walked all the way back up to Nordstrom without seeing it, so I walked south again. I tried playing with the computerized directory and saw Williams and Sonoma further south but I still couldn’t find it. I decided that if I didn’t find it on one more trip north I’d just leave the mall and go back on my stereo hunt. About halfway up I asked the help desk and was told the store was directly above where we were, so I went upstairs and found it.
The Williams and Sonoma salesperson didn’t know what Picardie glasses were either. When I described it as being of a less breakable type of glass she shook her head and doubted that they had anything like that. “Everything that we have is very breakable and made of crystal” she insisted. But then we did find them after all, however their biggest glass was the same size as the one that Nick Cushing gave me. She suggested that I try Homesense at Yonge and Queen, but I put that off till the next time I’m downtown.
Back out at Dundas and Yonge the guy with the “Free Hugs” sign was still there and still smiling.
At Best Buy I was disappointed to see that they didn’t have any Yamaha receivers, even though their online catalogue showed that they had one on sale for $169. The salesperson explained that some of their products are only available on the web. In the future there won’t be any stores and everyone will have to buy stuff on the internet. For a few years the delivery industry will thrive but then we will all have 3D printers and we’ll be able to download and manufacture stereo components almost instantly in our own homes. That will mean they can be hacked and we can even make our own spaceships for free.
The cheapest receiver they had was a Sony for $200. I was willing to pay $200 but this one looked flimsy and cheap. I walked back to Yonge, where the Free Hugs guy remained untouched and headed up Yonge Street because I remembered that it used to be lined with little stores that sold stereo equipment. When I was halfway between Gerrard an College I realized I was being stupid to walk, so walked back to Dundas and considered going over to give the guy with the sign a hug, but I was already getting tired and hungry and not feeling as emotionally generous as I might have been if I’d already found what I’d been looking for. I went west to where I’d locked my bike in front of Best Buy, and then I rode up Yonge.
The only electronic stores on Yonge now are just cell phone places. I think that the stereo shops had all been on blocks that are now giving birth to high-rise office buildings.
I stopped at College Park because I was sure that I’d seen The Brick furniture store advertise online that they had Yamaha audio receivers. It took me a while to find the Brick but this store at least had nothing electronic.
            I pedaled up, across and down to Bay-Bloor Radio. I walked around for several minutes without a single salesperson being anywhere in sight. Finally I asked a woman at a desk and she called for a salesman. He showed me the cheapest Yamaha receiver that they had and it looked like the level of quality that I would be willing to settle for but it was $350 and out of my price range.
            As I was riding back down Yonge Street I remembered when 15 or 20 years ago I’d bought my current Yamaha receiver at the now five years gone Kromer Radio on Bathurst Street. I recalled paying about $250 at the time and so I thought now that if I want the same quality I might have to accept inflation and go back to Bay Bloor Radio to get the $350 Yamaha. I turned right on Wellesley with the intention of going up Bay, but I almost immediately stopped and told myself to stay in my budget. I turned around and continued down Yonge to Queen, then went west towards home.
            I couldn’t think of any other place to look for a new receiver, so I just told myself that this day might be a write-off but I would keep my eyes open and hopefully find something in a few days.
            I stopped at Moog Audio, but it turns out that they just sell professional audio equipment, liking mixing boards and such.
            It occurred to me on the way home to stop and check out the Queenglad Pawnshop at Queen and Gladstone. They had lots of receivers and even had one that was identical to my RX-V350 for $160, but I was interested in the one they had that was more similar to the Yamaha I’d passed up at Bay Bloor Radio. It was a Yamaha RS-300 for $200. I asked the sombre guy at the counter if the receiver came with a remote. He just indifferently shook his head and answered “No”. But then I noticed that the white sticker had the word “Remote” underneath the price. I told him about it and he unemotionally responded, “Then it has a remote.”
            The guys that run the Queenglad Pawnshop are the least glad pawnshop runners I’ve ever run into. I don’t recall ever seeing them crack a smile. In the past I’ve only sold things to them but though they never seem particularly glad to see any customer, they did buy a photo enlarger from me for three times what I paid for it second hand.
            I decided to buy the RS-300. It came with a 30-day warranty and the tax was included in the price. I had brought two large President’s Choice shopping bags to double up in case I found a receiver that day. I carefully rode home with the amp dangling from my right handlebar. I was feeling pretty good about my purchase. I had a sense that I’d found something of good quality for a reasonable price.
            When I got home I had a late lunch of guacamole and chips and then I set up my new stereo. To my surprise though I discovered that the same tinny sound was coming to my ears, which meant that what I should have been looking for that day were a new set of speakers. That also indicated that there is probably nothing wrong with my old receiver. But then again the old one had stopped picking up Radio Canada, which it had always received, though sometimes with a little static. It could have been though that all I needed was my old receiver, new speakers and an FM antenna. Anyway, I decided that I like the new receiver, even though I perhaps didn’t need it, so I probably wouldn’t be returning it unless something went wrong in 30 days.
            I was determined to get back into hi-fidelity and so the plan would be to look for some speakers the next day. That night the headphones worked fine with the new receiver as I watched an Alfred Hitchcock Hour story about a guy that got hit over the head and mugged in a bad neighbourhood. A cab driver came to his rescue but the blow to the head seemed to have affected the victim’s memory. He told the cabby that it was his wedding day and he was on his way to marry his girlfriend, not realizing that it was 1:00 in the morning. He took the cab to his girlfriend’s place but she’d moved out quite a while ago. The landlady gave him her forwarding address and he arrived to discover that she was married with a new baby and that it had been three years since the day he was supposed to have married her.
            The cab driver told him that someone had said they’d seen him a few times in the neighbourhood where he’d been mugged and so he probably lived around there. He took him back there and the amnesiac checked into a hotel. The next day while he was wandering around a young woman called him David and told him he shouldn’t be out on the streets. Since she knew him he said he needed to talk with her. She said she’d meet him at his place that night. He asked her to tell him where he lived and she gave him the address. Suddenly somebody started shooting at him and he ran. He found his place and he had a key but didn’t know the room number. He had to trick the maintenance guy into showing him his room by telling him that the key was sticking.
            That night the young woman came and it turned out that they had been lovers for three years, though he didn’t remember her at all. He’d worked as a bodyguard for her uncle but there had been a murder of a woman and the police were looking for him. It turned out he had been framed due to his memory loss, which made him a perfect fall guy. 

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