Thursday, January 8, 2009

Everyone Knows Birds Love Sports and Doughnuts

I'm flying back to London in the morning! My goodness, where does the time go.

My vacation time in Winnipeg seemed a lot shorter than it actually was; granted, this may be because I slept through a lot of it, but in my defense I really did need a lot of sleep. I was tired! This graduate school stuff can take a lot out of a guy.

Fortunately, I did get out and about from time to time to see some of the sights, haunt the old haunts, that sort of thing. I went to the city's premiere vinyl store, for example, and blew half of my GST cheque on goofy obscure records. Be sure to ask me about the records another time! This post is about something else entirely, but those are a good story too.

Anyway -- one of my favourite weekend curiosities in the city is Mulvey Market, a big ol' flea market that convenes every Saturday and Sunday south of Osborne Village to engage in the sale or trade of antiques and knick-knacks and memorabilia and paraphernalia and whatever else you might be looking for. (It's very quaint, to the point that it doesn't even have a website. Dude, I know! What century are we in? You'll just have to take my word for it that it exists, strange a practice as that is in our modern times.) Mulvey Market is an entertaining destination (to me, at least!) because the possibility always exists that I will walk in there and see something that surprises and astounds me with its very existence. That's the kind of possibility I like best!

Because I stared at it for a minute and ultimately decided that it was worth five dollars, I dropped five dollars on this thing:

Check out this handsome copper and plaster plaque! About a foot across in diameter and weighing as much as my little sister's dog, a stampprint on the back identifies its manufacturers as the "Modern Artistic Plaque Co.". (Whoever they were.) This is actually the third piece of Winnipeg centennial commemorative stuff I own, behind a very nice coffee-table book on the history of the city and a 'bumper sticker' that is actually like two feet long. This is the curse of an Honours in History, or of being interested in history to begin with: everything is god damn history, so it's hard to avoid getting wrapped up in things that any sane and reasonable human being would walk past without a second thought. Still a nice plaque, though! Very decorative, very charming.

"Oh, Jesus, that was thirty-five years ago," the greying gentleman behind the table announced absently, half to me and half to himself, when I lifted the large construction-paper '$5' sign off the plaque and inspected it. "I remember it like the other day. Wow."

The optimism of centennials is always a hoot, isn't it? All of your problems safely disappear well behind you when your age hits a round number! You can see the clean streets and thriving trees and streamlined skyscrapers rising from that second zero on the plaque, in contrast to the churches and oxcarts of the zero before it, because Winnipeg has finally shaken loose its humble agricultural origins to become a teeming megalopolis! A city of tomorrow! A true leader in global prosperity and inno--haha whoops we're bad at everything brb

I figure this was five dollars well spent, and when I one day have enough money to buy a house I'll be sure to hang this plaque with pride above wherever I keep the beer.

This, however, was not to be the biggest surprise of the day! No, my main source of shock and awe arose from another stall at the opposite end of the market, where I found myself staring dumbfounded at a pair of matching items that I had never so much as conceptualized before.

Behold as I beheld, then purchased for fifty cents a pop:

What? Wait, what? whaaaaaaaaat

I realize some among you may not recognize what this represents, so humour me my exposition. Pictured here are solid rubber figurines (in the grand old California Raisin style), about three inches high, produced as mascot-themed promotional material for a peculiar little C-list restaurant chain named Robin's Donuts. "Who?", some of you may be asking, which is sort of my point. Robin's Donuts had room in their promotional budget to produce toys? Robin's Donuts had money?

For the unfamiliar or uninitiated, I would best describe Robin's Donuts as a palette-swap of Tim Hortons except smaller, sadder, brazenly downmarket, and completely irrelevant to the national discourse. The coffee and the food are unassuming, but really no worse than anything else you've ever eaten out of a coffee place; what usually comes to mind when I think of Robin's is that I don't believe I've ever found one that struck me as attractive, where I've walked in and gone "oh well this is nice". It always seems to be dark brown ceramic tile, depressingly low lighting, and impossibly garish yellow paint; I routinely eat in random street-corner diners, because I enjoy the ambience of little rundown eateries, and even I find Robin's Donuts dingy and unpleasant.

Claiming a hundred and thirty locations on its website, Robin's Donuts is a pretty common sight in Winnipeg and other areas across the country (particularly in northern Ontario where the chain was founded) -- but I suspect that many of this blog's readers will have never heard of it before, especially because there are a total of zero Robin's Donuts locations in London. Or in Toronto. Or, uh, anywhere in Quebec. A hundred and thirty locations don't go as far as they used to, I guess.

Robin's Donuts was apparently bought up wholesale in 2006 by Coffee Time [PDF], so its glory years clearly must be far behind it. Certainly they don't sell toys there any more, which brings me back to my original confusion -- when in the hell did Robin's Donuts sell toys? These aren't cheap-quality toys, either; these are some pretty well-made and respectable toys, which seems quite strangely out of character for the franchise.

So to recap, as you can imagine, I'm still quite surprised by the whole idea of there actually being Robin's Donuts figurines. The next mystery is why the hell they appear to be playing sports, but I think anybody who could provide me the answers I seek must be long gone by now.

Do you suppose the mascot is actually named "Robin"? And which of these is actually the mascot? There are two here, after all, obviously sculpted to represent different genders. If you look again at the franchise logo, the facial features and goofy white scarf are consistent with both models -- but the logo doesn't have prominent eyelashes drawn along the sides of the eyes, so I have to assume that the boy robin is the actual franchise mascot. What would the girl robin's name be, though? Would they both be 'Robin'? But then, if they're both robins named Robin, why is the "Robin's" in "Robin's Donuts" singular and not plural? And why did they even make two different AUGH I AM THINKING WAY TOO HARD ABOUT THIS

Here's a closer shot so you can better appreciate the detail on the male robin, who for now I will suppose is the mascot and then refuse to contemplate the matter any further. The sweatband is so we can tell he is playing basketball, because we are stupid and can't figure out why he has a basketball in his hand. Admittedly, the dude's got the Allen Iverson look going pretty convincingly, which is no mean feat considering that the toy might actually predate Iverson's NBA career. Well, that and he's an anthropomorphized bird rather than a black guy, but I figured you gathered that part already.

So if the boy bird loves basketball, what sport does the girl bird enjoy? Well, a lot of little girls are big into soccer, but both softball and volleyball have really taken off in the last couple of decades, but then again tennis has prominently featured women athletes for a long time now, so I guess the--

Ha ha ha ha, who am I kidding. Figure skating ahoy!

You can't see them, because my fingers are in the way, but the figure skates actually do have blades molded at the bottom. This would be a nice touch, except that -- ha ha -- the blades mean that the figure can't stand on its own, which is why my fingers are in the picture to begin with. This is a reasonable interpretation of actual skating, but is still bothersome to deal with. (The initial picture above of the two toys together was taken by propping this figure against the other one, which stands up just fine with no problems. The stunts I have to pull sometimes!)

Both figures are branded on the back, incidentally, in case anyone might doubt their legitimacy:

Is it just me, or does that ponytail look exceptionally painful? Why do these birds even have hair? Isn't that--no no shut up not thinking this over

It's more obvious in the first picture than the second one, but both toys are datestamped; each toy has "© 1996 Robin's Foods" printed on the butt in embossed lettering, which at least tells me when (although not why) these toys came about. I could have tried for a better picture of the copyright information, then I envisioned a scenario where I would have to explain to somebody why I have pictures of rubber bird ass on my blog and ultimately I decided to save myself the hassle.

Flight in eight hours! Perhaps I should finish packing.

1 comment:

Terri said...

Loved your blog... cuz I am one of the vendors at Mulvey Market...who knows, maybe I even sold you those cute little Robin's characters. Please share with everyone you know that the Mulvey Market is coming out of the dark ages and we are going to host a web-site soon. Heck with some prompting we might just want to advertise in the Uptown newspaper. So please, feel free to spread the word.... Mulvey Market is alive and still filled with treasures to be discovered.