09 May

Random Thoughts – IceDogs Scandal, Honoring Ab McDonald and More

1. For the benefit of anyone who hasn’t read the details of the scandal surrounding our local junior hockey team, I encourage you to take the time and do so. If only a fraction of it is true, it’s a heck of a damning statement about the Burkes and their integrity and it certainly strikes a blow against the supposedly wholesome nature of junior hockey. Furthermore, again, if this is in any way true, the Burkes got off awfully easy in terms of discipline, as OHL and CHL Commissioner David Branch, a heavy-handed authoritarian, is not afraid to put the hammer down. By accepting a lesser fine, I can only surmise that Branch wants this matter to go away as quickly as possible, particularly with the CHL’s showcase event just around the corner.

1a. There are a number of reasons why the Meridian Center hasn’t seen my shadow in a year and a half, but this isn’t one of them.

2. Though the Burkes have officially denied it, the timing of rumors concerning the team’s sale is likely not a coincidence. For the record, if it comes to pass, I have no idea as to whether this will be a good thing or a bad thing. Before the report on the secret deals surfaced, my feelings on the Burkes were largely neutral and I have no idea what kind of owners the new group led by Steve Ludzik, Rick Dudley and Chuck McShane would be.

2a. For interest, I’ve seen Ludzik play with Chicago and behind the bench of the IHL’s Detroit Vipers, I’ve seen Dudley play in the WHA and later with the Jets, and I met McShane during a campaign event for Doug Ford. And yes, that is the same Rick Dudley who was the last general manager of the Atlanta Thrashers.

3. Glad to hear there’s a movement afoot in the Old Country to name the St. James Civic Center arena after Ab McDonald, the Jets’ first captain who passed away last year. It’s especially fitting given that McDonald was a St. James resident and, in addition, the arena has some significant connections to the Jets. The team practiced there on occasion and it was the first place where the famed Hot Line took to the ice as a trio. And who can forget the 1979 exhibition game the Jets played there against the Tulsa Oilers, their farm team, in which yours truly was among the overflow crowd.

4. Speaking of the St. James Civic Center, I noticed that its primary tenant, the MMJHL’s St. James Canucks, a team I saw on occasion when I lived in the Old Country, was in the league finals. After missing out on a chance to clinch their first title in 20 years when they dropped Game 6 at home, they held a 4-0 lead with seven minutes to play in the second period in the decisive Game 7 in Morris. And lost. Ouch. Seriously, those kids are going to take that one to the grave with them.

5. Spotted on a church in Buffalo on Saturday was a sign that read, “Jesus was a refugee.” True or not, I doubt that, unlike today’s “refugees,” Jesus demanded:

a) free health care,
b) free dental care,
c) free accommodations at a luxury hotel,
d) a lavish monthly stipend, and
e) free legal representation to assist with the immigration process.

6. To help combat rising water levels on Lake Ontario, I expect the federal Liberals will soon be introducing a water tax. After all, according to their logic, if a carbon tax will reduce carbon emissions, a water tax ought to lower water levels.

6a. It’s scary to contemplate how many won’t get the obvious sarcasm in the above point.

6b. It’s a wonder our municipal Liberal representative who goes by the title of “mayor” doesn’t implement a suicide tax to stop people from jumping off the Burgoyne Bridge.

7. Dear Canada: The next time someone runs for prime minister who tells you how much he admires one of the world’s most brutal and oppressive dictatorships, believe him.

06 May

An Unworthy Induction

Late last week, the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame announced that former Jets co-owner and president Barry Shenkarow would be part of the class of inductees for 2019.

If you want to picture my reaction, go polish off a bag of lemons then take a good long look in the mirror.

I will openly acknowledge Shenkarow’s leadership role in saving the Jets in 1978, for which he and his partners deserve a great deal of credit. All that fans like me enjoyed and agonized over for the next 18 years simply would not have happened without their money and foresight.

Furthermore, during their first full summer at the helm, Shenkarow and Michael Gobuty brilliantly engineered the purchase of the remaining players from the defunct Houston Aeros franchise. Not only was it a big moral boost for a franchise still reeling from the tearful departure of Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson, but it provided the necessary firepower for the Jets to capture their third AVCO Cup.

Finally, it was Shenkarow and Gobuty who ultimately got the Jets into the NHL, which helped ensure their survival for many years to come.

If we were to stop here, the case for his induction becomes a lot stronger. But one must consider his entire body of work when looking at this kind of lifetime award.

And the rest of it is not pretty.

Over the next 17 years, he was a terrible owner, and the teams he presided over were less than awe-inspiring. It is unfair to place all the blame for the team’s eventual departure at his feet, but it is equally unfair to suggest he was not part of the problem. It is true that he had a lot of factors working against him. Most notably, he was stuck in the decrepit Winnipeg Arena and forced to deal with its prickly landlord. Fans like me still cringe at the mere mention of Winnipeg Enterprises. But he did himself few favors along the way and his endless whining certainly didn’t win him a lot of support. He could have handled his end of the bargain a lot better and he was no innocent victim, as he is being portrayed in some circles.

In short, with all things considered, his resume doesn’t scream “Hall of Fame,” and I must withhold my endorsement of his induction. As I’ve heard it said, when considering someone for this kind of honor, if you’ve got to think about it, he’s not a Hall of Famer.

25 Apr

Random Thoughts – Curse of the Pen Center, Painful Defeats and More

1. In their third year of a major rebuild, the IceDogs had seemingly put all the pieces together for a championship run. After solidifying their roster with some late-season rentals, they had capped off a wildly successful regular season by winning their division and finishing second in the East. In the first round of the playoffs, they breezed through North Bay like a hot knife through butter, then took the first two games at home of their second-round series against Oshawa. Everything appeared to be going according to plan.

Then something happened.

Getting into the playoff spirit, as they normally do at this time of year, the team organized fan bus trips to Oshawa for Games 3 and 4. Except that instead of leaving from a central location such as the Meridian Center or the Jack, as they had done in past years, or from Fairview Mall, conveniently located just off the QEW, they made fans go all the way out to the Pen Center, in the opposite direction of where they were traveling and in the extreme south end of the city. To quote one loyal reader, “That’s just stupid.”

Indeed.

Those loyal supporters who were able and/or willing to make the artificially and unnecessarily long trek out there saw their team drop both games in Oshawa. Then back home, before a nearly full house in Game 5, the IceDogs lost again, setting up a do-or-die Game 6 in Oshawa.

On short notice, the team organized another fan bus trip. Which was leaving, once again, from the Pen Center.

The rest, as they say, is history. This would-be Memorial Cup contender saw its season end having won only one more playoff game than they did a year earlier when they weren’t expected to make much noise in the postseason. Ouch.

Worse yet, they won’t get another chance next year with this group as many of the players will be moving on to bigger and better things in the world of pro hockey. One of those departing rent-a-players was a veteran they acquired from the same Oshawa team that put a premature end to their title run in exchange for a bushel of draft picks. Talk about dressing an open wound with salt.

Maybe it won’t quite end up like the Curse of the Bambino, but the Curse of the Pen Center might end up haunting this team for a couple of years down the road.

2. The Game 6 loss in Oshawa marked the end of overage goaltender Stephen Dhillon’s junior career. I had seen how, with playing time after sitting out much of his first two years, Dhillon had developed from a raw prospect who looked like a fish out of water into one of the best and most dependable goaltenders in junior hockey. Best of luck to him as he moves on and if there’s a pro team looking for a potential late bloomer to take a flier on, Dhillon might be your man.

3. Let the record reflect that this is the first season post-defection in which I did not attend a single IceDogs game at home or on the road.

4. Methinks the IceDogs are, shall we say, falling into the trap of taking their customers’ patronage a little too much for granted. Maybe it’s just me, but that’s the feeling I get. They do have a solid base of fans who will jump through their hoops and do it with a smile, but unlike the Leafs, there’s not enough of them to pay the bills.

5. I have no real dog in the fight, but I’m sorry for those in this part of the world grieving the Leafs’ playoff loss to Boston. Again. I cannot, however, express the same sentiments about the loss the team in my former home city recently experienced. As I posted publicly on social media, “Can I get a ‘Let’s Go Blues’”?

6. I find it interesting how some of those in my former home city who are speaking out against the recent $12 million subsidy grocery giant Loblaws got from the feds don’t seem to have a problem with the annual stipend of $14.1 million Mark Chipman hoovers out of their wallets to fund the purchase and operation of the former Atlanta Thrashers franchise.

7. Let the record reflect that the team generally managed by Don Waddell, perhaps the worst living NHL general manager past or present, has advanced farther in the Stanley Cup playoffs than the team generally managed by Mark Chipman.

8. While talking to a fellow cyclist at the Welland Transit Terminal yesterday and telling him about my bus-bike trips across the river, he asked, “I guess you need ID for that?” Yeah, I think CBP might want to see some ID when you go through the border crossing. Maybe. Best to be on the safe side and bring it just in case. Better to be safe than sorry.

18 Apr

On the Bus to Hamilton

Highlights from yesterday’s bus trip to and from Hamilton:

1. Free bread by the bus stop at Fairview Mall:

2. At Beamsville, our bus was following a truck pulling what was labeled as a “live bottom trailer.” As opposed to a dead one?

3. After getting to Stoney Creek, seated across from me on the Barton bus was someone with a sweatshirt from Thrasher skateboarding magazine. The same magazine that engaged the Atlanta Thrashers in what would become the first of many legal entanglements for the NHL franchise Manitoba taxpayers were eventually forced to purchase.

4. As said Barton bus began to fill up, a hotshot seated nearby refused to move her Calvin Klein purse from the seat next to her. Somehow I doubt she paid an extra fare for the purse.

5. Oddly, there was only one stroller on the way in, but on the return trip, there were two, along with a cart and a walker. Two-, three- and four-wheeled accompaniments and the Barton bus do, after all, go hand in hand.

6. When the driver hit a bump, one guy seated at the back spilled his Tim Hortons coffee all over the window, his bags and the guy in front of him. Plenty of it also made the floor and kept running down the aisle all the way to the back door. He kept blaming the driver, but he has to take the responsibility himself. Even Stevie Wonder can quickly figure out that Barton Street is pretty rough.

7. Seated across the aisle was a woman who:

i. Had been hospitalized for bi-polar and other mental issues.
ii. Paid $70 for the silver mood ring on her finger. She knows it’s real silver from the number imprinted on the inside of the ring.
iii. Takes the train to visit her girlfriend, a hockey player who is a goalie, in Whitby every month.
iv. Plans those visits near the end of the month to coincide with her ODSP payment. Which begs the question as to how a welfare case knows so much about whether or not a ring is real silver.
v. Still has wet hair after just getting out of the shower.
vi. Has a twin brother who has been in jail in Hamilton. He’s a good kid, she says, he just steals cars. This brother who now lives in Sarnia can’t have much sugar because he gets too hyper.

The things you learn from people on the bus.

8. Care for your memory?

9. Despite his plummeting popularity, Justin Trudeau has a street named after him in Hamilton:

10. Parking fail:

11. This “gender neutral” bathroom at Lime Ridge Mall isn’t a sign of progress in my books:

12. Is there such a thing as a non-financial credit union?

13. Seated in front of me on the return trip was a young woman checking out potential mates on an online dating site. She took an interest in a 29-year-old and a 30-year-old, both of whom were likely nearly a decade older than her, then proceeded to scroll through several pages worth of her profile pictures on Facebook. Before getting off with her friend, she was lamenting having to stoop to taking a job somewhere. My heart bleeds for the poor girl. Or not.

11 Apr

Things I’ve Learned from the Liberals

Things I’ve learned from the federal Liberals since they came to power:

i. Paying a tax to Justin Trudeau will save the planet, make life more affordable for me, lessen my risk of getting a heart attack and diabetes and improve my mental health.

ii. Suggesting our borders be defended makes me un-Canadian.

iii. Being alarmed at the prospect of an army of bureaucrats at Statistics Canada combing through my banking transactions, complete with all the personal information a growing identity thief needs, for no other reason than justifying their own jobs makes me “anti-data.” Whatever that is.

iv. I am heartless for suggesting that the Canadian government should be putting the needs of Canadians ahead of people in third-world countries.

v. I should be more understanding when the same government that gives $10 million to a terrorist cries poverty when veterans who have spilled blood in service of their country ask for benefits.

vi. Believing that immigration is a privilege rather than a basic human right makes me a racist and a white supremacist.

vii. Opposing any other form of Liberal policy also makes me a racist and a white supremacist, and as such, my constitutional right of freedom of expression should be forcibly denied. Furthermore, making this opposition to Liberal policy and its leader public makes me subject to being sued.

03 Apr

Reunion in the Universe’s Center

Highlights from yesterday’s visit to the universe’s center:

0. The purpose of the trip was to reconnect with a good friend and former colleague who recently followed in my footsteps and defected from the SPRM to Ontario. It was nice to see him after nearly a five-year absence and I hope to again make our get-togethers a regular habit, as was the case in the Old Country.

1. When walking down the street just after leaving the house, one of the two-wheeled scavengers who check for buried treasure on garbage day passed by. He needs to lube his chain in the worst way.

2. Seated across the aisle from me was a big, fat dude who I’ve seen regularly on the bus. A heavy smoker who doesn’t miss an opportunity, however small, to sneak in a puff, he was panting and wheezing the whole time he was awake, and from the sound of it, his lungs must look like he had inhaled a bucket of tar. This is someone who needs a serious intervention from family and friends before it’s too late.

3. Perhaps somewhat fittingly, given the occasion, I spotted two trucks from the SPRM at Beamsville, and another pair at the Nash and Barton stop. In addition, someone had a Chipman-logoed bag plainly visible from the back of his SUV. As another good friend of mine would say, “Loser!”

4. Blubber is seemingly always on display, and this heavyweight was packing plenty of it into clothing several sizes too small:

To fully appreciate the experience for yourself, listen to the following video as you picture her waddling across the parking lot at Nash and Barton.

5. Dear Metrolinx: How many years will it take to replace the broken Presto balance checker at Burlington? And how many more years will we have to wait before the Presto machines at Fairview Mall are installed?

6. Before my Lakeshore West train departed Appleby, the customer service ambassador announced, “Standclearofthedoorsthedoorsarenowclosing.” It’s 10 words, not one.

7. A young woman in her mid-20s wearing far too much makeup, lipstick and mascara took a seat opposite me at Bronte and instantly made me regret not packing a gas mask as she must have been marinating in some spicy perfume overnight. As I tried to stop coughing, she spent much of the ride to Union playing with her long, black hair, thinking she was pretty hot stuff. I think there was only one person within sniffing distance who shared that opinion.

8. One guy seated across the aisle was paying her no attention, and instead, his head was back fast asleep with his mouth open catching flies. Perhaps it was the toxic fumes that put him into such a deep sleep.

9. 99 plastic water bottles on the wall …

10. The leftists have even taken over cleaning systems …

11. Spotted in the washroom at Eaton Center was a bag with “Good Things Inside” plastered on it perched on the ledge above a guy doing his business at the urinal. You can’t make stuff like this up. You just can’t.

12. Inside the underground walkway were a number of women who were showing off the obvious results of surgery to enlarge certain body parts which come in pairs.

13. For the second time, I had an issue with the TTC Presto gate at Union, and both times, it had come just after a recent fare load. Since I know they’ve been having issues with those gates, maybe it’s a coincidence, but maybe it’s not.

14. Mooooo ….

15. Scene inside Brookfield Place:

16. Parking fail:

17. When leaving the platform at Burlington on the return trip, our bus driver suddenly stopped about a half-block before the light at Fairview Street and waited there for a couple of minutes. Then she jerked forward a few feet and waited a while longer. When she did ultimately pull out of the terminal, she made a right turn on red and royally cut off a black Jeep. Driving the biggest vehicle on the road isn’t a license to act like a jerk.

Then when we got to Nash and Barton, rather than pull up at the stop, she pulled ahead a few feet, partially blocking the entrance to the adjacent strip mall. Act like a professional instead of a Winnipeg Transit wannabe.

13 Mar

Over the River XLIX

Highlights from my 49th two-wheeled trip to the Great State of New York:

1. While being questioned at US Customs, the CBP officer looked down at my pants and exclaimed, “You’re wearing the same pants we are!” The unusual revelation even attracted the attention of the officer in the next booth, who asked if I was with the CBSA. In any event, I get the feeling the U.S. government paid a lot more for the pants the officers were wearing than I did for mine at the thrift store.

2. Though I’m not sure why one would need it, for the benefit of tourists headed over the river, the Niagara USA Visitor Center offers a luggage storage service for $10.

3. It’s plainly obvious that staff at the Niagara USA Visitor Center say “hello” to guests only because they’re ordered to.

4. Passing a solvent plant on Buffalo Avenue, I spotted, of all things, a fox:

5. Farther east on Buffalo Avenue was a Snoopy aficionado with a doghouse out front. Loyal readers may recall that I spotted a similar homemade Snoopy display hanging from a tree outside a house in North Tonawanda four years ago.

6. Not that I’m big on Arby’s, but I’m sure old-style signs like this are indeed rare:

7. The level of courteousness at the Tim Hortons on Niagara Falls Boulevard as well as the Walmart on Military Road could use a major improvement. It was especially bad at Walmart, where the cashier, the nationwide winner of the Slowest Cashier of the Year Award, was grumpy and hardly said a word.

8. Walmart seemingly goes out of its way to recruit employees who are more than 75 pounds overweight.

9. Parking fail:

10. At the Rainbow Bridge toll gate, two cars lined up in a lane with a big red “CLOSED” sign overhead, while I went around to an open lane. Only when someone came out to tell them the lane was closed did they turn to follow me. More examples of people who just shouldn’t be driving.

23 Feb

On the Road – Wild Driver, No-Peeing Zones, Chicken Fur and More

Observations from an interesting day on the road to, from and in the universe’s center:

1. To my surprise, there was quite a bit of traffic out and about when I left the house at 6:30, and much of that traffic was drawn to Tim Hortons like a magnet as the line at the drive-thru was around the block. Sights like that again make me wonder if Tim Hortons has some sort of monopoly on coffee.

2. Speaking of coffee, someone left theirs at the bus stop at Fairview Mall:

3. GO Transit has a new message on their buses asking passengers to report any incidents of harassment to their Transit Safety office. Back in the Old Country, it is more noteworthy when a passenger isn’t harassed.

4. Near Grimsby, our bus passed a big rig from Geronimo Trucking. I wonder if they have an office near the Burgoyne Bridge. Bad joke, I know.

5. GO drivers generally move along at a pretty good clip, but the driver I had in the morning definitely put the “go” in GO, passing semis left and right while keeping one hand on the wheel and chewing on the fingernails of his other hand. Then at Grimsby, when he had a few minutes of layover time, he got out and seemed a little too peppy as he was walking around the platform. All in all, it was one of those “kiss the ground” moments when I got off after he pulled up to the Burlington GO station 12 minutes early despite leaving Fairview a few minutes late.

6. Turning off onto Barton Street was someone with the vanity plate “ARGOSFAN” and two Argos stickers on the back of his car. They can’t draw flies to their games, but I knew there had to be at least one fan out there.

7. The last person to board at Nash and Barton asked for and paid for a ticket to the Burlington GO station. Then after looking at her ticket, she turned around and went back to the driver in a huff. “This just says Burlington GO!”, she exclaimed before telling him she needed to take the train. Dumbfounded, the driver asked, “How was I supposed to know?” After continuing to berate the driver for not being able to read her mind, she eventually calmed down and got the ticket for her ultimate destination. No doubt, she was from St. Catharines, the “You’re just supposed to know” city.

8. When she took her seat two rows behind me, the overpowering stench of her perfume mixed with B.O. filled the lower level. Luckily, it was only a short ride to Burlington from there and traffic was moving well. Maybe that also provided a partial explanation as to why the driver was in the far left lane on the Burlington Skyway racing with a fuel truck.

9. At the Burlington GO station, it was still refreshing to see a lineup at the hand dryer.

10. While waiting to go out on the platform, someone stormed into the station and without bothering to look up at the board staring her in the face or go to the counter where they sell tickets, she made a beeline for the person standing nearest to the door and shouted, “How do you get to Toronto from here!?”

11. In this “extreme cold,” people dress at opposite extremes to cope with the bitter -3 temperature. On one hand, I saw a few people with thick fur-lined boots. On the other was a hotshot on the platform at Burlington with bare legs and a skirt barely extending past her genitals. I and everyone else in my car then spent the entire ride to Union listening to her conversation. “This is a turning point . . . There’s going to be some push back from Natasha . . . Shall we do this in Toronto or New York . . . There’s something not right there,” she said before talking about the disconnect and tension in the office and scheduling a call with the four of them to hash it out in Joseph’s office. This was someone whose sense of self-importance was a little over the top.

12. The platform at Mimico. Somewhere under all that salt, I suspect there’s concrete.

13. It normally isn’t this bad, but there was an awful lot of assorted garbage strewn all over the trains and buses I was on.

14. Tucked away under the three-seater at the end of the car was a compartment labeled “Emergency Tools” with a saw, a foldable ladder and other assorted tools. For readers from the Old Country, can you imagine such a thing on a Winnipeg Transit bus? Not only would they be stolen, but they would also be used as weapons against other passengers.

15. Because of some issues with the locomotive that caused the 14-minute delay with the train, many announcements were made that the train would be running express from Appleby to Mimico, then on to Union without stopping at Exhibition and that anyone needing a destination in between should detrain at either Appleby or Mimico. One highfalutin 20-something apparently wasn’t paying attention and a minute after leaving Mimico, clacked her high heels through our car, just to let us know how important she was, and went to stand right by the door to make sure she was the first one to get off at Exhibition. Except that the train didn’t stop at Exhibition, causing her to utter a nasty word as the train sped on. Then when getting off at Union, she stopped in front of the door to the staircase leading down to the station as if it was some strange piece of mechanical equipment she had never used before. Only when someone to her left opened the door on his side did she do the same on her side. Who’s to know how long she would have been left stranded there if she was alone. Perhaps they should post an instruction manual. Or have a doorman posted there to do the honors for her.

16. How convenient:

17. Not a barber shop I’d want to patronize . . .

18. Street art, of which there is plenty in the universe’s center:

19. As if we don’t have enough problems with fake news these days, now there’s fake pizza apparently:

20. A Communist dry cleaner who has to send out the work if more than one alteration needs to be done:

21. And this looked like such an inviting place to take a leak . . .

22. I never knew sleepwalking was such a problem . . .

23. Pearls of wisdom outside a library:

24. A couple of off-color scenes in the west end:

25. On the side of the building at Toronto’s home of fake news:

26. Obligatory shot of the Toronto sign and city hall:

27. A street urchin’s encampment outside Eaton Center:

28. While waiting in the Queen subway station, there was an ad from Flair Airlines with the slogan “Nothing says ‘I love you’ like Winnipeg” to promote their $79 Toronto to Winnipeg fare. I can only surmise that no one in their advertising agency has ever been the esteemed capital of the SPRM. Or else it was a joke that no one in this part of the world could possibly be expected to understand.

29. Needing a little extra food, I went for an order of chicken strips at Tim Hortons. Overall, I give their newest offering a passing grade, and though the garlic in the breading wasn’t as overpowering as A & W’s equivalent, it still stayed with me well into the following morning.

29a. When digging out my wallet to pay, the clerk was seriously taken aback by the prospect of someone paying cash. Next time, just to be a rabble-rouser, I should ask if they accept bitcoin.

30. While the train was stopped at the Exhibition station on the return trip, I laughed as I watched a lost teenage kid on an adjacent street wander around, blindly following the directions on his phone that led him into an alley marked “Prohibited Area.” Before going too far, he finally picked his head up and turned around, only to again start following his phone as he made his way up the street. You know what they say about doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

31. Waiting for the bus at the Burlington, I was seated next to someone with a bag from the Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada. As she and two nearby people began talking, I learned that she had taken the train from Montreal that morning and was heading for a conference in Niagara Falls, where she was staying at Fallsview. Now why do they always hold these conferences in places like Niagara Falls when I’m sure they could get much better rates in cities like Prince Albert or Swift Current?

32. You can tell who the real tourists are when the #12 bus bound for the Burlington Carpool lot pulls up, and this time was no exception as half the station emptied to run after it, figuring every #12 bus is headed for Niagara Falls. I couldn’t help but chuckle as I watched them all dragging their feet with their heads slumped pulling their suitcases behind them as they headed back inside the station. Read the sign next time.

33. When the Falls-bound bus came, I was seated around a bunch of college roommates with one who lives in the Falls acting as the tour leader. They were hoping to do the Aero Car and the White Water Walk, only to learn that both attractions are not open during the winter, but they still hoped to do Table Rock and Clifton Hill. The tour leader who once worked as a waiter at Elements, a restaurant at Table Rock, figured it wouldn’t be a problem for the guys to haul their luggage a mile or so from the 420 and Stanley bus stop and that all the attractions are roughly in the same spot. They will undoubtedly be considering the Sucker Bus, more formally known as WEGO, but the $9 24-hour fare might be a problem given that one guy only has $10 in his checking account and the tour leader couldn’t remember when his account’s balance was as high as three figures. Increased appeals to the Bank of Mom and Dad were likely in their immediate plans.

34. One member of this group asked one of his buddies if his jacket was real fur. “Yeah, but it’s, like, chicken,” he answered. Who knew that chickens were fur-bearing animals? The things they teach students at institutes of higher learning these days.

19 Jan

Adventure in the Universe’s Center

Highlights from yesterday’s bus/train trek to and from the Center of the Universe:

1. Bright and early before the crack of dawn, in wet and sloppy conditions, a southbound cyclist on Geneva Street made a left turn onto Scott Street against a red light. Later in the day, a northbound cyclist on Church Street in C.U. blew off a red light at Bloor without even slowing down, forcing a truck, making a left turn on a dedicated turning light that was green, to slam on the brakes. Rather than thanking the driver for sparing his life, the obnoxious cyclist instead cussed him out and spit in his direction. And cyclists like that wonder why motorists are so negatively predisposed to them.

2. When boarding the train at Burlington, I took a seat in the accessibility coach for the first time, the one where the largely unnecessary customer service ambassador speaks to passengers from. All the seats were designated as priority seating, the quads were much more spacious with grab bars for those in wheelchairs and there was an automated display, seen below, showing the next stop. Given the tenuous grasp of English our CSA had, those signs need to be in every car, just like they are on all the buses.

3. A particularly ornery woman sitting in the rear of the car who seemed to have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed was having a running conversation with the CSA in between stops. Among the things she told him, and us, was that when someone called her recently to ask how things were going, she answered, “Drop dead!” She also made sure to tell us how much she loves HGTV, a network that seemingly goes out of its way to feature irritating people like her.

4. In the next quad, a woman got up to use the bathroom, leaving her coat on the seat. When she got back, it was still there. This is Not the Old Country, Chapter 3,549.

5. Seated across the aisle was a 20-something punk with a Mr. Incredible duffel bag who spread himself out over two seats. Mr. Incredible had a bad case of acne in addition to blond streaks in his frizzy hair, jeans ripped at the knees and pink shoes. He also certainly looked to be playing with less than a full deck as he was tapping his thumbs together while listening to the tunes on his phone. Tunes that were being played at such a high volume that most of us in the car could hear them even though he was wearing ear buds.

6. Mr. Incredible wasn’t the only one in the car wearing heavy winter boots even though it was only -3 when I left the house and with a light dusting of snow on the ground. People in this part of the world just don’t know what a real winter is all about. And aren’t they lucky.

7. A couple of women in their mid-20s got on at Clarkson with LPM (likes per minute) factors that reached double digits. Like, every car and, like, every train, has to have, like, at least one. That should be in the GO Customer Charter, which is dutifully plastered on every train and bus. One of them was was named Carolyn (she even spelled it out for us), and said that one of her friends is, like, really super French.

8. Upon arrival at the York Concourse in Union Station, I noticed these pigeons among the commuter traffic. With the new food court now open, no doubt the pickings have substantially improved.

9. When going to catch the subway, there was a long line waiting to get in the station at one entrance, so, like an old pro, I went to the other one. Then, upon seeing lines of 15-20 deep at the Presto gates, I went around to the other set of gates, where there were no lines. If I, as a relative newcomer, know this, why don’t they?

10. Gay redeemers?

11. Hospitals are known for gouging in their parking lots, but this takes it to a whole new level:

12. No, I didn’t do this. But maybe someone I know did.

13. No doubt an all-Canadian enterprise …

14. Careful, it’s “icey”:

15. Just take all your worldly belongings with you:

16. At the Hudson Bay Center in Yorkville, there was a lineup waiting for the LCBO to open at 9:30. Methinks those are people with some alcohol-dependency issues.

17. As if I needed another reason not to patronize Starbucks:

18. Problems with management?

19. As most readers are well aware, I’m not a dog person, but this is hardly an appropriate name for a store:

20. This is the equivalent of advertising a kosher ham sandwich:

21. I visited the Allan Gardens Conservatory, where I spent some time looking around and getting a number of shots.

The cost was free (for Toronto taxpayers, it’s “no additional charge”) and, for reference, it was about three or four times bigger than the nice conservatory Winnipeg used to have. While going through, I couldn’t help but wonder why our photo club hasn’t gone there, or the much larger Toronto Botanical Garden, on an outing while they keep going back to the same places over and over again. But, as I’m finding out, it’s only a good idea if the club’s co-ordinator thinks of it. Suggestions from members like me are about as welcome as a fox in a hen house.

22. While at Allan Gardens, I nearly laughed out loud while listening to one of the many children in attendance regaling his buddies about his knowledge of the life expectancy of fish and how to tell the age of a turtle. That kid has a budding future with the U.S. Postal Service as a know-it-all mailman who spends his leisure time in a bar alongside his portly buddy Norm. I know at least one reader will recognize the similarity to a former colleague.

23. Needing a bit of a break, I made a point of stopping at the Loblaws at Maple Leaf Gardens, site of the Jets’ only two road victories during their dreadful nine-win 1980-81 season.

After learning that they consider tea a “home meal replacement,” I paid attention to the Nutella bar.

For $4, you too can get a slice of “pizza,” which constitutes a piece of flatbread covered with Nutella, along with strawberries, icing and icing sugar. Though the strawberries do indeed provide some nutritional value, for the rest, you’d be better off going into the store and picking up a bag of sugar instead. Also available were crepes, waffles and croissants featuring diabetes-inducing levels of the high-sugar spread.

24. Also while there, a very trusting fellow dumped his bags next to me before getting in line.

25. On Yonge Street, I was following three women who turned into a dingy restaurant featuring Middle Eastern cuisine. As I said to myself, “You’ll be sorry.”

26. One of the many street urchins in the universe’s center:

27. One-stop shopping for all your “souveniers”:

28. On Church Street, someone was madly banging on a parking meter after it swallowed one of his loonies. While watching him, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the scene in Slap Shot when the Hansons were working over a drink machine while yelling “(expletive) machine took my quarter!”

29. If your car isn’t dirty, why would you be taking it to get washed?

30. While in the washroom at St. Lawrence Market, a couple of children walked in and one of them, as he approached the urinal, dropped his pants and asked his buddy, “Kiddie, do you want to meet a new friend?” To borrow a line from a long-lost friend, no visuals please.

31. Store-made beef “jerkey”:

32. Rodent-endorsed gourmet cheese:

33. I don’t care what they’ll be selling in the future, I want to know what they’re selling today.

34. For all your “ingraving” needs:

35. Is the place that bad that they have to apologize for being open?

36. This must be CBC’s headquarters:

37. Outside the NHL Hall of Political Correctness store was this jersey bearing the name of the reviled NHL commissioner, a jersey modeled in the style of a team which used it when playing in a rival league some factions in the NHL still hold a grudge against 40 years after its demise. Maybe it makes sense to somebody.

38. Spotted outside Union Station was a sign, “Message to Doug Ford: Hands off our $15 minimum wage.” Message to poster: Do the math. Doug Ford’s plan of a low-income tax cut will put more money in your pocket than the Liberal/NDP plan of raising the minimum wage, then clawing almost all of your “raise” back in taxes, not to mention putting a number of your low-income-earning friends out of work.

39. At Union Station, two people from GO were seated at a table offering to help Presto users set up the Autoload feature. While I’m sure it’s not as buggy as the Peggo system used in the Old Country, I have no desire to get my card maxed out when a software upgrade gets put in, as what happened to some in my former home city. I’ll take care of loading my card myself, thank you very much.

40. Union Station was abnormally crowded on my return trip and seats were hard to come by, even in the spacious food court.

41. Across the aisle from me on the Lakeshore West train was another one whose LPM factor was high and whose smelly McWrap was permeating all corners of the car. As we advanced westward, I learned that Smelly McWrap was a student in Toronto, owns a MacBook, has multiple dogs and got her black scarf for only $6 at a place in Milton that had them on sale for 60% off the clearance price. She was also jealous that her girlfriend went to Mexico with her husband recently, suggesting she should have taken her instead.

The McWrap, incidentally, was one she could have lived without, and if she continues at her current pace, she will likely have trouble fitting into her seat on the train by the time she reaches 50. If she even lives that long.

42. On this trip, we had not one, but two customer service ambassadors. Though it was two more than necessary, at least they both had a much better command of the English language than the guy I had on the way in. Unfortunately, they both needed to learn that “Final call for the doors please stand clear of the doors the doors are now closing” should be three sentences instead of one.

43. After the Oakville stop, we were met by a fare inspector, who went down the aisle checking Presto cards and receipts. Unlike the case in the Old Country, most people in this part of the world pay, but there was a couple at the opposite end of the car who didn’t and got caught. As someone who does pay, I smiled as I watched the inspector spend the next 15 minutes checking their ID and writing them each a citation.

44. When making the loop heading for the Nash and Barton stop, the bus drove over a plastic water bottle half-filled with a yellowish liquid that probably wasn’t apple juice.

45. At the Nash and Barton stop, someone got on with a black cap from Cannabis on Cannon. Now which party do you suppose he voted for in the last federal election?

46. Also boarding at Nash and Barton was a guy with a Native Pride hat who took a seat across the aisle from me. All the way to St. Catharines, he kept getting alerts of “New messages received from Dana” on his phone, and though they seemed to annoy him, he didn’t think to put his phone on silent mode. The same guy, incidentally, couldn’t get off the bus fast enough at Fairview Mall, all so he could dig out a cigarette and light up.

47. Spotted on the highway was a truck from Trans-Ontario Express. No doubt they offer nationwide service.

47a. Readers originally from Southern Ontario won’t get that one.

48. Facing the QEW in Grimsby is a place called Lake Foundry, which has a logo showing all of the Great Lakes. So shouldn’t it be Lakes Foundry instead?

49. At Beamsville, two gas stations near the highway posted prices of 94.9, while a newer Shell station farther to the south had a price of 95.9. Why would one drive farther to pay more?