Monday, October 31, 2016

Toronto: The Little Thermos

Little Thermos. Source: Amazon.

Sandy's everyday carry for her Toronto oots-and-aboot includes a small backpack with a side pocket, in which she inserts a small Thermos.

She has a special ice cube tray that forms slender frozen rectangles. These fit elegantly into the Thermos.

The Thermos holds 12 ounces of cold liquid (including ice), and with the ice, the liquid remains cold for many hours.

Another feature I like is that it has a push-button lid opener to reveal the sturdy silicone straw. So with one hand, Sandy can retrieve the Thermos from the backpack pocket, pop open the lid, take a sip, snap the lid closed, and return the Thermos to its pocket.

Little Thermos. Source: Amazon.

Because the Thermos is short, it's a tad squat, which gives it stability on most surfaces. Also, because it's short, it's less likely to tilt out of the backpack's side pocket and fall onto the ground.

I had to have one.

Sandy and I searched several places for the same size and features, to no avail. Well to some avail, but for twice the price (albeit for twice the cold duration). However, Sandy's sister knew exactly where to find Sandy's Thermos and she hunted and gathered one for me.

Generally, I'm not into cute, and Olaf's relentlessly cheery self is a bit of an eye-roller. On the other hand, because it's a lowly little kid's Thermos, it doesn't attract covetous eyes. Nor does the cheap-ish, powder-blue backpack I use for my own EDC, in which I place Olaf.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Toronto: Three Bs

A little contrived perhaps, but below are pics that didn't reach the level of a separate post. Their common tie is the letter B.

Toronto baseball fans, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 2016.

Bagpipes, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 2016.

Bar and boutique hotel, The Rex, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 2016.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Toronto: "Henry Moore’s Big Bronze Whatchamacallit"

"Henry Moore’s Big Bronze Whatchamacallit", Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 2016.

My hostess, Sandy, and I visited the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) during one of its free-admission evenings. While on a docent-led tour, we entered a gallery with work by Henry Moore.

I liked Mr. Moore's smooth, touchable, curvy lines.

Arguably, it's Henry Moore's work that pushed Toronto out of its allegedly-staid comfort zone in 1966. Fifty years ago.

His piece was a modern "whatchamacallit" which was to anchor the new City Hall plaza.

So much controversy surrounded the sculpture that the city posted a 24-hour police guard during its installation.

From the Torontoist, July 2010, which revisited a 1966 story about the new public art work in front of the new Toronto City Hall: Henry Moore's Big Bronze Whatchamacallit:

Shown a depiction of the sculpture, Controller Herbert Orliffe asked in puzzlement: "What meaning has the sculpture? What does it represent?"

"It is not representative of anything at all," Professor Arthur answer. "You don't look for meaning in a modern piece of sculpture - it's not like the Peter Pan on Avenue Road - you look for the beauty of form and mass. It is not supposed to have meaning [in that fashion]." 

The above is precisely what causes my friend, Sandy, consternation when she looks at some modern art. Lack of discernible meaning irritates her. Indeed, she, I, and her friend, Heloise, had an energetic trialogue about same as we walked past The Archer one day.

I subscribe to the belief that we humans are hard-wired to place meaning on everything we see. So even if Professor Arthur's analysis of modern sculpture is true - in theory - it fails in practice. We will always place meaning on what we see. When we can't fit any meaning to something we see, we become disgruntled.

As for me, its obvious that Henry Moore's The Archer is entirely phallic.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Flashback: Voluntary Simplicity

In October 2010, I wrote this:

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Voluntary simplicity

I began this post thinking to share an interesting archive article from O magazine, sent to me by friend Terry,  called  Back to Basics: Living With Voluntary Simplicity. There was fodder in there for a discussion about the "business" of simplicity. I imagine I'll get to that another day. 

This is because, in thinking of voluntary simplicity, I remembered Jessica Terrell.

When she served as the trails coordinator for the state of Missouri, Jessica and I worked together on a couple of projects. She modeled voluntary simplicity.

Jessica Terrell. Photo from

You only meet a handful of people like Jessica in your lifetime. She had a positive impact on others simply by walking her talk of living lightly on the earth while embracing its beauty. Good sense of humor. Beautiful smile. Gentle air. Excellent writer. Adventurous. Hard worker. She liked to take at least one trip a year with her mother, who lives in Ohio. She farmed a plot in our town's community garden across the river.
Jessica wanted to live small materially, but big in other ways. (She won a grueling multiple-week, motorcycling competition shortly after moving west.) It was Jessica who introduced me to the world of Tiny Houses. Living in a tiny house was one of her goals.

Once, I met Jessica at another colleague's house for a meeting. Jessica was emptying some items out of her car to give to our colleague. I asked about it, and Jessica replied that she'd been in the process of giving away many of her things. To live smaller. She offered me her one-person tent, which I took (and only recently passed along to Brother4.)

One of Jessica's professional goals was to move from Missouri to New Mexico or Arizona, and work in trails there. When she shared this with me, she calculated it would be five or more years before an opening and her professional "cred" would align to make this happen. It turns out that both occurred soon after, and Jessica moved from Missouri to Santa Fe in 2006.

You'll have noticed that I refer to Jessica in the past tense. This is because she died in a collision with a tractor-trailer on a wintry day in 2008. She was only 30.

Jessica was on her way to another town where she would give a workshop related to trails. Earlier that day, in her office, she talked enthusiastically with a co-worker about a book of essays she was reading, written by Barbara Kingsolver.

Another person who knew Jessica told me she called herself a "vagabond for beauty."

In 2002, Jessica participated in the Public Lands Journey. I'd read Jessica's fine journal entries before, but after she died, I revisited them, and this one stuck out for me. It embodies simplicity.

My Favorite Day  

… I know that when I return home, friends, and family will be asking “So what was your absolute favorite place on the whole trek?”

What will I tell them? I will start out by saying that every day inevitably seemed better than the last. “Seemed” is the key word, you must realize.

If I were to mix up all the days of the trek and do it all over again, each new day would never cease to “seem” better than the one before it!

So I have come to the conclusion that TODAY will always be my favorite.

The dawn of each new day has and will continue to reveal to me things that have never before occurred, and never will occur again, whether it be a beautiful cloud formation over a particular mountain, the call of elk on a cool morning in a national forest, or even the way rocks glitter in the brightness of the afternoon sun.


Thursday, October 27, 2016

Toronto: Subway, Part 2

Subway, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 2016.

My hostess, Sandy, and I went out to her friend's house for lunch. We took the subway.

As we've now learned, Toronto is a little whack. The evidence to support this conclusion is here, here, and here.

It was on the subway that I learned Toronto is a gateway into another dimension. Yeah, I know, why don't we all know about this, right? I don't have the answer to that, but I could see with my own eyes that the Toronto subway system defies the laws of directionalism. My personal theory is that this is so upsetting to Torontonians and their visitors that they all live in denial.

There is precedence for this phenomenon. Douglas Adams, in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy s series, called it SEP - Someone Else's Problem: 
An SEP is something we can't see, or don't see, or our brain doesn't let us see, because we think that it's somebody else's problem. That’s what SEP means. Somebody Else’s Problem. The brain just edits it out, it's like a blind spot.

But look for yourself. I caught it in this video:

And isn't the woman's voice delicious? It's like every sci-fi remote voice.

Gosh darn, I love the incongruity of sitting in one direction while watching how my subway-future makes [will make][will have made] such deep turns and I don't feel [won't feel][won't have felt] a thing.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Toronto: Second City Comedy Club

Second City, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 2016.

Sandy and I went to Second City Comedy Club one Sunday night.

I came of age in the Golden Age of Saturday Night Live - that era of Laraine Newman, John Belushi, Jane Curtin, Gilda Radner, Dan Aykroyd, Garrett Morris, Chevy Chase, Bill Murray.

Second City had cachet for me because it was the comedy cradle for several SNL regulars.

"Jane, you ignorant slut."

So there was sentimental value in going to a Second City performance with Sandy.

There were high points, mediocre points, shoulder-shrug points in the performance.

The most important take-away for me was the reinforcement that, to achieve our goals, we've got to:
  • Practice, practice, practice
  • In practicing, accept that we may not do things well in the beginning
  • Be willing to fail in public
  • Be willing to experience discomfort while learning
  • Be confident that we will, eventually, succeed

I am mindful of lessons learned from the Food Network Channel.

And in learning to dance.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Toronto: Seeing the Homeless

Toronto Homeless Memorial, The Church of the Holy Trinity, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 2016.

I don't recall that I've ever been to a city that publicly "saw" its homeless residents by saying their names and acknowledging their deaths as individuals with names. When names are known.

The Church of the Holy Trinity sees the homeless. The church has a clear, succinct, easy-to-remember, actionable mission statement: "loving justice in the heart of the city."

Toronto Homeless Memorial, The Church of the Holy Trinity, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 2016.

Toronto Homeless Memorial, The Church of the Holy Trinity, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 2016.

Sandy, her friend Heloise, and I stopped by the church for a few contemplative moments. We sat in the shade. We also took a turn in the labyrinth walk in the pocket park by the church.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Toronto: Architecture

Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Source: Yoldasin.

Toronto comes in for some ribbing about its architecture.

The Royal Ontario Museum, for example. It's as if the historic mother building were harboring a neonatal alien in its belly, and suddenly said alien yowwen burst forth, ravenous, ripping open its host.

Then there's the preposterous pencil and eraser construct for the Sharp Centre for Design. Literal art.

Sharp Centre for Design, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Credit: CNN.

When I think of the buildings in downtown Toronto, troops of tall, blue, glassine structures come to mind, interspersed with sandy-colored block buildings.

I also think about new buildings that have sprung up, which interrupt the light that their older neighbors used to enjoy. "Shadowing" is not a new problem for Toronto. On one day, Sandy left her Toronto apartment for a far-away island; upon her return a couple of years later, a brand-new neighbor had shouldered itself in - a tall condo building that darkened her balcony.

Overall, however, I don't know that Toronto is any less lackluster than most other cities. And to tell you the truth, I'm still kind of impressed there is a statue of a businessman, dressed in a business suit, in one of Toronto's pocket parks. It's a real departure from the usual public statue fodder, such as warriors, whether modern or historic.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Toronto: Canada Day and Humanity Massive

Canada Day, Harbourfront, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. July 2016.

Canada Day is July 1.  Canada Day commemorates the enactment of the 1867 Constitution Act, which united Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick into a single political entity.

Canada Day isn't the same as the American 4th of July, as Canada was still a "dominion" of the British Empire under the Constitution Act. Canada didn't become fully independent as a nation until 1982.

But I guess Canada Day is kinda like the USA's Independence Day in that it is a national holiday, there are millions of barbecues-and-beer, and fireworks.

Anyhoo, Sandy and I sauntered down to the Harbourfront on Canada Day to see the fireworks, et al.

I savored a brief connection between Toronto and Lafayette, Louisiana, upon seeing Nomadic Massive perform. This band had appeared at International Festival when I was in Louisiana.

Canada Day, Harbourfront, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. July 2016.

The most impressive experience of the night was when everyone left the Harbourfront. The energy, the voice-song, the movement, the alive-ness of so many persons washing over the city floor like a tide from the great lake, singular souls that, together, flowed like a wave.

A video below:

Sandy and I had delayed too long to get a comfortable, good viewing spot for the Canada Day fireworks. In the area between the water and the start of the Harbourfront shops, virtually every single square inch of space was occupied. We finally settled on a not-very-good-but-acceptable spot next to a fountain pool and behind an inconvenient tree.

I don't anticipate ever needing this brilliant tip in the future, but in case it is of use to you: A magnificent view of the fireworks is to be had - albeit standing - adjacent-ish to the Harbourfront Centre, steps from Queens Quay. This has the added advantage of being close to the public restrooms inside the building. Not to mention speedy egress at the end of the display.

I only discovered this vantage point because I had to use the restroom, and when I exited the building to return to Sandy and our ho-hum spot up toward the front (near the shore line), I saw the glorious views of the fireworks from the Harbourfront Centre.

A good lesson: Being up close isn't always the best seat in the house.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Toronto: Standing

Man Standing. Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 2016.

Toronto, standing.

The Jury, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 2016.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Toronto: Uneven Flooring

Uneven flooring sign, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 2016.

Toronto was so solicitous to offer the above sign in a corridor somewhere, in which construction was occurring.

Some countries should have this sign at all of their border points.


Caucasus Georgia.


And why not? The United States has this sign at one of its border crossings:

Beware poisonous snakes sign at US border, Antelope Wells, New Mexico. March 2013.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Toronto: The Beaches

The Beaches, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. July 2016.

Toward the end of my two-week visit, Sandy took me to the Toronto neighborhood called The Beaches. It was like a drink of cool, clean water after the grit and the noise and the hardscapes of downtown Toronto. I could take a deep breath here, appreciating the shading greenery of Glen Stewart Park.

The Beaches has everything. Beaches along a massive body of water. Greenspaces. Smaller-town feel. Proximity to the Big City proper. ... Of course, all of this comes with a mighty price tag for those who want to live here.

But it's free for the visiting.

The Beaches, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. July 2016.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Toronto: Cheese

Mmmm, cheese.

Has there ever been a cheese I didn't like? Nope, don't think so. Strong, gentle, pungent, mild, hard, soft, spreadable, crumbly, curdly, white, yellow, orange, shot through with blue mold. Doesn't matter. C'est good.

Remember the cheese, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 2016.

One day, Sandy and I walked, bused, and subway-ed to see her friend, Hilda, a woman who emigrated from Ecuador years ago. The photo above is of a bus stop near Hilda's place.

Hilda is a woman who takes pleasure in creating beautiful meals for herself and others; she prepared a three-course lunch for us in her petite apartment.

What pleasure there is in eating good food and drinking good wine in the company of vibrant people! Or, as I saw reference to recently: in the company of sparkling human beings!

Writing this reminds me of a lunch al fresco in Mtskheta outside of Tbilisi, Georgia. Sandy was there, too, along with another TLG comrade, Eberle - who, like Sandy, lives in Canada.

Lunch in Mtskheta with Sandy and Eberle, Caucasus Georgia. November 2011.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Toronto: And More Organs

Sandy and I walked down (up?) University Street on our way to see Jane Bunnet and Hilario Duran at the boutique department store on Bloor. The walk felt interminable.

As we proceeded up the congested sidewalk, I saw a wavery mirage on the side of a large building.

At first it made no sense. It was immense. It was some sort of graphic. Vibrant color. Undefined shape.

Heart on University Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 2016.

Was it a huge photo that was actually inside the building and I was seeing it through a glass exterior? Or was it some sort of projection onto the side of the building? A reflection from another building that faced this one?

What was it? Gigantic, red, amorphous.

Finally, when we got close enough, I saw. A heart. Not a heart like a Valentine heart. Not a painterly rendition of a heart. An actual heart, as in ripped from a chest, heart. A real heart. Wha????

Heart on University Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 2016.

Toronto! What kind of place are you?

And then there was this, I swear to God, on the sidewalk within sight of the Godzilla heart:

Across from heart on University Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 2016.


Monday, October 17, 2016

Toronto: Swing, Swing, Swing at the Harbourfront

Swing at the Harbourfront, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 2016.

If I were a religious sort, I'd say that one must add swing to the list of dance and music that make a "joyful noise to the Lord:"
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
    break forth into joyous song and sing praises!
Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre,
    with the lyre and the sound of melody!
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
    make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord!

Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
    the world and those who dwell in it!
Let the rivers clap their hands;
    let the hills sing for joy together

In the summer, at Toronto's Harbourfront, there are regular dance events, each time featuring a different style. One evening, Sandy, her friend Heloise, and I partook of swing. Video below:

A joyful noise!

Swing at the Harbourfront, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 2016.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Toronto: Fish on the Underground Path

Fish, Toronto's PATH, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 2016.

A couple of times, Sandy and I walked the underground pedestrian highway (the PATH) to get from a point A to a point B.

As with Tbilisi and Istanbul, Toronto's underground system houses shops and restaurants. Ripped from this page are highlights of Toronto's PATH:
  • According to Guinness World Records, PATH is the largest underground shopping complex with 30 km (19 miles) of shopping arcades. It has 371,600 square meters (4 million square feet) of retail space. fact, the retail space connected to PATH rivals the West Edmonton Mall in size.
  • The approximate 1,200 shops and services found in PATH, employ about 5,000 people.
  • More than 50 buildings/office towers are connected through PATH. Twenty parking garages, six subway stations, two major department stores, eight major hotels, and a railway terminal.

I liked a collection of steel fish laid into the floor at one spot.

I like the imagery of us humans swimming desultorily through the PATH air stream, poking our heads in, around, under small pebbles and rocks as we make our way.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Toronto: Canada's Dark Secret

Did you read Shirley Jackson's short story, The Lottery, in high school?

Before most of my readers were born, there was a suspenseful TV mini-series starring Bette Davis, in her aged time. And a very young Rosanne Arquette, pre-Executioner's Song. The movie was The Dark Secret of Harvest Home. Mmm, the Corn King.

Two stories placed in locales and cultures seemingly bucolic and healthy, where the people are so gosh-darned salt-of-the-earth, so nice.

But then we learn there is a sinister secret beneath the pastoral pleasantness.

You can imagine my shock at seeing this ... this ..... altar .... in Toronto's City Hall.

Ritual altar, Toronto City Hall, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 2016.

Suddenly, it all became clear.

Those Canadians, so polite, mild-mannered, gentle, on the surface. Citizens of a country that seems to be in the good graces of all nations.

Who knew Canada was under the dark protection of an alien god which feeds on regular sacrifices of unwitting tourists?

It explains the brains.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Toronto: Jazz Festival 2016: KC and the Sunshine Band

KC and the Sunshine Band, 2016 Toronto Jazz Festival. Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 2016.

KC and the Sunshine Band, a group that peaked in the mid-1970s, performed at the Toronto Jazz Festival 2016.

KC and the Sunshine Band, 2016 Toronto Jazz Festival. Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 2016.

It was kinda cool to be up so close to the stage. Well, on one side of the stage.

KC and the Sunshine Band, 2016 Toronto Jazz Festival. Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 2016.

The band put on a serviceable performance.

KC and the Sunshine Band, 2016 Toronto Jazz Festival. Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 2016.

KC and the Sunshine Band, 2016 Toronto Jazz Festival. Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 2016.

KC and the Sunshine Band, 2016 Toronto Jazz Festival. Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 2016.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Toronto: More Organs

Pig intestines. Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 2016.

Mmmm, pig intestines.

It's funny how tourism works. Oh, right, excuse me: traveling.

We take pictures of things we find extraordinary, but which local folks find ordinary.

Like, ooh, pig intestines! Or toe-biters!

Nothing wrong with this, just human nature. Animal nature, in fact. We stare at or draw closer to that which is different and curious to us.

Toronto seems to like its organs. Like those brains.

And these uteri:

Uteri. Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 2016.

I'm sure uteri must be tasty, but I don't know. Kind of primal, like a new mother eating the placenta of her newborn. Does a woman feel the same about eating a uterus as a man feels about eating a uterus? Maybe this question also applies to eating fried scrota.

Is there a different flavor between a uterus that has never carried a fetus versus one that has?

Below is an excerpt from a Village Voice article on pig uteri:
The reproductive organs are slippery and crunchy--again, not unlike overcooked squid. But, like beef penis, uterus doesn't have much flavor, except a whiff of very wet dog, and an aftertaste of musky, murky piggishness.

Pig tails. Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 2016.

The above pig tails don't fall into the organ category, but I've got to put them somewhere. Consider them a lagniappe. Brings back memories of the Step 'n Strut Trail Ride in Plaisance, Louisiana, a few years ago, at which fried pig tails were available. I regret I didn't try them then.

Fried pig tails, Step n Strut, Plaisance, Louisiana. November 2014.

While we're reminiscing, and speaking of brains, I remember those sizzling brains in Kutaisi, in Caucasus Georgia, which Sandy and I visited together.

Brains, Kutaisi, Caucasus Georgia. March 2012.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Toronto: Jazz Festival 2016: Swing v. Street

Street v. swing, Jazz Festival 2016, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 2016.

Oh, the energy! Love.

Street v. swing, Jazz Festival 2016, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 2016.

My favorite number - street dancers from KeepRockinYou; band is Worst Pop Group Ever in video below:

Street v. swing, Jazz Festival 2016, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 2016.

Street v. swing, Jazz Festival 2016, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 2016.

It makes me happy to see the women dancers!

Street v. swing, Jazz Festival 2016, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 2016.

A teeny but mighty video below:

Street v. swing, Jazz Festival 2016, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 2016.

Street v. swing, Jazz Festival 2016, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 2016.

A dance-off between swing and street below:

Street v. swing, Jazz Festival 2016, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 2016.

Street v. swing, Jazz Festival 2016, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 2016.

Street v. swing, Jazz Festival 2016, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 2016.

Going by the visuals, you might get the idea that the band, The Worst Pop Group Ever, was just background for the dancing. No. This band popped.