Sunday, August 28, 2005

searching for jack: an untold tale of the spring roadtrip

As mentioned previously, I never finished the tale of my spring swing through New England and Montreal. We go to day 6 on the road, as the intrepid traveller leaves Boston to head back to the Great White North. Today's tale begins a few miles north of Beantown...

Wandered into Lowell. I checked the Boston guide book and discovered this was where Jack Kerouac permanently left the road. I wasn't in a hurry and there wasn't a downpour. Why not look for it?

The graveyard was listed in the guide book, so I checked a map in a grocery store for directions. Found Edson Cemetery, but the office was as lively as the folks in the ground. I drove up and down the numbered streets within the graveyard, looking for any unusual adornments to the graves. All I found was a giant elk.

I asked him for directions.

"What are you, some pinko from Soviet Canuckistan? Go away kid, ya bodder me!"

Deciding it was best not to ask him any more questions, I continued criss-crossing the graves, but many of the driveways were blocked off by debris from the lingering nor'easter. After 15 minutes, I gave up.

As I drove away, the elk laughed. - JB

Saturday, August 27, 2005

belt lines

Finally getting a chance to explore the city by bicycle again...

This week's long ride started off in Mt. Pleasant Cemetery. I usually discover one well-known tomb passing through - this time, pioneer hockey announcer Foster Hewitt, located close to the Eaton crypt. I couldn't get the Hockey Night in Canada theme out of my head for 10 minutes.

From there, went along the crowded Belt Line trail. My internal radio switched from hockey to traffic reports.

Thanks, John. Eastbound Belt Line is very busy, with walkers backed up between Avenue and Oriole, you may want to switch to Chaplin Cr to avoid delays. Westbound Belt Line is moving smoothly, but watch out for fresh gravel between Eglinton and Bathurst. Now over to Mary to check in on the Don Valley...

Along the way, I discovered a new trail I'd never heard of, the York Belt Line, which runs from west of the Allen to a fence near Caledonia and Eglinton. Paved, fairly flat and relaxing. Several parks along the way full of kids. Many groups of old folks out for a gossipy evening stroll. Had it not been nearing 8pm, I might have been tempted to see how long it would have taken to go from its endpoint to the Humber. Another day...

I headed south along Caledonia, dodging dorks in souped-up 70s muscle cars. Wandered towards downtown along the bike lane on Davenport, noticing that buildings around the spot my father lived as a toddler (Ossington and Davenport) had burned down. I'll have to dig through the family archives back in A'burg to find the exact address - maybe his first home is no more. The ride ended with a bottle of water at a hot dog cart at Yonge and Bloor, before hopping on the subway.

I think my legs have finally adjusted to the bike this year, as my torso didn't feel like it was attached to lead weights the next day. - JB

Sunday, August 21, 2005

one fine spring afternoon in downtown montreal

In an optician's window at Duluth and St, Denis, more than eyeglasses were on display...

Inside were two women with short black hair in white lab jumpsuits arranging mutilated/mutated baby dolls. The piece appeared to a statement on genetic manipulation, with videos of "ultrasounds" with deformed fetuses. It was credited to "Frank Ketchup", which isn't turning up in net searches.

At St. Denis and Duluth, the mutated babies grow
Between the plastic dividers
Row on row
- JB

Sunday, August 14, 2005

old roommates department

I was flipping through this morning's New York Times Magazine when the credit on an illustration for an article on national security caught my eye: Leif Parsons. Did a little digging on the net and sure enough, it was by my second roomie in Arts House.

Some backstory: by the middle of my first semester of university, I'd had enough of my first roomie, a creep who took bathing lightly, had role-playing games on the brain 24-7 and generally annoyed everyone else. I reached my breaking point and request a roommate switch. Pieces fell into place nicely and I moved down a floor with Leif, who was just entering the residence after hanging around most of the first semester (unless my memory is playing tricks with me - can anybody who was around at the time verify this?).

I suspect we may have driven each other crazy at times - I was still shedding my straitlacedness from high school, but usually it was the battle of who's radio would win the day - ironically I started listening more to the funkier sounds he played afterwards. In the long run, it was a great improvement over my previous quarters. Interesting to see that physically he hasn't changed much in the past decade. If you check out the site linked above, the branding manual is a hoot.

Wonder if he remembers the time all his furnishings were moved into the bathroom... - JB

Friday, August 12, 2005

vox pops

Things overheard wandering the city last night...

"Can you believe they charge tax for pies? I don't believe it! I DON'T BELIEVE IT!"
A perplexed man talking to his wife outside of Whole Foods.

"You obviously don't know how to drive. They shouldn't give people like you a license...if you touch me, I will report and sue you."
An angry cyclist to a car attempting to exit a parking space on College near Manning. The cyclist blocked the car and caused a westbound backup that stretched for several blocks. Cue obscenities from other drivers getting around the standoff.

A woman yelling into what I first thought was a cell phone but turned out to be a blackberry on Yonge near Wellesley. She was also nearly hit by a car while crossing a red light, concentrating more on typing than signals. - JB

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

president's choice memories of downtown london

Recent headlines surrounding the arrest of marijuana activist Marc Emery and a post on Blamblog yesterday stirred memories of some of my favourite family roadtrips of my early teens.

Many moons ago, Emery ran City Lights book store in London. Two hours away from home, it was an excuse to get away for a whole day. We'd hit the road early, usually stopping for for a snack at the West Lorne service station (the Tim Horton's being a radical improvement over the 1867 restaurant that was there on childhood trips to Toronto, which I only remember for its dinginess and smelly clientele - no wonder we used to picnic on the way to my grandmother's house). Until we grew out of it, our usual first stop was the Superstore Mall on Wellington, due to the plastic ball room in Loblaws. Most of the day was spent downtown. After leaving the car in the crazy parking lot at Wellington Square/Galleria, we'd split up - Mom sticking to the then-thriving mall, Dad and I wandering off to Richmond, Amy joining us for City Lights then racing back to the mall.

We'd exit by Woolworth's/The Bargain Store, then head down King St, past Novack's outdoor store, Fatty Patty's, London Mews and a hotel that changed names every visit. Turn left onto Richmond at the art supply store, pass a couple of store fronts and you had reached cheap used book nirvana.

The comic book bins were across from the cash, varying in the amount of space they took up. All were half cover, minimum 25 cents (as were most books), a godsend for a kid rapidly building their collection. Most memorable finds: a near-complete mid-70s run of Incredible Hulk (#166-202, only missing Wolverine's debut and a few others) and the final issue of Tales of Suspense from 1968. While I searched these and the humour, film and sports sections, Dad sifted through the 10 cent book bins out front, then check out history and fiction. Both of us left with bagfuls that made Mom's eyes roll.

Across the street was another used book store, which I think was called Book Brothers. A bit roomier, a bit dingier, a bit pricier but good for oddball finds like Street & Smith football yearbooks Dad forgot to buy in the 70s. Millions of copies of Marvel Super-Heroes #26 and Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD #17 stick out in my mind. Later on, a comic book store opened directly across from City Lights with decent bargain bins. Next door to City Lights was a coin shop where I stocked up on cheap 1960s baseball cards. Around the corner on Clarence was Dr. Disc, which wasn't much better than their Windsor outpost.

Times change. City Lights was sold and soon book prices rose and the comic bins vanished. The Galleria emptied. Loblaws abandoned the ball room, then Superstore Mall. Vacant storefronts downtown rose, leaving a stench of death. I headed off to university. Old-style family trips to London were replaced with medical checkups for Dad. If they stayed for the night, I'd pop down from Guelph or Toronto, pop in City Lights for a lone book or album and walk around downtown with a touch of melancholy, remembering how it was. - JB

Sunday, August 07, 2005

let's all go to dairy freez!

Ah, summertime in Essex County. Time to hop in the car and head east of Essex on old Hwy 3 to the North Ridge Dairy Freez. Open since 1954, it's the last drive-in food stand in the area, a relic that hasn't gone mock-retro.

Folks lined up for dairy goodness, while a carhop grabs an order. I don't recall ever ordering food, or ever figuring out what the "Charlie Special" was. This time round, Amy went for a sundae with fresh local peaches, while I had a Boston Cooler - traditionally made with Vernor's, in this case regular ginger ale and soft serve mixed together.

Why is this gnome smiling? Is he proud of his ice cream? Is he surveying a backyard of of picnic tables filled with satisfied customers? Has he snapped from beheading his friend?

pictures taken July 31/05, Dairy Freez, North Ridge, ON - JB

lingering effects of the nhl strike

Yup, the hockey strike did a number on the memorabilia business (taken at Pape and Mortimer, Aug 6/05).

a tasteful birthday

It was Elizabeth's birthday on Saturday, so a group got together to celebrate and catch some of the crowds at the nearby Taste of the Danforth.

The birthday girl in the midst of opening her presents, before we headed down to wade through the ocean of people.

Pie people. The lamb rosemary was tasty, while the others passed similar judgement on the chicken. Before the day was over, I also wolfed down a shrimp sandwich, chicken souvlaki on a pita and several bottles of water. Other items were tempting, but I didn't feel like waiting for eons. Not an event for the claustrophobic, with the street still packed near midnight. The evening passed quickly, ending when we closed out a Starbucks near Donlands.

Four sandwiches in search of a stomach. - JB

Thursday, August 04, 2005

explosive corrosive jones soda

Word of advice to anybody bringing back cases of Jones Sugar-Free Soda from the States - if it's brutally hot, keep it in an air-conditioned backseat, not the trunk. Learned this lesson when I unloaded the car when I returned - 7 out of 8 cans had exploded. I mean exploded - the tops of several looked as if they'd been opened cleanly with a can opener.

Luckily, the newspaper underneath absorbed the mess. Neither of the other cases in the trunk (a mixed batch of Diet Rite and Faygo Rock n' Rye) showed any problems, nor did the extra four cans of other diet drinks I put in the Jones case. Maybe the Jones is America's newest military secret...

I'll find out for sure today at lunch, when I test the remaining can of Sugar-Free Black Cherry. I figure a few days at room temp should have calmed the beast, though the bulge at the top still concerns me.

Update: maybe it's a good thing I lost most of the case, as the remaining can was one of the worst sodas I've ever downed. There's artificial taste...and then there's artificial taste. Bleccch. - JB

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

vote for otis (not pedro)

Some politicians prefer lawn signs. Some prefer to send flyers to your mailbox. In Detroit, nothing says "vote for me" like an old trailer.

Taken on Woodward Ave, Detroit, Jul 30/05. - JB

even insects enjoy a long weekend

Soaking up some rays.

Taken at Mersea Park, Leamington, Aug 1/05.