Sunday, December 10, 2023

Where is Alexander Wood?

Today we set out to find a statue of Alexander Wood which was supposed to be only two blocks away. It was one of the “111 places in Toronto not to be missed” from the book we have been using as one of he resources as we have been using to explore Toronto. The condo is on Mutual St. and both Alexander St. And Wood St. run off Mutual, so his name is certainly in the neighbourhood. I have walked down both Church St. and Alexander St. Many times, so I was surprised that I somehow missed this statue. 

According to the book, Alexander Wood was a Scottish merchant and magistrate and possibly a homosexual, so streets named after him and a statue of him in the Church Wellesley gay neighbourhood in Toronto made perfect sense. 

111 Places and Google Maps both placed the statue on the corner of Church and Alexander streets, beside the BMO building, but when we walked down to the corner there was no sign of a statue. Although Google Maps said the statue was there, Google itself provided the answer. In April 2022, the state was removed and destroyed because some community members said that Wood was involved in promoting residential schools and accused him of being a raciest. 

Well, that answers that question . . . .

However once we got home I decided to research Alexander Wood and I found out that not only was Wood a bit controversial so was the removal of his memorial. 

Living in the 1800s, Alexander Wood was not openly gay, but he was a lifelong “bachelor” and his involvement as a Militia leader and a magistrate he apparently “examined” the genitals of soldiers accused of raping a girl when she claimed to have scratched her assailant. This led to him being called “The Inspector of private accounts” and a “Molly”, a derogatory term for homosexuals. When he refused to identify the victim to “protect her privacy” he was suspected of manufacturing the event so he could molest the soldiers. He was however also a successful and respected business person and was very involved with the community, serving on many organizations and charities. 

His involvement with First Nation schools is historical fact, but it was actually a positive involvement, with a first nation chief coming to Toronto and asking him to work to promote a school for their children which he did work to create. His involvement with the school was only in its creation and when it was not very successful it was indeed turned into a “residential” school but only years after Wood’s death. He was involved with local organizations that promoted residential schools, but his involvement was minor and as a community leader he was expected to be involved in a lot of organizations, and there is no evidence he actually promoted or encouraged the schools; his involvement in most of the organizations was as treasurer since he was a successful businessman. 

From news stories from the time when the statue was removed it sounds like a small group of influential people felt it was best to remove the statue while a lot of local people did not agree at all. As usual, there are often more than one side to a story.

100 days

Enjoying Condo Life
Today is our 100th day living in a 850 Square Foot Condo in Downtown Toronto. This whole adventure has been about experimenting with downsizing and seeing if we could deal with going from our two story (And finished basement) house to a small condo or apartment. We really no longer need a big house, and as I get older I have been finding that bad knees and hips make stairs a painful nuisance, so a single floor living space would be nice. As well, I was finding that the house maintenance and routine yard work that I used to enjoy was losing some of it’s appeal. 

So, what have we learned after 100 days here in Toronto?

First and foremost, we have adapted admirably to the small condo and are perfectly happy with only 850 square feet of living space. There are compromises we have had to make, but they are all good ones and we have had no problems with adapting. 

We went from having a TV in almost every room to only having one, so when I want to watch NASCAR, F1 or NFL, Regis has to either watch with me or go into another room and watch on another device. The result is that she has learned to enjoy some of the amazing passes and runs in football and she has discovered bluetooth headphones to read and drown out my sports. Of course this also works the other way around, and Regis’ favourite Hallmark Christmas special have allowed me to nap or read as I tune them completely out. 

I have discovered that with a condo sized washer and dryer you have to do laundry more often, but with a simple drying rack, the small loads dry overnight or by the end of the day and put enough moisture into the air to overcome the dryness of ninth floor and central heat.

Toronto Wildlife

We went from a large efficient kitchen that we designed around a beautiful Italian gas stove to a small galley kitchen. Our kitchen used to enable the whole family get involved in cooking events, but even two people find it difficult to work in the condo’s smaller space, but we have adapted to alternating the meal preparation and this works fine. We would, of course, like a larger kitchen, but we have found ways to make this work. 

Cleaning and general housework is probably the biggest plus; only one bathroom to clean and you can plug the vacuum into one plug and reach every corner of the condo. The entire space can be clean and shiny in around an hour. 

Groceries and food is an area where we really have had to adjust our habits. Those annoying Loblaws/Superstore “Two for  . . .” deals just do not work as we do not have space to store extra bottles of ketchup or orange juice. We have learned to buy smaller portions so our small “condo sized” freezer doesn’t fill up way too fast. Here in Toronto this works fine for us as the grocery store is only two blocks away and daily walks to the store are easy. 

Out for a walk in Toronto

We like having a gym in the building and have gotten into a routine for exercise and not having a car gives us further exercise as we walk or use Public Transit. Our small second bedroom has been used by a number of guests quite comfortably, so 100 days in, and our condo experiment continues to go very well. 

Friday, December 8, 2023

Public Transport

Just the Subway
TTC Map - a bit confusing
Without a “Daily Driver” car here in Toronto, we have had to rely on the public transit system to get around, and we have found that Toronto’s TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) is a very efficient way to get where we want to go. The TTC consists of a Subway system with a line that runs North/south and North/west (Line 1), another two that run east/west, (line 2 & 4), Streetcars that serve most of the major streets, and busses that serve most other areas. In addition, The Subway line 1 goes to the Union Train station which connects to the GO trains that serve outlying areas and the UP Express that gets you quickly to the Pearson Airport. 

You can purchase a handy Presto card that gives you access to all of these services. You simple tap your card when you enter the subway stations, or when you get on the streetcars or buses. They are all connected and there is an automatic two hour transfer, so you can take subway, streetcar or bus and so long as you are within the two hour limit you are not charged. Using the GO train or UP Express, you tap your card before getting on the train and then when you get off and your fare reflects how far you go. 

The Subway

The Subway is the most efficient way around the city itself as it runs underground and so avoids all the traffic, and Toronto is reputed to have two rush hours running from 6 AM to Noon and another running from Noon to 6 PM. That is a slight exaggeration, but in general there is always traffic in the downtown core. The street cars and the busses of course run on the streets so are in traffic, but someone else is doing the driving and so long as you avoid the real busy times seats are available and comfortable. The GO trains are a comfortable ride and runs alongside one of the citie’s major highways, the Gardiner Expressway, so you get to silently zip quickly past the frustrated drivers on the highway stuck in traffic. 

TTC Streetcar

The first few times visiting Toronto, we got used to using the subway but were slightly confused with the streetcar and bus routes so avoided them. This time, here for a year, we have become comfortable with using the entire system. Using a combination of subway, streetcar, bus or GO train we have been able to get anywhere we want to go within the city. 

We discovered a suggested four block neighbourhood with some interesting things to see, so we decided to use the system to go visit the area. A short walk brought us to the Collage subway stop on line one and we too the train south on the Yonge line to Union Station and then north on the University line to St. Andrews where we got off and walked down to the Ossington Neighbourhood where we spent $90 in a Cocktail store without buying any actual alcohol, bought Regis a necklace that was worn by the “Mother of the Bride” in a movie made in California, and had lunch at a Coffee & Wine cafe. We then walked back to Collage St. Where we caught a Streetcar to take us back to Church St and a short walk back home. Now all these place names and street names probably mean little to most of you, but it’s just me bragging about how well I have gotten to know Toronto downtown. 

The GO Trains

Although the TTC does work very well, the ride home did show one serious problem. Lots of people just do not pay. We sat across from one of the streetcar’s middle doors where people entering the car are supposed to tap their Presto cards to pay for their ride. There are lots of signs warning of “Fare Enforcement” and advising users that “All passengers must tap upon entering”, but we were surprised at how many people just got on without paying. Riding for six stops, we saw at least 20 people who ignored the payment procedure and that was just one door. Teams of teenagers, gangs of grandmas and entire families took advantage of the fact that no one actually enforces the “Fare Enforcement” rules. You can’t easily get onto the subway without tapping your card, but it seems that many Torontonians have figured out how to ride for free on the streetcars and buses. This is a shame, because Toronto’s public transit system works well and people using it really should be happy to support it by paying the quite reasonable fares. 

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Italian Leather - SCAM!

Nice weather was back in Toronto for a few days, so I headed out to find a Staples to purchase an art pad for a project I had an idea for. There was a Staples up Yonge Street in Ryan & Ben’s old Midtown neighbourhood, and  I wanted to go and see the changes in the area since we last were there.

Back to Midtown for a visit
When Ryan and Ben lived in the area they had a nice apartment right on Yonge St, and it was close to everything but there was a massive construction project across the street that made it noisy and dusty. I had to wash their balcony of dust every time I went out to watch traffic. Today it was a big improvement; the condo complex across the street is finished and the neighbourhood has none of the ubiquitous Toronto building cranes working in the immediate area; a definite improvement!

I found the Staples, bought my art supplies and headed home. 

Across from Ryan’s old apartment building I stopped for a traffic light to wait for the walk signal. A car pulled up to the red light, and the window rolled down. “Pearson Airport?”

This guy was nowhere near Pearson Airport and a strong foreign accent identified him as not local. Now since I have been in Toronto for three months, I have become pretty comfortable with finding my way around and thought I’d help this guy out. I leaned into his window and said I could give him directions, but it was not easy to get there from downtown Toronto. He backed his car up and unlocked the door, offering me a seat. He explained that he was visiting from Italy attending a fashion show in Toronto and had gotten lost on his way to the airport, handing me a business card explaining that he was from Milano, Italy. 

Not being familiar with the Sat-Nav in his rental car I got out my phone and checked the route, explaining that his easiest route was right out Yonge St to the 401, head west and then to look for the clear signs to the airport. He seemed to understand and thanked me profusely, saying if I even come to Milano Italy to contact him and he would show me around his city. He then asked my what size I took, and when I told him he reached into the back seat and pulled out a plastic bag with a leather jacket in it. He handed it to me saying I could have it as thanks for helping him. He explained that it was a sample from the show and he did not have room to bring it back on the plane anyway. He said it was valued at $1500 in stores.  He then pulled another out and asked if I had family here who might want one as well. 

Now this was sounding a bit “too good to be true” so my suspicion was seriously aroused. Then another coat was shown, this one was a winter version with lining and a hood, supposed to worth $3000.00 retail.

Then the pitch began, I could have all three coats for half the price of one of them. Now I was wearing my nice new winter jacket I got at MEC for $48.00, and I explained I was not interested; I never paid $700 for any jacket. He explained what a great deal it was, and asked how much I was willing to give him. I do not carry much cash on me at any time; paying for everything with a credit card and I showed him that all I had was $50 cash. 

“No problem.” He said, “We could go to a bank machine.”

Nice Italian Leather Coat

I realized that this was not a legit deal, and I told him I was not interested, but he continued, trying to convince me it was a good deal. By now I was just getting annoyed and had enough of the fellow, so I said I was leaving. 

Obviously annoyed he said “Ok!”, took the $50 and handed me the winter coat. 

I took the coat and got out of his car. 

Now earlier I had explained to him that to get to the airport he had to turn right and go up Yonge St, but he turned left, back downtown. I guess he wasn’t really headed to the airport. 

Back home I tried on the cat and it really is a very nice one and fit well, so a pretty good deal for $50. Searching the Internet I discovered that this is a popular scam in many cities all over the world, but most of the people commented that they were charged $150 or more, so I did not do too bad and the exact same coat is available online for $250 o
n discount sites, and one was advertised for $6000, but that was somehow connected to Ferrari Automobiles, so probably not an accurate price. I’m not sure if they are stolen or just knock-offs, but I now have a nice new Italian leather winter coat. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Christmas Trees

Back in Nova Scotia, I was always a bit of a Christmas Grinch, not putting up a Christmas tree or turning on the outdoor lights until December 1st, but here in Toronto, they start Christmas right after Halloween, and since we are coming to Nova Scotia in the middle of December for Christmas, I relented and put up a tree and lights in the condo window in November.

Today, after suffering through a few days with a Toronto cold I went out into the Toronto cold and went for a Christmas tree walk. I few days earlier I had noticed that many of the large offices buildings, malls, and banks had decorated their lobbies with tall Christmas trees and today I went in search of some of them to photograph. 

Back in Dartmouth we have the famous “Woody the Talking Christmas Tree”, and although I have not found any talking trees, there are some pretty impressive ones around the downtown area. An eight kilometre random walk around the neighbourhood unearthed over 20 large Christmas trees and I know there are lots more to be found. 

Radio City Condo (Our Building)

Collage Square Shopping Centre

Eaton's Centre Shopping Centre

Husdon's Bay Store

Nathan Philips Square (City Hall)

Bay Adelaide Centre

Adelaide Street West Building

Scotia Plaza Building

Commerce Court West Building

Toronto Dominion Centre

Royal Bank Plaza Bay St.

TD South Tower Wellington St.

105 King St. West

200 King St West Building

DBRS Tower University Avenue

Double Tree by Hilton Hotel

Collage Park Shopping Centre

Maple Leaf Gardens Loblaws

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Go to Jail . . . Do not use GO

I am always looking for interesting things to do here in Toronto, so when we found a book entitled “111 Places in Toronto That You Must Not Miss” we bought it and started using it to find things to do. I was actually quite surprised at how many of the 111 places we had already seen. We have 26 places noted already but that still leaves plenty to go find. 

We found three places in the same area not far away so decided to go find these three to add to the list. One was the Old Don Jail which was a nice walk through the Riverdale farm and across the Aqueduct over the Don River so we decided to go and do a self guided tour of the Jail, find a really good coffee shop and a bakery known for their “Best in Toronto” butter tarts. 

The Don Jail

The Old Don Jail had been converted to the Administrative offices for a medical centre but it sounded like they allowed self guided tours of the building. However, when we got there the building was locked up tight and a notice on the door said tours were cancelled. We did get to see the building from the outside and it is an impressive structure. The front is ornately decorated, but the back still has the look of a large prison and many of the windows retain the heavy bars used to keep the “bad guys”locked away. It was nice that the building has been repurposed rather than being torn down, and according to the guide book, although most of the interior has been renovated, some of the old cells were kept intact and the exterior has been retained. Pity the poor junior clerk who discovers his office is one of the retained cells. 

The back looks more "Jail" like

Rooster's Coffee
A walk through Riverdale Park East took us past a statue of Dr. Sun Yet-Sen (I will let you google who he is) to the Rooster Coffee Shop, a nice little cafe overlooking the park which apparently serves some of the best brews in the city and excellent views of the Toronto skyline. 

From there we walked down into Chinatown East to find Andrea’s Gerard St bakery which was reputed to serve really good butter tarts. Now Regis makes really good butter tarts herself, so we had to buy a couple to test them out, and they also had some interesting empanadas. Back home, Regis even had to admit that they really were excellent butter tarts.

And as for that title . . . we did not actually go to Jail, and we did not have to take the GO train to get there. 

Friday, November 17, 2023

Garden Car Update

Well it turned out that Google does not always know the answer . . . .

When we could not find the Kensington Market Garden Car, I came home and asked Google about it and I was told that a new car was going to be installed in a few days. So when my daughter was visiting and wanted to go shopping in the area, I decided to go take pictures of the “New” garden car. But the corner it is supposed to sit on was still empty, so this time we did the smart thing and went into a local shop and asked about the car.

Turns out that they remove the flower and plant filled car very year because it impedes snow removal and they do not put another one in until spring. You know . . . that makes sense, since nothing is going to grow in the soil the car is filled with until spring anyway. Take it away when winter is threatening and put a nice “new” old car there on the corner in the spring. I guess still another trip to Kensington Market will be scheduled for next spring. Perhaps that is not such a bad strategy at all; it did get me to turn one visit into three. 

So instead of pictures of the Kensington Market car, I turned my attention to the really spectacular street art in the neighbourhood. As you walk through the busy streets in the Market you see vibrant street art decorating buildings and back alleys. Here are some of the best examples.

Loitering, idling or parking is not allowed but looks like painting is

This one was actually sponsored by the city

I like how the pipes, drains and windows are incorporated into the art

This was actually inside a restaurant

This entire building was decorated in this design