17 Feb

Observations Around Town

1. Walking down King Street, I blew off a bum who asked me for money in between puffs on his cigarette. He seemed quite peeved when I noted that he had money for smokes, but no money for food. I must have hurt his feelings. I guess I’m just not compassionate enough. Good thing I haven’t signed our mayor’s compassionate city charter.

2. Walking through the Farmer’s Market, one of the vendors offered me a free sample of some foul-smelling goop she was brewing in a stew pot. As they say in Texas, El Paso.

3. Far too many believe these are words to live by …

4. Walking past empty buildings like this, I can’t help but remark how much our mayor likes posing for selfies with new business owners, yet he’s nowhere to be seen when stores close down.

5. Maybe it’s just me, but this looks like a place I’d want to escape from, not escape to:

6. Some off-color scenery in the core area:

7. Needs a little body work …

8. Beer gas?

9. It’s only flat on the bottom …

10. This car wash on Welland Avenue had a longer line than at a Tim Hortons drive thru:

11. Computers with intellectual disabilities?

12. Free to a good home. Slight wear.

 

15 Feb

Touring Welland and Port Colborne

Pictures and observations from yesterday’s tour of Welland and Port Colborne:

1. Believe it or not, you actually have to pay to park in downtown Welland. No disrespect to Welland, but it’s not exactly a high-traffic tourist destination like the Falls or NOTL. Given its relatively out-of-the-way location, they ought to consider paying you to park there.

2. Looking over the list of names inscribed atop the entrance to the Welland courthouse, it struck me that there was a very distinct gender imbalance. No doubt, once they discover it, the Liberals will be out there at once to cover up such a blasphemous public display.

3. Even more political incorrectness on display in downtown Welland with this “Indian Head Massage.” What is this world coming to?

4. Dude on a scooter whose beard is as thick as his gut:

5. Chapters 641 and 642 of “You think they use enough salt in this part of the world?”

6. Other scenes in downtown Welland:

7. Given the surroundings, this bit of graffiti is rather redundant:

8. Call it a hunch, but I think this architect might get a little more scrutiny than the average Joe when he goes over the river:

9. A place for passing children to rest:

10. Sadly, too many did and continue to “vote for evil”:

11. Take advantage of their buy-back “progam”:

12. Goats welcome. Or maybe just one.

13. Icicles on the side of a house:

14. One house that has had at least one visit from the Welland Fire Department:

15. A proud client of Budget Windows and Blinds:

16. Faux fox on a porch:

17. One humble domicile in a particularly bad state of disrepair:

18. If for some reason you need to boil gas …

19. Just dispose of your unwanted bakery products on the street …

20. Scenes from Guerrilla Park:

21. Someone in this house on Netherby Road must be getting nagged a lot and loving it …

22. Just like Niagara Falls, Port Colborne also has a zipline now. Based on the list of rules, I’m guessing their clientele is not quite as upscale as the touristy crowd they draw at the Falls:

23. Other scenes around snowy Sugarloaf Harbor:

24. There was a posted sign indicating a $300 fine for parking in a handicapped spot, yet the fine can be as high as $5,000 if you dare to bring a skateboard to the pavilion. It should be the other way around if you ask me, but who am I to judge the powers that be in Port Colborne?

25. Another $5,000-worthy fine if you ask me …

26. The CSL Welland mired in ice …

27. Do they only catch tiny fish? Or just not very many fish?

28. As I’ve said before, people in this part of the world have no idea what real cold weather is all about. And aren’t they lucky. For the record, it was +4 when I was there.

29. If the church is messy, why don’t they clean it up?

30. Any guesses as to how long that chimney will stay up?

 

07 Feb

Random Thoughts – Patrick Brown, PCPO Leadership, One Naive Kid and More

1. It seems like months have passed since I first heard the shocking news that Patrick Brown was stepping down as the leader of the Ontario PC Party amid allegations of sexual misconduct, but in reality, it’s only been a couple of weeks. How time flies when you’re trying to digest the turbulent and ever-fluid world of politics.

Despite the horrible timing with an election just around the corner, I am relieved to see him gone. During his campaign, he attacked rival Christine Elliott for being a “red Tory,” then himself dragged the party off to the left of the political spectrum, effectively becoming Liberal-lite. He also boasted of how he would consult the membership before making any major policy announcements, specifically quoting the massive job civil service job cuts former leader Tim Hudak proposed during the last election. Then Brown went ahead and dropped a bombshell of his own by announcing he would implement a carbon tax.

That all said, I don’t like how he was removed from his post and, just like what happened with party president Rick Dykstra a week later, it smelled of a setup. As both men fight the allegations made against them, I will continue to presume their innocence until they are proven guilty.

2. Three candidates have emerged as leadership contenders, namely Doug Ford, Christine Elliott and Caroline Mulroney. This party member retains an open mind, but the more I hear about Mulroney, the less I like. In all probability, I will be supporting Ford or Elliott and at this point, I lean more toward to the former than the latter. Elliott would be a safe choice and one I could live with, but what sticks in my craw about her is how she abruptly resigned her seat and left the political arena after losing the 2015 leadership bid to Brown. Perhaps she had other personal reasons, but it had all the earmarkings of a spoiled brat who took his ball and went home after not being allowed to play quarterback. The masses in the caucus who supported her all stayed on and rallied behind Brown and she should have done likewise.

3. The fact that I will be voting in my second Ontario PC leadership election shows once again how much tenure I have acquired in my adopted home. It’s only been three and a half years, but in some respects, it feels like I’ve never lived anywhere else.

4. Despite what he told me personally at City Hall about wanting to get back into the private sector after a second term as mayor, I still get the very strong impression that if the PCs win the upcoming election, the next challenge they will face will come from a rebuilt Ontario Liberal Party led by Walter Sendzik. Just think, in his new position, he could spew his empty rhetoric to even larger audiences of gullible people who would lap up his promises to turn Ontario into a compassionate province like thirsty puppy dogs.

5. I could only shake my head after reading this article that came across my timeline this week in which Patrik Laine of the Mark Chipman Personal Hockey Club extols the virtues of Winnipeg.

As someone who hasn’t watched an NHL game in months, I don’t know much about him. I suppose I could look it up, but I don’t even know if he’s any good. But safe as to say the kid is naive in the extreme. Sure, he’s feeling the love because he’s a government-funded hockey player. And it’s not as though there aren’t many kind, caring people there. Some of them I still count as friends. But as someone who spent nearly five decades in the degenerate capital of the SPRM, the line about “everyone who lives there really cares about each other” couldn’t be farther from the truth.

If he had to live like a regular person, he’d sure be changing his tune in short order. Like after a few bus rides. Or a walk downtown. At any time of day. Listen and feel the hatred and vitriol in the air. And just wait until he gets mugged, stabbed and/or has his house broken into. Even hockey players aren’t exempt. Just ask former Fighting Moose Jason MacDonald, who packed up all his belongings in his car and drove all the way from Charlottetown only to become yet another victim of auto theft when he finally got to Winnipeg. Then he’ll learn just a few of the reasons why Manitoba leads the nation in losing people to interprovincial migration.

5a. I also laughed as Laine talked about his “sick” Wi-Fi. Mine was sick, too. That was because my ISP was the title sponsor of the building he plays half his games in. To borrow a line from a friend and former colleague, my service was up and down more often than a toilet seat. Just before leaving, there was a 20-day period in which my telephone and Internet service were down for 16 of them. Having a stable phone line and reliable Internet service are yet more reasons why I’m so pleased to no longer be living in that part of the world.

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?

 

17 Jan

Day Trip to Hamilton

Observations and pictures from my day trip to Hamilton yesterday:

1. Sitting across the aisle on the GO bus was the quintessential country bumpkin who looked like he really did just fall off a turnip truck. With a torn coat and toting all his worldly possessions inside two duffel bags, he was certainly well prepared for his journey. Inside a clear plastic pouch bound with an elastic band was a Niagara Falls Transit rider guide and almost as many HSR schedules as you’ll see at the MacNab Transit Terminal. He was particularly interested in the #41 Mohawk and #2 Barton routes. Later, he kept himself busy studying the fine print on the back of his Presto card and had the time to pour himself some coffee out of his thermos before we got to Stoney Creek.

2. Boarding at Fairview Mall was an obese woman with multicolored fingernails pushing a stroller who evidently still felt she needed to eat for two even though she had already long since given birth. Oddly, this would be the only stroller I would spot on the day, despite two subsequent trips on the Barton bus, a route that seemingly features a two-stroller minimum per trip.

3. Though he wasn’t driving unsafely, our driver took the “GO” logo emblazoned on his uniform a little too literally. Among the many semis he passed was one from Lockport, GSNY.

4. Inside the shelter at Nash and Barton was another heavyweight giving the seat one heck of a good stress test, but like a Timex watch, it took a licking but kept on ticking. Kudos to the engineers who designed it.

5. Spotted along the route downtown were signs stating “We fix eyeglass” and “Thousands of item, every day.” There was also a grocery store with an “Aunt Jemina” product on sale. Perhaps it was a knockoff of the more popular Aunt Jemima brand.

6. Also spotted along Barton was “Genuine Bakery.” Gotta watch out for those fake bakeries. Farther west, there was a caterer taking new orders for 2017.

7. At Gage Avenue, the HSR driver stopped and waited for a senior struggling with her cart a half block from the stop as well as someone across the street who wanted to catch the bus. Once again, this is not Winnipeg Transit.

8. Farther west, some dude boarded with cannabis leaf symbols all over his jacket. Who do you suppose he voted for in the most recent federal election?

9. Along the sidewalk was some spaced-out guy marching to the beat of his own drum. A drum that had a hole in it.

10. Just past Hamilton General was a city garbage truck with a big sign on the side stating “Put fruit stickers in the garbage.” Is it really that big of a deal there?

11. More pandering to the privileged, courtesy of CBC, the state propagandist. Your tax dollars at work.

12. The West Harbor GO station, one that those of us in Niagara will be seeing out the window from the proposed trains scheduled to service this part of the world.

13. I couldn’t resist this shot of the sign welcoming people to the North End. From walking around the area, it probably has the same negative connotation in Hamilton as it does in the Old Country, but here in St. Catharines, a North End address carries a premium.

14. Click here for my shots from Bayfront Park.

15. While in Bayfront Park, someone got out of her car ready to walk her two dogs. With the “extreme cold” outside, the dogs didn’t just have little booties on, but full knee-high socks. Oy.

16. I wonder if these guys with tents in the middle of the ice were aware that the forecasted high was -4 C, not much below the freezing mark. This isn’t the Old Country, where a January high above -20 feels like a heat wave.

17. On the way back downtown, I passed some teenagers jabbering away in what appeared to be some Middle Eastern language as they were smoking. Of what little English I heard, their favorite word was one that was four letters long and started with ‘F.’

18. Also en route, I passed by a couple of Tim Hortons locations that were absolutely packed. So much for that “No Timmies Tuesdays” the unionists, with the help of their friends in the left-wing fake news mainstream media, are trying to drum up support for, even in the heart of a big union town like Hamilton. Where, incidentally, Comrade Horwath’s riding happens to be.

19. Lunch was at the A & W a block away from Jackson Square, where they asked for everyone’s name upon ordering. The manager must have once worked at Radio Shack, where they were notorious for that annoying practice.

20. After ringing up my order for the chicken strip combo, the clerk asked “Do you want fries and a root beer?” Um, yeah, that’s what the combo means. Otherwise, I would have just ordered the chicken.

20a. Even with an abnormally high minimum wage, good help remains hard to find.

21. As I was eating, the guy behind the counter was quite amused that someone named Cam always came through the drive-thru around this time with the same order. Given how few people were actually in the restaurant, he might consider being a little more grateful to Cam rather than making fun of him.

22. The only two customers seated there besides me were a hobo and an older gentleman who sat like a stuffed dummy not moving a muscle as he stared blankly at passers-by on King Street.

23. Crossing King Street at Gore Park was a middle-aged guy who was flipping a water bottle in his hand as if he was trying out for Barnum & Bailey’s Circus. From the look on his face, I’m not sure if he or the bottle had a higher IQ.

24. Scenes in Gore Park:

25. Etiquette fail on the HSR bus I took back to the Nash and Barton GO stop:

26. This car parked at the Wholesale Club was presumably once a Grand Caravan, but is now a Grand Cara An:

27. On the return trip, there was as much food being consumed on the second level of the GO bus as there was in the food court at Jackson Square.

28. Leaving Fairview Mall on the way home was a guy perched in the median at Geneva Street with a sign, “Broke, will work, anything helps.” But despite being financially destitute, he had plenty of money to feed and care for the big dog he had with him. Priorities.

07 Jan

Random Thoughts – Basic Economics, Liberal Logic, Silence of the sub-Standard and More

1. As small business owners struggle to cope with the massive minimum wage hike and keep their heads above water, calls for a Tim Hortons boycott have become all the rage among those with no understanding of basic economics. Faced with a sudden 20% increase in labor costs, Tim Hortons franchise owners garnered headlines as they, like many other small businesses, were forced to cut back on benefits for those employees they could still afford to keep on the payroll. Yet there seems to be a prevailing belief that these small business owners are just sitting on big piles of cash and getting rich off the backs of their workers. Nothing could be farther from the truth, of course, but that doesn’t stop the unionists who can’t see beyond the tips of their noses from pointing the finger at the “greedy” employers. It’s at times like this that I wonder if our collective IQ is falling faster than NFL ratings.

1a. If you really believe that Tim Hortons franchise owners are the bad guys, I hope you are also prepared to boycott every small business as well as every municipality in the province, including the City of St. Catharines. As I heard from Councillor Mike Britton at a budget meeting, as a direct result of the minimum wage hike, the city will not be able to hire as many summer students this year as they normally would.

2. This might surprise you, but workers in Switzerland, a country without a minimum wage, on average, earn the highest wages in the world. Something to ponder.

3. This past week, my ultra-obnoxious MP called those of us who disagree with the crime minister’s desire to “reintegrate” returning ISIS fighters into Canada “white supremacists.” According to his twisted logic, racism is at the heart of a desire to protect ourselves against enemy soldiers who want to do us harm.

Meanwhile, as my MP made a fool of himself on a national stage, the silence of the Liberal-friendly sub-Standard was palpable. What should have been front-page news was instead completely ignored. No doubt they were too busy celebrating that their favorite whipping boy, regional councillor Andy Petrowski, would not be seeking re-election. And people like that wonder why they get called “fake news.”

4. Said Liberal-friendly sub-Standard did, however, have the time to promote A Better Niagara, a citizen group promoting left-wing ideals and encouraging their own kind to run for public office. Of course, this group swears they’re completely nonpartisan. Right. And I’m Sheena. Queen of the jungle.

5. When the next round of layoffs and/or closures inevitably comes, don’t expect much sympathy in this corner for displaced sub-Standard “journalists.”

6. Was it any wonder that when Mayor Sendzik asked for a show of hands at the Older Adults Forum, only two or three in the crowd of around 80 said they took the Standard?

7. It’s likely not too many people in this part of the world noticed, but the sports shop in Fairview Mall that opened on the first of December had gone out of business before the end of the month. A word of advice to would-be entrepreneurs – this might not be the best time to start a business trying to sell mainly NFL merchandise. There are a lot of us narrow-minded people, as Councillor Mat Siscoe called me, who want nothing more to do with that wretched league.

8. In the event your riding won’t have a true conservative candidate running for the Ontario PCs in the upcoming provincial election, as I fear will be the case here in St. Catharines, consider parking your vote with the Ontario Libertarian Party. Regrettably, they don’t stand much of a chance, but the lost votes might help pull the party back to the right. After all, there’s not much point in having a conservative party if they’re not conservative.

16 Dec

A Commemorative Trip to the Universe’s Center

Pictures and observations from yesterday’s voyage to and from the universe’s center:

0. The purpose of yesterday’s trip was to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the passing of Carli Ward, a dear friend and subject of my second book. As she loved trains, a train trip to Toronto seemed appropriate to mark the occasion.

1. Even before 7:00, the Starbucks on Scott Street was blasting Christmas music on their speakers. If I could hear it from the street, no doubt the people in the nearby apartment blocks could as well. But I’m sure the people outside on the patio appreciated it. A patio that must be wildly popular at this time of year.

2. Waiting at Fairview Mall was a woman wearing a pair of Smurf-blue sweatpants that one would wear around the house. Come as you are.

3. Spotted in the shelter at Fairview. I’d rather see these four-letter words than the ones I used to see with much more frequency in the Old Country. You know, the ones that start with the letter ‘F.’

4. Someone from a group of four with huge piles of luggage in tow asked me if this was there they could catch the bus to Brampton. I replied that the bus was going to Burlington, but she seemed satisfied. Brampton, Burlington, what’s the difference?

5. Boarding just ahead of me was a GO trainee who insisted on holding up the line to give the driver a sob story about showing up two hours late to work yesterday because he missed a bus connection. Something told me the grunt behind the wheel couldn’t have cared less. Save it for your future boss.

6. Some pee-wee hockey player who got on at Fairview stored his huge bag full of hockey equipment in the luggage area by the front door, yet he made the effort to haul his sticks up the narrow stairway to the upper level. I wondered if he was perhaps planning a little pickup game.

7. I could have gotten out and walked faster than the school bus taking the curve on the 406 on-ramp. Yet on so many other occasions, I’ve seen lead-footed school bus drivers go like crazy. There does not seem to be a happy medium with them.

8. Even at that early hour, the parking lot at the Tim Hortons in Vineland was nearly packed.

9. LGBT activists can breathe easier now that the rainbow-colored bench at the Beamsville stop is back.

10. Dear delivery truck driver at the Beamsville park and ride: The next time you need to tend to some vitally important texting, try pulling into one of the many empty spots in the lot instead of forcing the GO bus driver to struggle to maneuver around you.

11. Many thanks to the older woman who boarded at Stoney Creek and sat behind me for sharing her cold or flu bug. I’m sorry she was in bed sick with a high fever and had to miss work the previous day, but from her coughing, it sounded like she should have called in sick again.

12. This same woman was trying to console someone she was talking to on the phone who was apparently distressed over a sick loved one. “He’s going to get better, mark these words. I’ll say a prayer,” she said. “And the other cat too.” Sigh.

13. Thumbs down to the Halton Police for not clearing the accident scene at the off-ramp at Fairview Street. The pieces of cracked taillights and fenders that were strewn all over the road no doubt were the cause of some deflated tires.

14. Waiting at the Burlington GO station for the Lakeshore West train, the Brampton/Burlington travelers left their luggage inside the station completely unattended while they went outside to smoke. Priorities.

15. I had the pleasure of waiting on the platform alongside someone with a long and annoying xylophone ringtone on her phone. A phone that went off three times in less than five minutes.

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

17. Spotted on a parked rail car was the notice, “Hammering on the side will contaminate product.” If that isn’t an open invitation, I don’t know what is.

18. Past the Oakville station, I noticed a sign for “Beaver Rentals.” Just in case you need to rent a beaver.

19. Fittingly, at the Long Branch station, there was a long branch sticking out from a tree that scraped the car on its way by.

20. At Union Station, I made my way to the platform for my first ride in a streetcar.

Passengers enter the station at the same gates as they do for the subway, but instead follow the signs for the streetcar platform.

I took the #510 line, which runs in the middle of Spadina Avenue, with cars passing on either side.

21. Scenes along Queen Street. It wasn’t my primary destination on this day, but I would like to return and spend more time here in a future visit.

22. “Butter Avenue” would indeed be a fitting address for the rising number of heavyweights out there.

23. I doubt these sessions do much for the customers, but they certainly help the psychic reader’s financial problems.

24. Scenes in “Graffiti Alley” just behind Queen Street:

25. I stopped at this A & W for a meal break. Though I did wait for a human to serve me, there was a self-order kiosk available as well. As with other fast-food restaurants, those kiosks will become increasingly popular as a result of unreasonable minimum-wage legislation. As someone put it on Twitter this morning, “I hope someday supporters of minimum wage hikes get to meet some of the folks who’ve lost jobs as a result, so they can look them in the eye and say ‘sorry, it was for the greater good.’”

26. Seated across from me was an overweight woman with Smurf-blue nails who was delightfully savoring her sweet potato fries and burger. See previous comment on “Butter Avenue.”

27. There was a numbered keypad on the door to the washroom along with a sign stating that the code to open it is printed on the bottom of your receipt. But I didn’t get a receipt. Yes, I hate begging for the privilege of using a washroom.

28. Not just a fender-bender, but an engine-bender:

29. Given how Carli was also a big baseball and Blue Jays fan, I made a point of touring the area around the Rogers Center.

29a. I used to be such a rabid baseball fan that I would take the day off work to watch Opening Day. Yet the last time I watched a baseball game for any significant length of time was when I was sitting next to Carli in Grace Hospice one evening back in the summer of 2007 when the Blue Jays were hosting the Dodgers.

30. Funny, I was looking for the line for past event sales …

31. Outside Ripley’s Aquarium. Our photo club is going on an outing there today, but of the many things I would want to do in the universe’s center, visiting the aquarium is just not one of them.

32. I used to think the Falls was the selfie capital of the world until I stumbled upon this sign outside the CN Tower. I had to wait several minutes for the riff-raff to move on before getting this shot.

33. Scenes in the skywalk between the CN Tower and Union Station:

34. The “Union Holiday” display near the Great Hall. Of note is that the dog at right was one of three I spotted inside Union Station on my return trip. Not cool.

35. While waiting for my Lakeshore West train, someone passed by with a box of heart-shaped candies. It’s the Christmas season, not Valentine’s Day.

36. On the platform, someone was digging into a malodorous takeout dish from Thai Express that I could smell from across the tracks. To say the least, it was not exactly a ringing endorsement for the chain.

37. Two people in my car were carrying bags from Uncle Tetsu Japanese Cheesecake. Too many people live to eat rather than eat to live.

38. The woman across the aisle from me on the train had more cords in her bag than I’ve seen at the desks of some server and network techies I’ve worked with.

39. Leaving Union Station, I spotted an interesting billboard from the Government of Canada. Over top of a background of a picture of weed was the caption “Don’t Drive High.” Wouldn’t it just be simpler not to legalize the stuff?

40. I think I see some pavement under all that salt …

40a. I got some strange looks from the guy seated across from me when I took that shot. Perhaps only someone born and raised in this part of the world can fully understand the “need” for such excessive use of sodium chloride.

41. I spotted a car with SPRM plates in the Oakville GO parking lot. As I’ve said before, that place does continue to follow me around.

42. In defiance of the crippling wave of political correctness sweeping the globe, both GO and Oakville Transit buses had “Merry Christmas” flashing on their signs. Maybe there’s still some hope for us yet.

43. They spent five years working on the new Burlington GO station and it still needs work …

44. Seated across the aisle from me on the GO bus was a chatty older couple from St. Catharines. The guy was the classic back-seat driver who kept making comments as “let’s go,” “give him a push,” “easy now” and “OK, smoke ’em” all the way back to Fairview Mall. The woman also interjected her share of commentary, particularly lamenting how slow drivers react to green lights. As we got closer to home, they made a point of talking about their disappointment with the prices at Lakeshore Meats. Like me, they were on a day trip to Toronto as well, but they had gotten up at 4:00, much earlier than I did.

45. Kudos to the GO bus driver on my return trip who exercised great caution on the highway under increasingly worsening conditions.

09 Dec

My First Falcons Game

Pictures and a few observations from last night’s GOJHL game between the St. Catharines Falcons and the visiting Ancaster Avalanche at the ancient Jack Gatecliff Arena:

1. Despite the larger-than-normal “crowd” of 433 in attendance at the 3,500-seat arena, buoyed by the presence of a high-school-age team from Cleveland, I didn’t exactly have a long wait in line to buy a ticket. The elderly gentleman at the counter almost seemed surprised that I wanted one.

2. Upstairs, two more seniors acted as the greeting committee, one of whom stamped my hand and thanked me for coming. It was a pleasant change from an IceDogs game at the Meridian Center, where rude rent-a-cops rummage through your belongings and act like they’re doing you a favor by allowing you in the building.

3. This guy in a red jacket with a black “SECURITY” cap hanging out at ice level was all there was as far as security was concerned. The way it ought to be.

4. Though the GOJHL is hardly a guaranteed ticket to future stardom, there are a handful of players who have made it from the Falcons to the NHL, a fact they proudly display on this banner.

I was surprised to see former Fighting Moose Brandon Nolan’s name on the list. During my time as a fan, he was little more than a third- or fourth-line player whose career seemed to be going nowhere. In addition, St. Catharines native and former Falcon Daultan Leveille was a first-round draft choice of the Atlanta Thrashers back in 2008.

5. Shots around the sparsely populated concourse:

6. The $1 puck toss took place in the first intermission with the big prize being a chicken dinner from Swiss Chalet on Fourth Avenue. In addition, the lucky winner of the 50/50 draw took home $298.

7. Shots around the historic rink. For those who are unaware, not only was this once the home of the IceDogs, but it was where stars like Stan Mikita, Bobby Hull, Marcel Dionne and Pat Stapleton spent their formative years. During the early 1980s, the AHL’s St. Catharines Saints, then the Leafs’ farm team, also played at “the Jack.”

8. The smell from decades-old fermented sweat that permeates every corner of the stands stuck to my nostrils so badly that I was still smelling it when I woke up the following morning.

9. I think it was warmer outside than it was in the stands.

10. Given the rink’s age, I wasn’t all that surprised to see how hacked up the glass was. But at least the place was clean. I didn’t have to wipe down my own seat and despite covering much of the rink, I didn’t find any sticky spots on the floor. The SMG staff who “clean” the Meridian Center should come by and take some lessons from the city crews.

11. Line combinations or defensive pairings written on the glass at the visitors’ bench:

12. Just like the old Winnipeg Arena, a picture of the Queen hangs in one end:

13. Scenes during the warmup:

14. I got the distinct impression that this person is a regular. Call it a hunch.

15. The Falcons are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, something they proudly display at center ice:

16. Section F’s collection of bell ringers. Every low-level junior hockey team seems to have them.

17. Aside from the team from Cleveland seated in the far end, I was one of only a small handful who wasn’t drawing CPP and who didn’t know most everyone else there. Many of them are probably still wondering who that guy with a notepad and a camera was.

18. Before the game:

19. The siren sounded like a recording of a pig being slaughtered.

20. It was a nice touch for them to honor a longtime Falcons fan who had passed away earlier in the week with a moment of silence.

21. For the anthem, I had expected a tape-recorded version of O Canada to be played, but instead, the P.A. announcer opened up the door behind him and handed the mic to a woman seated there. She actually handled the task pretty well, much better, in fact, than the school choirs the IceDogs frequently use.

22. Unlike the case at IceDogs games, the P.A. announcer did not deem it necessary to introduce himself.

23. The opening faceoff:

24. First period action:

25. In contrast to games played at higher levels, they keep the games moving quickly in this league. No fussing around, no TV timeouts and no lengthy pregame ceremonies. Drop the puck and let’s go.

26. Shots of both benches:

27. When and if this kid ever gets married, he should seriously consider using his wife’s name.

28. Sound carries particularly well throughout the rink, especially with so few people in attendance. The officials, coaches and players really can hear fans when they scream and likewise, we could hear them and their frequent use of the F-bomb.

29. Apparently in this league, a boarding penalty carries an automatic 10-minute misconduct. For the most part, I think that’s a good idea.

30. Are they penalties or are they penal ties?

31. After the Falcons’ second-period goal, lights flashed near the bench:

32. During the second intermission, instead of having a lucky fan stand at center ice to try and shoot a puck through the empty spot in the board covering the net to win a prize, they had a player do it. Unfortunately, the player missed both shots, drawing a couple of boos for his efforts.

33. They sold beer at a pub? Who knew?

34. The Falcons’ “Main” man:

35. Largely dominated by their opponents, particularly so in the third, the Falcons were fortunate to get out of regulation with the score still tied at 1-1. In this league, rather than use the three-on-three overtime followed by a shootout, they play five minutes of four-on-four, followed by another five-minute period of three-on-three. Since neither team could break the deadlock, however, the game ended with a tie score, marking the first time I had been at a tie game since the (real) Jets’ final season at the Winnipeg Arena.

36. After the game:

03 Dec

A December Cross-Border Cycling Adventure

Pictures and observations from my 40th two-wheeled trip to the Great State of New York:

1. Holiday gifts “avaible” now:

1a. The same error was made on the other side as well. As they say, two wrongs don’t make a right.

2. Flashing on the overhead signs at the US Customs inspection plaza at the Rainbow Bridge were new reminders to take off hats and sunglasses, turn off cell phones and to have your documents ready. It all seems like common sense, but these days, common sense isn’t all that common.

3. The CBP officer who served me seemed a little taken aback when I presented my NEXUS card as opposed to a passport. I suppose I couldn’t blame him, since being a NEXUS cardholder on two wheels who doesn’t drive undoubtedly puts me among a very distinct minority.

4. Spotted at One Niagara Center was a souvenir Niagara Falls license plate with the name “Gavin” on it. I know at least one reader will appreciate that reference.

5. There was warmer air outside than what was coming out of the hand dryer in the washroom at One Niagara Center.

6. Progress on the new Hyatt going up near the bridge:

7. A sign spotted outside a Unitarian church on Main Street giving some sage advice for parents who spend more time on their phones than with their children:

8. A New York State legislator is referred to as an “assemblyman” and not an “assemblyperson”? Heavens to Murgatroyd, what is this world coming to?

9. Nothing quite screams “Niagara Falls, New York” like this scene:

10. An exciting opportunity awaits an enterprising entrepreneur who is looking to invest in the limitless potential of one of North America’s great tourist destinations:

11. Street art. Right across from the courthouse.

12. Seeing street signs like this that don’t give the indicator as to whether it is a street or an avenue reminds me of Transcona, now a suburb of Winnipeg but formerly a separate city, which for years, was littered with such signs. Perhaps only I care enough to remember that.

12a. In the background are more of those exciting opportunities for enterprising entrepreneurs.

13. The new Amtrak station in Niagara Falls:

14. One of many homeowners on Lewiston Road who dumped all his leaves and assorted yard waste into the middle of the street:

15. Scenes along Center Street in Lewiston:

16. Scenes in the Lewiston honorary international peace garden:

17. None of the three employees working at the Orange Cat had a nose ring. Don’t tell me they’re going all normal now.

18. I’m sure the Orange Cat’s muffins are fabulous, but the overweight woman who hobbled in and put an undue amount of stress on the rustic old chair she was sitting in really didn’t need any of them. But from how loudly she smacked her lips, even the people waiting in line out the door could attest to how thoroughly she enjoyed hers.

19. Seated across from the Muffin Lady was someone who began doing some odd neck contortions as she was working on her laptop. It reminded me of a former colleague who would inexplicably stand up during meetings and start making all sorts of weird gyrations. He was only part of our group for a short time, but he made a lasting impression.

19a. Among the certifications this former colleague made a point of bragging about holding was the MCSE designation. Though it officially stands for Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer, another former colleague termed it Must Call Someone with Experience.

20. Seemingly half of Western New York was on hand as Santa was airlifted in by helicopter in the middle of Academy Park.

21. Is there a part of Lewiston that is non-historic?

22. On my way back up the escarpment on Route 18, I spotted a New York license plate with the first three letters “DJT.” Make America Great Again!

23. While at the Duty Free store at the Lewiston Bridge, I got a couple of strange looks from Canada-bound motorists. Perhaps they were unaware that cyclists are indeed allowed on that bridge.

24. While crossing said bridge, the driver of a U.S.-bound Jeep with SPRM plates was madly waving at me as if he knew me. As I’ve said before, that place does keep following me around.

24a. I spotted a Bison Transport truck on the 405 and another on the Garden City Skyway on my return trip. Again, the SPRM keeps following me around.

24b. You do realize that it’s been more than 40 months since I defected from that place.

25. After breezing through the dedicated NEXUS lane (yes, cyclists can use it), I pulled up behind a car from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania at the toll gate ready to donate another 50 cents to the coffers of the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission. The attendant, however, stuck his head out of the booth, waved me through and declined the toll. Maybe it was part of a new promotion where every 40th trip is free. Shrug.

25 Nov

Black Friday in Hamilton

Pictures and observations from yesterday’s outing to Hamilton:

1. Given the extreme cold temperature of +2C when I left the house, I could certainly understand why the woman I passed by on Scott Street was wearing heavy, fur-lined boots that came halfway up to her knees. Even though there wasn’t a single flake of snow on the ground, you can never be too prepared. Same goes for the woman who got on the GO bus who had a woolen lining in her boots.

2. Did you lose this mitten?

3. Another cat owner who expects the general public to care more about his/her cat than he/she does:

4. Someone driving a van flagged down the GO bus on South Service Road as it was leaving the Beamsville stop and the driver actually stopped and waited as the passenger scurried around to the front door. Once again, this is not the Old Country, where stories of drivers taking off just as frantic passengers running after the bus reach the stop remain commonplace.

5. With a little time on his hands at Grimsby, the driver got off and hastily got in a few puffs of his cigarette before getting back on the road. Someone who is that desperate for a puff has a serious problem.

6. There are circus clowns who don’t apply as much lipstick as the teenager who boarded at Grimsby and got off with me at Nash and Barton. Sadly, it was a sight I would see twice more during the day. There should be something on the label stating that it’s not meant to be applied a tube at a time.

7. Said teenager, evidently annoyed that she was kept waiting for a few minutes for the Barton bus, kept checking the schedule posted on the pole. Experienced HSR riders know that the Barton bus comes often enough. You don’t need to check the schedule.

8. Evidently the GO bus driver is not alone in being desperate for a puff.

9. After boarding the Barton bus, three people came running after it as it was about to take off. And the driver waited. Once again, this is not the Old Country.

10. I couldn’t believe that the HSR buses had the very non-politically-correct “Merry Christmas” flashing on the display.

11. As expected, the trip on the Barton bus was again an experience to behold. It didn’t take long for the first stroller, followed right behind by another, and the number of walkers and carts that had come and gone on the way downtown must have reached double figures.

12. A hair stylist at Gage had the sign “Your welcome without an appointment” in the window. Apparently grammar wasn’t you’re best subject.

13. Back-A-Da-Bus-O-Phobia is a problem in Hamilton, but not nearly the way it is in the Old Country.

14. Only a veteran of Winnipeg Transit like me can still marvel as how the rear doors on HSR buses open automatically, even though it has been more than three years post-defection.

15. Plastered on the after-hours return slot at the library on Barton was “Library Book Return.” What else would the book return be for?

16. I’ve smelled worse, but the guy who sat next to me on the Barton bus needed a bath a few days ago.

17. After using the washroom at Jackson Square, I still appreciate how most people in this part of the world wash their hands after doing their business. On my return trip, there was even a lineup to use the sinks.

18. The #25 bus I took to Lime Ridge Mall was packed, as were others I spotted during the day. Though it wasn’t the reason for my trip, Black Friday evidently remains quite popular. Go figure.

19. I think only someone born in Southern Ontario can understand the logic behind dumping so much salt in a parking lot on a day when it never got below freezing and when there isn’t a single flake of snow on the ground.

20. Someone didn’t play his cards right.

21. The Bill Friday Lawfield Arena, named for the legendary referee who was most noted for his work in the WHA. I still remember the game when Friday pulled a mirror out of his back pocket to check to see that every strand of his slicked-back hair was in place. No doubt he had a lucrative endorsement deal from Brylcreem, which was all the rage at the time.

22. Finally, some people are starting to come to their senses.

23. Back at Hamilton’s largest mall, there was one place with a sign saying “50% off entire store” out front. But what if I don’t want the entire store?

24. Crowds were so thick that there was a half-hour wait to get into the Disney store, a similar wait to get into a jewelry store and the lineup at the Tim Hortons in the food court was 20-30 deep.

25. Spotted in the crowds was a woman with shamrock-green hair. It was Black Friday, not St. Patrick’s Day.

26. Walking north on Upper Wentworth, I spotted a woman madly shivering in the “cold” as she was waiting for an approaching bus. Tip of the day: Do up your jacket.

27. As I’ve heard it said recently, $15/hour is great. If you have a job. Which many minimum-wage earners won’t once this “fair” wage becomes law.

28. More political uncorrectness:

29. Shots of lower town while walking down the mountain at Arkledun Avenue:

30. Spotted on the way down was a Hamilton Cab with the slogan “Powered by diversity” plastered on the door. Can’t we even get in a cab these days without getting a left-wing political lecture?

31. This convenience store across from Gore Park isn’t quite so convenient anymore:

32. The tree going up in Gore Park:

33. Two guys sitting in Gore Park shooting the breeze:

34. Spotted in Jackson Square was a restaurant serving sausage and spinach soup. As they say in Texas, El Paso.

35. Also spotted in Jackson Square was a store claiming to have the right to inspect bags and empty pockets upon request. Good luck with that. But in any event, I have the right to take my business elsewhere. Which I did.

36. Take a load off your feet.

37. More salt.

38. The return trip on the Barton bus had the requisite two strollers and another large collection of walkers and carts.

39. A teenager got on at St. Matthews with a pierced tongue. Ewww.

40. A woman sitting across the aisle looked at me strangely as I was taking notes. Was it because I was taking notes or because I was using a notepad instead of a cell phone like 99% of the Western world would do?

41. I took note when a woman got on wearing a hoodie with “Prince Edward Island” emblazoned across the front. For those who are unaware, Charlottetown came in second in the relocation derby.

42. After getting to Nash and Barton, I was promptly approached by a creepy guy asking me if I had a quarter to spare. Which I didn’t. At least not for him. He claimed to be 75 cents short for bus fare, which made his supposed need for a quarter look even less credible, yet he had plenty of money for smokes and the cell phone he was jabbering away on while going through three of his cigarettes during the long wait for the GO bus. Fear not for 25-Cent Dude, however, as he bummed a dollar off of one of the cashiers inside the Wholesale Club grocery store.

43. Giving 25-Cent Dude some competition was an older guy standing on the sidewalk holding out a Tim Hortons cup with a pre-printed sign hanging around his neck approaching cars on their way out of the lot.

44. Seated in front of me on the GO bus was a woman so obese that she was taking up one and a half seats. Somehow I don’t think she paid a 50% premium on her fare.

45. The GO bus driver wasn’t wearing a name tag, but I could tell that his name was Leadfoot. Between Stoney Creek and Grimsby, he was in the third lane from the right passing semi-trailers.

46. 25-Cent Dude got off at Beamsville, where he unlocked his bike and proceeded west on the wrong side of South Service Road.

47. Dear crossing guard at Geneva Street: It was not necessary for you to blow that accursed whistle in my ear. Same goes for the crossing guard at Vine Street.

48. I know they do it for everyone, but do I look like someone so young that I need help crossing the street? I mean, I was in elementary school when the Jets were in the WHA.

49. The cyclist who passed me on Scott Street needs to lube his chain. It was that obvious.

50. Passing me on the sidewalk on Scott Street was someone in plaid pants wearing his house slippers whose head was completely shaven save for several randomly scattered clumps of hair.

51. As opposed to stale Ontario trees …