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Back Buzz - December 11, 2010

It's A Grind / Toy-Themed Films

pumping heartIt's a Grind, 247 Pine Avenue, Long Beach, California

During my visit this past summer to America I spent a day exploring my home town of Long Beach, accompanied by my old friend and fellow bizzareal artiologist, Kimmer. After a scenic waterside lunch near the Queen Mary we strolled through the streets of downtown Long Beach. Standing on Long Beach Boulevard we reminisced about hours spent in the now-defunct Acres of Books, now a shell of a building surrounded by empty lots but with lots of books still visible through the upstairs windows.

This whole area has changed drastically since both of us moved away years ago. Many of the buildings we remembered, old and modern, are no longer there. On the other hand Pine Avenue, the heart of downtown Long Beach, has experienced a rebirth, with a multitude of sidewalk cafes, bars, cinemas, and shops, some in restored art deco buildings and some in new constructions. It's a different downtown from the old post-Nu-Pike days in the 1980s, when art venues and new wave clubs would spring to life only to fade away when the fire went out.

Naturally all of this reminiscing leaves a body requiring some caffeine rejuvenation, especially on such a hot blistering day as it was. So we escaped into the refreshingly air-conditioned refuge of It's A Grind. Although now a chain that is expanding across the country, the first It's A Grind was opened in my mother's suburban neighbourhood in 1994 by a couple named Marty and Louise; and whenever I visit my mother I've happily purchased beans for my morning coffees from that outlet.

This city centre location is a typically inviting California coffee house with a couple of comfy chairs by the windows and plenty of tables and chairs elsewhere, with the obligatory Pine Avenue sidewalk tables outside. Large paintings hang on the walls of musicians including Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and Eric Clapton.

As it was a very hot day, I ordered an iced cappuccino and Kimmer had an iced mocha. When I first lifted my drink I ran back to the counter to make sure they hadn't made me an iced latte by mistake, because the large plastic glass was filled to the brim with liquid milk. But no, unfortunately this was what they call an "iced cappuccino". And this was the smaller of the two sizes. At least the espresso asserted itself through the milk and tasted good. But there was no way I could drink even half of it, especially since I'd just eaten and wasn't ravenously hungry for a pint of milk. Kimmer's iced mocha was quite tasty, and it simultaneously satisfied her desire for both coffee and dessert.

Over on a self-serve side counter are pots of coffee refills for 50 cents, with the choices Strong, Medium, Mild, Decaf, Flavoured (today was Vanilla Nut or out-of-season Winter Blend), and Flavoured Decaf (Hawaiian Hazelnut). This was the first time I'd seen this and I think it's a great idea. Because sometimes one just wants to sit and have a regular cup of coffee. Even me.

As Kimmer and I sat and sipped our drinks we listened to Small Change-era Tom Waits and chatted about computers, Photoshop add-ons, iTunes, and other modern coffeehouse topics. When Tom Waits sadly segued into Kate Nash we decided to move on in search of other amusements.

Speaking of amusements reminds me of a recent e-mail exchange with my Bay Area friend about toy-themed films:

I just read that the Hollywood agency CAA, headed by George Clooney, is talking to studios about finding blockbuster stars for an upcoming film based on the Rubik's Cube. Also in production are Ridley Scott's futuristic film based on the game Monopoly, Liam Neesan starring in Battleship, an action-packed movie based on the game of Risk, a live-action film based on the game Candyland, and a film based on the Ouija Board. Also due out next year are sequels of Transformers and GI Joe, another Pirates of the Caribbean, Guillermo del Toro's film based on Disneyland's Haunted Mansion, and a film adaptation of the entire Disney World Magic Kingdom theme park.

Can you imagine flocking to your local cinema to see the premier of Monopoly? I mean, what next? I can see the films coming out in the next few years: Mother May I?, starring the Pussycat Dolls; Yahtzee, starring Jeff Bridges and Denzel Washington; Parcheesi, starring Helen Bonham Carter and John Cusack; Craps, starring Vinnie Jones, Ray Winstone, and Madonna; Solitaire, a one-man production -- probably a descriptive narrative of a marathon game played in a mountain cabin that lasted 3 weeks -- naturally starring the late Spaulding Grey; and, of course, the mega-blockbuster all-star production of Andrew Lloyd Weber's Legoland!

And just think of all the ideas for future motion pictures! Flat-Pack Ikea Bookcase, the story of an instruction sheet gone missing (starring Jeff Goldblum); Toilet Roll, a hilarious comedy about what goes wrong in the household of an extended family when the roll is loaded the other way around (starring Danny DeVito and Lisa Kudrow); and Stilton, the epic story of a piece of cheese (starring John Travolta, Meryl Streep, Julie Walters, Kenneth Branaugh, Matt Damon, Scarlett Johanssen, and William Shatner).

Maybe I'll try my hand at some screenwriting... Brilliant ideas, all of yours! I started wheezing with laughter when I got to Flat Pack Ikea Bookcase, and nearly choked at the thought of Stilton. I might even go to see Meryl Streep in that movie if Terry Gilliam directed.

Even Candyland might be worthwhile in the hands of Tim Burton.

I see that other people have ideas of what Candyland should look like. [For instance, this one, this one, and this one.]