19 Jan

Adventure in the Universe’s Center

Highlights from yesterday’s bus/train trek to and from the Center of the Universe:

1. Bright and early before the crack of dawn, in wet and sloppy conditions, a southbound cyclist on Geneva Street made a left turn onto Scott Street against a red light. Later in the day, a northbound cyclist on Church Street in C.U. blew off a red light at Bloor without even slowing down, forcing a truck, making a left turn on a dedicated turning light that was green, to slam on the brakes. Rather than thanking the driver for sparing his life, the obnoxious cyclist instead cussed him out and spit in his direction. And cyclists like that wonder why motorists are so negatively predisposed to them.

2. When boarding the train at Burlington, I took a seat in the accessibility coach for the first time, the one where the largely unnecessary customer service ambassador speaks to passengers from. All the seats were designated as priority seating, the quads were much more spacious with grab bars for those in wheelchairs and there was an automated display, seen below, showing the next stop. Given the tenuous grasp of English our CSA had, those signs need to be in every car, just like they are on all the buses.

3. A particularly ornery woman sitting in the rear of the car who seemed to have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed was having a running conversation with the CSA in between stops. Among the things she told him, and us, was that when someone called her recently to ask how things were going, she answered, “Drop dead!” She also made sure to tell us how much she loves HGTV, a network that seemingly goes out of its way to feature irritating people like her.

4. In the next quad, a woman got up to use the bathroom, leaving her coat on the seat. When she got back, it was still there. This is Not the Old Country, Chapter 3,549.

5. Seated across the aisle was a 20-something punk with a Mr. Incredible duffel bag who spread himself out over two seats. Mr. Incredible had a bad case of acne in addition to blond streaks in his frizzy hair, jeans ripped at the knees and pink shoes. He also certainly looked to be playing with less than a full deck as he was tapping his thumbs together while listening to the tunes on his phone. Tunes that were being played at such a high volume that most of us in the car could hear them even though he was wearing ear buds.

6. Mr. Incredible wasn’t the only one in the car wearing heavy winter boots even though it was only -3 when I left the house and with a light dusting of snow on the ground. People in this part of the world just don’t know what a real winter is all about. And aren’t they lucky.

7. A couple of women in their mid-20s got on at Clarkson with LPM (likes per minute) factors that reached double digits. Like, every car and, like, every train, has to have, like, at least one. That should be in the GO Customer Charter, which is dutifully plastered on every train and bus. One of them was was named Carolyn (she even spelled it out for us), and said that one of her friends is, like, really super French.

8. Upon arrival at the York Concourse in Union Station, I noticed these pigeons among the commuter traffic. With the new food court now open, no doubt the pickings have substantially improved.

9. When going to catch the subway, there was a long line waiting to get in the station at one entrance, so, like an old pro, I went to the other one. Then, upon seeing lines of 15-20 deep at the Presto gates, I went around to the other set of gates, where there were no lines. If I, as a relative newcomer, know this, why don’t they?

10. Gay redeemers?

11. Hospitals are known for gouging in their parking lots, but this takes it to a whole new level:

12. No, I didn’t do this. But maybe someone I know did.

13. No doubt an all-Canadian enterprise …

14. Careful, it’s “icey”:

15. Just take all your worldly belongings with you:

16. At the Hudson Bay Center in Yorkville, there was a lineup waiting for the LCBO to open at 9:30. Methinks those are people with some alcohol-dependency issues.

17. As if I needed another reason not to patronize Starbucks:

18. Problems with management?

19. As most readers are well aware, I’m not a dog person, but this is hardly an appropriate name for a store:

20. This is the equivalent of advertising a kosher ham sandwich:

21. I visited the Allan Gardens Conservatory, where I spent some time looking around and getting a number of shots.

The cost was free (for Toronto taxpayers, it’s “no additional charge”) and, for reference, it was about three or four times bigger than the nice conservatory Winnipeg used to have. While going through, I couldn’t help but wonder why our photo club hasn’t gone there, or the much larger Toronto Botanical Garden, on an outing while they keep going back to the same places over and over again. But, as I’m finding out, it’s only a good idea if the club’s co-ordinator thinks of it. Suggestions from members like me are about as welcome as a fox in a hen house.

22. While at Allan Gardens, I nearly laughed out loud while listening to one of the many children in attendance regaling his buddies about his knowledge of the life expectancy of fish and how to tell the age of a turtle. That kid has a budding future with the U.S. Postal Service as a know-it-all mailman who spends his leisure time in a bar alongside his portly buddy Norm. I know at least one reader will recognize the similarity to a former colleague.

23. Needing a bit of a break, I made a point of stopping at the Loblaws at Maple Leaf Gardens, site of the Jets’ only two road victories during their dreadful nine-win 1980-81 season.

After learning that they consider tea a “home meal replacement,” I paid attention to the Nutella bar.

For $4, you too can get a slice of “pizza,” which constitutes a piece of flatbread covered with Nutella, along with strawberries, icing and icing sugar. Though the strawberries do indeed provide some nutritional value, for the rest, you’d be better off going into the store and picking up a bag of sugar instead. Also available were crepes, waffles and croissants featuring diabetes-inducing levels of the high-sugar spread.

24. Also while there, a very trusting fellow dumped his bags next to me before getting in line.

25. On Yonge Street, I was following three women who turned into a dingy restaurant featuring Middle Eastern cuisine. As I said to myself, “You’ll be sorry.”

26. One of the many street urchins in the universe’s center:

27. One-stop shopping for all your “souveniers”:

28. On Church Street, someone was madly banging on a parking meter after it swallowed one of his loonies. While watching him, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the scene in Slap Shot when the Hansons were working over a drink machine while yelling “(expletive) machine took my quarter!”

29. If your car isn’t dirty, why would you be taking it to get washed?

30. While in the washroom at St. Lawrence Market, a couple of children walked in and one of them, as he approached the urinal, dropped his pants and asked his buddy, “Kiddie, do you want to meet a new friend?” To borrow a line from a long-lost friend, no visuals please.

31. Store-made beef “jerkey”:

32. Rodent-endorsed gourmet cheese:

33. I don’t care what they’ll be selling in the future, I want to know what they’re selling today.

34. For all your “ingraving” needs:

35. Is the place that bad that they have to apologize for being open?

36. This must be CBC’s headquarters:

37. Outside the NHL Hall of Political Correctness store was this jersey bearing the name of the reviled NHL commissioner, a jersey modeled in the style of a team which used it when playing in a rival league some factions in the NHL still hold a grudge against 40 years after its demise. Maybe it makes sense to somebody.

38. Spotted outside Union Station was a sign, “Message to Doug Ford: Hands off our $15 minimum wage.” Message to poster: Do the math. Doug Ford’s plan of a low-income tax cut will put more money in your pocket than the Liberal/NDP plan of raising the minimum wage, then clawing almost all of your “raise” back in taxes, not to mention putting a number of your low-income-earning friends out of work.

39. At Union Station, two people from GO were seated at a table offering to help Presto users set up the Autoload feature. While I’m sure it’s not as buggy as the Peggo system used in the Old Country, I have no desire to get my card maxed out when a software upgrade gets put in, as what happened to some in my former home city. I’ll take care of loading my card myself, thank you very much.

40. Union Station was abnormally crowded on my return trip and seats were hard to come by, even in the spacious food court.

41. Across the aisle from me on the Lakeshore West train was another one whose LPM factor was high and whose smelly McWrap was permeating all corners of the car. As we advanced westward, I learned that Smelly McWrap was a student in Toronto, owns a MacBook, has multiple dogs and got her black scarf for only $6 at a place in Milton that had them on sale for 60% off the clearance price. She was also jealous that her girlfriend went to Mexico with her husband recently, suggesting she should have taken her instead.

The McWrap, incidentally, was one she could have lived without, and if she continues at her current pace, she will likely have trouble fitting into her seat on the train by the time she reaches 50. If she even lives that long.

42. On this trip, we had not one, but two customer service ambassadors. Though it was two more than necessary, at least they both had a much better command of the English language than the guy I had on the way in. Unfortunately, they both needed to learn that “Final call for the doors please stand clear of the doors the doors are now closing” should be three sentences instead of one.

43. After the Oakville stop, we were met by a fare inspector, who went down the aisle checking Presto cards and receipts. Unlike the case in the Old Country, most people in this part of the world pay, but there was a couple at the opposite end of the car who didn’t and got caught. As someone who does pay, I smiled as I watched the inspector spend the next 15 minutes checking their ID and writing them each a citation.

44. When making the loop heading for the Nash and Barton stop, the bus drove over a plastic water bottle half-filled with a yellowish liquid that probably wasn’t apple juice.

45. At the Nash and Barton stop, someone got on with a black cap from Cannabis on Cannon. Now which party do you suppose he voted for in the last federal election?

46. Also boarding at Nash and Barton was a guy with a Native Pride hat who took a seat across the aisle from me. All the way to St. Catharines, he kept getting alerts of “New messages received from Dana” on his phone, and though they seemed to annoy him, he didn’t think to put his phone on silent mode. The same guy, incidentally, couldn’t get off the bus fast enough at Fairview Mall, all so he could dig out a cigarette and light up.

47. Spotted on the highway was a truck from Trans-Ontario Express. No doubt they offer nationwide service.

47a. Readers originally from Southern Ontario won’t get that one.

48. Facing the QEW in Grimsby is a place called Lake Foundry, which has a logo showing all of the Great Lakes. So shouldn’t it be Lakes Foundry instead?

49. At Beamsville, two gas stations near the highway posted prices of 94.9, while a newer Shell station farther to the south had a price of 95.9. Why would one drive farther to pay more?

10 Jan

Random Thoughts – Football for a Buck, GO Train, Overdue Cards and More

1. I finally got around to reading Jeff Pearlman’s most recent book, Football for a Buck, the inside story of the rise and fall of the USFL, a topic near and dear to my heart. He did a wonderful job, he’s got a real way with words and I couldn’t put it down once I got into it. To say the least, I highly recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in sports history. I was particularly fascinated by his tales of the woeful San Antonio Gunslingers, and though he questioned whether or not there would be a market for a more in-depth postmortem on the league’s wackiest franchise, it’s certainly something I would be interested in.

There were a few things about it that bothered me, however. For starters, it was not necessary to belittle former commissioner Chet Simmons. Maybe he did look like he escaped the innards of a vending machine. But he was a good man, a good commissioner, and though football may not have been his first love, he cared about the league and its future. Save the cheap shot for someone who deserved it. It was also not necessary to belittle Doug Flutie. No, he didn’t blossom into a superstar, but he was hardly a scrub and went on to enjoy a distinguished career long after Donald Trump wildly overpaid for his services. Finally, his fanatical anti-Trump bias came through loud and clear. It is absolutely proper to pin the majority of the blame on the league’s demise on Trump, but it is incorrect to paint Trump as some trust-fund millionaire who never earned a dime of his own money. That’s a description better suited to our current prime minister. Then he suggested Trump wants a total ban on immigration (a topic which has no relevance to the book), which is completely false. One more time, saying it very slowly so that Democrats can follow along, Don-ald Trump is for imm-i-gra-tion. Legal immigration, with emphasis on the former.

1a. I loved the part when he was talking about the top-quality coaches the league was hiring, saying they weren’t going after Biff, the part-time truck repairman who played a little college ball back in the day. Yet I think Biff would have been an improvement over former Bomber coach Ray Jauch who worked the sideline of the Washington Federals for a season and a game. And yes, I still remember the big uproar in Winnipeg when Jauch announced he was leaving for the USFL.

1b. I will freely admit waiting until the book came out in the library before reading it. Of course, I encourage support for fellow authors, but I adamantly refuse to pay $26 for an e-book, and I don’t care what the subject material is or how many Pulitzers the writer won. That’s just gouging. If I’m going to fork over that kind of coin, I want to get a big, thick paper copy.

1c. Yours truly’s book on the Generals is in the bibliography, but he had me listed as being from San Bernardino, CA. For the record, I have never set foot in the state of California and though I’ll never say never, I don’t suspect I ever will.

2. Much ado was made in these parts over the debut of daily GO train service from Niagara Falls and St. Catharines to Toronto. But what’s the point when you can’t get to the station with public transit? It’s a not-so-minor detail local politicians seem to be forgetting. Or choosing to forget.

2a. Even if St. Catharines Transit did serve the station at that early hour, you still can’t pay with Presto. If you want to play with the big boys, start acting like it.

3. I must be an awfully special member of the Conservative Party in order to get not one, but three Christmas cards from our local candidate. Then again, maybe I’m not so special after all, since the cards came two weeks after Christmas.

4. This week, Walter Sendzik, our radical far-left mayor, proposed putting up a $4-million suicide-prevention barrier on the Geronimo Bridge, more commonly known as the Burgoyne Bridge. Given how many other bridges there are for a troubled soul to do the dirty deed, including one just a few hundred yards away, it’s a ridiculous and expensive band-aid “solution” that simply allows politicians like Sendzik to pat themselves on the back and boast about how compassionate™ they are while doing nothing to address the root causes of mental health issues, which is where the money would be much better spent. But who am I to question His Highness, who dismisses those who disagree with him as “ignorant.”

4a. For someone who preaches tolerance, Sendzik is becoming one of the city’s most intolerant people.

5. I keep hearing how many lives those safe-injection sites are saving, but just think how many more lives would be saved if the same resources were devoted to getting drug addicts off the stuff instead of writing them permission slips.

6. Tonight, for $30 you too can enjoy the privilege of listening to Grant LaFleche, political propagandist, Liberal whore and master manipulator of public opinion, co-hosting a seminar on truth in journalism. It will no doubt be followed by a lecture on human rights from Kim Jong-un.

04 Jan

An Adventure in Welland

Highlights from today’s bus-bike adventure to and from Welland:

1. Demolition work proceeding on the former Sears store at the Pen Center:

2. Passing a pair of joggers going up the escarpment on Glenridge, I instantly knew I wasn’t in Winnipeg because they were on the sidewalk and not on the road.

3. Two thumbs down to Virtue Signaling University, known to most as Brock, for flying the abhorrent UN flag near their main entrance.

4. At Turner’s Corners, the yellow light didn’t just mean “go faster” to the bus driver I had, it meant “go a lot faster.” Hopefully next time, he’ll learn from the experience and not approach a traffic light at such a high speed in order to allow himself the ability to stop safely before the intersection.

5. The new Niagara College stop on regional transit is certainly popular, but not so much for the others. This morning, I was the only one left on the bus after all the students got off.

6. Off-color scenes in Welland:

7. The level of misery and despair in much of Welland is hard to put into words or even capture digitally with a camera. You have to see it with your own eyes to appreciate it. Yet despite such glum economic prospects, they keep voting for the same socialist parties that put them in that ditch. As they say, when you’re in a hole, stop digging.

8. Somewhat related, I spotted a number of these signs throughout the Rose City. After raiding the pockets of their members to campaign for political parties hostile to job-creating businesses, Unifor suddenly feigns concern for the soon-to-be-unemployed people it helped put out of work.

9. All that’s missing in this shot is a yellow sticker that reads, “WIDE LOAD.” And no, she didn’t need the goodies she ordered from Tim Hortons.

10. Customers who left their mark on the window display:

11. While at the Tim Hortons, another cyclist came in, left his bike in the vestibule, went up to a table, pulled a can of Minute Maid orange juice out of his pocket, then grabbed a napkin from the counter before taking a seat in one of the comfy chairs by the television. Um, they like you to actually buy something for the privilege of using their facilities.

11a. Not only did he not lock up his bike, but he didn’t even employ Niagara Bike Security (turning it upside down). For sure, I knew I wasn’t in Winnipeg.

12. In both of my visits to the Welland Transit Terminal, I got quite the stare-down from onlookers, no doubt wondering who this stranger was in their midst. After all, everyone seems to know each other there and I’m not sure anyone is really outside the family.

13. The Express Donuts across the street really seems to be a hangout for the, shall we say, fringe elements of the community. I’m not sure I’d be brave enough to walk in, but I could probably get enough material for an entire book there.

14. Maybe this was juice in the sink. Or maybe it wasn’t.

15. While waiting for the St. Catharines-bound regional transit bus, a wide-bodied scruffy old guy with a long, straggly beard and a big, booming voice walked up to the counter and told the clerk how much he liked a woman bus driver named Angela. He said he thought she was really pretty, but real reason he liked her became clear when he mentioned she had given him a $20 bill once, then a $10 bill on another occasion. People with money do tend to be attractive to bums like him, regardless of looks. Then he told the clerk about the three Christmas presents he got: a 60 oz. of vodka from his neighbor, $20 from his sister and $10 from someone else. Before leaving, he asked the clerk to say hi to Christina for him. As I said, everyone seems to know each other there.

16. Also while waiting, another guy went up to the clerk and asked what the route number was. Apparently she was just supposed to know what bus he wanted.

17. At the Pen Center, a couple who were among those who think buses are mobile tourist information booths flagged down the bus and tied us up for several minutes as they asked the driver to do what they should have done online before leaving the house. Yes, that is one of my pet peeves.