Thursday, 31 May 2012

Street People

Toronto, being a large city, has its fair share of street people and I encounter one or more of them almost daily,

I live at the corner of Charles and Bay streets which is one block west of Yonge and south of Bloor, Yonge at Bloor is, in all probability, the best known street intersection in this city.

The day before yesterday was hot and muggy. I needed to go to the bank branch which handles my account and the branch is up on the corner with Bloor. Half way up the street is one of Canada's iconic coffee/donut shops - Tim Horton's. The sidewalk along Bay is wide and well used. Across the sidewalk from the doorway leading into the coffee shop are a couple of newspaper boxes as well as some bicycle 'parking' locations. As I drew near to there I noticed somebody sitting on the sidewalk just past the news box with a cup sitting in front of her. It was my 'friend' Teresa.

I enjoy meeting her as she seems to be so full of life with a great sense of humor.Yes - she has her problems as well (bi-polar and possibly some substance addiction).  While  we were chatting three different people exited the coffee shop and stepped over to Teresa giving her a coffee, a donut and a bagel. She seems to be well liked.

Bloor Street West is a thoroughfare of shops and, in a sense, is Canada's 'Rodeo Drive'. The north side of Bloor Street (I live south of there) is the southern end of trendy Yorkville. This is an area where the wealthy rub shoulders with the indigent - the shops are high end but the poor and needy are there as well.

Teresa seems to know most of the panhandlers found in the downtown core. I know a lot of the same people but by sight only and my opinion of each one is arrived at by seeing them and not necessarily through interaction. However, she can identify each one by name and, usually, I can recognize of whom she is speaking.

One of these people is a younger man who used to be found standing at the northwest corner of Bay and Bloor with a can in his hand which he shook while singing "If you're happy and you know it, spare some change" to the tune of the old Gospel Hall song. This fellow's demon is beer - he just cannot leave it alone. I like chatting with him (and I passed along to him an old blanket knowing that somebody on the street would be able to use it). I like him - but Teresa does not.

On the other hand, there are a couple of unkempt black men who stand either near the bus stop out front of here or in front of St Basil's Church a block further down Bay Street. Neither of these two men ever says anything but merely holds out a hand palm up hoping that passers by (or congregants coming and going from Mass) will drop a coin or two.

There is a charity that prints a small newspaper called "Outreach". People who are 'down on their luck' pay 50 cents a paper for each and then ask passersby for $1.00. Occasionally I will hand over a dollar but decline a newspaper saying instead, "Sell it to somebody else".

The Reference Library is on Yonge a block north of Bloor and that is where I expect to see one or two 'regulars' who are vendors of Outreach. One of them looks as if he were yet a boy but I believe that he is just 'simple minded'. I love the way he smiles when I give him a dollar.

Two blocks east of here is Church Street and the 'Gay Village'. There is a man who is often standing out side one of the grocery stores on Church. I often stop for a chat and, if I have it to spare, I will give him a coin or two. If I am short of funds myself I will tell him so and he quietly replies, "That's OK, Sir!" Sometimes we stand and chat and he has told me that he is returning to night school in order to re-attain his license to drive big trucks. Whether he will be able to beat his demons - whatever they are - remains to be seen but I wish him well.

As well as those who panhandle along the streets, there are others whom I notice and wonder about.

Diagonally across Bay Street from here is the Manulife Building which is one of Toronto's larger rental places. In the basement of the building is a shopping mall. Beside the entrance that is the closest to here is one of Toronto's leading audio/visual stores. They leave some of their display TVs running nonstop and, in the mall in front of the store, are comfortable leather lounge chairs.

Shortly after I moved to this address I noticed a woman who, I thought, was late middle-aged. She always wore nice clothes that were clean and neat. After a while, if I was over there of an evening, I noticed her sitting in one of those chairs watching TV through the store window. While not as often as I used to, I still see her - only she has aged quite a bit and her clothes are not as neat as they once were. Also, she has trouble walking. There are public washrooms in that mall but they are quite a way from those lounge chairs. More than once I have seen this woman shuffling ever so slowly in the direction of food outlets and the washroom. We have never spoken to each other but I can't help but to wonder who she is and what is her story.

There are others too - like 'Old George' who is afflicted by the condition that makes it impossible - or so it seems - for him to lift his head in order to looks straight ahead. I met him at a kiosk where we both shopped some time ago so I always greet him by name.

I know some people dismiss the poor and outcast as lazy and slovenly - but, isn't this adage truer  "There but for the Grace of God go I?"

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Backus Woods Hike

For the first time since I began this project, I am dedicating this blog to one person - my good friend, Gloria, who was raised in Simcoe, Ontario which is the closest town to Backus Woods. Gloria is another blogger and her topic is recipes from her and her mother's recipe books.

While this hike was led by Jack Candido, this was NOT along the Bruce Trail nor any of the subsidiary trails - the Backus Woods are found many miles to the west of the escarpment. The route for this hike was chosen because it was through the woods and it took us to a place of historic significance.

As we usually did on out-of-town hikes, we met at the 'Kiss-N-Ride' pickup spot at the west end Kipling Subway Station - and there were sufficient cars to take everybody to the 'trail head'. There were four of us in our car - a younger man driving and we three older men. One of the men was a right royal 'pain-in-the-butt' from beginning to end - very opinionated as well as demanding. Before we left Kipling, Jack gave the drivers an expected time for arrival at the trail head and, as we were later in leaving than originally planned, the timing was tight.  Still the 'demanding one' absolutely insisted that we stop along the way at a Tim Horton's outlet so he could get a coffee and a munchy. The driver and I were NOT amused - so he (Ari) drove over the speed limit until stopped by an OPP (Ontario Provincial Police) Officer and given a ticket.

As it so happened, we were not the last vehicle to arrive at the rendezvous but the final vehicles were not far behind.

                                           The parking lot which we used as our 'trail head'    

Along the route to our destination there were blue arrows attached to occasional trees pointing to the route - the entire area is a 'rabbit warren' of trails going in all directions. However, we were following a creek for most of the route and, as long as it was to our left, we were on the correct path. 

                                                             Derrich Creek

Eventually we came out of the forest into a clearing where there was a picnic shelter as well as a monument commemorating the wild turkeys. Those birds thrived in Southern Ontario but had been hunted to extinction. Fortunately, flocks still survived in Pennsylvania so some of those birds were re-introduced to Ontario and are found in those woods near the Backus Mill Historical Site. We stopped for lunch there and, while we were eating, a group of young adults appeared - they were students from McMaster University in Hamilton who were there to check up on the wild turkeys.

                                                          Wild Turkey Monument

                                                           Wild Turkey Restoration

In order to clearly read the above - and all 'Historic Signs' in these blogs - just click on the image and an enlarged version will appear in a separate window. Indeed, readers can view enlargements of all photos by the same procedure.

          Lunch Break - the roof of the picnic shelter is just visible in the upper right.

                                                 Nearby were some wild grapes.

As most of the student group were young women I had to be discreet in finding a place in which to relieve myself. When I returned to the group most of them laughed  - my trousers from the knees down were covered by burrs called 'hitchhikers' . I tried to remove them all myself but the majority just fell off of my pants. Still - while amusing - it was embarrassing!

After we finished eating we continued on our way to the historical site (already we were more than half way there)

In 1797 an immigrant from Yorkshire named John Backhouse migrated to Upper Canada and took a land grant between the village of Simcoe and Lake Erie. Upon this land - a 'homestead' - he cleared some acres in order to plant crops, built a house and a grist mill. 

                                                  The Backhouse (Backus) Homestead

                                        The grist mill - now a heritage building.

         Click on this photo and an enlarged version will appear in a separate window.

                                                           The Mill Pond

After looking around the historical site for a half hour or so it was time to return to the parked cars and drive into Simcoe in order to honor our reservation at the wonderful Blue Elephant Restaurant in a beautiful old mansion in the town.

All we had to do was to follow Derrich Creek.

    Unfortunately, the troublesome pair headed off on their own and became completely lost. While most of our group were able to keep the reservation, we passengers from Jack Candido's car and the car which I rode in had to remain behind to search for them. An hour and a half later they were finally spotted out on the County Road more than half a mile from the parking lot!

However, we were still in time to partake of that lovely dinner and then to have a quick and safe ride back into town. 


Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Golden Gate Park

Many North American cities have at least one large urban park - so does San Francisco. This is Golden Gate Park. which is to be found northwest of Twin Peaks. In it are ponds (and a lake), walking trails and roadways. Actually, one of the busy crosstown bus routes traverses the park from south to north along the 'urban stretch' of U.S. Highway 101.

My first visit to the park was on foot from Haight Street - a number of blocks west of the famous Haight/Ashbury corner. The arterial streets which traverse the park could be classed as 'mini freeways' so there are very few pedestrian crossings along them. Instead, park roads and hiking trails pass under them via tunnels.

There is one of those tunnels close to the park entrance at the top of Haight and I was surprised and amused to find a handful of hippies lounging there while 'toking up' - a holdover from a bygone era.

                The outdoor theater which is situated near the east - Haight - side of the park.

                                                 Nearby is a Japanese Tea Garden

The Botanical Gardens and a Rose Garden (with more than 50 varieties of roses) are also found in that area of the park. While there I took many photos but will post only a few of them here.

                                          I love this photo of two nasturtiums in full bloom.

I am leaving it to others - better versed than I in the names of flowers - to identify the above three photos of blossoms.

These are but three of the rose photos in my album.

At various places in that park one finds statuary. This piece is called "Pioneer Woman with Children".

At the western edge of the Park (across the road from the Great Ocean Beach) is a tribute to the Dutch Royal family and, especially, Queen Wilhelmina. 

                                               Queen Wilhelmina Formal Gardens 

                                                        An authentic Dutch windmill

In the park are ponds as well as the larger Stowe Lake.

                                                            One of the ponds

                                                                    Stowe Lake

On the shore of Stowe Lake is a Chinese Pagoda

                                  Near the Pagoda is an artificial (i.e man made) waterfall.

In the middle of Stowe Lake is an island which is connected to the rest of the park by this stone bridge.

This is but another way to idle for a couple of hours while in San Francisco!

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Berkeley and Stanford Universities

Just before Ric and I met each other I was introduced to another Californian - Patrick Russell - who was retiring from the Antiquities Section of the University of California Berkeley library. Therefore, while on my first visit to see Ric I visited Patrick as well.

He lives in Berkeley near the Rockridge Station on the BART line which goes out to beyond Concord.  I called at his condominium and, after getting to know each other a little better, he took me to his former work place.

The location of the University of California, Berkelely can be seen from most parts of the San Francisco Bay area because of the carillon tower which dominates the landscape.

                                   The University of California Berkeley Carillon Tower

The university is situated on the lower slopes of the Oakland Hills so the terrain is very much 'up and down' and it is landscaped beautifully. Lushly green lawns and a number of groves of trees. Actually, both the planetarium and the Botanical  Gardens are high up in the hills and are reached by a campus bus that climbs up a mountainous road. The view from up there is spectacular!

                        No - the Botanical Gardens are not all that lush - but the view is great.

Back to Patrick - he took me into the library and to the vaults where antique texts and scrolls are kept and then he took me down to a workroom in the basement. In there some young women were working on papyrus scrolls. I was awestruck - especially at the desk of one of the young women who had just unrolled a scroll. Being impressed I asked her - she could read the Egyptian hieroglyphics - if the uncovered text was important? Her response deflated me: "No, this is a shopping list reading  'So much grain for so many shekels'." Papyrus was expensive so each sheet was used over and over with the first messages being important and each succeeding message less so. Still, to see those scrolls was very impressive.

There are a number of streets in Berkeley that go up to the university and - I would say - the best known of those is Telegraph. For a number of blocks down from the university that street is lined with shops. Two of them are the best video stores that I have encountered and I have been able to add to my DVD collection by shopping there. Also, there are a number of book stores and more eateries than I can count.

The passersby are interesting as well. Near the university end of Telegraph I usually see a handful of hippies grouped together. I thought that these folk had largely disappeared since the 1970s but that is not the case. While there are not all that many, one does encounter them.

I was amused on a visit the day after Christmas in 2008. There was a small group of 'hippies' sitting in a circle on the sidewalk and they were playing a game of Monopoly on a shiny new board. The game which is the epitome of capitalism  being played by a group of dissidents!

As I mentioned above, the lawns at U.C.Berkelely are lush and there are groves of trees. Also, Strawberry Creek trickles across the campus.

                                                             Strawberry  Creek

 After moving to Oakland, Ric - along with his buddy Lawson Barnes - transferred to Grace North Church in Berkeley which is situated at the corner of Cedar and Walnut Streets within walking distance of the campus. Thus I am able to visit there on every trip I make to see him.

As each visit is for a few days to up to three weeks I am constantly looking for different places to visit. On one of those trips I decided to visit the other famous Bay Area university - Stanford. There is a train - Cal train - that travels every half hour from San Francisco to San Jose and back. One of the stations is Palo Alto  from which there is a courtesy bus to the university.

Unlike U. C. Berkeley, the terrain where Stanford is located is relatively flat therefore the campus is not as scenic - but it is lovely none-the-less.

The campus is dominated by a tower as well.

                                                              The Hoover Tower

                                                  The Hoover Tower and a fountain                                                     

                                                        The Cecil H. Green Library

There are two interesting sculptures on that campus.

The first one is 'The Burghers of Calais" which depicts some victims of the interminable 'religious wars' in Europe during the Middle Ages.

                               This one really grabbed me - George Segal's  "Gay Liberation"

The founder of Stanford was a religious man  so he had a large worship center erected.

                                                         The Memorial Church

The interior of the Memorial Church (it is huge!)

This is in California, the climate is warm, so there is more than one fountain.

                                                     The White Memorial Fountain

I attended the University of British Columbia, I live three  or four blocks from the University of Toronto. I have visited the University of Missouri and now I have seen both U.C. Berkelely and Stanford! How lucky can one get?

Friday, 18 May 2012

Maple Ridge, Mission and Yarrow, B.C.

At the end of June, 2005 - my college friend (Terry Shaw) retired from his teaching career so his family and friends planned a surprise party in his honor. I and Ric were invited to the event and, also, to stay with another long time friend, Art Pearson, and his partner Bruce Jones in their lovely home in Maple Ridge, B.C. As we usually did, each of us flew independently to Vancouver timing our respective flights so that we both arrived at about the same time.

The flights were timed so that we could spend a few days with Art and Bruce. These gentlemen have fantastic 'green thumbs' and their property of a few acres is really beautiful. Also their home is unusual in that it is a 'pan abode' which means that it arrived from the manufacturer in parts and had to be reassembled on the property.

                                                      A beautiful fuchsia

The following is a tour of their acreage.
                                                  Ric and Art relaxing on the patio

                                            That yard and garden is a little bit of Eden


                                             One of the pathways


                                                              Pool and fountain

                                                               Formal Garden

          A food fight! The bird is a Stellar jay and that is a grey squirrel in the background. They are vying with each other for a morsel of food.

During a winter since our visit there was a major snowfall and Art sent me a photo of the blanketed yard.

On the day before we attended Terry's surprise party Art took us for a drive, The area where Art and Bruce live is known as Webster's Corners and it lies northeast of the town of Haney near the midway point between there and Mission. Art drove a big circle route through that area during which I saw a couple of places where my family lived, the school which I attended for Grade 1, the Ruskin Dam and the overgrown driveway which would have led to where my grandparents home once stood. My favorite route when I drove through that area was via Steelhead on the back road to Mission and that was the route that Art took. Upon arriving in Mission we went to the Abbey (see "Monasteries").
                                                 The Abbey Church of Christ the King

 This is the view from the brow of the hill where the Abbey is located. I wanted Ric to be able to see inside the church but it was being renovated. Again - as in the 'Monasteries' post - I invite you to click on this photo in order to enlarge it. That accomplished, you will see above the blue ridge (to the right of the peak) the 'ice cream cone' that is the volcanic peak - Mt. Baker. It is dormant but NOT dead.

                         A closeup photo of Mt. Baker - courtesy of Michael W. of Vancouver.

On the third day Art drove us across the Fraser River and east towards Chilliwack and then south to Yarrow.  Chilliwack - although now dwarfed by the city of Abbotsford - is a major agricultural hub and has been so since the days of early settlement. Near the beginning of the 20th Century, a tram line was  built out from Vancouver and New Westminster to service the south side of the Fraser Valley. Every so many miles along the route stations were established and given names. When a station southwest of Chilliwack was decided upon the builders had to choose a name and somebody picked 'Yarrow' - the name of a weed that is indigenous to that area. Now that community is prosperous as an agricultural center as well as an outer suburb of Vancouver.

That is where one of Terry's sisters (Jody) lives with her husband and she hosted the party. The gathering was a complete surprise to Terry - and especially when he saw that Ric and I were present.

                                                         Terry opening his gifts

Jody is a gardener as well so I will close this entry with two photos of some of her flowers.

                                                                  Pink Roses

                                                      And my favorite - a yellow rose.