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.

14 Jun

Random Thoughts – Fake News, QEW Crash, Downtown Streetscaping and More

1. Paul Wiecek churned out another piece of drivel in yesterday’s edition of Socialism Illustrated. This time, he railed on how many Southern teams are losing money hand over fist while again proclaiming the Chipman franchise as a model of success.

He did have a valid point in regard to the Weasels, née Jets, but he conveniently failed to mention that the Chipman franchise would be in the same boat without all those government handouts. As I’ve said before, people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. But as is normally the case at Socialism Illustrated, don’t let the facts get in the way of a good narrative.

1a. In that same article, Wiecek claimed that the only reason the Predators have been able to draw crowds recently was because they were winning. Once again, he conveniently overlooked how well they had been drawing for years despite the fact that the Predators had never won much of anything and hadn’t advanced beyond the second round of the playoffs prior to this past season. And that the franchise, led by quality ownership, has worked hard to build a strong, loyal fan base in a non-traditional hockey market like Nashville. But again, don’t let the facts get in the way of a good narrative.

2. Right here in St. Catharines, a truck hauling hazardous materials crashed on the QEW, forcing an evacuation and shelter in place order within a 2 km radius of the crash site. To the credit of everyone involved, the chemicals were promptly contained and the highway was reopened to traffic within 12 hours.

In Winnipeg, police would have taken great pleasure in shutting down a major artery for 12 days or more if such a thing had happened there. Just because they could. Yet another reason I’m happy to be out of that part of the world.

3. Speaking of Winnipeg, I couldn’t help but think of my former home when I spotted these gardens outside the downtown library last night:

As I said to my friend, if something had been planted outside the downtown library there, it would only have been a matter of hours before it was torn up and/or used as a toilet. Not to mention that whoever did the planting might have ended up with a knife in his gut. Again, it’s yet another reason I’m happy to be out of that part of the world.

4. Placing a sign at a major construction site explaining the work being done and giving the estimated time of completion is important. But it does not need to be as tall as the Jolly Green Giant and it is not necessary for our mayor to include what amounts to a re-election campaign slogan at the bottom.

5. I knew the city was doing “streetscaping” on St. Paul Street. I wasn’t aware that they were tearing up the whole street.

5a. Was this project really necessary?

5b. I sure wish there was a conservative voice on council. You know, someone who isn’t afraid to say “no.”

04 Jun

An Odd Day on the Train

Thoughts, observations and pictures from my journey to and from Mississauga yesterday:

1. I spotted this pile of dirt with “DIG” painted on it. I know I bring too much with me on these trips, but sadly, a shovel wasn’t among what I had packed. Maybe next time.

2. It was nice that, even in early June, I needed a light jacket. It sure beats the blazing heat we had last summer and what they’ve got in the Old Country right now.

3. While waiting for the GO bus at Fairview Mall, two other passengers and I were watching an older guy pushing a grocery cart going through some nearby dumpsters. One of the others said he knew the dumpster-diver, who apparently lives in an $800,000 house in the North End, and recently spotted him eating some scraps he had found. “There’s got to be something wrong with him,” he said, and I didn’t disagree with his observation.

For the benefit of loyal readers from the SPRM, a North End address is a highly desirable location here in St. Catharines. In the degenerate capital of the SPRM, if you added up the value of every house in the North End, I doubt the total would come to $800,000.

4. Approaching the Burlington GO station, I spotted this cyclist on Fairview Street:

I do have a fondness for stuffed animals, but I can’t say I’ve ever wanted to mount one on top of my helmet. But to each his own.

5. While in line at the Burlington Outhouse before catching the 9:07 train, I listened as two Burlington Transit drivers exchanged stories as they answered the call of nature. One of them spoke about an incident when a passenger complained because he “was driving so slow that it was giving her a headache.” As he explained to the distressed passenger, he was just keeping to schedule, rather than racing ahead to the end of his route. Like what I often encountered on Winnipeg Transit. Drivers there would also make a habit of lollygagging around when significantly behind schedule.

6. Construction at the new GO station in Burlington continues to move along at a glacially slow pace. With any luck, it will open sometime within the next couple of decades. When it will be long since obsolete and due for a refit. You have to wonder if they hired contractors from the SPRM.

7. While heading north along Hurontario Street, I spotted someone running like hell trying to catch the MiWay bus I was on. To the driver’s credit, he stopped and waited for her, and did so again for another passenger a few blocks later. Unlike what normally happens on Winnipeg Transit, where drivers wait until such a person reaches the front door before taking off. I’ve seen it happen so often that I think it must be a like a badge of honor for them.

8. Rather than thanking the driver for waiting for her, the second passenger was bellyaching that he didn’t pick her up at the stop she was waiting at, conveniently overlooking the fact that it was an express bus and wasn’t supposed to stop there, as the signage clearly indicated. But then again, it requires some effort to read signs. Effort few seem willing to expend.

9. MiWay makes the eighth different transit agency where I’ve been able to use my Presto card, yet I still can’t use it here in Niagara. Not that I’m bitter or anything.

9a. If Regional Chair Alan Caslin is so hot to expedite the proposed GO train service to Niagara for the benefit of the 50 or so people who may or may not come here for the Canada Summer Games in 2021, why is he also not trying equally hard to expedite the ability to use Presto on Niagara transit systems?

10. The scene outside Entrance 4 at Square One, named “Hazel’s Walk” in honor of the former Mississauga mayor:

11. Scenes in and around Mississauga Celebration Square:

12. Well, this is the Center of the Universe …

13. A, B and C must have been taken:

14. Almost as soon as I took my seat on the #19 bus to take me back to the Port Credit GO station, I was approached by a woman going up and down the aisle asking everyone for “a little bit of change so she can buy some shoes.” Kudos to my fellow passengers who also refused her advances.

For the record, she hardly looked impoverished. I should instead have been asking her for some spare change.

15. For those who need to travel along Hurontario Street, it’s worthwhile to plan your trip to catch the #103 express bus instead of the “milk run” bus I was on. The light should have come on when a stop wasn’t requested rather than when someone rang the bell.

15a. Note to mothers with children: The bus is not a playground. Keep your children with you. For their benefit and ours.

16. I was surprised that, on all three of my three MiWay trips, less than half the passengers paid with Presto.

17. I was equally surprised that I was one of only a handful who thanked the driver on their way out.

18. On the return trip to Burlington, I spotted an empty beer can on the GO train, the first such can I’ve seen on public transit since my defection from the SPRM more than 34 months ago.

For those who are unaware, such sightings are commonplace on Winnipeg Transit. As are graffiti, mass quantities of assorted garbage, vomit and bums passed out on seats. All things I don’t miss and have come not to expect.

19. On the #12 bus back to St. Catharines, I was seated immediately behind a father with his two children who spent the entire time badmouthing their mother. His first task was to make sure to tell them that their mother doesn’t really want them, she just wants the $1,000/month she collects from him for having them, then he not so subtly instructed them to spy on her. “If your mom messes up again, I can get you back with me.”

He went on to tell them how their mother tried to get him back, but not because she really wanted him, she just wanted to use him. Then he told them that the only reason she takes the kids out to play is just to show the lawyer that she does indeed play sports with them. Finally, he said that their mother is lazy and lying to them in regard to getting vaccinated. The latter point made one of the kids start crying.

Even if every single word he had to say about the mother was true, it was unspeakably cruel to say such things to his kids.

19a. It is no wonder why the presenter at a recent writing seminar I was at explained how he got much of his material from public transit.

20. Fittingly, the Essence of Ontario was proudly on display just past the Burlington Skyway:

For the uninformed, that’s salt. White gold, as a good friend of mine recently called it.

21. After getting off the bus in St. Catharines, there was a big scene in the Fairview Mall parking lot where a police car was in attendance. It turned out someone left their dog in a car with the windows closed.

Look, I know I’m not a dog person, but was this really a police-worthy event? Couldn’t the rent-a-cop talking with the officers have simply had the car owner paged?

22. I didn’t know there was a market for having the air painted:

23. Get your Kraft Dinner for less than a cent. Whether or not that is still too much to charge for it is left for the reader as an exercise.