31 Oct

The Hamilton Experience

Highlights from yesterday’s day trip to Hamilton:

1. And a happy Tuesday to you too …

2. Waiting with me at the Fairview Mall bus stop was someone wearing a heavy fur-lined parka, and later in the day, I spotted someone wearing thick fur-lined boots. It was only +1 in the morning and went as high as +14 near midday. I can’t imagine what these people would do if they had to suffer through winters with -40 wind chill values that last for weeks on end. Like I did.

3. Since our GO driver came late, I appreciate his efforts in trying to make up time, but running that aging yellow light at Lake Street was not a good idea.

4. Even though I didn’t leave that early, many people were sleeping on the bus:

5. Here’s a guy who probably moans and groans to his doctor about all the health problems he has:

6. After boarding the Barton bus, it took only three stops before someone with a wheelchair got on and it took only three more stops for the first stroller. That stroller was draped in plastic as the mother undoubtedly wanted to protect her child from the “extreme” cold.

7. En route, I spotted a poster plastered on a pole that read, “Your perfect the way are – chin up.” Oy.

8. Soon after seeing such grammatical “perfection,” someone got on who was munching on a sticky bun from Tim Hortons began filling the airwaves. He would later say Donald Trump is a racist (he would also call Justin Trudeau an airhead) and has a big mouth, but he had a pretty big mouth himself.

For starters, he told us his mother’s birthday was yesterday and they had “a hell of a feast” at the Red Lobster in Burlington to celebrate. After saying “I don’t pay much attention to other people much,” he went on a diatribe about government extortion and that there’s no such thing as justice unless you’ve got the money to pay for it. In another display of the “tolerance” of those on the left side of the political spectrum, his answer was to “hang all the suits.” He went on to say that the only real criminals in society wear suits and ties and make laws to protect themselves.

Then it was on to his employment history. He told us he has 15 years of experience working on houses, and his previous employer who fired him abruptly supposedly jumped him from behind “like a girl” and tried to gouge his eyes out after he tried to retrieve his tools. Then when he “painted” his ex-boss’s truck, he was charged with mischief. “Sometimes life is just a joke,” he said. But he likes his current employer much better, who even trusts him with his Home Depot card. I’m not sure I would.

He also told us he used to be a volunteer at the Good Shepherd on Mary Street and his mother has only $200/month to live on. His sister is apparently a really good cake decorator, but his brother is a real underachiever who needs to get his head out of his butt.

9. While all that was going on, our bus driver and other passing motorists somehow managed to avoid a member of our distinguished First Nations community who was standing in the middle of traffic.

10. Walking to the MacNab Transit Terminal, I passed by someone on the street wearing a Chipman toque. As a good friend of mine would say, “Loser!”

11. It’s bad enough that I’m forced to pay for that fake news Liberal propaganda on CBC, but does HSR have to shove it down my throat on the video display behind the driver?

12. En route to the Lime Ridge Mall, someone was running after the bus and the driver actually waited for her. Unlike the case in another part of the world, where drivers wait until such a passenger reaches the front door before flooring it.

13. While using the pay phone next to a door clearly labeled “out of service,” people still kept trying it. The same people who don’t believe those signs are undoubtedly the same ones who do believe the crap they see and read on the fake news.

14. Spotted at Lime Ridge Mall was a mother pushing her child in a stroller heading for the exit while fishing a cigarette out of her purse. Later in the day, I would also spot a fatso waiting for a bus puffing on a cigarette while tending to her child in the stroller in front of her. Such concern for their children.

14a. Not that I’m one of those “ban everything” people, but I wouldn’t object if smoking directly in front of your infant child was made a criminal offense.

15. The most popular topic of conversation among the seniors hanging out in the food court involved the scratch and lose tickets most of them had. However they earned a living back in the day, it obviously didn’t involve anything that required a high level of proficiency in math.

16. I nearly choked when walking past the Yankee Candle store. As someone with allergies, I know I’m more sensitive than most, but how anyone can stand to put that stuff in their home is beyond me. Let alone pay good money for the privilege.

17. The mall was promoting the Canadian debut of “Le Refuge,” some piece of artwork on tour of various malls across North America. Whatever.

18. Get your complimentary stamp card here:

19. Not just a regular hall, but a fabulous hall …

20. Someone who courageously resists the imposition of the Metric system:

21. If you have a community you want to donate …

22. Nothing says you care quite like a gift card from Value Village.

23. Spotted on Concession Street was a fatso waddling through the front door of “One Wellness Group,” where “Your wellness is our passion.” Wellness certainly wasn’t her passion, that’s for sure.

24. Someone was kind enough to leave a free pair of pants for anyone who may happen to be in need. How very compassionate™.

25. Passing me at the Hamilton GO Center was a guy with a walker holding a roll of toilet paper in his hand. You can never be too prepared, so it seems.

26. I’ve heard the expression that everyone smiles in the same language, but as I saw on the faces of an Asian couple leaving the Hamilton GO Center, everyone also looks lost in the same language. I hope they found their way, because it was plainly obvious they had absolutely no idea where they were. I might have offered to help, but I wasn’t even sure they knew much English, if any.

27. Someone doesn’t like Donny M.:

28. Free supplies for those involved with street drugs:

29. Some dude wheeling a bike approached me on James Street and asked if there was any way I could spare 60 cents. Since his bike was nicer than mine, I should have asked him for 60 cents.

29a. Recall that it was less than two weeks ago that a haggard cyclist in Buffalo referred me to a nearby mission for a free meal. I obviously don’t have that Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous look.

30. Walking past the Money Mart on James Street, I noticed some salty looking dudes inside waiting in line. How desperate and/or dumb do you have to be to patronize places like that?

31. I think Mayor Sendzik has another case for trademark infringement …

32. So if it’s $25 for full legs, does a midget only have to pay $12.50?

33. What is a “rail drink”?

34. Got to keep that pole warm …

35. As I discovered with my lead-footed driver on the return trip, there’s a reason they call it “GO” Transit.

36. Spotted on Lake Street was a guy on an ebike with one hand on the handlebar and his other hand digging for buried treasure deep inside his ear canal.

20 Oct

Buffalo Again

Observations and a few pictures from my second visit to Buffalo within the last month and my 47th two-wheeled trip to the Great State of New York:

1. Crossing the Homer Bridge in virtual darkness first thing in the morning, I spotted a fellow cyclist on the other side of the street traveling in the opposite flow of traffic without a helmet, a light or a brain.

2. When approaching the booth at U.S. Customs at the Rainbow Bridge, a car pulled up right behind me instead of waiting behind the explicitly marked stop signs, drawing the ire of the officer in the booth, who came out, put up his hand and yelled “STOP!” at the offending driver. When they say stay behind the stop sign and wait until the vehicle ahead clears, they mean stay behind the stop sign and wait until the vehicle ahead clears.

2a. I would have loved to have been that proverbial fly on the wall for that driver’s inspection.

2b. As I’ve said before, my respect for the CBP increases with every visit.

3. Having just missed a bus, I made for the Portage Road Transportation Center to catch the next one. There, I purchased a day pass from the machine inside, which was particularly finicky about the $1 bills I was putting in. Several of them were rejected and I was lucky I had enough with me that the machine accepted. Had the need arisen, however, there was a change machine inside, which accepts bills as large as $20 and returns $5 bills.

4. The washroom at the Portage Road Transportation Center, in sharp contrast to the one at the Metropolitan Transportation Center in downtown Buffalo, was an absolute dump.

5. All the homies at the Portage Road Transportation Center waiting for the same #40 Buffalo-bound bus seemed to know each other, which made me stand out even more, since I was one of only two Caucasians within a one-mile radius.

6. Complimentary gum for “valued Metro bus customers.”

7. NFTA should seriously consider adding more buses on the #40 route as the bus was practically full in both directions.

8. Seated near the back door, I noted once again that it opened automatically and that departing passengers don’t need a battering ram to get it open. Unlike the case in a certain part of the world where I used to live.

9. Spotted near Sheridan Drive was a sign “Support America. Support Unions.” To that I would add, “Pick One.”

10. I listened with interest as a guy behind me named Bob, a waiter, told all his fellow passengers that he made $102 in tips from Tuesday’s lunch crowd and another $80 on Wednesday. After he told the person on the other end of the line about how his buddy left his number for a female patron and invited her to a party, he shared his story about the time when two old ladies came in and ordered a bottle of wine with their meal. Despite being a little tipsy, they drove home, but he was happy that they left him with a $20 tip on their $80 order. Then he went on to tell everyone about another one of his buddies who had fathered several children with multiple women, only one of whom was his wife. “You’ve got to protect yourself,” was what he told his MVP (Most Virile Parent) buddy, but better advice would have been to keep his pants zipped up or something even more radical like remaining faithful to his spouse. All told, I was seriously disappointed when this guy got off near Busti Avenue. There was undoubtedly much more to hear.

11. Scenes at the Metropolitan Transportation Center in downtown Buffalo. Unlike the case in a certain part of the world I once called home, it was relatively clean and not Ground Zero for bums and the like.

12. Just after stepping inside the washroom at the Metropolitan Transportation Center, a black guy came out of the handicapped stall without a shirt and went to admire himself in the mirror. Who exactly was he trying to impress in there?

13. While taking pictures around the McKinley Monument in Niagara Square, an older woman openly holding out her wallet with credit cards and bills plainly visible kept walking around and around the circle. Methinks some mental health issues were in play.

14. Bail bondsmen parked at Niagara Square for the convenience those patronizing the courthouse across the street. Or bondspeople.

15. Someone forgot to “inpect” his sign before putting it up. And paying for it.

16. I never realized what a major problem parking is in downtown Buffalo.

17. Kudos to the City of Buffalo for the number of bike racks they provide throughout the downtown area.

18. I couldn’t agree more, which is why I would urge my American friends to vote Republican in the coming midterm elections. Just like I urge my Canadian friends to vote Conservative.

19. People who walk across our border illegally are not “immigrants,” they’re criminals.

20. I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw this bottle of “Buffalo melted snow” at the Buffalo Niagara Welcome Center. As I said to one of the people behind the counter, you don’t know about snow. Or cold.

21. While talking to a fellow cyclist on North Division Street who was waiting for a bus, he told me that they were serving chicken at a nearby mission on Eagle Street if I was hungry. I know I’m cheap and don’t live extravagantly, but do I really look so haggard that someone would think to point me to a mission for a free meal?

22. While waiting for the #40 Falls-bound bus at the Metropolitan Transportation Center, a couple of guys came running out to flag down a departing #1 bus. In a scene eerily reminiscent of those I’ve seen far too often another part of the world I used to call home, the driver ignored them and kept going.

23. NFTA should seriously consider installing backup horns on their buses instead of forcing drivers to keep honking when they’re backing out.

24. At the stop on North Division Street, three Muslims got on waving a VISA card wondering where they should tap it. No transit system I know of takes credit cards on the bus. Cash, tokens or passes only. They seemed a little miffed over having to dig out cash once the driver explained that little detail, but they eventually managed to scrounge up enough. Then in spite of not being disabled in any way, they sat down in the priority seating and while there, tried to catch a few winks. How successful they were as the suspension-challenged low-floor bus made its way through the pothole-filled streets of Buffalo is anyone’s guess.

25. Being picked up or dropped off at the curb seems to be a genuine luxury when it comes to Metro buses.

26. On the GO bus back to St. Catharines, rather than tell the driver where he wanted to go, someone boarding at Niagara College instead flashed it to the driver on his phone.

26a. Niagara College is indeed a popular stop.

12 Oct

Meet the Candidates – Niagara Regional Council

Takeaways from the Meet the Candidates night featuring most of the hopefuls running for a seat on Niagara Regional Council:

1. It was obvious right from the get-go that this “Committee for an Informed St. Catharines” who put on this event was nothing more than a front for promoting extremist left-wing values and candidates who espouse them. Before the first candidate spoke, the moderator read a prepared “land acknowledgment” statement, groveling ad nauseam to the aboriginals and telling us how we are all treaty people. Then when it came time for answering spot questions, the only questions drawn out of a sombrero were from leftists. One which managed to slip past the censors was “Which political party best aligns with your views?”, but it was quickly squashed and another question was drawn.

2. Regional Chair Alan Caslin was the most noteworthy of the missing candidates, but I don’t blame him for not showing up. Given how the whole thing was rigged against anyone with political leanings to the right of Lenin, it was a no-win situation for him. Best to take your message directly to the people instead of relying on groups like this.

3. Grantham Ward city council candidates Dennis Van Meer, Bill “I take your vote for granted” Phillips and Dawn Dodge were among the overflow crowd, though oddly, none of them did much campaigning. In Dodge’s case, perhaps she hasn’t yet regained her train of thought from her disastrous opening remarks at the Grantham Lions Club.

4. Just as they were at the Grantham Lions Club, school trustee hopefuls Norm St. George and Alex Bradnam were there to greet attendees on their way in. But regardless of how many of their brochures they give me, I’m not voting for either one. Nor am I voting for Kate Baggott or David Waddington. I only wish I had someone to vote for as opposed to against.

5. Haley Bateman played the lesbian card to try to pick up some cheap sympathy votes, and in so doing, displayed the same level of intolerance she accuses others of by summarily dismissing the Christian values of a voter whose door she knocked on.

6. Bateman also bragged about her hare-brained social-engineering plan to combine day-care facilities and senior centers. As if I needed another reason not to vote for her.

7. Even if Kelly Edgar didn’t get a union endorsement, I would have stricken him off my list for bragging about bringing those worthless Canada Summer Games to Niagara.

7a. That’s a union endorsement, not a labor endorsement.

8. Debbie MacGregor’s idea of attracting industries “compatible with the region” also reeks of social engineering. With jobs in such short supply in this part of the world, can you really afford to be picky?

9. Mary Margaret Murphy was the candidate who got the “Which political party best aligns with your views?” question, and even though she got a new one, she answered the original quite clearly with her diatribe on a living wage and knocking Premier Ford for stopping the ridiculous safe injection sites.

10. Emily Beth Spanton showed herself to be even more of a far-left extremist than Murphy. She also needs to get that hair out of her eyes and stop wearing those foot-high heels if she can’t learn to walk in them.

11. Len Stack used his time at the podium to talk about the negative stigma around the word “addiction” and failed to acknowledge Mayor Sendzik’s trademark of the word “compassion.”

12. The ghost of Jim Bradley, the recently deposed MPP who served in one of the most corrupt governments in the province’s history, had the nerve to speak about restoring integrity to the Region.

13. When Bruce Timms was speaking about how the double-duty councilor issue failed by just one vote, I was hoping he was going to call out Bill “The self-appointed voice of reason” Phillips, whose flip-flop was crucial in bringing it down.

14. Frank Rupcic spoke about the embarrassing incident when the sub-Standard “reporter” was kicked out of a regional council meeting, but what’s really embarrassing is the fake news that publication keeps churning out.

15. I hope I can come up with enough acceptable names on my ballot so I don’t have to vote for Sandie Bellows.

09 Oct

Thanksgiving in the Universe’s Center

Pictures and observations from Monday’s visit to the Center of the Universe:

1. On this occasion, rather than take the usual #12 bus to Burlington and transfer to a Lakeshore West train, I took advantage of the special holiday express train running between Niagara Falls and Union Station. Unfortunately, had I not been fortunate enough to get a ride to the train station, I would not have been able to take this train as St. Catharines Transit buses, as per their normal holiday schedule, don’t start running until after 11:00 am. Since this train comes through St. Catharines so infrequently, couldn’t they have made an exception and run a couple of shuttle buses to the station? After all, what is the point of having this great public transit service if you can’t get to the station by public transit?

This is exactly why I’m not one of those people eagerly anticipating the promised arrival of regular GO train service to St. Catharines. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that there’s some planning going on behind the scenes for new and/or improved service to the station, but as things currently stand with St. Catharines Transit, when the buses are actually running, it would take me longer to get to the station than it would for the train to get to Burlington. Not a big win in my books.

2. Parking fail at the train station:

3. Scenes around our humble station:

4. Spotted this sign for a cannabis company at the Exhibition station, an unfriendly reminder that the legalization of weed is only days away.

5. Bums passed out inside Union Station:

6. Also at Union Station, a woman clutches her teddy bear outside the washroom:

7. As a long-lost friend of mine would say, “no visuals please.”

8. We all need our “proten” :

9. Dear Black Guy Pissing in the Alley: I realize many local restaurants only offer washrooms to paying customers, but just a block away was the Dragon City Mall as well as nearby Chinatown Center, both of which were open on the holiday Monday and have public washrooms. Consider using them before grumbling at passers-by who give you a dirty look.

10. Inside Chinatown Center was the familiar and sometimes overpowering odor of recently applied rodent-killing chemicals. It was the same smell, incidentally, that reeked throughout the mall in Brampton I was at with a friend back in April.

11. A nail place for gays?

12. This “Hello Kitty” sign struck this Jets fan, who remembers the “Hey Kitty” game in December 1985 all too well. For those who may have forgotten, trailing the play behind Randy Carlyle, Bernie Nicholls of the Kings called out to Carlyle using his nickname. After hearing “Hey, Kitty,” Carlyle obliged by feeding Nicholls a perfect drop pass. From my vantage point up in section 44, I had a bird’s-eye view as Nicholls then went in alone and potted one past Daniel Bouchard.

13. Someone with boxing gloves on the top of her backpack. Spoiling for a fight perhaps?

14. Walking southbound though along Spadina, a Muslim woman walking alongside her husband grumbled angrily after having to submit to the indignity of getting out of my way. Excuuuuse me for being there.

15. As they say in Texas, El Paso …

16. Did someone just assume the city’s gender? And shouldn’t it be Ms. Toronto instead of Miss Toronto?

17. Stress testing the railings?

18. More political incorrectness on display. What is this world coming to?

19. What is “klezmer” and why do I need to be worried about it?

20. Spotted on Queen’s Quay were a pair of homeless bums who apparently don’t have the means to put a roof over their heads, but do have the means to support a pair of dogs.

Later, I spotted another homeless guy camped out under the Gardiner who again didn’t have the means to put a roof over his head, but did have the money for a bike better than mine and to also support a dog.

21. Across from Union Station on Bay Street was this “starving writer” parked on the street begging for money. I know as well as anyone how tough it is to break in as a writer, but that’s why you need another occupation to pay the bills. For every “star” author that hits it big, there are thousands who don’t make a dime off of it. Bottom line: Do it because you love it, not for fame and fortune.

22. While waiting under a big digital sign at Union Station indicating that it was platform 5, a woman asked the guy standing behind me if this was indeed platform 5.

23. Just put up your feet on the seat.

24. While in line at the washroom in Burlington, I noticed that someone who was in one of the two stalls had left his suitcase unattended by the entrance. How trusting of him.

25. Boarding the #12 bus in front of me at Burlington were a couple of Middle Eastern guys giving the driver a sob story about having gone the wrong way and conveniently having thrown away their receipt. I understand why the driver let them board rather than risk a confrontation and/or be accused of racism, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

25a. The aforementioned freeloaders remind me of a case at our photo club, where one guy keeps showing up and feels very much entitled to enjoy the benefit of club membership without paying for it. Then the executive who say nothing to him complain about declining revenues and membership.

25b. Sometimes people are too polite for their own good.

26. Soon after taking one of the last available seats on the bus, a guy sat down in front of me who had a distinct odor of shit that hung in the air all the way back to St. Catharines. The niceties of public transit.

27. The mother of a young boy seated across the aisle who got on at Nash and Barton was complaining that her phone had been acting up ever since she dropped it in the toilet. I understand that accidents happen, but why was she taking it with her to the toilet in the first place?

28. Free clothing left outside the LCBO at Fairview Mall:

29. Did this mean that regular gas was free?

30. For more pictures on the day, check my album on Facebook.

04 Oct

Meet the Candidates in Grantham

Takeaways from the Meet the Candidates night in Grantham Ward:

1. I could not possibly have been more disgusted with what I heard. For all the talk about change and fresh ideas, everyone at the table was parroting the same Liberal ideals as our hard-left mayor and the current council, one that has been far too obedient of said mayor. They also emphasized how they’re here to listen to and represent our views, yet they were much more interested in representing their extremist left-wing views to us. All in all, I felt like I had attended a Liberal Party nomination meeting instead of a city council candidate debate.

2. The common theme all night long was low-cost housing and safe injection sites as if they were the solutions to every one of the city’s problems. Never mind the fact that low-cost housing isn’t even a city responsibility. Or what the people think of those safe injection sites. Yes, finding needles in parks is a problem. But writing permission slips for druggies is not the answer.

2a. I refuse to use the euphemism “affordable housing.” It’s low-cost housing.

3. I found Alan Ziemianin’s arrogant dismissal of critics of safe injection sites particularly offensive. Excuuuuse me for having a different opinion.

4. Coming in, I was hopeful that Jeff Brooks, a teacher at a nearby Christian school, might have been candidate with whom I could park a vote. Until he opened his mouth and confirmed that he was another one who had been drinking too much of the Sendzik Kool-Aid.

5. Having not handled myself well in front of a camera in years past, I can excuse a newbie like Rob Gill for bumbling and stumbling through his opening address. But not so for Dawn Dodge, who lost her train of thought near the end of hers. She’s been in public office for too many years for that to happen.

6. Dear Bill Phillips: Mayor Sendzik sees you as a “voice of reason” only because you’re a fellow Liberal. Stop patting yourself on the back.

7. Phillips pompously boasted about a recent council resolution he supported requiring a housing developer to set aside 10% of the units for government-subsidized rentals. So while Niagara’s unemployment rate continues to outpace the national average, he and the rest of council are more concerned with social engineering. Priorities.

7a. Phillips is a walking argument in favor of term limits.

8. I nearly burst out laughing when the NDP/union hack Dennis Van Meer started going on about overspending on projects. And again when he talked about keeping life affordable for the people in St. Catharines. This from a man whose party has become synonymous with spending wildly beyond its means and taxing both the rich and poor out of house and home.

9. Matthew Bastead said he was 35 years old, but he looks closer to 15.

10. I don’t relish any of the candidates becoming my councilor and “None of the above,” if only it was available, would be by far the most preferable option, but for what it’s worth, I found Bastead and Mark Stevens to be the two least unattractive candidates. At least Stevens said he was “torn” over the safe injection sites. No doubt, the other candidates would have been throwing rotten tomatoes at him if he dared to suggest he was against them.