Category Archives: Ontario

26 Mar

IceDogs Road Trip to Peterborough

Thoughts and observations from Sunday’s road trip to Peterborough to see the IceDogs battle the Petes in Game 2 of their best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.

1. The bus was completely full and two people who showed up hoping for an empty seat were turned away. They probably could have filled up one or two buses more if the IceDogs had done something really radical like promote it on their website.

2. Kudos to the IceDogs for having our tickets ready in sealed envelopes before we even stepped on the bus. Normally, the IceDogs rep heads to the box office once we arrive and distributes our tickets there.

3. Once again, I was seemingly the only one on board not sporting any IceDogs paraphernalia. Yes, I’m cheap. Yes, I’m stubborn.

4. Fortunately, unlike last week’s trip to Mississauga, this was not the Drunken Seniors Bus. This group was quiet and well behaved.

5. Though he did keep the pedal to the metal, our driver was alert and attentive. It continues to amaze me how much more safety-conscious the bus drivers are here than they were in the Old Country.

6. En route, I spotted a couple of cars pulled over by the OPP. Given that 110-120 km/h is quite normal on the QEW and the 401, I wonder exactly how fast you have to be going before the boys in blue begin paying attention.

7. On the way there, the woman seated to my left helped herself to one of the mini sugar donuts someone was passing around. Along with the chocolate bar she had on the way back, she would have been better served to employ the Nancy Reagan approach. Just say no.

8. At the 403 split in Oakville, I spotted a Reimer Express truck. He was following a big rig from Bison Transport. Try as I might, I cannot escape the SPRM.

9. Speaking of the SPRM, I spotted this Manitoba-esque pothole on Highway 7 near Peterborough.

10. In spite of some stop-and-go traffic in the universe’s center, we arrived plenty early, allowing me some time to walk around and get some pictures outside.

I also had plenty of time for some shots around the concourse and seating area:

11. They do an outstanding job celebrating their past throughout the building. There are banners hanging from the rafters honoring Roger Neilson, Scotty Bowman, Bob Gainey and Steve Yzerman, among others. There is also a Peterborough Sports Hall of Fame, which I toured before the game.

This Jets jersey from Doug Evans understandably grabbed my attention.


As did these two. The Sabres jersey is from Craig Ramsay, the last Thrashers coach, and the Utah Grizzlies jersey is from Mark McArthur, who I once saw play in the IHL.

12. As I was snapping pictures, someone came up to me to point out a jersey and medal from a member of a women’s hockey team. As they say after the visiting team scores at an IceDogs game, who cares.

13. On the way in, there was no security detail assigned to rifle through women’s purses and such.

14. I toured the souvenir shop and quickly discovered that their prices are just as outrageous as the IceDogs’ are. Given the differences in the price points, a junior team charging $120 for a jersey is the moral equivalent of an NHL team charging $1,000. Certainly no one expects them to give their stuff away, but a price of $70 or $80 would be much more appropriate. And just because everyone else in the league gouges doesn’t make it right.

15. We were seated in their Family Zone, where no alcohol is permitted. Egad! What a novel concept.


16. The sections of this Family Zone were, in order, 18, 19, 17. You can’t make stuff like this up.


17. There was an incredibly steep incline as I walked up to my seat high up in the nosebleed section. There was also next to no leg room. It reminded me of the upper deck at the Winnipeg Arena.

17a. Fortunately, there were no sunflower seed shells in my shorts after I got home.

18. Despite how quiet things were on the bus, there was no lack of enthusiasm around me and among the group. A few seats to my left was someone with a flashing goal light, a giant flag and a bullhorn. On either side of me were two guys screaming at the top of their lungs all night long as if the players and officials could hear them. The guy to my left candidly admitted he might not get his voice back until Tuesday, but I’m surprised it lasted until the third period.

19. The P.A. announcer unnecessarily introduced himself before the game, though at least he didn’t lead off with his name, as if he were the star of the show.

20. The mascot for the Peterborough Petes is not named Pete, but Roger. As I suspected, it is a tribute to the late Roger Neilson, the Petes’ former coach.

21. The anthem singer performed one of the slowest renditions of O Canada I had ever heard, but at least she was fully dressed and sang it entirely in the Canadian language.

22. After the first period, they flashed a message on the scoreboard with a welcome to those on the Niagara IceDogs Fan Bus.


23. During the intermission, Roger came out with a rat cannon reminiscent of Fighting Moose days, but he only fired a few T-shirts into the crowd before making a hasty retreat.

23a. The more I see of other mascots around the OHL, the more I appreciate Bones.

24. Unlike the Mississauga game, the IceDogs came ready to play and put in a spirited effort from start to finish. After Aaron Haydon’s blood had to be scraped off the ice, the IceDogs erased a 1-0 deficit to take a 2-1 lead after one period. They held the lead until late in the second, only to have Peterborough score twice within a minute to take a 3-2 lead to the dressing room. Undaunted, the visitors kept fighting in the third, but were stopped on a breakaway and couldn’t score on a two-minute two-man advantage. Soon after, Peterborough scored to effectively put an end to the competitive phase of the game.

25. Each time the IceDogs scored, everyone in our group stood up and cheered. Except for me. I wish I cared more. But I don’t. I was there for writing fodder and good stories. Which I got. Oh, and highway pictures, of which I got plenty. Soon to appear on a website near you.

26. Each time the Petes scored, an older woman seated in the lower rows stood up and waved what looked to be a dark red bra. I don’t get it. And that’s probably a good thing.

27. Early in the second period, the particularly rabid fan to my left was genuinely surprised when he looked at the scoreboard and saw that the IceDogs were leading 2-1. He had forgotten Ryan Mantha’s first-period goal and thought the game was tied. Only after a fellow fan seated nearby jogged his memory did the light go on. This was the same guy who probably thought I wasn’t paying much attention.

28. After a frustrating episode later in the game, the same guy responded with an F-bomb, but quickly apologized. This is definitely not the Old Country, where such salty locker-room vernacular is part and parcel of daily life.

29. A “Carly J” was one of the winners of a prize as announced on the scoreboard later in the game. Once again, I knew I was not alone.

30. As the end of the game grew ever closer, with a freezing rain warning overnight, I couldn’t help but think back to the late Mike Doran, John Ferguson’s right hand man, who was severely injured in a car accident in 1984 on his way to a game in Peterborough. For that reason, I was especially relieved when our bus pulled up safely in the parking lot at the Meridian Center.

31. There was a surprising amount of traffic out and about given the lateness of the hour. Too much traffic, in fact. As they say, nothing good happens after dark.

31 Jan

Another Tour of Hamilton

Observations from yesterday’s tour of downtown Hamilton:

1. The GO bus leaving Fairview Mall was more than 10 minutes late, but the driver actually apologized and vowed to try and make up time on the way. It is another sharp contrast from the Old Country, where the driver would probably drive extra slow just to piss his passengers off even more.

2. There was someone from Quebec boarding at Fairview and, obviously unable to speak Canadian, simply held up her cell phone to the driver to tell him where she was going. Interesting idea. If I visit that country again, perhaps I should come prepared with a picture of a sub should I need to stop while on the wrong side of the border.

3. On the opposite side of the aisle was a gentleman having a very deep, involved conversation with himself. Moving his arms and talking out loud, he appeared to be thoroughly enjoying his own company.

4. Seated in front of this talkative gentleman was someone stretched out over both seats snoozing away. I wonder if she asked the driver to wake her at her stop.

5. Kudos to that GO driver who waited until the senior who boarded at Beamsville got to the top of the steps before taking off.

6. I noticed GO has finally indicated “Beamsville” on the new Ontario Street/QEW stop. It was long overdue, as there are three exits in Niagara for an Ontario Street, the others coming in Grimsby and St. Catharines.

7. Upon reaching Stoney Creek and the stop for the now-infamous Barton bus, I was asked by a younger dude in dreadlocks if he could use my cell phone. Not that I have one, but I wouldn’t have made the assumption he only wanted to use it temporarily.

8. I’m not sure it was safe for him to do it, but more kudos to the same GO driver for letting that young woman on despite being in the left-hand turning lane at the on-ramp for the Red Hill Valley Parkway.

9. HSR is now putting CBC “news” up on their video screens for the benefit of those sitting in the back. Needless to say, I found this deeply offensive.

10. I was even more offended when one of these CBC “news” segments showed a picture of the Government Forks in Winnipeg. The SPRM does have a way of following me around.

11. While stopping for a picture on Ferguson in the International Village, a woman carrying a tray full of Mr. Horton’s delicacies made a point of telling me, “If you see someone falling from the seventh floor, don’t mind it because it won’t be me.” Not only did I not see that one coming, but there were no buildings in the immediate vicinity that even had seven floors.

12. There were plenty of beggars out and about, though they were at least polite and somewhat respectful. One was seated on the sidewalk outside Hamilton City Center with his legs stretched out. Another was standing right outside the door at another of Mr. Horton’s locations asking “You don’t happen to have a nickel or a dime towards a bagel, eh?” After ignoring him, he said, “Sorry for bothering you.” All told, I was accosted three times throughout the day.

12a. Later that evening, a friend who I was speaking with on the phone said that if I had wanted to do something different with my life, I could have made a good counsellor. I’ll pause for a moment while you get all that laughter out of your system.

13. It is not a proper trip on the Barton bus without getting at least one mother with a stroller in tow. There might even be some sort of transit by-law requiring it.

14. I know only those of you from the SPRM who use or have used Winnipeg Transit will appreciate this comment, but it’s still a novelty not having to use a battering ram to get out the back door. On all HSR buses I’ve been on, the back doors open automatically and there’s never been a problem.

15. For a complete set of pictures, click here.

20 Jan

IceDogs vs. Guelph

Thoughts and observations from last night’s IceDogs game as they took on the Guelph Storm:

1. It had been more than two months since the Meridian Center last saw my shadow. It was nice to return, but I couldn’t say I missed it a whole lot. I go to games nowadays for writing fodder, not as a rabid fan.

2. When stopping at the IceDogs office to pick up my ticket around noon, I spotted none other than Bill Burke in the parking lot.

3. After selecting my seat, I inquired as to what was involved if I wanted to bring my DSLR camera to the game. For those who are unaware, in a policy even more restrictive than the customer-hostile NHL, the league and team require all DSLR cameras to be registered with the office prior to any game.

So instead of what I expected to be a simple procedure, I was told I had to track down Matt, who apparently was the Grand Poobah of Camera Registration in addition to his other duties. But he was not currently in the office. Groan. So, while leaving, who do I see in the parking lot but Matt. I caught up with him and followed him back inside, and all he did was print the date on a blank media pass, tell me I couldn’t sell the pictures, hand the pass to me and send me on my way.


I can certainly understand why not just any staff member would be able to handle something so complex.

Or not.

Groan.

But there you have it, IceDogs fans, for those of you who were so inclined to bring your DSLR camera to a game. Your welcome.

3a. Though Matt warned me I might have to show the media pass if any of the security people noticed, no one did. Not that I expected them to.

4. I again got a seat right alongside a rail, the only one in the row not marked as sold. Yet, once again, I was the only one in the row.


Methinks a little Fighting Moose math might be in play here. Loyal readers may remember those days when crowds of 3,500 or so were reported as upwards of 7,000.

5. I wonder if all these seats were marked as “sold” as well:


6. En route to the Meridian Center before the game, I passed by a church with this sign out front.


As I’ve said before, people in this part of the world know nothing about real cold.

7. Also en route to the game, I spotted someone running across the street yelling “AAAAAAAAA!!” at the top of his lungs. On a related note, on January 25, let’s talk about mental health issues. #BellLetsTalk

8. Just after going inside, I spotted an older gentleman with tubes up his nose carrying a canister of oxygen. Now that’s dedication.

9. In the washroom was a poster for a new “regional menu” at the concessions near section 105. New, or at least rebranded, was Pelham Poutine for $10, a Fort Erie Footlong for $10, Niagara Nachos for $10, St. Catharines Steak Sandwich for $12, Grimsby Grilled Cheese for $10 and Thorold Tater Tots for $8. No Wainfleet Watermelon, West Lincoln Waffles, Port Colborne Pickerel, Niagara-on-the-Lake Noodles or Lincoln Latte. I’m sure those respective municipalities are heartbroken over being omitted.

10. Passing by the Crime Stoppers booth, I noticed they were selling T-shirts for $5, polo shirts for $10 and hoodies for $20. A couple of people stopped and asked if they could buy some only to be told they wouldn’t be ready for about 20 minutes. Did they not know we were coming? (eyeroll)

11. Niagara College was the game sponsor and had a booth in the end behind the retractables. In addition to giving out three $1,000 credits toward tuition, they were giving out free suckers at their table. So it’s only suckers who go there? It reminded me of a job fair I once attended back in the Old Country hosted by the feds. Their promo item was a screwdriver, reminding you that you always get screwed by the government.

12. That stinking band made another appearance. Gratuitous noise for the sake of making noise. But at least they weren’t as annoying as they have been in the past. Or maybe I’m just getting used to paying money for the privilege of being annoyed.

13. In another effort to make himself the star of the show, the announcer whose name I will not mention was doing his pregame schtick from the concourse. The announcer’s job is to inform. Nothing else. A topic to be covered at considerable length in a future book.

13a. When listing the scratches for Guelph, for someone normally so well-spoken, he sure got tongue-tied on “Tetrault.”

13b. There will be people who will like that book. There will be people who will not. He will fall into that latter category.

14. The pregame ceremonies featured a curlerette who will be participating in the upcoming tournament to be held here in St. Catharines. The applause she got was marginally polite, at best.

14a. Was there really anyone who lined up for her autograph during the first intermission?

15. The kids from Richmond Street Public School struggled with the anthem duties, but they came through it reasonably well. The best part, as always, was that they sung the anthem entirely in the Canadian language.

16. A father and son seated a few rows in front of me were the lucky winners of the “move of the game” down to the ice-level seats. Given the condition of the glass, untouched by human hands in over two years, it’s a prize I would have declined. Seriously.

17. I continue to find it amazing what people will share with perfect strangers as they spend more time texting than watching the game. For example, a young woman seated one row in front of me was having a conversation about a doctor appointment and how a 63-year-old relative was battling cancer. Later, she congratulated a friend named Owen over getting a job and asked if he was going to see Zack, then moved on to Ben, another of her many male friends.

18. More people seem interested in playing games on their phones between periods than in the intermission events.

19. Bones made a couple of appearances in my area. His presence is always welcomed by the under-12 crowd.


20. Here, fans stood up and yelled for a prize from CAA. It reminded me of a promotional mailing I got from them recently, offering me a discounted membership and other incentives to join. For those who are unaware, I have never attempted to obtain a license to drive a motor vehicle.


21. A very pudgy teenage girl seated nearby was wearing a pink shirt with a pig’s face on it. How fitting.

22. Looking around at all the IceDogs and Leafs jerseys in the crowd made me appreciate not seeing all that Chipman gear around town like I did back in the Old Country.

23. Last night, I felt more a part of this community than I did ever before. Don’t ask me why.

24. Early in the third period, they were trying to get chants of “DAAAAY-O” going. For an evening game. Go figure.

25. Oh by the way, there was a game going on. After blowing a 2-0 third-period lead, Oliver Castleman’s weak dump-in from center ice with 23.1 seconds left somehow eluded goaltender Liam Herbst and gave the IceDogs a 3-2 victory.

26. I’m not sure if the crowd was happier over the victory or the fact that they’d get a free cheeseburger at Wendy’s for the goal in the final minute of the third period.

27. 4,759 were alleged to have been at the game. Debate it at Ripley’s Believe It Or Not the next time you visit Clifton Hill.

04 Jan

Visiting Hamilton and Dundas

Thoughts from my journey to Hamilton and Dundas today:

1. While waiting at Fairview Mall for the GO bus this morning, someone was out in a Bobcat spreading salt by the ton. OK, it had rained overnight. But it was above freezing, and it wasn’t as if there wasn’t any salt on the ground left over from the last unnecessary dumping. One more reason why I call Ontario the Great Salt Republic.

1a. A salt truck threw up at various intervals along the trail following Cootes Drive between McMaster and Dundas.


Yes, Virginia, they do use a lot of salt in this part of the world.

2. Again, someone on the GO bus charged upstairs, parked himself in the front seat, then leaned back, closed his eyes and started snoozing. There’s got to be something about that front seat that makes it more conducive to catching up on lost sleep. I just don’t know what it is.

3. The Barton bus in Hamilton was again an experience to behold. For starters, seated across from me was a rotund woman with only house slippers on her feet. Her only pair of socks must have been in the wash. Then some scruffy, bearded character got on and pretended like he was the driver’s best friend. Later on, he fancied himself as a goodwill ambassador for HSR when he greeted some young man with a “Happy New Year, eh?”

He was also anxious to fill us in on his upcoming wedding plans. “She loves my pension check,” he boasted. One thing’s for sure, she’s not marrying him for his looks.

3a. There was an ad on the bus with the caption, “Ride with Compassion.” Given how our Liberal mayor has been carrying on about his “compassionate city model,” I am genuinely surprised such ads are not on St. Catharines buses yet.

4. Despite the warning sign, I didn’t see any turtles trying to cross the road.


5. Along Cootes Drive, I spotted a truck from Trans-Ontario Express. No doubt, they provide nationwide service from Windsor to Cornwall. I suspect most readers from the Great Salt Republic won’t get it.

6. For anyone looking to recycle their community:


6a. I support the concepts of reuse and recycling, but some communities are beyond that stage and, in a figurative sense, just need to be hauled out to the landfill. One in particular comes to mind, and I think perceptive readers might be able to guess which one I’m thinking of. Not that I’m bitter or anything. Actually, yes, I am. And I’m not ashamed to admit it.

7. I was accosted twice in downtown Hamilton, although the accosters were at least polite.

8. Scenes from downtown Dundas for your viewing pleasure:


9. I wasn’t aware I needed to bring a Windows installation disc for my return trip on the GO bus:

16 Dec

Back to Toronto – St. Lawrence Market and the Distillery District

Yesterday, I braved the “extreme cold alert” to travel to the Center of the Universe and the capital of our Great Salt Republic otherwise known as Ontario. Though the -11C temperature and occasionally biting wind made it a bit miserable at times, the people in my new part of the world can’t possibly understand the true meaning of “cold.” Tomorrow, for example, back in the Old Country, the high will be -28 with a wind chill of -41. As a friend of mine said the other day, “You can have it.”

Though it really wasn’t that bad outside, I might normally have waited for another day to make such an excursion, except that December 15 is a special day. No, it’s not because it’s the day the Indianapolis Racers folded or the day John Ferguson fired Rudy Pilous, but because it’s the nine-year anniversary of Carli Ward’s passing. My memories of that day at Grace Hospice remains as fresh as ever, and given her love of trains, riding the rails to Toronto was a fitting way to honor her.

First, however, there was the bus ride to Burlington. I went up to the top deck hoping to get the front seat, only to have it occupied by a couple of guys who must have boarded in Niagara Falls, one of whom was busy counting sheep.


Now I understand it’s first-come, first-served, but why bother taking the front seat if you’re just going to snooze all the way.


The ride was otherwise uneventful, aside from the thickening traffic entering Burlington, except for when the heat came on, giving us a blast of not only heat but of a special fragrance. Eau de fart, I believe it’s called.

I wish I had been able to get a picture, but at a construction site in Hamilton we passed by, there was a big bin with “Earth Boring” in big letters painted on it. Hey, if it’s so boring here, try another planet.

Also en route, I must have spotted about five or six salt trucks dispensing generous quantities of the essence of Ontario. I understand there was a quite a blizzard that ripped through the area after I got home, but when I was out, the streets were bone dry. But you can never put down enough salt, I suppose. There are times I wonder why they don’t mix up salt with the concrete when they pave the roads around these parts.

Following a nice train ride, after which our customer service ambassador warned us to bundle up before venturing outside, I proceeded east along Front Street.


I couldn’t help but stop and take a shot of this Metro box. In Toronto, these boxes are used for “newspapers,” but in Winnipeg, they’re used as public urinals. When the indigents need to take a dump, they use planters inside Winnipeg Square. Someone once captured the details on video, which you can see here.


After a brief stop at St. Lawrence Market, where I would return, I continued east toward the Distillery District.


As expected, there was plenty of the white stuff on the ground. There was also a fair bit of snow as well.


Touring some low-income neighborhoods:


Forget Rob Ford, it seems like John Tory is the man who needs to be stopped. Like Brian Bowman in the Old Country, he seems like someone on a tax-and-spend rampage.


A snow-covered park.


Fittingly, I spotted this mural with a train motif in the middle.


I then made a brief tour of the Distillery District, where I had been on an outing with the St. Catharines Photographic Club not too long ago. It is currently hosting the Toronto Christmas Market.


Moving on, I doubled back and proceeded west along Adelaide.


I found this post rather, well, odd. The writer in me could use this as a starting point for a novel.


I then came across St. James Park, oddly enough, located outside the Cathedral Church of St. James.


Someone taking advantage of the church’s accommodations.


Outside the church.


I continued west through the Financial District, and after a brief lunch stop, I spotted this display outside the Scotia Tower.


Heading back toward St. Lawrence Market, I spotted the St. Lawrence Center for the Arts.


I also stopped for a shot of this mural facing Front Street.


At the market, I took some time to walk around and get a number of pictures.


Much like the Forks in the Old Country, except much bigger, the market is spread out over two levels, and filled with all sorts of eclectic smells that you may or may not enjoy. Unfortunately, proper food handling practices are not always followed as one vendor was spotted sneezing into his bagels, then wiping his nose with his hands. I also noticed a few sparrows flying around inside. Perhaps they’re the “catch of the day” at one or more of the meat markets.

Worn out from another full day of exploration, it was then time to return to Union Station and board the Lakeshore West train to head back to St. Catharines. I don’t foresee a need to return to St. Lawrence Market, but no doubt, I’ll be back to the universe’s center at a future date to cover another corner of the metropolis.

10 Dec

Touring Downtown Hamilton

Thoughts, pictures and observations from my trip to Hamilton and tour of downtown today:

0. For the full collection of pictures, check the public album I posted on Facebook here.

1. You are not a true St. Catharines resident until you have sat and waited at the GO stop at Fairview Mall. It seems to be a rite of passage in these parts.

1a. You are not a true St. Catharines resident until you have left your car at the unofficial park and ride location at Fairview Mall.

1b. Why, pray tell, is there an official park and ride in Beamsville but not in Niagara’s largest city?

2. I was so relieved to see this sign when I got to Fairview. Here I was ready to jump on any old bus that came along.


3. You can always tell whether it is a weekday or on the weekend on the GO bus based on the percentage of people who pay with Presto. Weekday travelers mostly pay with Presto, while on the weekends, most pay with cash. Today, for example, I was the only one of a dozen who paid with Presto.

4. I shouldn’t have been surprised to see this dumping of salt in Grimsby, but I was. After all, this is Saltario and a light dusting of snow came down overnight. Call out the Army, for the love of Pete!™


5. Taking the Barton bus in Hamilton is an experience in itself. Low-income, shabby neighborhoods, strollers and cranky kids galore along with characters missing most of their teeth make for interesting writing fodder. If I lived in Hamilton, I might soon have enough material for a book.

5a. One of these days, I need to walk down Barton and get the full experience on the ground.

6. At a side-by-side storefront on Barton, one half was “Diapers 4 All” and the other half was a hair salon. Now there’s an interesting mix of competing smells.

7. One restaurant on Barton advertised their “feeding hours” out front.

8. One guy sitting near the back door used his loud, screeching voice to keep a running conversation going with a reluctant driver.

8a. Whatever those drivers get paid, I’m not sure it’s enough.

9. Once again, welcome to Saltario:


10. There’s a Catharine Street in Hamilton, yet in St. Catharines, there’s a Catherine Street. Go figure.


11. No slackers here:


12. They settle for nothing less than top spot at this block:


13. Another plate from the Old Country. That place just keeps following me around.


13a. As I was saying, that place just keeps following me around.


14. Many men get served here, but who’s the lone woman?


15. Now which political party do you suppose these people support?


16. Undoubtedly featuring products made right here on Earth:


17. Rub Aladdin’s lamp and take off on your magic carpet:


18. Quack:


19. For anyone planning to liquidate their family:


20. Bike rentals available right in the heart of downtown, proof that I wasn’t in the Old Country, where they would be vandalized and/or stolen within a half hour.


21. I toured Jackson Square and Hamilton City Center, indoor malls with many shops including a full-service grocery store. They were clean and I didn’t feel unsafe. For the benefit of those from the SPRM, the mirror opposite of Portage Place. It’s amazing the difference having fewer “ambassadors” can make. You know, the kind of “ambassadors” that keep trying to relieve you of even more of your money than they’ve already taken and flushed down the toilet.

22. Attached to Jackson Square is the Hamilton Public Library. It opens at 9:00 am on Saturdays. Unlike the downtown library in the Old Country that didn’t open until 10:00. Old gripes die hard.

22a. I have no doubt some staff at the Millennium Library still wonder what happened to me. To say the least, I was quite a fixture at the microfilm counter.

23. One store on James Street wrote their offerings on the sidewalk:


24. The Hamilton Store. In Hamilton, no less. You don’t say.


25. I didn’t see Rhoda here:


26. How very Ontario:


27. It was customer appreciation day for Presto users on the eastbound Barton bus that took me back to Stoney Creek thanks to a malfunctioning Presto reader.

28. Soon after I boarded the eastbound Barton bus, the driver took off just as a would-be passenger running after the bus got to the back door. It was a classic moment so reminiscent of my days taking Winnipeg Transit.

29. It was just a light dusting of snow. Honest.


30. Back in St. Catharines, it looked like a salt truck threw up on Scott Street. As I said, it was just a light dusting of snow we had.

19 Nov

IceDogs vs. Ottawa

Thoughts and observations from the game last night as the IceDogs rallied to beat Ottawa:

1. There was an exceptional amount of traffic and activity downtown before and after the game. Our mayor thinks that’s a good thing. I’m not sure I agree with him.

2. In the washroom before the game, I spotted someone putting in eye drops after doing his business at the urinal. Then he went to wash his hands. You just can’t make stuff like this up.

3. Someone nearby took her seat and proceeded to devour an order of ketchup with some chicken fingers and fries on the side. In the second period, someone had an order of gravy with some fries on the side. They are condiments, not meals.

4. During the warmup, LauraLeigh came to escort a couple of nearby fans down to the “best seats in the house” as part of a promotion they hold every game. Instead of watching the game through Gary Bettman’s gift to the world, they got to sit in a sofa at ice level and attempt to follow the play through the grimy glass. I think I got the better view.

5. Despite how wide and spacious the seats at the Meridian Center are, some guy a few rows in front of me had trouble fitting into his. Maybe that will be the final straw for him to get off the “see food” diet.

5a. This heavyweight bore a striking facial resemblance to a late ex-colleague of mine.

6. Just when you think the IceDogs P.A. announcer can’t possibly engage in more self-promotion, he does. In addition to his customary pair of self-serving introductions every game, now he gets his name and face on the big screen before the game. I swear he must be convinced that fans pay to hear him announce rather than to watch the game.

6a. So as not to give him more of the attention he craves, I refuse to identify him.

7. As part of the pregame ceremonies, the four newest members of the St. Catharines Sports Hall of Fame were introduced. One of them had apparently attended St. Catharines Collegiate, so the announcer made sure to tell us that St. Catharines Collegiate was in St. Catharines. Here I thought it was in Welland. Thanks so much for clearing that up.

8. A girls’ choir from Governor Simcoe Secondary School did a fine job with the anthem. Even better, they were fully clothed and did it entirely in the Canadian language.

9. Every section seems to have its own Howie Meeker wannabee and mine was no exception. I kept hearing “come on” and “keep an eye on him” from this guy who, like so many others, must think the players can hear and will listen to him.

10. The usher in the next section looked like Sean Connery when he played the submarine captain in The Hunt for Red October.

11. One of the groups in attendance was from St. James Catholic School. Back in the Old Country, I lived in St. James for many years.

12. One fan had no problem making himself right at home.

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13. During the game, there was a giveaway for a CAA card in a nearby section. It reminded me of a hotel where I once worked back in the Old Country that was “CAA Approved.” As one snarky painter who did some work there once said, it was approved by the cockroaches, ants and animals, not the Canadian Automobile Association.

14. During a second-period TV timeout, someone proposed to his girlfriend and she said “yes.”

15. A senior in the next section had a nose ring. It looks awful on an 18-year-old and it looks even more out of place on someone who should know better.

16. In the second period, there was another classic Bengt Lundholm moment when Kyle Langdon went through the Ottawa defense only to have the puck dribble off his stick.

17. Despite giving up a bad goal in the second period when he misplayed the puck behind his net, Stephen Dhillon looked better. Less awkward. He still needs more playing time, but there’s been some noticeable improvement since the last time I saw him.

17a. Entering the third period, it was looking like that miscue was going to cost his team the game, but his teammates rallied to take him off the hook.

18. Full marks to the boys for the aforementioned third-period rally to pull out the two points. Unlike what happened too often over the past couple of years when an early deficit meant “game over,” they kept working and were justly rewarded for their efforts.

19. Despite the two goals, Aaron Haydon still looks like a fish out of water up front. He belongs back on the blue line.

20. 4,698 was the announced attendance. Reduce it by 10 or 15% for the actual figure.

21. Fans began leaving during a third-period TV timeout with 9:07 left. What is this, the Old Country?

22. On the bus after the game, everyone without exception said “thank you” to the driver on their way out. On second thought, this is definitely not the Old Country.

08 Nov

Exploring C.U. – Kensington Market, Chinatown

On Monday, I set off for another tour of the universe’s center, this time focusing on the Kensington Market and Chinatown districts.

As usual, I caught the GO bus from Fairview Mall, and it moved well until we hit some thick rush-hour traffic near Burlington. En route, those of us on the upper level were entertained by someone snoring quite loudly. Wherever he was going, I hope he didn’t miss his stop.

The bus was also uncomfortably hot as the heat was seemingly turned up to full blast. I suppose I can understand, since after all, it went down to +2 C overnight. Don’t want those tootsies to get too cold now.

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After getting to Burlington, the train came in short order and it was a comfortable and less steamy ride into Toronto. On the way, we passed a couple of trucks parked behind a building with their corporate slogan, “Courage to Go Far” emblazoned on the side. That is a slogan that definitely hits home. Even though it’s been 27 months since our defection from the Old Country, I still sometimes wonder how we did it.

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Following a little tour around Union Station and the ACC, I set out north on Bay Street, then followed Dundas to the west, where I came across many interesting sights.

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The Village Idiot Pub.

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The Art Gallery of Ontario.

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I noticed a couple of these Car2Go vehicles during my travels. Apparently you sign up for a membership, pay for the time you use the car, then just leave it in a legal parking spot when you’re done with it.

It reminds me of a similar service back in the Old Country. There, a thief steals your car, takes it for a joyride, then strips it for parts and leaves it wherever it suits him. The difference is that the thief doesn’t have any membership fees to deal with and I doubt police even deem it to be a reportable offense. I know, old grudges die hard.

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More sights along Dundas. It wasn’t too far from the latter shot where I saw some old guy pushing a walker wearing a Chipman hat. Ewww. As if that wasn’t bad enough, I spotted someone later in the day wearing a Chipman jersey. Even worse was that he had it customized with Teemu Selanne’s name and #13 on the back, a revulsive connection between the Jets, a team that no longer exists, and the Mark Chipman Personal Hockey Club. Pardon me for a moment while I barf.

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My first stop in Kensington Market was at this statue of the late Al Waxman, who starred in the King of Kensington, the only show the Canadian Brainwashing Corporation ever produced that was worth watching. Besides hockey.

To my surprise, there was no button to press to play the show’s famous introduction. He’s a man of the men. The people’s champion. Here comes King. You get the idea.

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Touring Kensington Market. To say the least, it is an interesting place.

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Now which political party do you suppose the proprietor of this seedy establishment supports?

I could only shake my head when spotting the “Welcoming New Patients” sign in the window. Since when are we supposed to refer to potheads as “patients” of something?

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More scenes around Kensington Market.

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Free sofa and mattresses, no doubt filled with lots of multi-legged guests just waiting for you to welcome them into your home.

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Returning toward Spadina, I spotted this bum catching a few winks on the sidewalk. Throughout the day, I would also spot others doing likewise.

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Union Station seemed to be a hotspot for beggars as well, though at least they were not aggressive like they are in the Old Country. One guy who had a sign in front of him looking for money for food also had a dog. So he’s got money to feed and care for a dog, but he doesn’t have money to feed himself. Just so I understand.

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Following a brief meal break at an uber-crowded Tim Hortons where patrons had to beg to be let into the washroom, I continued south on Spadina before getting some more shots around Kensington Market.

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Personally, I don’t think this building is quite big enough for all the jerks out there.

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Elsewhere in Kensington Market.

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I ducked through an alley and got these shots of the work of various “street artists.” Vandals, actually.

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Another shot along Spadina. Off to the right shows the streetcars that run in both directions in the median. For anyone looking to visit the area, you can catch the #510 streetcar right from Union Station instead of hoofing it like I did.

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The People’s Book Company. Sounds like a venture affiliated with the NDP.

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Other scenes along Spadina.

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Those of you who know of my affinity for poultry understand why I took this shot.

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They think of everything in the Center of Universe, even providing free outhouses for passers-by.

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Entering the Fashion District.

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Continuing south, I got this shot at the overpass over the tracks. At right is the Rogers Center, formerly known as the SkyDome, and in the distance is the CN Tower. I haven’t been up there yet, but maybe I will in a future trip.

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Blue Jays Way. No, I am not, nor have ever been a Blue Jays fan, but I took the shot for the benefit of a couple of others, one of whom owns the cap I keep warm whenever I go out.

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In front of the Rogers Center.

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Grey Cup banners facing Beggars Row at Union Station. I wonder how many, or how few Torontonians know or care that the game is being played in their city.

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Before getting back on the train, I made a point of going past the Trump International Hotel and Tower. Though most of you know him from the presidential election, I first heard of “The Donald” back in 1983 when he bought the New Jersey Generals of the USFL. <shameless self-plug>For more on the Generals and the USFL, check out my most recent book, Fallen Generals, at http://curtiswalker.com/books_generals.aspx.</shameless self-plug>

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My last destination was Nathan Phillips Square and the now-iconic “Toronto” sign reflecting in the water that will soon be ice.

I then returned to Union Station and boarded the Lakeshore West train to wind up a long and action-packed day. I wouldn’t want to live there, but Toronto is a city with many sights to see and I look forward to returning for another visit.

29 Oct

IceDogs vs. Barrie Colts

Thoughts and experiences from the IceDogs loss to the Barrie Colts last night:

1. En route, I was following a couple delivering the sub-Standard. What exactly is the point of subscribing to a paper that’s delivered so late in the day that it’s obsolete before it hits your door?

2. Also en route, I passed by a shop selling bamboo steamers for $10.99 a pop. A bamboo steamer is just one fish dinner away from becoming the first item you make available for your next garage sale.

3. Being the last game before Halloween, many were dressed in costumes for the occasion I just don’t get. The ticket takers, the people working the concessions and paying customers like these got into the act on masse:

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3a. Was there anyone on the peninsula besides me who wasn’t part of the parade of costumes during the second intermission?

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4. It’s nothing new where the Meridian Center is concerned, but would you pay premium dollar to sit behind this:

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5. For the second straight game this year, there was no usher at my section. I can only hope to be so lucky at future games.

6. Someone was kind enough to leave some complimentary gum at the end of the aisle and the cleaning staff was equally kind in not removing it. But at least my seat was clean.

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7. I ask again, why is Horizon advertising? Do we have a choice as to where we get our power from?

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8. On the boards was an ad from Wawanesa Insurance, who recently entered into a new sponsorship agreement with the CHL. The last time I saw one of those, I was at a Fighting Moose game in the Old Country. For those who are not aware, Wawanesa is the name of a small village in the Old Country where I once visited.

9. In addition to the many costumes spotted around the rink, many fans came dressed as empty seats.

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Take this row, for example, one that was marked as completely sold out. For some strange reason, I had a flashback to those Fighting Moose days when Chipman’s staffers would pretty much pull attendance numbers out of thin air. And not just because former Fighting Moose goaltender Mike Rosati was behind the Barrie bench.

9a. The announced attendance figure of 4,768 was as phony as a three-dollar bill. Doubtful if much more than 4,000 were actually there.

9b. On a night with an artificially inflated attendance figure, it was so fitting that the season ticket holder of the game wasn’t even there. Friends had to accept his stick and gift card to the Seaway Mall on his behalf.

10. It was nice to see former Jet Dale Hawerchuk behind the Barrie bench once again despite the fact that this time last week, he was back in the Old Country sleeping with the enemy, so to speak.

11. This was the first time I had seen the new Tee Pees banners since they were raised last month. The IceDogs might have had another customer that night had they not been so secretive about the alumni who were attending. Or maybe I was just supposed to know.

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12. In the Barrie lineup was Jaden Peca, cousin of Michael, who was best known for his blindside hit on Teemu Selanne in Vancouver.

13. The kids from Senator Gibson Public School did a good job with the anthem, thankfully sung entirely in the Canadian language.

14. I spotted a few fans like this one wearing that hideous gay jersey. I know the Burkes try their best to do the right thing, but they really crossed the line when they forced the players to wear those duds. I fully support the right of anyone to live as they wish, but as a good friend of mine says, stop shoving it down my throat.

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15. Several fans in the section to my left were wearing Seahawks paraphernalia. It is a sight that normally would have brought a smile to my face, but I have not watched an NFL game since early September. I cannot support organizations that insult America, and part of me wants to burn every piece of NFL paraphernalia I own.

16. It was nice to see the Whale across the ice:

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17. During the game, they announced that anyone with an IceDogs ticket can work out for free at Good Life Fitness for the rest of October. Gee, what a deal.

18. Oh by the way, there was a game going on. Let’s just say it wasn’t exactly a classic. Neither team really deserved to win. But this is a “take your lumps” year and rest assured, more lumps are coming for the boys in white.

18a. I know they’re young and still learning, but the IceDogs were proudly showing off their pylon defense for most of the night.

19. Needing a goal in the last round of the shootout to stay alive, coach Dave Bell sends out … Ryan Mantha. Is that a compliment to the big, lumbering defenseman or a slap in the face to the young shooters on the bench?

16 Oct

Outing to the Distillery District

Yesterday, I joined six others from the St. Catharines Photographic Club in an outing to the Center of the Universe’s Distillery District. I had been to C.U. a number of times before, but this would mark my first visit to this particular corner of the universe’s center.

As those who know me would expect, I got a number of good highway shots en route.

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Entering C.U.

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Passing the Ricoh Coliseum, home of the AHL’s Toronto Marlies. Nearby is BMO Field, home of the Toronto Argonauts. Rumor has it they were playing yesterday. Not that many would notice or care. I figured they were playing the Farmers’ Republic of Saskatchewan since I spotted a few people milling about the Distillery District decked out in Riders gear later in the evening.

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Passing the Rogers Center, née SkyDome.

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At left is the Air Canada Center, home to a team in one of hockey’s major leagues.

Following an enjoyable drive that went much quicker than expected, I began exploring the area.

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A group on a Segway tour. Watching them roll through the cobblestone streets, I couldn’t help but think of the late Lindor Reynolds, a former columnist with Socialism Illustrated who once interviewed me for a piece back in 2007. Reynolds fell and broke her pelvis while on a Segway in Minneapolis, and she later blew off a lot of steam in a self-serving column in which she unfairly laid the blame for her mishap entirely on the devices themselves.

But I digress.

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Here was a magician at work. He was so good, in fact, that he must have made himself disappear. I later did spot him back at work, so he obviously knew how to make himself reappear as well.

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Some urban art. I think.

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An old truck.

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As a non-coffee-drinker, it doesn’t brew my mind.

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This was a particularly popular spot for selfies. All told, I probably saw more selfies taken around the Distillery District than in a typical visit to Niagara Falls.

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Uber-trendy shops were everywhere, yet I hardly spotted anyone with shopping bags. The many people out and about were patronizing the bars and restaurants, taking pictures or getting married. I lost count of the number of wedding parties I saw around there through the course of the day and early evening.

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It’s a good thing they put this sign in upper case to SHOUT at those hard of hearing.

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Hook up with a Segway tour here.

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Whatever this is, it reminds me of the giant spider outside the national art gallery in Ottawa.

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Warm sake keeps you warm. Duh. I didn’t think it keeps you cold.

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Plenty of space for outdoor seating for those so inclined.

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Enjoy your “macarons.”

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This piece of artwork with a Leafs motif caught my eye.

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For $20, you too can have a lock put up on this selfie magnet. That includes engraving.

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Just beyond the entrance was a block-long line of taxis coming and going. This is a popular destination.

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With some extra time, I took a stroll around the neigborhood, covering the Canary District on my way to Corktown Common. This particular shot comes from George Brown College.

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Elsewhere in the Canary District.

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Shots around Corktown Common, a park bordering a bike trail.

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Forget about the animals, stop voting Liberal. But again, I digress.

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This Tim Hortons-branded bicycle caught my eye. If they are indeed branching out into bike sales, I hope that means they’ll soon by offering more bike racks at their restaurants.

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This shot was taken for the benefit of one former colleague. Those of you who are friends of mine on Facebook may have already seen it.

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Neither the dogs nor their owners seemed to be paying much attention to this sign.

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More scenes around the Distillery District.

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Look up. Look way up. So says the Friendly Giant.

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This “treasure box” will set you back $38. Plus KST. No wonder there weren’t many people with shopping bags.

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Many of the shops like this one were making an effort to cater to their customers who had a dog with them. There were a lot of dogs around, but in sharp contrast to what I’ve experienced in the SPRM, all of them were on a leash.

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I’ve seem them before, but I got these shots of a TTC streetcar. It still amazes me that Winnipeg got rid of them once upon a time. Not that I’m bitter or anything.

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We took a break and had supper at the Mill Street Brewpub. The dining options around there were horrible, but it was the best of a bad lot, so rather than make the two block trek to a Subway, I opted to stay with the group. The fish and chips I had were all right, though it did leave an aftertaste, and of course, I didn’t partake in any alcoholic beverages. The real problem there was that they stacked up their customers like cordwood. You really did have to step outside to change your mind.

Perhaps the funniest moment of the day came when we were ordering. Our club president asked the waitress if a particular offering was good. Did she expect the waitress to say it was lousy?

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After eating, I took a stroll on the west side between Parliament and Lower Sherbourne Streets. This shot was taken at a basketball court in front of a housing co-op.

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This dry cleaner offers “taperring.”

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More scenes from the area. I took the shot of the fire hall for the benefit of one reader who I know will appreciate it.

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Just in case you need to vacuum yourself.

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A nice shot after the sun went down. The others, with skills and equipment far superior to mine, enjoyed the opportunity for some night photography.

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The CN Tower lit up at night.

All in all, it was a long, but productive and enjoyable day. Thanks go out to Vic for organizing the event and to Steve, who got us there and back safely.