Tuesday, July 29, 2008

beantown and la belle province 5: bunker hill, brits and brazilian bites

The Freedom Trail Crossing the River
A stripe of red paint substitutes for red brick as the Freedom Trail heads along the Charlestown Bridge (aka North Washington Street Bridge).

Supporting the Celtics
The lightposts on the bridge were adorned with banners celebrating the Celtics' playoff run. My stay coincided with the Celtics' battle with the Detroit Pistons in the NBA Eastern Conference finals. Take a wild guess as to where my loyalties lay (hint: the team that lost to the eventual league champions).

City Square (1) City Square (3)
City Square (2)
First stop over in Charlestown was City Square, where giant fish watched every move I made. A phoenix may be a more appropriate symbol, given the square's ability to resurrect itself from invasions, fires and elevated freeways.

Putting Out Fires and Selling Soda
Boston firefighters put out blazes and quench the thirst of thirsty walkers.

Winthrop Square (1) - Charlestown Civil War Memorial
A memorial to those who fought in the Civil War stands in Winthrop Square.

Approaching Bunker Hill Bunker Hill Monument (1)
Bunker Hill Monument (3) - Brits Out!
Simmering resentment against the British dies hard on Bunker Hill. I arrived too late to climb up the 221' obelisk but found the site was great for observing the neighbourhood, shooting postcard-style pictures and capturing 233-year old grievances.

I Am Not
I hopped on the subway and headed back into the burbs. On a whim I got off at Davis Square in Somerville, mostly due to a dim memory of a CD store I blew a bundle at years ago. No sign of the store, but I browsed the neighbourhood for a few minutes. The square is dotted with statues based on local residents that were erected in the 1980s as part of the MBTA's Arts on the Line public art program.

Any guesses as to what this man was not?

A Couple
An elderly couple for a stroll. All of the statues bear mask-like faces, creating a theatrical effect.

Churrascaria Rodeo
After getting lost several times on the way back to Woburn I stopped for dinner at Churrascaria Rodeo, a Brazilian steakhouse near the hotel. Not feeling up to non-stop barbecue, I ordered a dish I rarely pick while dining out - steak.

Steak Dinner
The steak dinner was gut-busting enough. Mom would have loved the cut, which was simply seasoned and juicy. Accompaniments included rice, beans, steak-cut fries and a refreshing pico-de-gallo-like condiment. The waiter noticed I was merrily wolfing down the steak and offered sample cuts from the non-stop service. Two types of smoked sausage stood out, which lived up to their "sweet and savoury" menu description. I sat under a karaoke screen that nobody took advantage of, despite the beach babes depicted in the videos. The only disappointment was a flat glass of guarana soda.

Next: Canada bound. Full set of photos on Flickr

Thursday, July 24, 2008

in print

Opening Night at the Toronto Free Gallery
Check out page 10 of today's issue of Eye Weekly (July 24th edition for future readers digging in library archives). Note the photo credit for a piece on the gentrification of Bloorcourt Village.

This is the second time in as many weeks one of my photos has been published, which makes me wonder if I should have dove deeper into Dad's 1970s Time-Life Library of Photography set during my formative years (I flipped through the series, focusing on the annuals and their roundup/new photographer sections and dodging the technical volumes). You might say the first published work was a surprise birthday present...but more on that once I take the appropriate photos.

Photo taken outside Toronto Free Gallery, Bloor and Lansdowne, March 20, 2008. The story behind the image.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

b.o. came between them

Vintage Ad #587: B.O. Came Between Them (A Drama in Five Acts)
Today, a dramatic presentation that combines tragedy, romance and humour in the name of selling soap. If only someone had forcibly impressed the message of this masterwork on my first roommate in university...

Thanks to Lifebuoy, "B.O." became a catchphrase in the 1940s. Radio ads used a foghorn-effect to emphasize the nasty stench of people who didn't use Lifebuoy. This quickly became a stock sound effect for comedians, frequently heard on Spike Jones records from the era.

It appears the young marrieds have greater problems to face than B.O. Notice how the groom is thinking the bride's thoughts in the last panel-does this mean he will be a domineering hubby? Perhaps the marriage will roll along in a stereotypical fashion for the era, with a few affairs in the mid-1950s chalked up to midlife crisis. In 1967, tiring of have all her thoughts devised by someone else, she spends an afternoon experimenting with the drugs her children have hidden in their luggage while visiting. Altered by the experience, she runs out the front door and joins a commune where nobody cares that she has stopped using Lifebuoy for the first time in 28 years.

Source: National Home Monthly, July 1939 

Thursday, July 17, 2008

when I come to toronto...

Video loaded by Retrontario

Today on Torontoist, I wrote about this late 1980s Toronto tourism commercial from the late 1980s that aired frequently in the Detroit/Windsor market. This is a fine example of Tony Bennett's side career promoting cities located on the Great Lakes.

In the late 70s or early 80s (date not verified) Bennett sang the praises of Detroit in a TV spot. I've searched unsuccessfully for a video or lyrics, which memory tells me began with "welcome to your city" and ended with "you're one of a kind"—I'll spare you from hearing me hum a few bars. It's conceivable that Detroit tourism officials hoped for an impact akin to "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," but Motown wasn't as lucky as Capital City.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

beantown and la belle province 4: finding freedom in boston

Do Not Run On Ramp
After dodging heavy machinery to cross Harvard Square, I hopped on the subway and headed into downtown Boston. Everyone obeyed the sign not to run down the ramp even as the train was ready to pull away.

Brattle Book Shop (1)
First stop was Brattle Book Shop, whose bargain carts filled the adjacent lot. A series of author portraits hang above the $3-5 books - I'm partial to the take on Dr. Seuss. Disintegrating 19th century editions of The Atlantic were tempting but looked as if they would crumble before I reached the cashier.

I soon discovered I wasn't the only Canadian roaming around Downtown Crossing. While checking out at an Eddie Bauer outlet, the cashier noticed my CIBC credit card and noted I was the sixth or seventh Canadian she had served that day. It wasn't difficult to find traces of home around Boston, if only in the TD logo and colour scheme on Banknorth branches.

Filene's Clock Filene's Frontage
One of Downtown Crossing's retail landmarks was Filene's, which was famous for yearly "running of the brides" in its discount basement. Corporate mergers and spinoffs resulted in the basement and department store operating under different owners. When the department store was acquired by Macy's in 2005, the new owners decided to retain their existing store down the street (formerly Jordan Marsh). Filene's Basement closed last September to allow work to begin on converting the landmark into a multi-use complex containing a hotel, condos, office and retail.

Walking from the south all looks well with the historically-registered building, including the store's signature clock...

Filene's Demolition (2)
...but a few steps north reveals the extent of the reconstruction.

Filene's Demolition (3)
The remnants of an escalator and possibly the bicycle/sporting goods department. Interesting artwork - anyone know the vintage?

Hittin' The Freedom Trail Freedom Trail Directional Marker
North of Filene's I latched onto the Freedom Trail. This 2-1/2 mile pathway, marked by a red brick line in the sidewalk, connects Revolutionary War-era sites from Boston Common to Bunker Hill. The path is a historical plaque reader's paradise, a wealth of information on war heroes and casualties. If you have an ancestor who met their fate in the Boston area, chances are good you'll their name is along the trail.

Samuel Adams Statue
Samuel Adams standing proud in front of Faneuil Hall. Obscured by the umbrellas is a vestige of a later conflict, a fallout shelter sign.

Paul Revere Statue
Paul Revere's ride is immortalized in the mall bearing his name in the North End neighbourhood. Red brick structures dominate the neighbourhood, with many on Hanover Street containing Italian eateries.

Mike's Pastry Display Case
I wandered into Mike's Pastry and drooled at the items in the display case. Ordering was chaotic as pastry fanciers stood everywhere other than a line. Nobody looked upset about this state of affairs. I parked by the case and was quickly served up a vanilla florentine (loaded with nuts and creamy vanilla coating) and several fancy cookies (mediocre). Perhaps I should have sampled the salami.

Afghanistan/Iraq Memorial Garden (1) Afghanistan/Iraq Memorial Garden (2)
Though Paul Revere Mall is ringed with the tales of 18th century soldiers, current conflicts are not ignored. The centre of the mall includes a memorial garden lined with dog tags to remember those who have fallen in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Copp's Hill Burying Ground (2)
After a stop at Old North Church I wandered through Copp's Hill Burying Ground, which has served as a resting spot since 1659. Many of the graves were arranged in neat rows that were created in the 19th century to make the cemetery more pleasurable to walk through for families who treated the site as a park.

Copp's Hill Burying Ground (3)
The gravestones were fascinating to read, their stories bringing the buried alive. Winged skulls, a religious symbol dating to the medieval era, topped many of the monuments. The urn-and-weeping willow on the right was a popular symbol after the American Revolution, with the urn representing death and the willow standing in for sorrow.

Next: Bunker Hill and a taste of Brazil. Full photo set on Flickr

Sunday, July 13, 2008

a motoring milestone

Today was a milestone for the official Warehouse Motorized Transportation Vehicle (trademark pending)...
Hitting 200,000 KM

What has this dedicated vehicle experienced in its seven-year journey?

* One tree landing on its hood
* One mystery trunk crunching in a Boston subway garage
* One flying front bumper in Guelph
* One 180-degree skid into a ditch off 401
* One link in a five-car chain reaction in Burlington
* Trips to far-flung locales like Santa Fe, Calgary, Salt Lake City, Winnipeg, St. Louis, Montreal, Maine and Malvern
* Numerous rides home given to friends
* 78.7% of the non-fiction books-on-CD collection of the Toronto Public Library

As Mom would say, "oh that poor car."

I generally use it for out-of-town adventuring or grocery shopping, but admit I use it more than I should for running to in-town events at the last minute. The effect of high gas prices seems to be eliminating regular shopping trips I make to the outer edges of the city, which are now special events. It may be a coincidence, but I have noticed that I do more errands around my neighbourhood and go to St. Lawrence Market weekly/biweekly instead of monthly.


Growing up in Essex County one needed a car to get around, not surprising given the main industry in the region. When I turned 16, I immediately got my beginners license (OK, not quite immediately - I failed my first written exam by one question), took drivers ed. courses offered by my high school and had my permanent license within the year (on the first try). My uncle took me for my road test and just about jumped for joy when I returned to the license office in Walkerville with the good news. Between then and heading off to university, there's a good chance I explored every back road in the county, along with good chunks of southwestern Ontario and southeast Michigan.

After university, the car became a means of bonding between Dad and I whenever I came home. He pulled me out of bed on Saturday mornings (literally at times) and we usually crossed the border and picked a different area of metro Detroit to explore. In between trying restaurants he had read about or filling the trunk with $1 classical and jazz LPs, we observed neighbourhoods. Though he sometimes took on the role of passenger-side driver, especially if I was going too fast for his liking, we'd talk about our surroundings. He liked to guess if a former bank had been designed by Albert Kahn or how much duct tape and chewing gum kept disintegrating cars functional. He referred to the latter as "Gratiot Avenue specials" after seeing one too many on our trips through the east side. This was our time together and we'd recount trips long after they happened, with bad/weird experiences turned into running jokes.


200,000 KM - 16th Sideroad 200,000 KM - The Exact Location
The milestone occurred outside of King City, on a drive to Caledon with a friend that was part birthday celebration, part opportunity to enjoy a sunny day and see the greenery outside the city. I introduced them to places like the Cheltenham Badlands and a endless stream of twisty, tree-covered dirt roads criss-crossing the escarpment. My supernatural ability for stumbling onto tasty baked goods (strawberry rhubarb crisp near Caledon East and cherry-filled buns in Erin) and fundraising book sales with material for future vintage ad pieces (a church near Belfountain, where the books were set up in the pews) was in full force.

Since the vehicle has zero resale value, it looks like it will be run into the ground. Check back in a few years if it survives to add on another 50,000 to 100,000 km.

Update: the car lasted another year-and-a-half.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

pooping bird of good omen (2008 fringe festival)

7:45 p.m. last night: the lineup at the Glen Morris Studio was about to be let into the theatre to check out Totem Figures, Fringe veteran T.J. Dawe's latest monologue. I stood there lost in my thoughts, processing the $500 I had just poured into my car and the thali I had quickly downed in Little India. A cool breeze made it a comfortable wait, combined with the knowledge that an air conditioner would operate during the performance in a venue infamous for its kiln-like qualities.

Suddenly I felt something cool fall on my left hand. The mound resembled a dab of a melted soft-serve twist cone, only the chocolate was thicker and sludgier. The middle-aged women around me noticed and quickly offered to clean up my hand and back. Everyone insisted that a streak of good luck lay ahead.


If this is true, then the bird officially blessed what has been a good Fringe experience this year. I'm working my way through a five-performance pass and pouring over the online reviews to dodge the turkeys (though one friend admits they love going to 30-ton bombs to see how go horribly wrong).

Shows are listed in order of viewing.

So far I've seen one-person performances, with the exception of Wake. The winner of the 2008 Fringe New Play contest, Wake weaves past and present to show the evolution of divisions between three brothers reunited for their father's funeral. Though you could see where the plot was headed, strong performances and a tight production (the time shifts were not distracting) kept this piece engaging.

Rum and Vodka was a one-hander where a man relates the events of the past three booze-fueled days. Funny with an underlying sense of melancholy, the hour flew by. The character's actions weren't admirable but Matthew Gorman projected a likeability that sold his story. Lesson learned: don't admit you aren't getting paid that week to your wife while shopping in a discount department store.

Storytelling ability was also key to A Brief History of Petty Crimes, an energetic one-man performance centred around a life-flashing-before-your-eyes moment that breaks into tangents about a misspent youth. The main problem was the sightlines, due to a flat floor - the venue was still under construction, so perhaps this will be ironed out or the mainspace will prove better for performances.

Totem Figures interwines personal mythologies, inspirational figures (including Jesus, Luke Skywalker, George Carlin and John Fahey) and tales of growing up with a principal for a father (which I could relate to in terms of Dad as a teacher). The audience appeared glued to Dawe for his 90-minute monologue and, judging by reactions around me, a few might have taken him up on his offer of spilling out his life over an entire week. Afterwards, I thought about who would play similar roles in the development of my life...hello potential blog post!

Four down, one to go before the festival ends on Sunday. Perhaps another bird could splat a suggestion on me.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

a reminder of ontario's old drinking laws

Ladies & Escorts
Once upon a time, Ontario's alcohol regulations stipulated that bars were split into separate rooms for men and women, though the odd "escort" was allowed with the ladies. Though these rules evaporated by the 1970s, traces may found in older watering holes that kept the signs for decorative use.

Amy and I found this well-preserved example on a recent roam around Windsor, at the Victoria Tavern in Walkerville.

Photo taken June 28, 2008

Sunday, July 06, 2008

"has anything burned in kingsville?"

Ever since I moved away from home, a running, slightly sick joke that crops up in family conversations is the question posed in the title of this post. It started due to there being spectacular blazes that wipe out some part of Kingsville every few years. One fire years ago destroyed one of the main commercial blocks downtown (though I forget if the Kingsville Bakery was affected or was already gone by that point. I still have cravings for their cookies and jelly doughnuts). A blaze at a plastics factory in 2002 sent a toxic cloud into the air. Dad usually informed me of smaller blazes in between, which led to the running joke Amy and I probably carry on in his memory.
June 2008 assorted 047A
On my recent trip home, I didn't have a chance to ask the question before I received an answer, as the night I arrived a storage shed went up in smoke at the Kingsville Golf and Country Club, causing $1 million in damage.

June 2008 assorted 049A
Since I was going to head back to Toronto via Kingsville (to take in the produce stands along old Hwy 18), I couldn't resist the urge to snap a couple of shots a few days later.

Friday, July 04, 2008

beantown and la belle province 3: morning in cambridge

Level 5 Sign
Day three of the trip began with a leisurely drive to Alewife T station to drop off the car. Everything was smooth until I reached the station, when construction and a closed ramp forced me to circle twice before I was able to enter. Figuring out where to park was an adventure, as most of the deck was marked with signs indicating that any vehicles left after 7 p.m. would be towed. Since I wasn't sure when I would return I looked for areas without these signs, which brought me to the top.

Boston Skyline from Alefwife T Station
The upside was a lovely view of trees gradually giving way to the city skyline.

Spacing recently posted an article on Boston's transit system. The CharlieCard system (reloadable smart cards) is a massive improvement over previous frustrations figuring out which fare was the correct one. Among of the distractions of the Red Line was a flip book-style ad for Nestle Quik on the tunnel walls during a long stretch between stations.

Comrade Presley
I hopped off the subway near MIT and wandered west along Massachusetts Avenue into the heart of Cambridge. Along the way I encountered the eastern bloc version of Elvis.

I soon discovered there are many friendly young people along Massachusetts Avenue eager to ask you for your time. You know the canvassers for Sick Kids that plagu...fill the streets of Toronto? Imagine encountering similar pairings for five blocks in a row. First up was Greenpeace, followed by a charity. The third corner produced diehard supporters of perennial presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche, then a Ron Paul canvasser (I've now cursed myself for an avalanche of site hits from either man's followers - yeehah!). By the time I encountered a second batch of binder-wielding Greenpeace reps, I was tempted to test out my imitation of Robert Stack's airport terminal run in Airplane!

Dodging all the canvassers builds one's appetite, so after a pitstop at Harvard Book Store, it was time to find chow.

Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage (1) Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage (2)
Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage (4)
I timed my arrival at Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage perfectly, snagging a chair before the line wound its way down the block. Bric-a-brac lined the walls, from a scoreboard to keep track of the latest Red Sox game inning-by-inning to posters showing an "education victim". Large communal tables filled the middle, to the obvious discomfort of some - a man in business suit across from me appeared perturbed by either the happy college-age group next to us or the book of randomly found love letters I had picked up next door.

I started with a chocolate frappe, a creamy, rich but not sickly shake which was among the most satisfying I've ever had. Eschewing the burgers with cutesy names, I ordered a plain burger with mushrooms. The patty reminded me of those Mom used to make, thick and juicy.

After dodging more Greenpeace canvassers, it was time to head into downtown Boston...in the meantime, check out the full set of trip pictures.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

rural churches of perth county department


St. James Evangelical Lutheran Church, Gads Hill

Several weekends ago, I roamed around Waterloo Region and southern Perth County with an old friend from university. Around Gads Hill, our eyes were drawn to a distant church. We drove down a dirt road and came upon St. James Evangelical Lutheran Church.

The result would make a great postcard, non?

Photo taken June 21, 2008