Category Archives: Ontario

30 Jun

Ding-Dong, The Witch Is Gone

There was once a premier named Wynne
The way she ran the province was a sin

She ruled with an iron hand, ignoring every woman and man
And down our throats she shoved her radical leftist plan

Economic ruin and record debt are what she’ll be remembered for
It’s why Ontario voters showed her the door

Anyone who disliked her was homophobic, or so she would often say
A lame attempt to deflect the many slings and arrows which came her way

May Doug Ford’s tenure be long
Ding-dong, the witch is gone!

03 Feb

Braving the Extreme Cold in the Universe’s Center

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

1. En route to Fairview Mall, I spotted a cyclist on Geneva Street with no helmet, no light and apparently no brain. Same goes for the cyclist who boarded the GO bus and got off at Beamsville, though at least the cyclist on Geneva had the benefit of street lights. Out on South Service Road at the Ontario Street exit, all the cyclist had for illumination was the light from the full moon.

2. Being a weekday, I was surprised that there were only a handful of people boarding at Fairview Mall, but then again, GO has increased the frequency of buses in the morning and afternoon peak hours.

3. There was a new message on the display inside the GO bus warning passengers, “Get serious about safety. The bus is bigger than you are.” People who need reminding that a double-decker monstrosity is bigger than they are shouldn’t be allowed out on their own.

4. GO has installed a new shelter at the lightly used Beamsville stop, yet they still don’t have one at the much busier stop at Nash and Barton. Sigh. But at least there’s the nearby Wholesale Club.

5. Dear City of Hamilton: There are holes in Kenora Street so big that a bus or a big rig could lose a wheel in. It doesn’t need patching, it needs to be completely repaved. Yesterday. This is not Winnipeg.

6. I watched as a heavyweight got off at Nash and Barton and waddled across the parking lot trying to catch a Barton bus. In a classic Winnipeg Transit moment, the bus took off just as she got to the stop. Not cool, HSR. You’re better than that.

7. Listening to that heavyweight pant and wheeze as she climbed up the stairs after getting on at Grimsby made me wonder why she didn’t stay down below since she was just getting off at Stoney Creek. It’s not like the bus was packed and there were no available seats.

8. I also noticed how that heavyweight came prepared with a heavy parka, yet didn’t bother to zip it up or put up her hood. No doubt she spent the morning complaining about the cold.

9. Recognizing people on the GO bus from past trips including the aforementioned heavyweight and cyclist in Beamsville made me realize just how much tenure I have acquired in this part of the world. Much to our mayor’s chagrin, I’m sure.

10. Just as the case on the return trip, the GO bus driver greeted each passenger upon boarding and thanked us as we got off. It sure beats the F-you treatment in the Old Country.

11. During the relatively uneventful ride on the express train to Union Station, I was seated opposite a middle-aged woman in a surly disposition who obviously did not get enough sleep last night.

12. The Danish Pastry House is one of a number of trendy eateries that have popped up in Union Station recently. Judging from the Tim Hortons-esque line, it seems to be popular.

13. I just missed a train in the subway and had to wait a whole minute for the next one. First world problems.

14. Can you imagine how often an alarm like this would get “misused” if they dared to install such a thing on Winnipeg Transit buses?

15. Obligatory shot aboard the subway:

16. Not long after having to wait that whole minute for the next train, I had to get off at the St. Clair West station since the one I was on was a rush-hour train and as such, was only going as far as Glencairn. I could have also transferred at Eglinton West or Glencairn itself, but as they advised in the announcement, if you wanted to wait indoors, St. Clair West was the best option.

17. Following the hour-long ride mostly underground, I got off at Vaughan Metropolitan Center, the new station which just opened in December as part of the Line 1 extension project.

Adjacent is a parking lot for subway riders as well as this new bus station still under construction as part of a rapidway being built in the middle of Highway 7. When completed, passengers getting off a York Regional Transit bus will be able to go below and catch the #1 line to downtown Toronto. All while Winnipeg is still farting around with Rapid Transit and more concerned about opening up Portage and Main to pedestrians.

18. Before approaching the Vaughan Metropolitan Center, there was an automated announcement saying that it was the terminal station. Not a big oaf behind the wheel bellowing out “TERMINUS” at the top of his lungs as I encountered last April while riding the STO in Gatineau.

19. Within a minute of getting to street level, I was approached by someone asking for directions to a DriveTest center. Sadly, not having been around there before, I couldn’t help the guy other than to point him the way to the subway station.

20. While getting some shots of the 407 ETR from the overpass at Jane Street, a truck from Bison Transport passed by and was soon followed by a truck from Gardewine. As I’ve said before, the SPRM does keep following me around.

20a. Bonus points for those who know where Manitoba’s 407 is. Or was.

21. After supplementing my collection of highway pictures, I walked along the newly constructed sidewalk leading to the Highway 407 station to catch the #1 line back to downtown Toronto.

In the latter shot, note how the sidewalk ends abruptly, forcing passengers to walk across the grass. This mysterious and Manitoba-esque design faux-pas isn’t an issue for an able-bodied person like me, but I can imagine the trouble anyone in a wheelchair or even someone who walks with a cane would have. There wasn’t even a ramp to allow such people to easily get off the sidewalk and onto the street.

22. Unlike the case in Union Station, the gates at this new station were clearly marked as to which one to use with each Presto card reader and there was no turnstile, just a Plexiglas door that opened after tapping.

23. Waiting at the Highway 407 station:

24. En route back to downtown Toronto, there was an announcement that trains were holding at Yorkdale because of a medical emergency. Minutes later, however, it was taken care of and trains were again moving. In the Old Country, police would have taken great pleasure in using such a circumstance to shut the entire service down for the day. Just because they could.

25. Spotted on the train was an ad saying that two of the three signs of mental illness can’t be seen. Oh, but they can. At the ballot box. After all, look how many Liberals still hold public office.

26. Also spotted on the train were two people using their laptops. No one would dare to do such a thing on a Winnipeg Transit bus for fear of it promptly being stolen, smashed and/or used as a toilet.

27. A guy with a Glad bag slung over his shoulder was going up and down the train asking people for spare change in multiple languages including gibberish. No one gave him anything, but I suppose it’s just because Toronto isn’t a compassionate city, another of the empty phrases our mayor continues to spew ad nauseum.

28. I got a pretty good whack on the knee from the excess blubber of a woman who sat down in front of me.

29. At the Osgoode station where I got off, children were collecting for Toronto’s homeless youth. Again, they didn’t get any donors from those of us who piled off the train. Cue the nauseating “compassionate city” lines from our mayor.

30. Even the rat dog vendors weren’t open in this “extreme cold.” Toronto was under an extreme cold warning even though it was only -11 when I left the house. The standard as to what is considered extreme cold certainly differs greatly from the Old Country, where -40 wind chills are par for the course at this time of year.

31. You think they use enough salt in this part of the world?

32. Scenes from the skating rink at Nathan Phillips Square. It’s a wonder it wasn’t closed because of the “extreme cold.”

33. Or just let the law of natural selection run its course …

34. Several doors, including this one, were closed at the Queen Street entrance at the Eaton Center due to the “extreme cold.” It’s OK to laugh.

35. You know, if there really was a fire, I think that not having this fire hose available would be a little more than an “inconvenience.”

36. On the return trip, I noticed a woman who got off at Port Credit wearing leather boots that went way up past her knees. How people walk in such things is beyond me.

37. An older guy who got on at Clarkson bore a striking resemblance to Carl Bugenhagen, the exorcist in the first two Omen movies played by Leo McKern. As far as I know, he wasn’t carrying a box with daggers inside.

38. While waiting at the Burlington GO station for the #12 bus, I laughed as everyone went charging outside at the first sign of a bus only to realize that it wasn’t the Niagara-bound bus they were looking for. The bus’s destination was clearly labeled and plainly visible from inside the station, but you’ve got to look.

39. Among those waiting at the Burlington GO station was a guy with mental-health issues who was serenading the group with his own special brand of melodic ramblings. Though he continued to entertain us from the back of the bus after getting on, thankfully, he seemed to lose interest near Stoney Creek.

40. I remain grateful for GO’s express bus to the Falls that siphons off much of the riff-raff.

41. Being a weekday, I was surprised that most passengers boarding the #12 bus did not pay with Presto.

42. Our GO bus driver was otherwise very good, but an oncoming car he royally cut off pulling out of the Grimsby station had to swerve to avoid a collision.

43. So when there aren’t high winds on the skyway, it’s OK not to drive carefully?

44. As I’ve said before, you think they use enough salt in this part of the world?

 

22 Jun

An Eventful Day Trip to Toronto

Thoughts, observations and pictures from yesterday’s day on the train to and from the universe’s center:

1. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. You graduate from university. You graduate from high school. You do not “graduate” from Grade 8.

1a. Even if a Grade 8 “graduation” would otherwise have been something worthy of a celebration, today’s no-fail policies render it utterly worthless. A stuffed animal could get a high school diploma nowadays.

2. As I took my seat on the top level of the GO bus, a gentleman came behind me huffing and puffing with all his might. If getting up the stairs was such a problem for him, why did he not stay on the lower level and take advantage of the priority seating? After all, that’s what it’s there for. No one put a gun to his head to go up top.

3. Just before the bus was scheduled to leave Fairview Mall, one of the young children of an extended family on their way back from a trip to Niagara Falls suddenly decided she had to go to the bathroom. So the driver made us wait while the mother ran off with the daughter to the mall. Which was closed.

Then we were made to wait while the pair went running around trying to find a place for the kid to answer the call of nature. They ultimately settled on a tree in PetSmart’s parking lot in full view of the bus, but then we were made to wait still longer while the mother ran back to the bus to retrieve a bottle of water for the cleanup while another female relative remained with the daughter.

Only after all of that were we granted the privilege of taking off.

3a. The mother’s half-hearted apology as she returned to the bus, the tone of which betrayed an entitlement to hold up the bus for as long as she deemed necessary, didn’t cut it. There have been other similar cases on GO when the driver has simply told such people in need that if they weren’t back in time, he had to leave. That’s the difference between public transit and a taxi. The bus leaves with or without you.

3b. That all said, it is surprising there are no washrooms on double-decker GO buses. Many, including the #12 that serves Niagara, run long distances and such emergencies do happen.

4. Even before getting out of St. Catharines, I spotted a Reimer Express truck on the QEW, one of four I would spot on the day. I would later spot a truck from Bison Transport and someone wearing a Bomber cap. In addition, I saw this car with a Manitoba plate double-parked in front of the ACC:

As I’ve said before, the SPRM does continue to follow me around.

5. At the Grimsby stop, an agitated Falls-bound cyclist asked our driver when his bus would be coming, acting every bit like someone who was mortally offended by a five-minute wait. This just in. The #12 bus only comes every hour. You need to check the schedule beforehand and plan accordingly.

6. Though I wasn’t in a hurry, the delay in St. Catharines combined with the heavy traffic caused some tense moments for the other passengers, many of whom needed to catch the connecting Lakeshore West train in Burlington. Full marks to the driver for his creative efforts in getting us there in time.

7. With the front rack full, the driver allowed a cyclist boarding at Nash and Barton to store his bike in the space strollers and wheelchairs normally occupy rather than asking him to use the rear storage compartment. I certainly hope it was strapped in, since it could have become a dangerous projectile if the driver had to stop suddenly.

8. Though I had my choice of seats when I got on the train in Burlington, the upper level on the car I was in was nearly full by the time we got to Oakville. Yet someone still had his bag on the adjacent seat.

Somehow I doubt he paid an extra fare for his bag.

9. I remain surprised that there are no signs on board the train showing the upcoming stop, something that has become standard practice on buses, even here in St. Catharines.

10. The customer service ambassadors must get up at night in a cold sweat muttering, “Please stand clear of the doors, the doors are now closing.”

11. Upon arrival at Union, I took the subway to Queen’s Park for the 10:30 tour of Ontario’s legislative building. Given my long-tenured association with Manitoba’s equivalent and the prior tours I’ve had of the Minnesota state capitol, it had been something on my radar for a while, and yesterday, I finally had the opportunity.

Oddly, there were no big security checks and showing photo ID was a condition of entry to the building.

Since the only other person with me on the tour was a Chinese lady who didn’t speak a word of English, our guide spoke to us ve … ry … slow … ly. As if speaking to us like we were six-year-olds was going to enable her to understand a completely foreign language any better.

Among our stops was the chamber where laws are made, unlike Manitoba, where laws are instead made at a police station. But I digress. And yes, I’m still bitter.

The government sits on the left, while the opposition sits on the right. All around are galleries for the public and political activists who still have the gall to call themselves “journalists.”

Facing the opposition is a sickly looking eagle, symbolically situated to remind them to keep a watchful eye on the government. On the opposite side, the owl faces the government, reminding them to act wisely, something this Liberal government has rarely done.

Unlike Manitoba, the Lieutenant-Governor does not have a separate residence, but she does have an office in the building.

Down the hall leading back to the front entrance were several items from the St. Catharines Museum:

Finally, a shot looking south from the front entrance.

It was nice to see the inside of the building, but I was disappointed that our guide was not as well informed as she should have been and the whole thing seemed rushed, as if she had a cake burning in the oven.

12. A shot taken at the police memorial across the street:

13. By accident, I happened to pass Sunnybrook Hospital, where former Jets assistant GM Mike Doran was taken following his near-fatal crash on his way to a game in Peterborough. It was indeed fitting that I was wearing my Jets jersey.

14. Signs of “pride” were everywhere. Here, a gay bank.

A gay hairdresser.

Gay pizza.

A gay ATM, one that presumably dispenses rainbow-colored bills.

Another gay bank.

Gay tea.

And gay beer.

Rainbow-colored hair, for those so inclined.

Statue of Alexander Wood, a “gay pioneer” among other things.

Even the Loblaws at Maple Leaf Gardens got into the act.

I really don’t give a flying rat’s rear end what consenting adults want to do in their bedrooms. But, as a good friend of mine often says, stop shoving your sexuality down my throat. Enough already!

15. Approaching MLG, the site of the Jets’ only two road victories of the 1980-81 season, a scruffy character with a few loose screws stopped me after noticing my Jets jersey.

“You know who my favorite player of the Winnipeg Jets was?” he asked.

How could I possibly know? And why would I care?

“You know, that guy who scored with two seconds left.”

I like trivia as much as anyone, but that’s the most obscure clue I’ve ever heard.

Then he told me.

“Tony Tanti.”

“But he played for the Canucks,” I replied. “He never played for the Jets.”

“Oh, yeah,” he said, acting as if he just had a brain fart. “He played for Vancouver.”

After regathering his limited and scrambled thoughts, he said, “Keith Tkachuk. He played for the Jets.”

Well, he at least knew that much. But as for Tkachuk, all I could do was give a thumbs-down.

“See ya later,” he said.

16. Not more than a block later, someone else noticed my jersey and said, “Go Jets!” before taking off on his bike.

17. Is this a terribly tasteful item to be offering on your menu?

18. Memo to the tourists from New Mexico who had lost their way: Spreading yourselves out four abreast blocking a busy sidewalk in the heart of one of North America’s largest cities while staring at a map is not a good idea.

19. A store that does not accept legal currency has no right to call itself “nice,” such as this one at Yonge-Dundas Square.

20. An interesting way to see the Center of the Universe:

21. Walking down Yonge Street, I heard someone drop the F-bomb. Unlike the case in the Old Country, it stands out like a sore thumb in this part of the world. As I’ve said before, it’s yet another reason why I’m happy to be here.

21a. The three-year anniversary of my defection from the SPRM is rapidly approaching.

22. I was one of only a handful of people out and about on the sidewalk during the lunch hour who was not talking on the phone or texting.

23. A picture of Tim Horton at a future Tim Hortons location. What a novel idea. You have to wonder why his legacy isn’t more celebrated at their stores.

24. I made a point of stopping at Legends Row in front of the ACC. The latter shot is of Darryl Sittler, who, as loyal readers may recall, I met personally at an IceDogs game.

25. The construction of the new Burlington GO station has been going on so long that I think this “temporary” orientation map can now be considered permanent.

26. Just go ahead and light up. Don’t let that big “no smoking” sign bother you at all.

27. On the GO bus back to St. Catharines, there was a couple who boarded at Burlington who insisted on dragging their suitcases up the narrow and steep staircase despite the fact that there was plenty of room for both them and their suitcases down below. To each his own, I suppose.

28. A couple of teenage princesses got on and Nash and Barton and were genuinely pissed off to find that the two front seats, one of which I was in, were occupied. It is, after all, first come, first serve. Nonetheless, they sat down nearby and like, proceeded to, like, fill the airwaves with their, like, juvenile conversation. About when they, like, have to take trips to, like, ‘Sauga. (Saying “Mississauga” apparently required too much vocal effort.) And the courses they, like, have to, like, take.

I nearly laughed as I listened to the older one, who was, like, in her first year of, like, university, like, lecturing the other. “You’ll learn that when you get older,” she said. Then she, like, began to talk about, like, her course on, like, women’s gender studies. A course that will surely be of far greater value than any other in the nursing program she was proposing to enter.

28a. If I end up in a hospital, I can only hope to be cared for by someone more mature. Even just slightly less immature.

30 Apr

Ottawa Part Deux

This past week, I took my second train trip in as many years to the nation’s capital, where I spent much of the time across the river in the empire du mal exploring Gatineau on foot and getting many pictures in the process.

Bright and early Monday morning, I made my way to Fairview Mall in time to catch the 6:12 GO bus to Burlington. As the VIA train was not scheduled to leave Union Station until 10:45, I knew this bus and connecting Lakeshore West train would get me to Toronto two hours early, but if I had left it for the next bus and if it had broken down, I would have missed the VIA connection. The extra hour of sleep wasn’t worth the risk.

The bus came as scheduled and I instantly recognized the driver as the same one I had coming back from Peters Corners this past September. On that trip, the bus indeed had broken down and though they did dispatch a replacement promptly, it took GO two months to iron out the problems with my Presto card as a result of the change of buses.

Fortunately, that would not be a bad omen for the rest of the trip.

When leaving on trips from Winnipeg, I would always be excited at the prospect of getting away, but on that morning, I had a touch of sadness leaving St. Catharines behind. Not that I needed the validation, but it was yet another sign that I made the right decision, not just in leaving Winnipeg, but in coming to St. Catharines. Many of you may take liking the city where you live for granted, but as someone who had spent most of his life in Canada’s toilet bowl, I don’t.

At the Beamsville stop, I took note as someone got off with a Crown Royal bag. It would be the first of many signs that would tell me I would not be alone on this trip. Some of you will understand. Some of you will not.

Seated among many snoozing commuters on the Lakeshore West train, I made it to Union Station with much time to spare, as expected, which gave me some time to check my email and do some people watching. One guy seated nearby eating a sandwich was stuffing as much as he possibly could inside his mouth as if someone was about to take it away from him. His mouth was bulging as much as those baseball players who chew big wads of tobacco and if there was such thing as mouth enlargement surgery, I had no doubt he’d be first in line to sign up for it. I wonder if OHIP would cover it.

Also seated nearby was a gentleman who said, “Have a safe journey and may the Queen of England bless you” before getting up to leave. May the Queen of England bless you too. And the garbage you left behind.

Seated in the VIA concourse, I couldn’t help but notice this “flame retardant” covering. With political correctness running amok these days, I was shocked that they were still using that term. After all, some snowflake might get triggered by the use of the “R-word.”


At long last, it was time for boarding and we were ushered onto the train by staff who were only marginally polite. On GO, most of the staff go out of their way to be helpful and friendly, but for those who work for VIA, it’s a job, not an adventure. A serious upgrade in their customer service standards is in order.


Not meaning to take a gratuitous pot shot at fat people, but seeing this behemoth across the aisle, I couldn’t help but be reminded of VIA’s strict policies on overweight baggage. Had I been even slightly over the limit, I could potentially have been charged extra, yet as long as her baggage was under the limit, she wouldn’t have been even though I would have undoubtedly brought less weight aboard than she did. But apparently obesity is some kind of human right. Not exactly “progress” in my books.


Moving on, I noticed bags like this in front of every seat with the “Look, Listen, Live” slogan on it. You know, sometimes it’s just better to let the law of natural selection run its course.

The four-hour ride was relatively quiet and uneventful. The guy seated to my left spent the entire time reading a book and didn’t say a word all the way there. He had clearly done this before. The only real chatter came from someone seated behind me who was obviously prepping for a medical exam. By the time we got to Ottawa, I think I could have passed it.

The service attendant reading the announcements was in such a rush to finish that I could barely understand what she was saying. In either language. Later, when she came down the aisle, she had such a perma-scowl going that I think her face would have cracked if she tried to smile. Being friendly is probably a violation of their union contract.

They made four runs with the food wagon, but only a couple of times collecting garbage. I had some garbage for them, but I wasn’t lucky enough to be in one of the few rows where the guy marginally slowed down so that passengers could make a deposit into the Glad bag he was racing down the aisle with. Perhaps he was getting graded on how fast he could complete the task. Kind of like the ring time at the Real Canadian Stupid Store.

When the train slowed to a crawl ever so briefly, I took advantage of the opportunity to unload my bladder. For those who haven’t had the chance to ride the rails, trust me, it’s a lot easier to answer the call of nature then than when the train is speeding along at more than 80 mph.


We pulled into the Ottawa station on schedule and I made my way across the walkway over the 417 to the Hampton. It was the same hotel I stayed at last year and I even got the same room.

After dropping off my bags, I headed out for some highway pictures. Crossing the nearby bike-pedestrian bridge over the Rideau River, I was again struck by the number of cyclists in the area. It is something I would notice throughout the trip on both sides of the border, and cycling seems even more prevalent than in Niagara, itself a world-class cycling destination.

Yet what surprised me was the fact that very few OC Transpo buses had bike racks and I didn’t spot a single one on the many STO (Société de transport de l’Outaouais) buses I saw. Here in Niagara, throughout the Golden Horseshoe and even on Metro buses in the Great State of New York, I have yet to spot a bus without one.


Passing through the University of Ottawa – Lees Campus, I noticed how Quebecese was first on all signage. On the other side of the border, however, the Canadian language is not allowed, something that is rigidly enforced by the language Gestapo otherwise known as the OQLF.


Here, the Franco-Ontarian flag flies proudly.

While crossing a street on the way there, despite the fact that I had a walk sign, several tour buses from La Quebecoise bullheadedly kept turning right through the crosswalk, unconcerned by my presence or that of a senior on the other side of the street also wanting to cross. By contrast, several Canadian drivers over the next hour were quite courteous in allowing me to cross streets.


My next stop was the Cancer Survivors Park, where I stopped for a few pictures before continuing on to Walmart to pick up meals for the next three nights. I make a habit of avoiding restaurants whenever I can.


On the way back to the hotel, I spotted these exposed wires. Perhaps it was evidence of someone who was desperately trying for a Darwin Award.

Before settling in for the night, I took a brief tour of the hotel, something I didn’t do last year.


This banner was in the elevator of a hotel that (thankfully) does not allow pets.


In case you have guests who need to be laundered.


No running in the poo.

Following a less than restful sleep, I was back at it on Tuesday morning for what would be the first of two cross-border adventures. I first caught the #9 OC Transpo bus for the short ride downtown before getting off to transfer to the #33 STO bus that would take me deep into the empire du mal.

Halfway there, I noticed someone running up alongside the bus, only to have the driver take off just as he got to the front door. I don’t mean to laugh at the poor sap who missed his bus, as I’ve been there often enough myself, but it was a classic Winnipeg Transit moment that brought a wry smile to my face.


Having not taken the STO before, I wasn’t completely sure if the Presto transfer from OC Transpo would work, but when I tapped my card on the reader, the green light came on and I took my seat. While waiting for the bus to come, I noticed many others also using Presto to board STO buses, so my fears were somewhat alleviated beforehand.

The STO marked the seventh different transit system where I’ve used my Presto card. Yet I still cannot use it on St. Catharines Transit or on any other transit system in Niagara. Explain that, Messrs. Caslin and Sendzik.

During the ride, I noticed, just as I did on the OC Transpo bus, that almost everyone paid with Presto or MULTI, a card available only to Quebec residents. Of the dozens of people who boarded during my travels, only two or three paid with cash. Just to be on the safe side, I was prepared with the $3.90 in change, but I never needed it. Quebec gets enough of my money, so I was happy not to have given them any more.

The bus itself looked to have been something they dragged out of a museum, and the buses I rode to and from Jets games in the 1980s were of newer vintage. Winnipeg Transit truly would have been embarrassed to put a jalopy like that on the road. To borrow a line from a long-lost friend, I wouldn’t have been surprised if the driver had to wind it up to get it started. Inside, the seats were tattered and torn and there were no automated stop announcements, standard operating procedure on public transit these days.

The roads in Gatineau certainly were no better and without much of a suspension system on the bus, there were times I felt like a Mexican jumping bean. With the high taxes in Quebec and the gobs of money they get from Canada, you have to wonder what on Earth they’re spending it on. It sure isn’t on buses and roads.

Crossing the Alexandra Bridge, just as I did last year, I noticed the massive backlog of Canada-bound traffic, proof that the public service has simply become an affirmative action program for the French. Even in the private sector, from the job postings I saw on storefronts, you can’t get anything there without being able to speak the language of the occupying power.

Soon after crossing the border (oddly, there were no customs agents), a car just stopped in the middle of the road to let someone out. The bus driver honked loudly, but the woman getting out paid no attention to the waiting cars and took her sweet time before crossing the street, forcing oncoming cars to stop for her. A couple of blocks later, someone else just stepped into traffic and the car in front of the bus had to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting him. Bienvenue au Québec!


After a long and circuitous journey, we got to Parc-o-bus Freeman, the end of the route. Rather than politely explaining that this was the end of the route and advising passengers to take their personal belongings with them, as is commonplace in my part of the world, the portly driver just bellowed “TERMINUS!” at the top of his voice.

I instantly knew I would be laughing over that line for years to come.

In Southern Ontario, it is indeed rare that a departing passenger, even when exiting from the back door, does not say “thank you” to the driver, yet only two people had said “merci” to the STO driver along the route. So I bucked the trend and also said “merci” to him on the way out the front door. He acknowledged the other two, but not me, no doubt because, to borrow a line from Denis Lemieux in Slap Shot, I just was some stupid English pig with no brain. But I was still proud to have held myself to a higher standard. I am from St. Catharines, not from Winnipeg or from Quebec.

From Parc-o-bus Freeman, I proceeded north along Boulevard Saint-Joseph/Route 105 for, you guessed it, some good highway pictures. Soon to appear on a website near you.


Leaving Gatineau and entering the MRC des Collines-de-l’Outaouais and the Municipalité de Chelsea.


I was pleased to see this advisory sign, though I doubt many Quebec drivers pay much attention to such things.


They have government propaganda signs in Quebec as well. Of the $3.7 million they put into this road, $3.6 of it undoubtedly came from the pockets of Canadian taxpayers.


Crossing the Gatineau River.


I couldn’t help but notice this sign for “Mr. Gas,” as opposed to “Monsieur Gas.” This is an egregious infraction of Quebec’s language laws that has somehow evaded the attention of the OQLF.


After getting my fill of pictures in this area, I returned south along Boulevard Saint-Joseph. Just past the A-5 junction, this guy pulled up onto the sidewalk right in front of me, parked behind a couple of cars and went into the store. Just do as you please.

Not more than a couple of blocks later, a woman riding a bike pulling a trailer behind her with her kid inside went right through a red light and only grudgingly stopped at the median when it appeared the oncoming car, which had the right of way, wasn’t going to stop. Just do as you please. Again. As I observed last year at this time, this place makes Winnipeg look good, but it also gives a sarcastic writer like me plenty of good fodder.


Those who know of my fondness for poultry will understand why I stopped for this shot.


Monsieur Lub. The language Gestapo would undoubtedly approve.


I stopped for a brief break at les Galeries de Hull before continuing south.


Near this fire hall that I stopped to take a shot of for the benefit of one reader I’m looking forward to seeing in the coming days, I passed by l’École Secondaire de l’Île, where I actually heard some English spoken. Wondering if they were breaking the law, I quickly learned what their favorite English word was. Four letters. Starts with ‘F.’ You figure it out. A word I thankfully hear very little of in my part of the world.


I smell another summons from the OQLF coming.


A four-way stop sign in Quebec.


This is someone’s idea of “art.” I shudder to think how much I paid for this.


While waiting to cross the street, I noticed this dude hauling all his worldly belongings on the back of his bike in a couple of Glad suitcases.


My final destination on this day was the so-called Canadian Museum of History that isn’t located in Canada, but first, I stopped into the Outaouais tourism office, where I picked up a cycling map of the region. Throughout my travels, I marveled at the number of great trails and only wished I had my bike with me. If I come back, I will have to seriously consider renting one.

While I was there, I was served by a very friendly clerk who actually spoke to me in the Canadian language. Again, I’m not sure it’s officially allowed, but I appreciated the fact that he stuck his neck out and risked possible arrest to offer his help.


Before heading inside the museum, I stopped for this shot of a statue of the legendary Maurice “Rocket” Richard. For those who are not aware, he was the first coach of the WHA’s Quebec Nordiques.


At last, I went inside the museum, paid the exorbitant $23 entry fee and made my way to the special hockey exhibit, which was the primary attraction for me.


A stick signed by Teemu Selanne.


A replica of Ken Dryden’s iconic mask.


An old Jets cookbook from 81-82.


Even some recognition of the Hot Line and the WHA.

There was also a jersey on display of the late Tim Horton from when he played for Buffalo. I told someone taking a picture of it that there was a statue of him in downtown Buffalo, right by where the old Aud used to stand.

Unfortunately, aside from the nice hockey exhibit, there was very little else of value there.


The “First Peoples Hall” filled with school children showing off their displays, much like you would see at a science fair.


This hall was the crown jewel of the place, and as you’d expect, you get hammered with the official narrative of how the white man is responsible for every ill that has ever befallen someone of First Nations heritage.

All in all, I walked out of there feeling like I had flushed $23 down the toilet. If I make a return trip to the area, I won’t make that same mistake again.

With rain looming on the horizon, I decided to call it a day and make for the bus, which took me back to the hotel just as it started to pour.

For the next day, I had originally planned an outing on the Canadian side, but seeing something good along the way on the STO bus, I decided to change plans and go back to l’autre pays, taking the same bus, but getting off at Boulevard des Hautes-Plaines where it met A-5.


This time, the bus was of a little newer vintage, but it was still something Winnipeg Transit would have embarrassed to put on the road. It was a little more crowded than it was the previous day, so I went to the back to get a seat. The first row of seats past the back door were facing to the front, but oddly, the second row was facing to the back. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised. It is, after all, Quebec.

I again said “merci” to the driver as I got off at the front door, the only one on the trip who did so, and to his credit, he politely acknowledged it.


After getting my fill of highway pictures, I walked back towards Canada along Boulevard de la Cité-des-Jeunes, passing many nice trails along the way, including this one.


I couldn’t help but notice another probable violation of Quebec’s language laws. “Osgoode Properties” should instead be “Les Properties Osgoode,” n’est-ce pas? Maybe the OQLF should offer me a job. But then again, I’m not of the right ethnic heritage. Only pure laine Québécois need apply.


An Anglophone Cégep? Oh, the horror! Dispatch the Sûreté at once!


Farther south, I explored these trails along Promenade Lac-des-Fées.


The underpass connecting two trails. There were a number of these throughout the park obviously designed for the safety of motorists, pedestrians and cyclists alike.


The bridge over some marshland. As you can see, there is a barrier separating the busy traffic on Boulevard des Allumettières from the pedestrian/cyclist path.


The pathway leading to Promenade de la Gatineau.


View from atop the overpass on Promenade de la Gatineau looking back towards the city.


Heading back to the city.


I spotted this container half filled with a yellow liquid. Three guesses.


Not only is Boulevard des Allumettières notoriously littered with roundabouts, but at Boulevard Saint-Joseph and Rue Montcalm, there are two within a few feet of each other. If you hate roundabouts, as I know one reader does, this is not the place for you.


Near Station Montcalm, I stopped for these shots along an unnamed waterway.


I noticed this sticker, one of two I spotted in my travels. Of course, it’s French only in Quebec, but anyone daring to suggest English only in Canada is branded a racist, xenophobic and intolerant, along with a host of other such terms leftists like to pin to those who don’t agree with their view of the world.


Near the border, I spotted someone else’s idea of “art.” Pigeons and a tomato soup can. I wouldn’t care that much except for the fact that again, I shudder to think of how much I paid for that. Not to mention the fact that it’s likely another language law violation. It’s “soupe aux tomates” don’t you know?

Back in Canada, I had lunch at the War Museum cafeteria before taking a stroll down Wellington.


Passing the Supreme Court, I noticed this group of First Nations protesters chanting and beating their drums, presumably lobbying the judges-turned-lawmakers to give them more concessions. You have to wonder why they bother. I don’t think any First Nations group has ever lost in a Canadian courtroom in my lifetime. Whether they were right or not.


Genocide against First Nations? Give me a break.


I stopped at the Terry Fox statue across from Parliament last year and did so again. For those who are not aware, Terry Fox was born in Winnipeg and I attended the same elementary school as he did when he lived there.


Moving on, I stopped for a few shots at the cenotaph, something I missed last year.


My last stop of the day was Byward Market. For those familiar with Toronto, it’s kind of a cross between St. Lawrence Market and the Distillery District. It looks like a good place for photographers, but that’s about all it seems to be good for.

Just after getting on the #9 bus to go back to the hotel, I came within an eyelash of being a witness to a double fatality as two teenage kids ran in front of the bus. The driver had to slam on the brakes to avoid making them Darwin Award candidates, but to them, it was all a big joke when they made it to the other side of the street. Some funeral director who was narrowly cheated out of some dough wasn’t laughing.


Following a much-needed half-decent night’s sleep, it was time to make my way back to the train station for the trip home.


In front of me in line was a guy with a rainbow-colored NDP button stuck to his backpack. On it read, “Pride: It’s not just a dance party.” As one reader might say, “Gag me with a Kathleen Wynne election sign.”


I noticed the extra leg room in the car right away and unlike the car I had going in, the row numbers were also on the seats in addition to being on the window. Passing by was a guy with his belongings stuffed into a Glad bag, much like the cyclist I spotted in Gatineau on Tuesday afternoon. Perhaps Glad is branching out to appeal to the budget-conscious traveler.

Nearby was a group of kids and a mother who were going to Toronto for a dance audition, and I was able to hear them throughout the ride. But by far the biggest chatter in the car was seated immediately to my left. An Ottawa resident originally from Nova Scotia who was retired from social work, M.A., short for Mary Alice, was currently studying Japanese flower arranging. She said Nova Scotians were great storytellers and she didn’t disappoint.

During the four-hour ride, I and many people around me found out that her husband was from Holland and used to investigate airline crashes. She described Trump as “scary,” but she made no more forays into politics when I replied that what was truly scary was our prime minister.

While polishing off the ham croissant she bought on the train, she mentioned how clean and efficient the trains were in Japan. At major stops, people would exit along the sides while those boarding would get on in the middle to expedite the process.

Before spending much time telling me how fascinated she was by children, she mentioned an occasion when she was at a social function with a person who had been paralyzed in a rodeo accident. When she was leaving, she said without thinking, “I’ll get on my horse.”

It was all interesting, but I was somewhat relieved when the train pulled into Union Station. From there, it was an uncomfortable ride back to St. Catharines among thick crowds both on the train and on the bus.

On the bus, seated in front of me was an obese woman talking about her favorite places for ice cream and extolling the virtues of a donut place in downtown St. Catharines. She then proceeded to check prices on Snickers bars, something she undoubtedly buys in bulk, and lamenting about people complaining about her and her friends smoking on the platform. This is probably someone who endlessly moans and groans to her doctor about all the health problems she has.

In spite of everything, I had a great time, and the old adage of enjoying something better the second time indeed proved true. I don’t know if I’ll make a return trip or not, but there still is more to see and do in the region that I haven’t experienced yet.

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.