Monday, February 25, 2008

bessarion or bust

Exiting Bessarion
This post was made possible by the lobbying efforts of former mayor Mel Lastman. Without his dogged perserverance to have the Sheppard subway line built after the provincial government cancelled plans to build an Eglinton line, this might have a post about a psychogeographic walk that started at Caledonia or York Centre stations.

I doubt I've used the Sheppard line more than twice since "Mel's Folly" opened in 2002. Both were out of curiousity, since I usually require a car for most destinations along its length (hi IKEA!).

Turned Heads at Bessarion
According to the TTC's 2005-2006 statistics, Bessarion had the second-lowest ridership of all subway/RT stations, with an average of 2,130 passengers a day (the bottom was Ellesmere, with 1,960). Spending half-an-hour in the concourse on a weeknight while waiting for other intrepid psychogeographers lent credence to the numbers, with more passengers depicted on the walls than live human beings passing through. Definitely not enough traffic to support a shuttered newsstand near the ticket booth. The numbers should improve once commuters move into planned developments on the old Canadian Tire warehouse lands south of the station.

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Bessarion Escalator
The long escalator ride to the surface. From the station we headed east along Sheppard, tempting to check out the mountains of snow at the development site.

Wall of ice
Under the former Petro-Canada station at Provost was a wall coated with runoff. We continued along to Leslie, then headed north along the Don Valley Trail. The depth of the snow, combined with a few tracks left by other walkers, led us to roam the valley single file. Bridges provided brief rest breaks and a chance to survey the landscape.

Sheppard or Alamosa?
Decisions, decisions...

Illuminated Pottery
We emerged from the valley on Alamosa Drive, finding several heated driveways with no trace of snow. One home placed a spotlight on the pride and joy of its pottery collection.

Finch Gurney
We hopped on a bus at Finch and headed over to Yonge Street. Entering the subway station, we noticed a gurney next to a staircase. Turned out there had been a stabbing a few hours earlier.

Rhythm of Exotic Plants
Downstairs we observed the station's most prominent piece of art, Krystyna Sadowska's 1965 piece Rhythm of Exotic Plants (view another of her works on display in the city). Some of the group proceed to a bar near the station, where it was karaoke night. Among the tunes was an outsider music-esque version of Elton John's I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues.

All photos taken February 7, 2008. Another set of photos from ysuchislife. - JB

Friday, February 22, 2008

queen street fire

Queen Street Fire Aftemath (4)
I spent much of Wednesday keeping tabs on the fire on Queen West (more links). Adios trips to the affected branch of Suspect Video, which seemed to have more oddball flicks than their Mirvish Village location. You won't find Turkish remakes of Superman at Rogers Video...

Several co-workers also kept track over the day. Since I work with cycling enthusiasts, there was a moment of silence when word leaked that Duke's Cycle had collapsed. In tribute, they were clad in black yesterday.

I walked by the remains last night, joining a long line of photographers pressed against the fencing erected along the block. The mix of burned facades and icicles resembled a melting candle. All of the conversations I overheard had notes of loss in them, but luckily none of the conspiracy theories that have cropped up (most stemming from the interest of developers in the area and plans to the east of the affected buildings for a condo and possibly a Home Depot).

Photo taken February 21, 2008 - JB

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

first dates, 1960s comic book style

1) One slightly-geekly-yet-slowly-becoming-cool university freshman who happens to shoot webs at guys in rhino suits in his spare time.
2) One foxy gal prone to spouting period slang and dancing to the nearest 45 in the room.
3) Two elderly doting aunts determined to play matchmaker.
4) A large pot of coffee.

Page taken from Amazing Spider-Man #43 (December 1966). Story by Stan Lee, art by John Romita. 

Friday, February 15, 2008

seventies snapshot

Conner Creek Edison Plant (Seven Sisters), early 1970s
Today's dig into the box of 1970s family photos centres on a couple of Detroit landmarks - one altered, one gone.

A recreational site for Detroiters since the late 19th century, Belle Isle was also one of the starting points of the 1943 race riots. Many of my experiences on the island involved traffic jams spurred by passengers in other vehicles reaching out to pet the island's deer population (who appear to have been rounded up by the island zoo).

On the left is the Belle Isle Coast Guard station. The white tower no longer exists.

On the right, located on the mainland, is the Conners Creek Edison Plant. Opened in 1915, its set of smokestacks earned the nickname "Seven Sisters". The plant was demolished in August 1996.

Photo taken sometime in the early 1970s - JB

Sunday, February 10, 2008

al and the snowman

Al and the Snowman (1)
The morning after the night before is rarely easy, especially if you're a hard-partying snowman and the King of Kensington.

Snowman with Legs?
Either this snowman has legs or some neighbourhood bowlers tested their aim.

Al's Been Partying
The party rages on...

Photos taken in Bellevue Square Park, February 3, 2008 - JB

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

these feet aren't made for skating, that's just what they won't do

Skating at Harbourfront
Ice skating and I have a strained relationship.

Skating was not a skill that ran in our family. Pictures exist of Dad in full hockey gear from a stint in a mid-60s recreational league in either Leaside or Kirkland Lake. He claimed that he wore Alex Delvecchio's skates for a few games after a teammate found a pair lying around, making me wonder how easy it was to swipe an NHL star's equipment from Maple Leaf Gardens in those days.

My problem was my feet. Within a quarter of a lap around the arena, my feet cried uncle. Compared to that pain, falling was pleasurable. Skate size didn't seem to matter, resulting in as much time off the ice as on.

Every year, my elementary school had a skating party. Early on, my parents would buy me skates and we'd go to at least one or two other rec skates a year. When it became clear skating was a once-a-year attempt, Dad arranged for hand-me-downs from other teachers. After a few years of this, I resorted to sliding on my boots. By Grade 8, we conveniently scheduled vacations around skating day.

(OK, maybe once. I dodged skating that year by tagging along with Dad and my grandmother on her last trip back to Toronto, for a former neighbour's wedding anniversary. Highlights were discovering a taste for anchovies and a splurge at the comic book stores than lined Queen West).

While ice skating was torture, elementary school trips to Wheels roller rink in Windsor were less of problem. My feet adapted well to 70s-style roller skates and I quickly got over a need to rush over to the walls every five minutes. The only problem was a doofus in my class who thought it'd be fun one year to keep slamming me into the boards. The cosmic balance was restored when he failed that grade.

Apart from a brief attempt at Nathan Phillips Square after an office Christmas lunch a few years ago (which consisted of my co-workers supporting me for two laps), I hadn't laced up skates for 20 years until Robbie Burns Day. After feasting on haggis, Hilary, Nadia and I ventured down to Harbourfront for a DJed skate.

Skating Under the Tower (1)
After watching the others at a similar skate two weeks earlier, I figured I was up for the challenge. The Harbourfront rink feels relaxed compared to Nathan Phillips, with skaters of all skill levels taking it easy under the city skyline. Even if you don't step onto the ice, it's a pleasant spot to wind down the week and watch others fly by.

I rented a spiffy pair of black and red blades, walked over to the rink and carefully entered the rink.

When There Isn't Enough Room to Fit "Sharpening" on the Door...
All confidence evaporated quickly.

In retrospect, I might have felt more secure had I left my camera in a locker, as paranoia about falling on it made every wobble a fear-filled moment. Hilary did a great job of steadying me, so the fear slowly ebbed.

However, my old enemy returned in all its force: foot pain. Any moment it seemed I might find my glide, my feet would cry. Cue frequent pit stops. Attempts to head off by myself ended up with a quick grab of the nearest post.

At least I gave it a shot. I may try again someday - never say never...


Riding the Bench Riding the Bench (Card Back)
Just for fun, I created my own hockey card. The design is based on 1977/78 O-Pee-Chee, one of the first older sets I built up (mostly from a kid I'd exchange cards with on the bus in return for not complaining too loudly when he used my head as a drum).

Anyone care to guess who was the "Eddie" that New York loved?

Photos taken January 11 and January 25, 2008 - JB, card photo by HM or NH