Monday, September 25, 2023

History on a Fence

The new infrastructure emerges on Kingston Rd,
delivering the first watts to customers.
You have to be observant when walking around Toronto. I have discovered beautiful sculptures in gardens and architectural oddities all over the city, but today I discovered a history lesson. Carlton/Church & Yonge is the closest subway stop and we use it a lot. Carlton is a major street and is very busy, so we started walking down Wood Street which is parallel to Carlton and only two blocks long, so it is quiet and not used a lot We walk this route every time we go to the subway, and I noticed an interesting fence around a parking lot, but today I actually stopped and looked a bit closer at the fence. I discovered a history lesson was displayed in photographs and plaques as you walked down along the fence, giving interesting historical lessons on Toronto Hydro. I am assuming the parking lot is for Toronto Hydro vehicles or employees. 

I think the design of the fence is actually a map of some of Toronto’s streets and is interesting on it’s own, but the photos with their write-ups incorporated into the design of the fence were a unique feature, giving glimpses into the story of Toronto Hydro from 1910 to 1951. 

I would have missed this little history lesson except that Regis had forgotten something back at the condo, so I was walking slowly down the street waiting for her and I had time to actually look a the fence and read the little plaques where we would have normally just walked quickly by on our way somewhere else. 

Slowing down and noticing what is around you Can lead to interesting discoveries. 

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Condo Lifestyle

Moving from a three story 3000 SF house in Nova Scotia to a downtown Toronto condo with just 850 SF, involves a major lifestyle change, but so far we are adapting quite well. 

A nighttime view from the condo

The first thing is the size; we have a small kitchen in an open plan living area. The kitchen was renovated when Ryan & Ben lived here so it has all modern appliances and works quite well for the most part. It is not our lovely large Italian stove kitchen back in Dartmouth that our daughter is now enjoying, but so far we are adapting to the smaller size. It has problems but we are working them out. For example I installed a nice pegboard wall to make frying pans and pots easily accessible. We left a lot of our kitchen gadgets at home, but so far we have only missed a few. The other rooms are smaller than we were used to, but are all we need so far. And a big plus is no stairs, which my bad knees and hip thank me for every day. Regis sums the size up this way, “I plug the vacuum in once and Art can reach every corner of the condo without moving the cord.”

Our living space

I have had to temporally give up some of my hobbies; I no longer have any woodworking tools other than a drill, and I do not have a garage full of mechanic tools, so instead I am planning to concentrate on two hobbies I did not have enough time for my writing and my painting. The writing you are seeing the results of in my more frequent blog posts and I have a couple of stories I plan to work on. The painting is in the process of being set up, and I expect to start decorating one wall of the living room with some new paintings. 

 A handy shopping cart

We did not bring our main transport (our hybrid Toyota) with us to Toronto. Past experience showed us that having a car in Downtown Toronto is actually a nuisance. We have driven here in the past and did not use the car until we left to drive home. Parking is hard to find and traffic is crazy, so we are learning to find anything we need within walking distance. We can walk to at least five decent grocery stores, and just one block away is a huge Loblaws that has anything we might need, including an LCBO upstairs. We discovered that carrying groceries can be heavy, but a handy “old-folk” shopping cart has solved that problem. As well there are two hardware stores a few blocks away, and even a small IKEA we can walk to. If we need something we need to drive to, we can borrow Ryan’s car or we have started using UBER services. We did bring the little classic sports car and it rests, tidily covered up in a nice underground parking spot for use on outing to explore the outskirts of the city on “Top Down” days. 

There are simple benefits as well. Compost, garbage and recycling, just get put down a shoot in a room right outside our door, and I never have to lug big bins to the street. If I order something from Amazon or Wayfair, the concierge downstairs hold my packages when they arrive and e-mails me that it is here. 

The condo is right downtown so I will admit that there is more noise, and not a day goes by without at east a few sirens going by, but to be honest, I really do not mind (and I suppose both of our hearing is not what it used to be). I like the hustle and bustle of the downtown, and enjoy sitting out on the balcony with a cup of coffee in the morning or a glass of wine in the afternoon and listen to the sounds of the city nine stories below me. 

So most days I get up and make myself a pour-over coffee (No espresso machine - it got left back for Alisha), have breakfast on our new apartment sized table, go to the building’s gym for exercise, walk to a grocery store for tonight’s dinner groceries, and just generally enjoy this new lifestyle. I’m sure there are downsides to the condo lifestyle, but so far they are not bothering me. 

A few random pictures from around Toronto.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Another City of the Dead

Toronto's Necropolis

On a previous visit to Toronto, I discovered that Toronto has a Necropolis, like in Glasgow Scotland. Necropolis means “City of the Dead”, and Toronto’s version is in Cabbagetown, not far from the condo, and I discovered that Heritage Toronto had guided walks focused on the black history in Toronto’s Necropolis. 

This cemetery is a non-profit nondenominational one and a wide range of folk are buried here, many being moved from an older city cemetery. There are over 50,000 souls buried here, many in unmarked graves. These cemeteries were often used for the dead who could not afford an expensive burial, but it is also a beautiful spot in a lovely location so many prominent members of Toronto society elected to be here as well. In fact on our first visit here on an earlier trip to Toronto we discovered Jack Layton’s memorial is here as well as Roy Brown who was the WW1 pilot who shot down the “Red Baron”. This guided walk featured information about members of the black population of Toronto who were interned here. 

Our first stop was the memorial to Thornton Blackburn (1812–1890). He was a former slave who escaped to Canada and established the principle that Canada would not return slaves to their “owners” in the US, thus making Canada a safe haven for escaped slaves. Blackburn established the first cab company in Toronto and became very wealthy and respected in the community. The current colours of the Toronto Transit Commission still mirror the colours Blackburn used for his cabs. His gravesite holds not only his family but also many other members of the black community. 

Shipped to Canada

The next stop was a marker for Henry Box Brown, who is famous for escaping slavery in the US by shipping himself in a box to Toronto in 1848. Thus his nickname of “Box”. He became a lecturer and entertainer in Toronto. 

We next visited a small marker that you could no longer read for the first black millionaire in Toronto, James Mink. A movie “Captive Heart” was made about him selling his daughter to a white American who then sold her into slavery in the US, and he had to go rescue her, but apparently it was a complete myth and in fact his daughter was married to a black resident of Toronto. 

Our final stop was at a large gravestone for William Peyton Hubbard (1842–1935) who was the first person of African heritage to be elected to city council and was known as “Cicero” for his oratory skills. Although he has a prominent grave marker with his whole family listed, he is actually buried a few yards away across a public path through the cemetery. There was another myth circulating that he rescued newspaper publisher George Brown from drowning in the Don River when the cab he was in went into the river, but Hubbard denies that this happened although he was friends with Brown who was instrumental in encouraging Hubbard to enter politics. 

Another very interesting walk where we gained some more knowledge of the history of Toronto. 

Monday, September 18, 2023

Modern Scenes on St. Claire

A Modern Building

When you hear something referred to as “modern”, you think of things recent or new, but in fact, I discovered that when referring to architecture, “modern” refers to building built in the 1960’s. Duh . . . I did not know that.

I got a notification on an online newsletter for a walking tour of “modern” buildings on St. Claire Street. This was a reasonable distance from the condo and easily accessible via the subway, so I decided to register for the event. It was being run by The Toronto Heritage Society and the tour leader was a photographer, so I was interested in not only learning something about the city but also the picture taking aspect of the tour. 

The tour started and ended at the St. Claire/Yonge St. subway station and it was only two km

The subway station at St. Claire

long and mostly on city sidewalks. All we actually did was walk around the city block where the subway station is located. 

The actual theme of the walk was about the “modern” architecture on St. Claire St. I discovered that the “modern” referred to the buildings built in the 1960’s. The subway was extended up to this area of the city in the 60’s and the area rapidly expanded as a popular residential area. The leader is a photographer who is working his way around the city recording all the buildings from this period of the city’s history. He stopped and explained the features of various commercial, residential, and government building. For example, did you know that buildings built with brick, usually have five rows of bricks laid lengthwise and then one row laid with the narrow side facing out, or that zig-zag patterns were popular in “modern” buildings? 

The "Ugly" building (In the back)

Personally, I found that most of the buildings he was so fond of were kind of boring, and one building from the 60’s that he said had been ruined when it was renovated recently, I felt was actually quite attractive. He felt that it would have been better to have been torn down, but I laughed with  another participant that in ten years we would be going on a tour which focused on the “ugly” buildings which he disliked. 

At one point he explained how one building was one of the most beautiful and advanced “Condo” building in the area and actually started the concept of the “Condo”, where people actually owned their apartments. He explained that he had been in the building’s entryway, but would have liked to see one of the actual condo’s, but that most of them were still occupied by the original owners so he wasn’t even able to pretend to be interesting in purchasing a “for sale” unit. He was pleasantly surprised when a lady along on the walk, came forward and said she lived in the building and had been there since it was built and was willing to invite him to come visit her condo. 

Discussing the tour

Not only did I get a nice walk in, I met some nice Toronto folks, and I learned a bit more about the city. I will be watching the society’s website for any other interesting walks. I notice that there is one about the Necropolis in my neighbourhood that might be interesting?

Below are some of the "Modern" buildings we visited.

Can you see the Zig-Zag wall here

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Out and About

When we moved to moved to our nice little condo here in Toronto, we left our Toyota Camary in Nova Scotia, only bringing my classic Alfa Spider. You really do not need a car in Toronto; the city has an excellent public transit system and we can walk to get most things we need. And our son has a car he does not use much which we can borrow if needed.  

However, there are times when you do need a vehicle, for example when you need to pick up things to furnish the condo and they are too big to carry home and certainly would not fit in the Alfa. Yesterday was one of those times. 

Fortunately, our son’s partner Ben was flying to Florida to meet up with Ryan so we offered to drive him to the airport and use their car to run errands. This ended up being a full day’s outing. 

Coffee and breakfast

Ben had to be taken to the airport at 7:00 am, and nothing we needed was open until 10:00 am, so with time to kill, we found a bakery in the area that the Google reviews said served excellent coffee. This was a great find, and the coffee was as good as the reviews. Rustic Bakery was obviously located in a VERY Italian neighbourhood and as we sat enjoying our coffee and pastry we heard more Italian spoken than English. We left with some interesting bakery products, but still had time before we could do any actual shopping. 

We decided to go to Grande Cheese, another Italian shop specializing in every type of cheese possible that opened at 9:00. They also stock lots of Italian specialist foodstuffs and we ended up leaving with over $100.00 worth of cheese and other items, but more important, we managed to kill another hour and the mall would finally be open. 

Our goal was to look for a nice comforter for our bed, as well as one to keep any guests

No comforters, but I found a Harley

comfy when they visit. But although it was suggested we look in Hudson’s Bay, we discovered that very few of their options were within our budget, and to be honest there was nothing we really liked either. 

So, we decided to try Walmart, and there we found not only much better deals. But also a nice choice of colours and styles and we left new confuters and a cart load of “stuff” we needed.

Now our next stop was an optician where Regis had an appointment to have a pair of new glasses fitted into a pair of frames she liked. Now you can get anything you need in Toronto, but today we had to cover a lot of territory to get the items we needed. Google maps got a real work-out for us to find everything; It was a 45 minute drive to the airport, then another 30 to breakfast followed by 20 minutes to the cheese shop and then 15 to the mall and 15 more to Walmart. The Optician was then back past the airport for another 30 minutes, putting us there at noon where we found a restaurant for lunch while her glasses were prepared. 

Time for lunch

Our final stop was to one of the larger IKEAs in the Toronto area. We have an IKEA within walking distance of the condo, but it is the “Downtown” store and does not stock everything and did not have the things we wanted, so that was another 40 minute drive, but at least it was back towards the condo. We filled a cart with items we wanted and loaded it all into Ryan’s Lexus, but when we went to leave an alarm went off warning us that the passengers in the back seat had not done up their seatbelts - our shopping was heavy enough to fool the car into thinking we had the children with us in the back seat, so everything had to be rearranged for the final 30 minute drive back to the condo. 

Returning the car

We got home by 3:00 pm, beating the rush hour traffic which is crazy here, and I dropped Regis off with the condo’s luggage dolly packed with our purchases while I drove the car back to Ryan & Ben’s condo and walked the five blocks back to our Toronto home. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2023


UHaul is a company that rents trucks and trailers for people who want to move themselves rather than paying a moving company. You see lots of them on the roads at the end of every month and unless you actually deal with the company you take them for granted. I however, no longer take these ubiquitous vehicles for granted . . . . . .

The little car that could!

Our first experience with Haul was when our daughter Alisha first moved to northern Ontario. She rented a UHaul trailer and filled it to the brim with all her worldly possessions and towed it behind her Toyota Matrix. It was so full and heavy that with the three people in the car, the trailer hitch sometimes bottomed out on bumps sending sparks flying and at one point she got stopped by a suspicious RCMP officer who noticed this and asked to open the trailer for a search. 

We had to once again use UHaul for the multi stage move to Toronto. Alisha did not have a lot to pack up and move back to NS, but there was enough to require another UHaul to tow behind her now eleven year old Toyota. We discovered that although you can call and “reserve” a certain size UHaul, but “reserve” means little as you get a call the day before pick-up to tell you what you actually could rent. You also might be surprised where it had to be picked-up; not necessarily the closest UHaul to you. For this rental we did get the size trailer we wanted but had to drive two and a half hours to actually pick it up. 

Now for the move to Toronto we figured we would be fine as Dartmouth has a large major

Everything should fit in here

UHaul depot. We looked at options and decided that we should be able to fit what we wanted to take with us into a ten foot truck. This truck would also be able to tow the auto-transport trailer we needed to bring my Alfa Romeo Spider with us. We were told this would not be a problem and we “reserved” our rental. 

We were diligent and judicious in our packing and arranged the boxes and furniture in one room to be sure it would all fit in the ten foot truck. Our mover/helper assured us that he could fit everything in the truck without problems. 

Then the day before the move we got a call from UHaul to confirm our rental. They told us that they had a twenty six foot truck ready for us to pick up. When we corrected them that we did not need a truck that big and we actually wanted a ten foot truck, we were told that there was no ten foot truck available. However, if we really needed the ten foot truck we would have to go to either Quebec or Maine to get one. Seriously?

Not wanting to dig out my passport and Nexus card and go to Maine to get the right sized truck, we were stuck with the larger vehicle. 

Packed and ready to go

I believe the twenty six foot truck is the biggest one UHaul rents and it is huge. Opening up the back, I realized that with our packing planned around a ten foot truck I would have enough room inside the truck to actually fit my little car inside if I had a way to get it in. By the time you put the auto-transport behind the truck, this combination was almost the size of a semi tractor trailer. Now I did 17,000 km towing a 28 foot fifth wheel behind a Toyota Tundra so it was not my first rodeo driving a big vehicle but a fifth wheel is designed to be maneuverable where a trailer behind a 26 ft truck requires a large parking lot to turn it around. There is NO way I could bring this combination into downtown Toronto. 

Now the actual drive to Toronto went very well other than the $300.00 required to fill the fuel tank every time. Our problem with UHaul were not over however. 

The Spider on the way to Toronto
There is no way I was driving the truck and trailer through downtown Toronto. The street the condo is on is one-way and narrow, so I knew I’d never be able to turn into the courtyard with the trailer, so I decided to stop at a UHaul location close to the 401, unload the Spider and get Regis to drive it downtown while I drove the truck. Good Idea, except UHaul wanted us to drop off the truck and trailer at the same location. Now Regis is the one who was actually dealing with UHaul and most of you know her as a pretty calm, pleasant, even tempered individual, but after so many frustrating phone conversations with the company, this sent her over the edge and another side of her emerged. “Listen . . . we did not want the 26 foot truck you gave us, but we found a way to make it work! Now you have to think outside-the-box and find a way for me to do this cause this truck and trailer will not go downtown Toronto!”. 

So, we did work it out to drop the trailer off in Scarborough and the truck at a location closer to the condo downtown, but even then they changed the location three times because none of them wanted a 26 foot truck in their downtown lots. But once I actually backed that truck over the sidewalk and down into a parking spot at the UHaul depot, it actually felt like the move was over. 

Friday, September 8, 2023

The Problems!

If you read my last post, you know that we have moved from our house in Dartmouth and are settled in comfortably in a condo in downtown Toronto. It took over a year to plan and actually pull the move off, and it was not easy. In fact there were many times through the process when we did not think we could do it. This post is about some of the difficulties we had to overcome in the process. 

Anyone want an old computer

As discussed in the previous post, the first obstacle was my attitude; I really did not know if I could actually downsize my many collections enough to be able to move, but once I got over that first hurtle, we reasoned that we might be able to make it work. 

But just as we got going with deciding what to take and what to leave behind, I had serious health issues; ongoing enlarged prostate issues got worse until I ended up in emergency with serious plumbing issues and dealing with a catheter for over two months, so not a lot of packing or downsizing was getting done during that time. 

Fortunately the health issues improved enough for us to make a scheduled trip to BC and a train journey back to visit our daughter Alisha and her husband in Kejick Bay Ontario. The visit to her was actually a positive step to Toronto, as she announced that she had decided to move back to Nova Scotia and was willing to take over our house for the time we had planned to live in Toronto. This meant we could leave many things we did not need in Toronto with her in the house.

But then my urology specialist called to inform me that he had a date for the Prostate surgery

Hospital Stay

(TURP - look that up if you need to know more) that would hopefully improve the internal plumbing issues. The date was convenient as it was after we got back from moving Alisha and before the move to Toronto. 

But (you knew there had to be another “but”), this procedure is frustrating in that, although it is major surgery, there is no incision, no scar and very little discomfort, and the recovery was a full six weeks which coincided exactly with the scheduled move to Toronto. I was warned that although I would feel fine, I was not to drive for four weeks and I was not to lift anything more than five pounds for the full six week; and being a “good patient”, I really wanted the procedure to be a success so I intended to follow the warnings carefully. This might not sound so bad, but it was VERY frustrating; I could pack things in boxes, but I then had to get someone else to move the boxes. Five pounds is not very much, and I found it very limiting, but with Regis’ doing the lifting and Alisha and Derek doing what they could after work, we were making slow progress. Fortunately our son stepped up, and flew down to help pack . . . . . . the Toronto end of the plan was well underway, so he did not want us to have to back out. 


Then, just as we were pretty well ready with decisions made and most things packed, we went to a farewell dinner with good friends who were completely unaware that they had contacted COVID during a trip to Montreal. Yup, we both caught it and tested positive with just a week before the planned departure, and since we were living in the same house as our daughter and her husband we were isolated in our bedroom and unable to finish the packing. Our symptoms improved quickly however, so with serious hygiene and constant masking, we managed to get everything done. 

Well, a bottle of shampoo did go missing and somehow the top to the blender got left behind, but generally we managed to pull the adventure together. 

Enjoying Big City life!