Aging is relative.
Age is objective.
What one party views as progression may be stagnancy for another; where one sees success may be failure to his/her neighbour. Yet, at the end of it all, life is merely a ratio of achievements vs. time.
Naturally, I've come to associate age with lifetime achievements - myself perpetually falling behind those with professional careers and unshakable relationships. Modern society begs to differ with these traditional values, though I'd allude those opinions to unwillingness to uphold oneself to a given standard.
Driving in the east end of the GTA has always been unpleasant, but being subject to four different forms of driving terror within a span of thirty minutes was an utterly new experience.
Paved laneways aside, I managed to find the party room with minimal effort, for it was located in the lobby, just behind the security desk. Instructions provided prior to the party had also been exceptionally clear and comprehensive.
After settling in, I slowly maneuvered to the kids table and began colouring my own smiling dinosaur. Opting to serve as the role model, I adhered to most of the instructions, covering the body with green and stomach with orange. Only the background hue was adjusted as per my preference, though I made sure to indicate the selected palette for reference. It goes without saying that I also took pride in adding my name and the date to the top of the page accordingly.
Cake would assume the form of a Kirkland-branded slab cake. Its Costco origins were identified from the very first glance, much to the surprise of those around me. Suffice to say that the quality of the cake proved consistent with my recollection: the somewhat decent chocolate sponge was passable, but the ultra-sweet, chocolate-less frosting and repulsive, tacky middle layer was exactly the abomination I remember it being.
On a Sunday afternoon, the central Markham location was found to be stuffy and atrociously busy. The demographic comprised of young males exercising in groups, with only a handful of women in the same area. Most were observed to be in their twenties or early to mid-thirties. A small percentage were relatively fit middle-aged men who had come with their wives; though, these wives may have taken to the pool or the Ladies' Fitness Area towards the back of the gym. This sighting differed from go-to location on Vega, which was typically quiet on weekends and used by both genders equally - if not, at least 60/40.
A unique element of the studio was the presence of punching bags. The row of six bags had garnered quite a following from boxing and Muay Thai enthusiasts in the area, and were subject to constant usage. Jump rope warmups and combat drills were also witnessed by those hovering about the area.
A sparring duo had placed their belongings on the equipment bin behind them. The act had required me to divert their attention momentarily, for I would need to retrieve a pilates ring for my practice. Housed within the bin was an ample number of rings - all in super condition, unlike those with peeling foam at the Hurontario outpost. The boys were quite surprised at the availability of specialized equipment, likely a result from not attending group fitness classes.
The changeroom had just five washroom stalls, one of which was closed and scheduled for maintenance. Another revealed explosive diarrhea all over the seat and lid. Its neighbouring stall, a somewhat decent one, had a broken toilet paper dispenser and overflowing sanitary pad disposal bin.
Frankly, I had been expecting a fusion eatery over a casual, family-operated quick service restaurant. Stepping within, I laid eyes on an interior giving off the same vibe as Dundas/Hurontario Pho Queen City. On each table resided a metal tray, which housed utensils and condiments, as all pho eateries do. At the corner of the table was a QR code, by which we could submit orders via a similar system to Petit Potato. Interestingly, the "24" pasted on the utensil cabinet did not align with the ordering platform, which had designated our table as "21A".
Prices were admittedly extravagant for, dare I say, quality that does not match. Standard bowls of pho would ring in at $17 and up, with customizations such as dry noodles (no broth) and noodle swaps potentially tacking on additional fees of one or two dollars.
The Coconut Smoothie with Saigonese Black Coffee had been praised lavishly by ochungg at the time of her first visit. In consideration of the time of day, I took to the Coconut Milkshake instead. The milkshake was priced at a whopping $8.75, while the caffeine-infused variation assumed an eye-bulging $10.75 before tax.
Full encased in plastic, the drink was the first item to be delivered to the table. I enjoyed this smoothie thoroughly, though the price is nonetheless steep for what its constituents could be. Young coconut flesh, coconut milk, and artificial flavouring were presumed, for there was absolutely no discernible pulp. Albeit a tad icy upon serving, the formula gradually disintegrated to a milky, drinkable consistency.
Shortly after placing our orders, two familiar faces appeared next to us. The duo doing boxing drills at LA Fitness were seated immediately beside us. We acknowledged each other's presence with a knowing smile, then returned to our respective conversations. By the 8:30 PM mark, their beef pho bowls had arrived, yet our orders were nowhere to be seen. Both of our neighbours had long departed before sustenance could be sensed.
The appetizer arrived after a painstaking thirty-minute wait. The rolls were served with a small bundle of dry noodles, pickled vegetables, and a broth-coloured dipping sauce. Each piece had been grilled to evoke a mild char, then topped with peanuts that bore not a shred of nuttiness, for the pieces likely hadn't been toasted. While meaty, a heavy dose of black pepper rendered the rolls exceptionally spicy. They were slightly reminiscent of the stuffed grapeseed leaves originating from Middle Eastern cuisine, being herby and laden with spices.
Our wait ensued, prompting me to request my wonton soup in takeout containers in fear that I'd not have sufficient time for consumption. Plastic bags were provided at no additional charge.
Eventually, ochungg received her order. The onions were noted to taste "very raw", as those topping my own noodles had been. They were pungent, an indication that they hadn't taken soaking tips from Gyu-Kaku.
We continued our conversation outside the restaurant after The Pho closed at 9pm, and then departed for home as it start to drizzle. Garlic-filled breath and excessive parchedness accompanied me for the remainder of the evening.
Back-to-back meals of The Pho had given rise to constant thirst, tremendous headaches, and a sore wallet. The prices were presumed steep given the convenient location and proximity to the major intersection of Hwy 7 and Woodbine, however the overall experience was wholly undeserving of the forty dollars (plus tip) I had relinquished at the end of my meal.
Should I return, only the Coconut Milkshake with Saigonese Black Coffee shall reside on my radar. Otherwise, I was hardly impressed with server attitude, food quality and value, and speed (or lack thereof) of delivery.