Category Archives: City Life

Two Steps Back

Our trip back to our old stomping grounds in Toronto was all at once exciting, fun, sad, exhausting, and surreal.

IMG_3115The surreal part came when we wandered into stores or through our old school and people just smiled and nodded to us as if we’d never left. Very Rip Van Winklish.

The excitement of leaving the city for a great adventure helped us to skim over the sadness of goodbyes last year, but that sadness hit my better half like a Mack truck on this trip. It all came to a head after dinner with her best Toronto friend, when she realized we wouldn’t see her again before we left town. L absolutely lost it, howling with despair and spitting out those fearsome words “Why did we even have to move?!” and “Why didn’t you ask me if we should move?!”

IMG_3124

After the tears subsided she rallied somewhat, because she is nothing if not a trooper, but ever since  that night she’s been a bit fragile, especially when it comes to her friends here. We just don’t have as many of them as we did in Toronto, I guess.

Plus when she gazes at the city lights she becomes rapturous. She does love the city.

IMG_3146

Things to Do in Toronto When You’re Undead

IMG_3189We’ve just had a Fantastic Big City Hallowe’en! Even with the rain it was great to be back in the old neighbourhood for trick or treating.

First we dropped in on our old school and their costume parade… Continue reading

The Big City!

Okay, long time no post, I know. Busy busy busy! (in every good little way) So to do a little catchup here…

Beacon Hill Park!

Beacon Hill Park!

For our Spring Break, which was a luxurious 2 weeks long (we only got 1 wk in Toronto), one of our excursions was to the big smoke of Victoria for a few days. Even though our province’s capital is but a hamlet compared to the mammoth excess that is the GTA, it still feels metropolish* compared to our sleepy little island.

* trademark pending

DSC08341

This just says "70s" to me. The Royal BC Museum.

This just says “70s” to me. The Royal BC Museum.

I can’t tell you how lovely it was to be back in the bustle, waiting for the green light before crossing the street, and walking everywhere! Except for hikes or the occasional dog walk, on Saltspring we never walk anywhere! (And in Toronto we were the queens of foot power/bike power.) We enjoyed the luxury of staying in an apartment that was a short walk from all that we wanted to do, namely Beacon Hill Park, the RBCM, Imax theatre, legislative building, Miniature World, Bug Zoo… yup, we did the full tourist trip.

DSC08382 DSC08381 DSC08437 DSC08439

Oh, and did I mention going to Booster Juice? My accomplice misses her favourite smoothies something dreadful and there’s an outlet just 2 blocks from where we were staying!

The new Booster Juice poster girl.

The new Booster Juice poster girl.

Beautiful Victoria, city of flowers and totem poles!

cherry blossoms

DSC08333 DSC08393 DSC08391

Unhand that girl!

Unhand that girl!

These photos were taken mid-April, hence the jackets, but it was lovely weather. (Right now we’re digging out shorts and sandals! Wheeee!)

My girl floated about declaring that she wanted to move to Victoria and live in an apartment! Until she realized that in an apartment you’re not allowed to dance and stomp about…

So we quite enjoyed our taste of the city – we’re heading back very soon, actually.

Library Love

I came across this last week and it made me nostalgic for the grand old Toronto Public Library system: Ten Reasons to Love the TPL. I worked for the TPL for a while – in the cataloguing department but also in a very busy branch for a few months – and got a bit of an inside look at a very complex organization. I was working there the ominous year that the boss’s title was quietly changed from “Head Librarian” to “CEO”, which sent a chill throughout the organization. The TPL is not without its inefficiencies, errors and information gaps, employee tribulations and politics, but the biggest strain on the system always came from the fact that it is so well-used by SO many people. And the biggest headache has always come from governments prowling about the periphery hunting for cost-cutting measures. It’s a never-ending struggle to keep services available, but the bookish folk of Hogtown are always ready to jump into the fray, armed with their petitions and placards, with Margaret Atwood sounding the charge…

The Runnymede Branch of the Toronto Public Lib...

Runnymede Branch of the TPL (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The reason the protests usually succeed is that the TPL works and is depended upon and loved by so many. The branches are numerous, from tiny friendly places to grander historic buildings. I lived in many different neighbourhoods and always found a library relatively close by. I could place holds for any title in the vast holdings and have it delivered to my own wee branch around the corner, a feature that I positively adored. And one of my favourite (geeky) ways to spend a day was to head to the Toronto Reference Library to do research, abetted by the truly lovely staff there. I miss it all so!

English: Toronto Reference Library

Toronto Reference Library (Wikipedia)

In my new home on the island, I am incredibly lucky to have a brand new library facility, so new it positively sparkles. And to my utter disbelief, it seems that this gorgeous building has aroused some amount of “I’m agin’ it!” from the anti-whatever-is-going crowd here. The building is too big, too showy. We don’t need anything that large. It doesn’t match the bank across the road. Can’t we just go back to the old library, cramped and decrepit, with the leaking roof?

Reading letters to the editor moaning about our unnecessary “rolls royce library” makes my blood pressure sky rocket, so I won’t go into this issue much further, save to say that the nay-sayers seem to have forgotten about the existence of children on the island. Even if there wasn’t a single adult who used the library, the mere fact that there are children here warrants the best and most excellent library we can possibly build.

Saltspring Library (photo credit John Cameraon)

Saltspring Library (photo credit John Cameron)

And when you build a large library, with awe-inspiring architecture and a spacious, serene interior, what message does that pass on to the following generations?

Reading is important.

Books and knowledge are valued in our community.

Take a look at these – 11 Beautiful Libraries From Around the World – and tell me you don’t get that message from these buildings!

I can tell you, you wouldn’t get an iota of opposition to a new library – any new library – from the embattled library patrons* of Toronto, be it Rolls Royce or Studebaker.

*I prefer the old term “patrons” to the new one that was brought in when the Head Librarian morphed into a CEO: “customers”

Step 90: Readjust Your Entire Sense of Time

I find my time here is both expanding and contracting. On one hand, it is refreshing to have to allocate far less “travel time” to get around. I keep forgetting that we can drive to most places we need to go in five minutes or less, with the result that we’re early for everything, a most un-Saltspringian trait. In the city things were different. We walked everywhere and I had to allow extra time for the Boss’s extremely variable speed. The 3 blocks to school could take 20 minutes or it could take 45. To travel downtown, it was a 15+ minute walk to the subway station, then add ride time, rush hour delays, etc etc etc.

For me, city living fed into my obsessive nature beautifully. I spent an awful lot of time just calculating walking and transit times and planning my day so that every activity dovetailed perfectly. (That was the plan, anyway. My agendas were often enough foiled by my own idiocy.) I calculated every trip, scheduled every errand. I walked fast, and got into the habit of reading while I walked, when the Boss wasn’t with me, just to get more done.

Zipping about in a car here has turned all this upside down. In Toronto I would never have signed the Boss up for a dance class that starts a mere 15 minutes after school lets out, a couple of miles away, but here we can make it… and still have time to change!

The time I’ve gained however, is lost again extremely quickly, since everyone operates in slow motion around here.

(And yet Saltspringers can also drive idiotically fast on these tricky winding roads. I am surrounded by paradox!)

slug logo by the Rabson family, local entrepreneurs

We are living on “island time” now. Good news: nobody expects you to be on time. Bad news: They won’t be on time either.

But stop-and-smell-the-roses islanders still have their own time anxieties. Interaction with the outside world requires adherence to strict ferry schedules. Nobody is cursed more bitterly than BC Ferries, when a sluggish islander makes the effort to hurry and be on time, and then the dagnabbed ferry runs late!

BC Ferries loading ramp

Road to Nowhere

So where does that leave me, the transplanted city neurotic? The ease of driving everywhere is definitely softening my head as well as my muscle tone. I’ve got to have a book to read in my car for every time I’m too early for school pickup. I have to take a deep breath in restaurants and not let the tortoise-paced service drive me nutty. And I’ve got to take up knitting or something for those damn ferry wait times!

I don’t know. Can I slow down? Should I slow down? I’ve got a lot to do, y’know, what with scheduling in the rose-smelling along with all the wood-chopping, bird-watching, monkey-bars-playing and general horsing around that needs to be done around here.

Step 77: Escape the Funnel

As we drove away, away, ever away from Toronto, I couldn’t help but notice that for days and days Toronto kept popping up on freeway signs. Like it was lurking about, waiting for a chance to reel me back in. Just a moment’s inattention at an interchange and BAM! I’d find myself looping back towards the Big TOe.

One of my biggest complaints with Toronto has always been that it’s so hard to escape from! It takes hours just to get out of the place, through butt-ugly industrial wastelands, jostling elbow to elbow with crazed drivers weaving wildly from lane to lane. It’s gruesome. And if you ever do manage to get away for a relaxing weekend, you always have ahead of you the drive back into Toronto, which obliterates all the effects of the previous relaxation.

And yet, even when we were eight or nine hours north of the city, I still felt like, one wrong turn later, we could be right smack back in rush hour at Yonge and Bloor in just half an hour’s time.

This is what southern Ontario feels like:

Or more precisely:

I am that spinning quarter, drawn inexorably down, down into the vortex that is Toronto.

Step 76: Always Appreciate Good Fortune

The day before our moving truck came I blithely drove over to my storage space to bring home the last item. All by myself. I got it this far on a hot Sunday afternoon with not a soul in sight to ask for a hand. I always appreciate an impossible situation so I paused for a moment just to laugh at myself and take photos. (I wanted photographic evidence of my amazing strength and fortitude.)

As I was putting the camera away and rolling up my sleeves I heard a voice behind me…

“Would you like a hand with that?”

I’d like to think that I would have manhandled that couch into the car if I’d had to, but when it came right down to it, on another scorching hot afternoon in the big city, I was glad to accept a little help.

Many thanks to a kind stranger!

Step 68: The Last Night

favourite restaurant – Yumi sushi


Last dinner out, and farewell to other favourite places in Bloor West Village…

Jane-Bloor Diner

Our favourite old-school diner, complete with pictures of hockey players and race horses on the walls, and old-timers sitting at the counter. The first place that Lizzie ever blew bubbles in a glass of milk with a straw.

Lizzie’s favourite smoothie place

Lizzie will miss this place!

fountain at Jane and Bloor

This is the spot where they put a big Christmas tree made of lights every year, and a rather alarming Santa Claus totters around the crowd.

After wandering through the neighbourhood on a gorgeous warm summer evening, we end up at the house of my best friend, ally, support, comedic relief, sympathetic ear, cocktail taster, organizational whirlwind, style counsel, shopping guru, and fount of general good advice. Hard to leave!

ooooh so tired!

 

last sleep in an empty house

Step 67: Perform Last Seasonal Rituals

One of our favourite things to do on long weekends in the summer is to jump on the bike after dark – Lizzie in her jammies – and just follow the sound of fireworks… follow them to wherever they’re being set off by generous neighbourhood dads and giddy teenagers, in parks, schoolyards, soccer fields, or even (ill-advisedly) from balconies and on street corners.


Happy Canada Day, Toronto!

Step 66: Take Last Subway Ride

Shocking fact: neither Vancouver nor Victoria have subways! Farewell magical underground train!