All posts by curtis72

09 Dec

My First Falcons Game

Pictures and a few observations from last night’s GOJHL game between the St. Catharines Falcons and the visiting Ancaster Avalanche at the ancient Jack Gatecliff Arena:

1. Despite the larger-than-normal “crowd” of 433 in attendance at the 3,500-seat arena, buoyed by the presence of a high-school-age team from Cleveland, I didn’t exactly have a long wait in line to buy a ticket. The elderly gentleman at the counter almost seemed surprised that I wanted one.

2. Upstairs, two more seniors acted as the greeting committee, one of whom stamped my hand and thanked me for coming. It was a pleasant change from an IceDogs game at the Meridian Center, where rude rent-a-cops rummage through your belongings and act like they’re doing you a favor by allowing you in the building.

3. This guy in a red jacket with a black “SECURITY” cap hanging out at ice level was all there was as far as security was concerned. The way it ought to be.

4. Though the GOJHL is hardly a guaranteed ticket to future stardom, there are a handful of players who have made it from the Falcons to the NHL, a fact they proudly display on this banner.

I was surprised to see former Fighting Moose Brandon Nolan’s name on the list. During my time as a fan, he was little more than a third- or fourth-line player whose career seemed to be going nowhere. In addition, St. Catharines native and former Falcon Daultan Leveille was a first-round draft choice of the Atlanta Thrashers back in 2008.

5. Shots around the sparsely populated concourse:

6. The $1 puck toss took place in the first intermission with the big prize being a chicken dinner from Swiss Chalet on Fourth Avenue. In addition, the lucky winner of the 50/50 draw took home $298.

7. Shots around the historic rink. For those who are unaware, not only was this once the home of the IceDogs, but it was where stars like Stan Mikita, Bobby Hull, Marcel Dionne and Pat Stapleton spent their formative years. During the early 1980s, the AHL’s St. Catharines Saints, then the Leafs’ farm team, also played at “the Jack.”

8. The smell from decades-old fermented sweat that permeates every corner of the stands stuck to my nostrils so badly that I was still smelling it when I woke up the following morning.

9. I think it was warmer outside than it was in the stands.

10. Given the rink’s age, I wasn’t all that surprised to see how hacked up the glass was. But at least the place was clean. I didn’t have to wipe down my own seat and despite covering much of the rink, I didn’t find any sticky spots on the floor. The SMG staff who “clean” the Meridian Center should come by and take some lessons from the city crews.

11. Line combinations or defensive pairings written on the glass at the visitors’ bench:

12. Just like the old Winnipeg Arena, a picture of the Queen hangs in one end:

13. Scenes during the warmup:

14. I got the distinct impression that this person is a regular. Call it a hunch.

15. The Falcons are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, something they proudly display at center ice:

16. Section F’s collection of bell ringers. Every low-level junior hockey team seems to have them.

17. Aside from the team from Cleveland seated in the far end, I was one of only a small handful who wasn’t drawing CPP and who didn’t know most everyone else there. Many of them are probably still wondering who that guy with a notepad and a camera was.

18. Before the game:

19. The siren sounded like a recording of a pig being slaughtered.

20. It was a nice touch for them to honor a longtime Falcons fan who had passed away earlier in the week with a moment of silence.

21. For the anthem, I had expected a tape-recorded version of O Canada to be played, but instead, the P.A. announcer opened up the door behind him and handed the mic to a woman seated there. She actually handled the task pretty well, much better, in fact, than the school choirs the IceDogs frequently use.

22. Unlike the case at IceDogs games, the P.A. announcer did not deem it necessary to introduce himself.

23. The opening faceoff:

24. First period action:

25. In contrast to games played at higher levels, they keep the games moving quickly in this league. No fussing around, no TV timeouts and no lengthy pregame ceremonies. Drop the puck and let’s go.

26. Shots of both benches:

27. When and if this kid ever gets married, he should seriously consider using his wife’s name.

28. Sound carries particularly well throughout the rink, especially with so few people in attendance. The officials, coaches and players really can hear fans when they scream and likewise, we could hear them and their frequent use of the F-bomb.

29. Apparently in this league, a boarding penalty carries an automatic 10-minute misconduct. For the most part, I think that’s a good idea.

30. Are they penalties or are they penal ties?

31. After the Falcons’ second-period goal, lights flashed near the bench:

32. During the second intermission, instead of having a lucky fan stand at center ice to try and shoot a puck through the empty spot in the board covering the net to win a prize, they had a player do it. Unfortunately, the player missed both shots, drawing a couple of boos for his efforts.

33. They sold beer at a pub? Who knew?

34. The Falcons’ “Main” man:

35. Largely dominated by their opponents, particularly so in the third, the Falcons were fortunate to get out of regulation with the score still tied at 1-1. In this league, rather than use the three-on-three overtime followed by a shootout, they play five minutes of four-on-four, followed by another five-minute period of three-on-three. Since neither team could break the deadlock, however, the game ended with a tie score, marking the first time I had been at a tie game since the (real) Jets’ final season at the Winnipeg Arena.

36. After the game:

03 Dec

A December Cross-Border Cycling Adventure

Pictures and observations from my 40th two-wheeled trip to the Great State of New York:

1. Holiday gifts “avaible” now:

1a. The same error was made on the other side as well. As they say, two wrongs don’t make a right.

2. Flashing on the overhead signs at the US Customs inspection plaza at the Rainbow Bridge were new reminders to take off hats and sunglasses, turn off cell phones and to have your documents ready. It all seems like common sense, but these days, common sense isn’t all that common.

3. The CBP officer who served me seemed a little taken aback when I presented my NEXUS card as opposed to a passport. I suppose I couldn’t blame him, since being a NEXUS cardholder on two wheels who doesn’t drive undoubtedly puts me among a very distinct minority.

4. Spotted at One Niagara Center was a souvenir Niagara Falls license plate with the name “Gavin” on it. I know at least one reader will appreciate that reference.

5. There was warmer air outside than what was coming out of the hand dryer in the washroom at One Niagara Center.

6. Progress on the new Hyatt going up near the bridge:

7. A sign spotted outside a Unitarian church on Main Street giving some sage advice for parents who spend more time on their phones than with their children:

8. A New York State legislator is referred to as an “assemblyman” and not an “assemblyperson”? Heavens to Murgatroyd, what is this world coming to?

9. Nothing quite screams “Niagara Falls, New York” like this scene:

10. An exciting opportunity awaits an enterprising entrepreneur who is looking to invest in the limitless potential of one of North America’s great tourist destinations:

11. Street art. Right across from the courthouse.

12. Seeing street signs like this that don’t give the indicator as to whether it is a street or an avenue reminds me of Transcona, now a suburb of Winnipeg but formerly a separate city, which for years, was littered with such signs. Perhaps only I care enough to remember that.

12a. In the background are more of those exciting opportunities for enterprising entrepreneurs.

13. The new Amtrak station in Niagara Falls:

14. One of many homeowners on Lewiston Road who dumped all his leaves and assorted yard waste into the middle of the street:

15. Scenes along Center Street in Lewiston:

16. Scenes in the Lewiston honorary international peace garden:

17. None of the three employees working at the Orange Cat had a nose ring. Don’t tell me they’re going all normal now.

18. I’m sure the Orange Cat’s muffins are fabulous, but the overweight woman who hobbled in and put an undue amount of stress on the rustic old chair she was sitting in really didn’t need any of them. But from how loudly she smacked her lips, even the people waiting in line out the door could attest to how thoroughly she enjoyed hers.

19. Seated across from the Muffin Lady was someone who began doing some odd neck contortions as she was working on her laptop. It reminded me of a former colleague who would inexplicably stand up during meetings and start making all sorts of weird gyrations. He was only part of our group for a short time, but he made a lasting impression.

19a. Among the certifications this former colleague made a point of bragging about holding was the MCSE designation. Though it officially stands for Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer, another former colleague termed it Must Call Someone with Experience.

20. Seemingly half of Western New York was on hand as Santa was airlifted in by helicopter in the middle of Academy Park.

21. Is there a part of Lewiston that is non-historic?

22. On my way back up the escarpment on Route 18, I spotted a New York license plate with the first three letters “DJT.” Make America Great Again!

23. While at the Duty Free store at the Lewiston Bridge, I got a couple of strange looks from Canada-bound motorists. Perhaps they were unaware that cyclists are indeed allowed on that bridge.

24. While crossing said bridge, the driver of a U.S.-bound Jeep with SPRM plates was madly waving at me as if he knew me. As I’ve said before, that place does keep following me around.

24a. I spotted a Bison Transport truck on the 405 and another on the Garden City Skyway on my return trip. Again, the SPRM keeps following me around.

24b. You do realize that it’s been more than 40 months since I defected from that place.

25. After breezing through the dedicated NEXUS lane (yes, cyclists can use it), I pulled up behind a car from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania at the toll gate ready to donate another 50 cents to the coffers of the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission. The attendant, however, stuck his head out of the booth, waved me through and declined the toll. Maybe it was part of a new promotion where every 40th trip is free. Shrug.

25 Nov

Black Friday in Hamilton

Pictures and observations from yesterday’s outing to Hamilton:

1. Given the extreme cold temperature of +2C when I left the house, I could certainly understand why the woman I passed by on Scott Street was wearing heavy, fur-lined boots that came halfway up to her knees. Even though there wasn’t a single flake of snow on the ground, you can never be too prepared. Same goes for the woman who got on the GO bus who had a woolen lining in her boots.

2. Did you lose this mitten?

3. Another cat owner who expects the general public to care more about his/her cat than he/she does:

4. Someone driving a van flagged down the GO bus on South Service Road as it was leaving the Beamsville stop and the driver actually stopped and waited as the passenger scurried around to the front door. Once again, this is not the Old Country, where stories of drivers taking off just as frantic passengers running after the bus reach the stop remain commonplace.

5. With a little time on his hands at Grimsby, the driver got off and hastily got in a few puffs of his cigarette before getting back on the road. Someone who is that desperate for a puff has a serious problem.

6. There are circus clowns who don’t apply as much lipstick as the teenager who boarded at Grimsby and got off with me at Nash and Barton. Sadly, it was a sight I would see twice more during the day. There should be something on the label stating that it’s not meant to be applied a tube at a time.

7. Said teenager, evidently annoyed that she was kept waiting for a few minutes for the Barton bus, kept checking the schedule posted on the pole. Experienced HSR riders know that the Barton bus comes often enough. You don’t need to check the schedule.

8. Evidently the GO bus driver is not alone in being desperate for a puff.

9. After boarding the Barton bus, three people came running after it as it was about to take off. And the driver waited. Once again, this is not the Old Country.

10. I couldn’t believe that the HSR buses had the very non-politically-correct “Merry Christmas” flashing on the display.

11. As expected, the trip on the Barton bus was again an experience to behold. It didn’t take long for the first stroller, followed right behind by another, and the number of walkers and carts that had come and gone on the way downtown must have reached double figures.

12. A hair stylist at Gage had the sign “Your welcome without an appointment” in the window. Apparently grammar wasn’t you’re best subject.

13. Back-A-Da-Bus-O-Phobia is a problem in Hamilton, but not nearly the way it is in the Old Country.

14. Only a veteran of Winnipeg Transit like me can still marvel as how the rear doors on HSR buses open automatically, even though it has been more than three years post-defection.

15. Plastered on the after-hours return slot at the library on Barton was “Library Book Return.” What else would the book return be for?

16. I’ve smelled worse, but the guy who sat next to me on the Barton bus needed a bath a few days ago.

17. After using the washroom at Jackson Square, I still appreciate how most people in this part of the world wash their hands after doing their business. On my return trip, there was even a lineup to use the sinks.

18. The #25 bus I took to Lime Ridge Mall was packed, as were others I spotted during the day. Though it wasn’t the reason for my trip, Black Friday evidently remains quite popular. Go figure.

19. I think only someone born in Southern Ontario can understand the logic behind dumping so much salt in a parking lot on a day when it never got below freezing and when there isn’t a single flake of snow on the ground.

20. Someone didn’t play his cards right.

21. The Bill Friday Lawfield Arena, named for the legendary referee who was most noted for his work in the WHA. I still remember the game when Friday pulled a mirror out of his back pocket to check to see that every strand of his slicked-back hair was in place. No doubt he had a lucrative endorsement deal from Brylcreem, which was all the rage at the time.

22. Finally, some people are starting to come to their senses.

23. Back at Hamilton’s largest mall, there was one place with a sign saying “50% off entire store” out front. But what if I don’t want the entire store?

24. Crowds were so thick that there was a half-hour wait to get into the Disney store, a similar wait to get into a jewelry store and the lineup at the Tim Hortons in the food court was 20-30 deep.

25. Spotted in the crowds was a woman with shamrock-green hair. It was Black Friday, not St. Patrick’s Day.

26. Walking north on Upper Wentworth, I spotted a woman madly shivering in the “cold” as she was waiting for an approaching bus. Tip of the day: Do up your jacket.

27. As I’ve heard it said recently, $15/hour is great. If you have a job. Which many minimum-wage earners won’t once this “fair” wage becomes law.

28. More political uncorrectness:

29. Shots of lower town while walking down the mountain at Arkledun Avenue:

30. Spotted on the way down was a Hamilton Cab with the slogan “Powered by diversity” plastered on the door. Can’t we even get in a cab these days without getting a left-wing political lecture?

31. This convenience store across from Gore Park isn’t quite so convenient anymore:

32. The tree going up in Gore Park:

33. Two guys sitting in Gore Park shooting the breeze:

34. Spotted in Jackson Square was a restaurant serving sausage and spinach soup. As they say in Texas, El Paso.

35. Also spotted in Jackson Square was a store claiming to have the right to inspect bags and empty pockets upon request. Good luck with that. But in any event, I have the right to take my business elsewhere. Which I did.

36. Take a load off your feet.

37. More salt.

38. The return trip on the Barton bus had the requisite two strollers and another large collection of walkers and carts.

39. A teenager got on at St. Matthews with a pierced tongue. Ewww.

40. A woman sitting across the aisle looked at me strangely as I was taking notes. Was it because I was taking notes or because I was using a notepad instead of a cell phone like 99% of the Western world would do?

41. I took note when a woman got on wearing a hoodie with “Prince Edward Island” emblazoned across the front. For those who are unaware, Charlottetown came in second in the relocation derby.

42. After getting to Nash and Barton, I was promptly approached by a creepy guy asking me if I had a quarter to spare. Which I didn’t. At least not for him. He claimed to be 75 cents short for bus fare, which made his supposed need for a quarter look even less credible, yet he had plenty of money for smokes and the cell phone he was jabbering away on while going through three of his cigarettes during the long wait for the GO bus. Fear not for 25-Cent Dude, however, as he bummed a dollar off of one of the cashiers inside the Wholesale Club grocery store.

43. Giving 25-Cent Dude some competition was an older guy standing on the sidewalk holding out a Tim Hortons cup with a pre-printed sign hanging around his neck approaching cars on their way out of the lot.

44. Seated in front of me on the GO bus was a woman so obese that she was taking up one and a half seats. Somehow I don’t think she paid a 50% premium on her fare.

45. The GO bus driver wasn’t wearing a name tag, but I could tell that his name was Leadfoot. Between Stoney Creek and Grimsby, he was in the third lane from the right passing semi-trailers.

46. 25-Cent Dude got off at Beamsville, where he unlocked his bike and proceeded west on the wrong side of South Service Road.

47. Dear crossing guard at Geneva Street: It was not necessary for you to blow that accursed whistle in my ear. Same goes for the crossing guard at Vine Street.

48. I know they do it for everyone, but do I look like someone so young that I need help crossing the street? I mean, I was in elementary school when the Jets were in the WHA.

49. The cyclist who passed me on Scott Street needs to lube his chain. It was that obvious.

50. Passing me on the sidewalk on Scott Street was someone in plaid pants wearing his house slippers whose head was completely shaven save for several randomly scattered clumps of hair.

51. As opposed to stale Ontario trees …

23 Nov

An Uneventful GO Meeting

Takeaways from the disappointing meeting on the proposed GO train service to Niagara held at the downtown library last night:

1. I arrived before 6:00 and was far from the first one through the doors. People in this part of the world are, if nothing else, early birds.

2. The Metrolinx employees, including the presenter, acted as if they were sent from on high to save us unwashed masses out here in the boonies. Next time, try some humility.

3. Metrolinx staff evidently do have a policy of looking out for their own. Case in point was one poor staffer being harangued by Big Bearded Guy who was mercifully rescued by one of his colleagues, ostensibly to answer a question for another attendee.

3a. Big Bearded Guy sure did look lost after the target of his monologue was snatched from his grasp.

4. One of the slides of the virtually useless presentation dealt with “tree and vegetation mitigation.” I think they meant tree and vegetation impact mitigation.

5. There were lots of questions from the standing-room-only crowd, yet virtually no answers. Worse yet, when someone asked a question regarding the train station, the designated expert from Metrolinx assigned to give the non-answer admitted he hadn’t even been to the station. Forgive me if I don’t quite understand why they even came out and held the meeting.

6. Among the more noteworthy questions still waiting for an answer was whether or not the new line will be a feeder route to Burlington or will run directly to Union Station in the universe’s center.

7. There seemed to be a lot support for putting the station near 406 and Glendale, yet the current Western Hill location has evidently been set in stone.

8. They didn’t even seem to know how many parking spaces would be available at the station, nor the fact that Ridley College and the former TRW owned adjacent properties that could be used for that purpose.

9. When there was someone with a comment, it wouldn’t have hurt the Metrolinx staff to take note of it themselves instead of brusquely telling us to fill out a comment card.

10. Fear not, the GO bus service is not going to be eliminated.

11. The humpback bridge on St. Paul Street near the station is scheduled for replacement, yet the planning still hasn’t gone past the environmental assessment phase. Someone mentioned that regional chair Alan Caslin was quoted as saying that the bridge won’t be replaced until after the trains start rolling. Oy.

11 Nov

Around Town – Lost Cat, Blubber, Air-Conditioned Meals and More

Pictures and observations from a stroll around town:

1. Maybe if “mommy” cared more, the cat would be safe at home.

2. I guess if you eat enough of it, you will become “blubberry.”

3. It’s nice that the take-out orders are air conditioned, but what about the restaurant?

4. Graffiti around downtown:

5. No furniture credit union?

6. There’s a missing “S” on this sign …

7. As opposed to, say, Ukrainian burritos …

8. This brought a smile to my face …

9. Give us this day our daily bread …

10. But why?

11. When dad takes over the business, it will be known as “Pa.”

12. Don’t you wish our governments would heed this advice?

13. Yes, Ontario is the Great Salt Republic. The astute reader will notice the lack of precipitation.

14. Drive “traffice” to your business …

15. No doubt this will be taken down posthaste as some Muslims might be offended …

16. Personally, I prefer a less violent bath. But to each his own.

17. Just take a spin through an empty lot …

01 Nov

Halloween in the Universe’s Center

Observations and pictures from yesterday’s voyage to and from the Center of the Universe:

1. Even before the crack of dawn, there was a long line at the drive thru at the Tim Hortons on Scott Street. Oy.

2. Dear jogger on Scott Street: Even if you don’t care about breaking the law, show that you take your own safety more seriously than you expect passing motorists to by using the sidewalk instead of the road. Especially when it’s pitch dark outside.

3. After hearing train whistles near Fairview Mall, an area with no railway presence, I spotted this abandoned stocking cap or mitten with the number 5 on it.

Then when I got to Burlington, there was this 642 license plate right in front of me on the platform.

Messages sent, messages received. As I’ve said before, you may understand and you may not.

4. No doubt LCBO will be accused of racism with this edict …

5. On this Halloween day, much to my relief, my bus driver came dressed as … drumroll please … a bus driver.

6. On the QEW, we passed a sign that read, “Work Zone: Drive with Care.” So evidently, it’s OK to drive carelessly if it’s not a work zone.

7. Dear cyclist who got off at Beamsville: Much like the case with the jogger on Scott Street, place a premium on your safety by considering a small investment in a light for your bike. Especially when you plan to use it in the dark on roads without street lights.

8. Dear smoker on the platform at Burlington: Don’t let that big “no smoking” sign you were standing underneath bother you.

9. I think I was only one of three or four people on the platform and on the train who was not preoccupied with his phone. It shouldn’t surprise me at this point, but it still does.

10. As it was an express train, the customer service ambassador kept reminding passengers wishing to travel to stations between Clarkson and Exhibition to detrain at Oakville. This was just after I debused at Burlington and an hour before I would desubway in Toronto.

11. At the opposite end of the car I was in, there was a sign commemorating GO’s 50th anniversary. Why is it that I get the impression that GO was more advanced on their first day than Winnipeg Transit is today? Not that I’m bitter or anything, mind you.

12. Parked in a lot near the Bronte station was a trailer from Arnold Bros. Transport. As I’ve said before, the SPRM does follow me around.

13. The person seated next to me on the train should seriously consider upgrading her laptop from Windows 7, which is in the extended support phase. But at least she had the latest version of Office installed.

14. The guy seated across from me had a silly, almost stupid-looking grin on his face all the way to Union Station. But he sure thought he was important. Oh, and he’s an RBC customer. The things you learn about people on public transit.

15. It wasn’t even November and this GO locomotive was already decked out for Christmas:

16. At the washroom in Union Station, I had to wait in line to use a hand dryer. Once again, this is not the Old Country.

17. Traffic and crowds were not a problem on the way to Union, but I was caught off guard by the mass crush of humanity headed for the subway.

18. Dear TTC: Having taken the subway there before, I realize I should have known better, but please consider putting arrows pointing passengers to the proper gate to use after tapping their Presto card. Just like you do at other Presto-enabled stations. When you put a Presto machine between two sets of gates, not everyone is going to know which one to use, particularly in a city that gets as many visitors as Toronto does.

19. This jogger at Queen’s Park did not appear to be in costume. Her attire was just weird.

20. Normally, I would scoff at the prospect of students buying assignments, but today’s professors are so blinded by left-wing ideologies that they’d probably give a passing grade to anything, even if it was directly copied from Coles Notes, as long as it properly conformed to their worldview.

20a. Back in the late 1980s when I was in a class taught by a former NDP MLA, I got a D on an essay in which I disagreed with his left-wing politics. I pretended to agree with him on the next assignment and got a B. Coincidence? You be the judge.

21. Shots along Philosopher’s Walk on the campus of the University of the Center of the Universe. Or would that be Central Universe University?

22. When liberals talk about “everyone” being welcome, they mean everyone who agrees with them. The rest of us can take a hike.

23. Chew on this: 0 out of 8 households seem to have trouble getting a hold of cigarettes or LCBO products. There are some genuinely needy people out there, but far too often, it’s a matter of priorities.

24. The back of the arena that hosted the WHA’s Toronto Toros in their first season after moving from Ottawa.

24a. If you recall, following one season at Varsity Arena and two more at Maple Leaf Gardens, the Toros moved south and became the Birmingham Bulls. As an old Jets fan, I can still hear the “Birmingham stinks!” chant.

25. Shouldn’t this be code red?

26. Give him a call …

27. Outside the Royal Ontario Museum:

28. No, this shot was not taken in Winnipeg, the discount capital of the Western world …

29. The only difference between a regular piece of art and an “objet d’art” is the 50-100% premium in price.

30. Given how Halloween has seemingly become a national holiday, I was surprised that this was about as radical as things got as far as costumes and decorations were concerned:

31. Shots around the Yorkville area:

32. In case you have a dirty Canada Goose on your hands …

33. I don’t think I want to get my hair cut there:

34. Spotted at Yorkville Center was a couple who were fawning over a poodle as if it was a newborn baby.

35. I used the washroom at Yorkville Center, where again, people were washing their hands after doing their business. As I’ve said before, this is not the Old Country.

36. Near the Yorkville Center, I passed by a Ferrari and Maserati dealership, open by appointment only, strategically placed in the middle of the high rent district.

36a. If you recall, back in 2003, Dany Heatley of the Atlanta Thrashers wrecked his Ferrari in a single-vehicle accident that claimed the life of his passenger and teammate, Dan Snyder.

36b. How many of you remember that Heatley’s father played in the WHA?

37. Better than an old street …

38. It wasn’t bitterly cold by any means, but I wouldn’t have wanted to be riding around in the open-air top deck:

39. I guess those packages don’t move …

40. Obesity has evidently become such a problem in our society that the Shoppers Drug Mart in Hudson Bay Center had a “Weight Management” aisle.

41. Perhaps this is commonplace elsewhere in the world, but this is the first time I’ve seen an intersection like this one at Bloor and Yonge where pedestrians can cross diagonally.

42. Though I didn’t stop to investigate further, there was someone on Yonge Street looking to pocket a little extra cash by running a less-than-legal spinning-wheel gaming operation. No doubt, police will be on to him quickly. After all, the government hates competition.

43. Heard over the crowds at Yonge-Dundas Square was a mentally challenged gentleman who yelled, “Why do you make noise jeery freaks jerks?”

44. Many were lining up inside Eaton Center for a chance to win a Google Home Mini. Whatever that is.

44a. Even if it was something valuable, with Google partnering with their Silicon Valley allies in censoring any political views to the right of Lenin, you probably had to show a Liberal Party membership card to get an entry form.

45. The Jehovah’s Witnesses were out in full force all along Yonge Street. At one display, they had their literature available in Arabic. If that doesn’t scream desperation, I don’t know what does.

46. Before seeing it advertised on an overhead display, I didn’t know Toronto had an annual celebration of Iranian cinema. I also didn’t know that they were allowed to make movies in Iran other than government newsreels preaching hatred of Western culture.

47. At right is one satisfied customer …

48. In a province that blankets its roads in salt every winter, even when it’s not needed, this just screamed “Ontario”:

49. I get the feeling the Leafs and Raptors won’t take kindly to having their flags flown at this establishment. Call it a hunch.

50. And best of lucks in your new location …

51. I spotted this “DropBike” left out on the sidewalk. Apparently it’s a service where you can unlock one of their bikes using a QR code generated from their app and leave it at designated locations around the city when you’re done with it.

51a. You will never see such a service in the Old Country. Trust me.

52. Farther down Yonge, I spotted a bum sleeping on the sidewalk using the front wheel of his bike as a cushion. A bike that looked to be in better shape than mine.

53. At the NHL Hall of Political Correctness, caps from the North Stars, Whalers or Nordiques were readily available, but they had nothing from the Thrashers.

54. Outside their store at the Tim Hortons was this display featuring the (real) Jets:

Of particular note was the replica AVCO Cup, the Hawerchuk jersey and those old ticket stubs, all still fondly remembered by yours truly.

54a. On my list of ideas for future books is a memoir featuring the Jets’ final season.

55. Nearby was a display of pucks, two of which were from the WHA Jets:

56. While waiting at Union Station for the Lakeshore West train, I spotted this dude doing his exercises out on the floor:

57. You don’t need to have an M.D. after your name to know that the obese woman I spotted hobbling along on a cane would be able to get around a lot easier by dumping a few pounds.

58. I’m proud of the fact that I don’t get the rings seemingly normal people stick in their noses.

59. It couldn’t have been possible for the 20-something woman I spotted with dyed blond and blue hair to get more makeup and lipstick on her face without it falling off.

60. The two women on the platform standing near me might as well have been holding a big neon sign with “TOURISTS” on it. Act like you’ve been there before.

61. There was a “medical emergency” which delayed the train by 13 minutes, but to their credit, GO arranged for the #12 bus to hold at Burlington for those of us wanting to catch it. Once again, this isn’t the Old Country, where a Winnipeg Transit driver would have taken great pleasure in taking off just as the people who were running after the bus got within a few feet of the door. Spoken from a great deal of personal experience in that regard.

62. One guy got on and asked the driver, “Have I ever been on the bus with you?” and “Do you know where I like to get off?” Sure he does. I’m sure he knows each and every passenger by name.

63. I noticed a sign on the QEW for the Organized Crime Winery. Funny, I didn’t know the Clintons were in the wine business.

64. During the day, the rainbow-colored bench at Beamsville was replaced with a regular wooden one. I can just hear the liberals crying “Homophobia!”

65. I didn’t know what the obese woman in the drive thru at the Tim Hortons on Scott Street was about to order, but trust me, she didn’t need it.

27 Oct

Nuggets from the Road in the Great State of New York

Observations from my 39th two-wheeled trip to the Great State of New York:

1. I remain surprised at the appalling lack of regard some people have for their own safety. Such as the kid who blindly strolled across a busy St. Paul Avenue and the scruffy hobo carrying the Union Jack over his shoulder who decided that walking on Portage Road near Five Corners was a better idea than using the sidewalk.

2. If you lost some jewellery in Niagara Falls, check the left-hand turning lane on Portage Road at Five Corners.

3. Dear crossing guard on Victoria Avenue: It’s all right for you to go back to the curb as soon as the person you stopped traffic for gets to the other side of the street. You don’t have to stand in the middle of traffic and wave at us.

4. While stopping to take a picture of this sign welcoming me to the Great State of New York, blasting out of the loudspeakers at One Niagara Center was a song called “Shattered Dreams,” the title of my fifth book.

5. More sign overkill brought to you by the NYSDOT:

6. Do they make ceramics there or is their factory housed in a ceramic building?

7. I’m sorry for the poor soul who dropped a $5 bill on Buffalo Avenue, but rest assured it was and will be put to good use. Same goes for the poor soul who lost a quarter a half mile to the east.

8. Someone parked at a lot on Buffalo Avenue had a bumper sticker which read, “Locally Hated.” Is this something one should be proud of?

9. Near the North Grand Island Bridge, I spotted someone wearing a big, heavy fur-lined parka. As a long-lost friend once said to me, the farther south you go, the wimpier they get about cold.

10. Even though it was her first day on the job, the clerk who served me at the Tim Hortons on Niagara Falls Boulevard was far more courteous than many others whom I’ve had recently.

11. The obese man who took a seat in front of me should have had a “WIDE LOAD” sign strapped across his back. One thing’s for sure, he certainly didn’t need the pastry that he polished off in a flash.

12. While I was there, it was snowing in the Old Country, snow that would later result in many crashes on bridges in and around Winnipeg. The last time I was at that Tim Hortons, Southern Manitoba was under a blizzard warning. Coincidence? You be the judge.

13. Someone driving a pickup truck from Hayes Door sure seemed to be in one powerful hurry as he peeled into the lot headed for the drive-thru.

14. How exactly do you melt pepperoni?

15. A shot of the Wegmans, where an Ontario truck driver hauling refrigerated hydrogen clipped the pole in the foreground earlier this week, causing nearby businesses to close for most of the day as Hazmat crews responded to the scene.

15a. Unlike what would have happened in the Old Country, police in the Town of Niagara deemed it a reportable offense and issued the driver a citation.

16. The Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls, USA. Which isn’t actually in Niagara Falls. Details, details.

17. This Kansas plate reminded me of the Jesse Ventura line in Predator, “This place makes Cambodia look like Kansas.”

18. A Tops store, one of the most telling indicators that you’re in WNY:

19. An American would define this as “worldwide coverage”:

20. It beats Democrat services:

21. Something about the American flag at a memorial for a rabid fan of an NFL team doesn’t seem quite right anymore:

22. If you’re the guest of honor, you’re gone. You don’t need to ask.

23. Snacks may be welcome, but what about customers?

24. Make America Great Again:

24a. How can any patriotic American, particularly a Trump supporter, still be displaying NFL paraphernalia?

25. Um, whatever …

26. My face must now be so familiar that the people inside the Niagara USA Visitor Center didn’t even ask if I needed any help. Or maybe they just didn’t want me asking any questions they couldn’t answer, since I seem to be more knowledgeable on navigating WNY on two wheels than any of them are.

27. I’m still not sure how the mentally challenged man pedaling the wrong way on Thorold Stone Road who blindly pulled out into the middle of traffic managed to avoid being killed.

22 Oct

IceDogs vs. Ottawa – Autism Awareness Night

Observations from last night’s game as the Niagara IceDogs took on the Ottawa 67’s:

1. On the way in, I noticed the contents of a woman’s purse scattered across the table as the rent-a-cops stationed at the Rankin Gateway were ravenously searching it for contraband material. For the love of Pete(tm), how much longer do they think people are going to put up with these shakedowns for the privilege of attending a junior hockey game? Enough already.

2. Outrageously priced souvenirs of the night: A fleece jacket for $67.95, a flimsy men’s hoodie for $59.95 and this knit cap for $24:

3. I can’t decide. Should I open MediaShare or not?

4. As the title suggested, this was Autism Awareness Night. For those who are not aware, there is a strong personal connection as my friend and subject of my second book, the late Carli Ward, had a mild case of Asperger’s Syndrome. Hence the reason for my attendance. In addition to the autism-themed jerseys the team was wearing, there was a display in concourse from Autism Ontario selling jars of “Hugga Honey” for $15 with the proceeds going toward a camp of some sort. There were also shirts on sale with “I (heart) someone with autism” on it. Though it was tempting, I have more than enough articles of clothing.

5. Instead of my usual perch high up in the corner in the retractables, I opted for a different vantage point:

6. I was actually able to walk down to my seat without being harangued by an usher. Will wonders never cease?

7. Scenes from the warmup showing the autism-themed jerseys:

8. Miraculously, the P.A. announcer did not introduce himself before the game. Once again, will wonders never cease?

9. The pregame ceremony featuring an autistic child:

10. A choir from Dalewood Public School sang the anthem partially in Quebecese, giving the middle finger to their mostly Canadian audience in so doing.

11. In a common theme I’ve been noticing over the last couple of years, aside from the seat to my immediate right, this entire row was marked as “sold”:

12. Yours truly along with 5,000 others were alleged to have been in attendance. Something about that figure doesn’t quite ring true:

13. Make Hair Great Again:

14. Seated behind me were a group of chatty guys in their late 50s whom a long-lost friend would describe as “good ol’ boys.” As they entertained me with their in-game commentary, it was obvious they had long since graduated from being Howie Meeker-wannabees and were gunning for head coach Billy Burke’s job.

14a. As they added an “eh” at the end of every sentence, I didn’t need to check their passports to verify their Canadian citizenship.

15. During the game, they read an ad for Enviro-Niagara, which is apparently located on Highway 20 in Welland. Except that Highway 20 doesn’t go through Welland. Details, details.

16. Bones in the crowd:

17. Bones delivering birthday greetings, including a card signed by the team, to a child seated nearby:

18. Many of the people seated around me seemingly had ants in their pants and had to keep getting up during the play to head to the concourse. On one such occasion, someone came back with a beer, two rat dogs and an order of nachos, spending more in the process than I did on my ticket.

19. During both intermissions, I couldn’t help but notice the long lines at the concessions, proof that people will eat anything and pay any ridiculous price for the privilege.

20. For those so inclined, prices and offerings at “The 406 Bar”:

21. During the second period, Ottawa goaltender Olivier Tremblay acted like he had been shot in order to try and draw a penalty call. He stayed down for several seconds trying to milk his “injury” for all it was worth, but he was miraculously cured when an IceDogs player was winding up for a shot from the point. How very convenient.

22. Also in the second period, chants of “fight, fight, fight” began breaking out during an altercation. For a moment there, I thought I was at a Fighting Moose game.

23. During the third period, they had a friendly competition between the guys and girls to see which one could make more noise, completely excluding the transgenders, gender-neutrals and all the other made-up genders liberals are so fond of. I smell a human rights complaint coming.

24. I didn’t think it was physically possible, but regulation time expired without a single goal being scored. OHL history surely must have been made.

25. The lack of goals was not due to lack of effort on either side, but rather due to a comedy of errors. Missed chances, bad passes and pucks dribbling off the end of sticks along with some goal posts and crossbars defined this game.

26. It was more of the same in overtime, but just when it appeared the game was headed for a shootout, Ottawa scored with 4.3 seconds left.

27. Though I didn’t stay for it, the IceDogs auctioned off the players’ jerseys after the game in support of Autism Ontario, raising a surprising total $10,050. One player’s jersey fetched $1,200.

28. Waiting for the bus after the game, one guy dropped the F-bomb, then immediately apologized. This is not the Old Country, where such salty language is par for the course.

19 Oct

Random Thoughts – Passing of a Non-Icon, Hydro Dividends, Nuggets from the Road and More

1. Admit it. You never even heard of Gord Downie before he was diagnosed with brain cancer and being subsequently forced by your inconsiderate neighbor to listen to his last concert. Yet upon his passing, he is being hailed as some kind of Canadian icon. Don’t get me wrong. I’m sorry he passed away. But his death is no more or less significant than anyone else’s in this country.

2. Much more newsworthy, in my opinion, was the passing of original Jet Dunc Rousseau. My condolences to his family and to his former teammates.

3. Dear Sportsnet: During the very infrequent occasions in which I tune in to a hockey game, I want to, get this, watch a hockey game. Not a three-hour tribute to someone who played in a rock band I never heard of before. And I certainly don’t need to see crocodile tears from our adolescent prime minister leading off the broadcast. Or at any other time during the broadcast.

3a. Where, pray tell, were those crocodile tears from said adolescent prime minister when those people were mowed down in Edmonton?

4. I fail to be surprised that Mayor Sendzik is planning to spend every last dime of the $4-million hydro dividends the city will be getting. No need to put the money in reserve, he says. Spend, spend, spend. Just like a true Liberal.

4a. We need a new mayor. Badly. And not a hard-line leftist.

5. A poll came across my Twitter feed yesterday asking who is the dumbest person in America. There were some worthy contenders on the list, but I chose NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who is proudly spearheading the league’s death spiral. With its popularity and ratings in a self-induced free fall, the once-mighty and seemingly infallible sports colossus is slowly circling the drain. All I have to say is thanks for the memories.

6. Out before sunrise this morning, I spotted three cyclists without helmets, lights or brains.

7. Happy “Anniversery”:

8. As opposed to dirty food …

9. Happy “Hallooween”:

10. I couldn’t resist this shot of a pizza joint named for a former USFL team. For those unfamiliar with USFL history, Buffalo Bills legend Jim Kelly starred for the Houston Gamblers for two years and would have done the same with Donald Trump’s New Jersey Generals if the league had not gone under.

10a. Shameless plug: Fallen Generals features a comprehensive history of the Generals, including the aborted 1986 season that would have seen Kelly suit up for New Jersey.

10b. Shameless plug 2: Coming in a few months time will be my first mystery. Set in Winnipeg, it will feature a potty-mouth lesbian detective matching wits with a deranged, self-absorbed sicko who believes the world is out to get him.

11. At the Tim Hortons in Chippawa, I was served by a crusty old fartess whose commitment to customer service could have used some improvement.

12. I think I was the only one there who wasn’t known by one of the staff or patrons. I suppose it was like the Cheers bar where everyone knows your name.

12a. There were more flies inside the restaurant than patrons.

13. Don’t ask me why, but that place seems to be a hangout for bikers, and I don’t mean cyclists.

14. Someone in the washroom walked out without washing his hands. It does happen here, but unlike some other part of the world where yours truly once called home, it stands out.

15. Parking fail:

16. It’s a bike rack, not a dog rack …

17. Even though it’s mid-October, parking at Table Rock today was running at $20. For tour buses, it was $65. It remains sad to see how they shake down tourists here, particularly given the importance of tourism to the region.

18. This Holiday Inn, one of the closest hotels to the falls, offers free parking to registered guests, yet the Hilton by the Winnipeg airport charges for parking. I don’t get it.

19. Enjoy “Niagra” Falls:

14 Oct

Random Thoughts – Involuntary Organ Donation, Million-Dollar Fiasco, Promotional Mailings and More

1. My former MP, Steven Fletcher, touched a very raw nerve with me this week when he announced that his so-called “Gift of Life Act” will be coming up for a vote in three weeks time. If passed, this would give the Manitoba government the legal right to presume upon your death that you consent to being an organ donor.

Let me be clear. I support organ donation. Voluntary organ donation. No politician, party or government has any moral authority whatsoever to harvest your organs without your express consent. No answer is just that, no answer.

Even though it does not affect me since I no longer live in the SPRM, I suspect the reason my dander is up about it is because it is being championed by a so-called conservative whom I know personally and once respected.

1a. For those who think this bill is a good idea, consider the example of an accused rapist who tells the judge, “She didn’t say anything, so I presumed she was OK with it.” Do you think that defence should allow the scumbag to get off?

1b. One of the reasons Fletcher broke ranks with the Manitoba PCs was because representing his constituents supposedly took precedence over the interests of his party. Yet I rather doubt the impetus behind this bill came from a groundswell of support from any constituents who wrote to his office or attended one of his Fletcher Forums. In this case, he is most likely only representing himself.

2. This week, the million-dollar donation IceDogs owners Bill and Denise Burke were to have made toward the construction of the Meridian Center officially came off the table. Yes, the city screwed up royally. It was a case of small-town politics at its worst. But as much as they are being portrayed as victims, the Burkes are not blameless in this sordid affair. When first having problems with city staff, rather than approach the mayor, they instead chose to air their dirty laundry in public. To their credit, when everything came to light, council and Mayor Sendzik acted decisively to address all the problems behind the scenes, yet the Burkes were still unmoved. All told, over the last year, they have come across looking very petty.

2a. If the Burkes really wanted to do something for the community, how about naming the team for the city whose taxpayers are putting up the bulk of the $50 million for the arena their team is the anchor tenant of? But I guess that’s asking too much.

2b. Since council is now free to rename IceDogs Way, the street upon which the Meridian Center sits, I propose calling it “St. Catharines Way.” It’s one way the Burkes can be forced to publicly acknowledge the city.

3. This week, this non-driver got yet another promotional mailing from CAA Niagara. When I shamed them on Twitter, they offered to take me off their list if I gave them my address, but I figured they should look it up themselves. After all, they added me to their list, they can do the work to get me off it. And if they can’t be bothered, far be it from me to stop them from flushing their money down the toilet.

4. I also got a promotional email from Bell recently patting themselves on the back for all the great things they’re doing for me. Call me a skeptic, but I get the feeling I’m being primed for another rate increase.

5. I am a frequent user of some highly credible open-source freeware such as the LibreOffice Writer and GIMP, the graphics manipulation program. But just because it’s open source doesn’t make it good. Consider the case of LibreOffice Base, the Access knockoff, that I had some experience with this week. On the surface, it has a lot to offer, but getting data in and out of it is clunky and it crashed more often in one day than Access has for me in several years.

6. Clear the track for Eddie “Shak” …

7. The apostrophe king of Vineland …

8. And on the other side of the street is “House across the street from the school:”

9. At the Tim Hortons/Vineland Seniors Center this morning, I was served by a clerk whose disdain for her job couldn’t have been more obvious if she put a flashing blue light on her head.

10. Seated nearby at said Tim Hortons was someone who said he lived in a townhouse near the “lie-berry.” Oy.

11. Maybe it was just me, but the tea I had at said Tim Hortons tasted like it was made with dishwater. Methinks the time to replace their water filters came and went several months ago.

12. I appreciated the fresh coat of asphalt on North Service Road between Jordan Road and Vineland. I appreciated that the project was completed the same year in which it began even more. Once again, this is not the Old Country.

13. Did the brainiacs who renumbered all the St. Catharines Transit routes consider that there is now a route 406, the same number as one of the main highways running through town? And that said route 406 doesn’t actually go on the 406?

14. Take the “huttle” …