Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Michael Lee-Chin Crystal

I dropped by the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) last Wednesday. It's free from 4:30 p.m. until closing (5:30 p.m.) that day. I know one hour isn't much time to look around, but I was only interested in seeing one thing. It wasn't any of the exhibits there (which I've previously seen), but the recently built Michael Lee-Chin Crystal.

It officially opened on June 2, 2007. Michael Lee-Chin (#677 on the 2008 Forbes list of billionaires) donated $30 million towards the cost of the Daniel Libeskind-designed building. Mr. Libeskind got the initial idea for his design after being inspired by the ROM’s gem and mineral collection. It was dubbed the 'crystal' because of its crystalline shape.

It wasn't as open or airy as I imagined it would be. Instead it was divided into different floors in which the exhibits were displayed. The only truly floor-to-ceiling open space was in the central stairway. There were other areas where you could look over the main floor from upper levels too. But, the views were partially obstructed sometimes. I would have really liked to have seen the building before the exhibits were placed in it. Just to view the architectural elements on their own. It's too bad I missed that chance when the Crystal first opened. Boy, do I regret that.

Anyway, I scurried around for the one hour slot we were alloted trying to take as many photos of the Crystal as I could. I was hoping to piece together enough shots from the five different levels to give people a reasonably decent idea of what the building looked like inside and out. You can view the full slate of photos on my webpage if you want.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Flavor of the Week

A weekly look at the styles of everyday people as seen through the eyes of, me, your intrepid man on the street.

Name: Shota Kubo
Occupation: Didn't say
Location: Distillery District
Clothing details: Shirt and Sweater-Gap, Pants-Sui (they're supposed to be Japanese), Boots-Timberland
What he was doing when I met him: Shota was visiting from Japan. He was just walking around the Distillery District with his two friends.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas, my friends

To all my friends, have a Merry Christmas and a safe, happy New Year. Be nice to others. Not just people you know, but everyone (unless they really annoy you). Anyway, you know what I mean ;-) Have a good one ~ Take care

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmastime in Toronto

I had a chance to walk through the Eaton Centre after church on Sunday. Just to kill a bit of time you know. It's only a few more days until Christmas. Of course the mall was packed with last minute shoppers trying to finish off their gift lists. That can't be fun at all.

If I can, I normally try to avoid the crowds. If I'm not shopping (which I wasn't) it's not so bad. It's weird, it doesn't much feel like Christmas to me. All the decorations are up and everywhere you look. But, there's just something missing. Perhaps it's the image I have in my mind of picture perfect winter scene. In it there's an idyllic, country home half buried in snow with a yellowy, candle-lit glow coming from the windows and smoke drifting from the fireplace chimney. That reminds me of Christmas.

There's nary a snowflake to be seen here in Toronto. It's strange I know. After all aren't we "the Great White North"? Especially now, when half the eastern seaboard from Tennessee to the southern New England states (according to CNN) was just slammed by a major snowstorm. Who's "the Great White North" now?

To tell you the truth, I don't miss the snow. Call me a Grinch. I guess I'd just rather not deal with it. Maybe I'll get more in the mood once Christmas dinner with my folks comes around. We'll be having our family dinner next Saturday. Maybe some turkey in my belly will do the trick, who knows?

On an unrelated note - Brittany Murphy passed away this past Sunday from cardiac arrest at age 32. She was an actress who starred in movies I've never seen, save a bit part in Sin City, if I remember correctly. Boy, it's sad... 32 is far too young to die. Rest in Peace my dear.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Flavor of the Week

A weekly look at the styles of everyday people as seen through the eyes of, me, your intrepid man on the street.

Name: Eva from France
Occupation: Works in PR for Nikki Beach
Location: Distillery District
Clothing details: Dress-Marc Jacobs in London, Boots-Ermano Servino, Bag-is from London, Necklace-specially made from a fossilized tooth, Watch-Chopard with handmade bracelet (made by Eva herself), Ring-French designer Natasha Farina
What she was doing when I met her: Taking photos around the Distillery District.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Olympic Torch Relay

Vancouver, British Columbia will be holding the 2010 Winter Olympics next February. Currently the world's longest torch relay (at 45,000 kms) is going on across Canada. Yesterday, day 49 of 109, it passed through my hometown of Toronto. The final stage of the day was held at Nathan Phillips Square at Toronto City Hall.

Women's Hockey gold medalist winner, Vicky Sunohara, was the final torchbearer of the day. She brought it in and lit the cauldron on the stage where the performers had been. The wait was way too long. According to the schedule I found on-line the ceremony was to have been at 7:00 p.m. In actuality it didn't happen until over an hour later. I'm not sure if it was planned this way or if the protesters along the way delayed them. At one point, at Yonge and College, there were about 300 native protesters (according to news reports) blocking the route. The flame had to be split into two to keep on schedule. Originally it was to have gone to Sick Kids Hospital first before coming to City Hall. It was reported they had one torchbearer bring it there and another continue on to City Hall.

My day began when I met my friend Gabe for lunch in Chinatown. After that I went to the library at City Hall to kill some time. At about 6:00 p.m. I made my way out into the frigid night air to stake out a spot to see the flame as it passed by. I was hoping to leave not long after 7:00 because I had to go to gym night. Well, that didn't quite happen. They kept on with the performances and shameless, self-promotion from the sponsors until my fingers and toes were about to fall off. The torchbearer finally entered the square at a few minutes after 8:00. I was so happy to finally see her. Mostly because I wanted to get my shots and get my butt out of the cold. I know it was probably a once in a lifetime experience. And though I had been quite looking forward to experiencing it, I wasn't so cheery after that.

On the plus side, since I missed gym night, I was able to visit a few of my homeless friends around Nathan Phillips Square afterwards. They weren't very happy about the sub-zero temperatures to say the least. Anyway, I hope they enjoyed the chat. I believe they did. And I enjoyed talking with them. Afterwards I had to take a pee. My hands were so cold I couldn't undo the top button on my jeans in the bathroom. I had to wait there a few minutes until they regained feeling. Luckily for me it wasn't an emergency or else you wouldn't be hearing about it ;-)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Green means "go"?

This message is directed towards everyone out there. But, it pertains mostly to pedestrians and cyclists.

What does a green light mean? Most people would say, go. And you wouldn't be incorrect in saying that. But, I'm here to suggest, green doesn't mean go. It means look both ways and when the way is clear, then you go.

A long time has passed since the accident. It was about twenty-five years ago, around this time of year, just before Christmas. At the time my kid sister was just a teenager. She had been out and was returning home by public transit. After she got off the bus, she crossed the street with the light, but was hit by a car driven by a lady who wasn't paying attention and went through the red. My sister was knocked unconscious and sustained serious leg injuries (two broken legs).

For our family waiting at the hospital not knowing what was going on was the worst feeling you could ever have. My sister was a bright, highly intelligent, young person who had a very promising future ahead of her. We had no idea of the extent of her injuries at first. Her whole life, and ours, could have made a drastic turn for the worse. Thankfully she made a full recovery. I'm so happy about that. In cases like this it could have just as easily gone the other way.

Anyway, I'm sure you've all gotten the point. You know what to do. At an intersection Green means, look both ways and when the way is clear, then you go.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Flavor of the Week

A weekly look at the styles of everyday people as seen through the eyes of, me, your intrepid man on the street.

Name: Jess C.
Occupation: Dramaturge, Gallerist
Location: Distillery District
Clothing details: Tank top-Lawless from jacflash, Denims-Naked & Famous from Lileo, Sweater-TNA from Aritzia, Shoes-Michael Kors from Capezio, Sunglasses-Christian Dior from Penny Arcade, Fortune Cookie Necklace-Anna Karmidis (she's not sure if this is spelled correctly) from Bergo, Bracelets-Vita made in Florence from Jasimine's in Bloor West Village
What she was doing when I met her: Jess is so cool. She actually had fun posing for my silly shots suggesting certain poses and things. I enjoyed shooting her. She was searching for a client from the gallery she works at when I first approached her. I hope she managed to find him after the short break she took posing for me. Oh... she has tons of style too as you well can see. I was lucky to find her.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Intervention on A&E

I just finished watching couple episodes of the award-winning* television show Intervention on A&E today. What a powerful, powerful program. It showed the struggles of a loved one and their family and friends' fight to pull them back from the brink of whatever life threatening addictions they were battling.

The two episodes had parallels in some ways. Both involved young women who were addicted to drugs and both had underlying mental health issues. So, to make matters worse, they were battling two problems at the same time - the addiction and mental illness**.

A further parallel was that both young women grew up in dysfunctional families. Now I'm not sure how big a part this played in their downward spiral, but I do think it did have a negative affect on their lives. Not to say that living in a dysfunctional household will necessarily drive you to drugs or alcohol or any other destructive behavior because both women had siblings who turned out fine. But, if you are emotionally fragile it may just push you past your breaking point.

The first episode dealt with Marci. She grew up in a family where her father was an alcoholic. Her mother was out most of the time working to support the family. Because of her work commitments, Marci says her mother wasn't there to support her and her brother from their father's drunken verbal abuse when they needed her.

When Marci graduated high school she went to college where she first started drinking and doing drugs. After two years of schooling she dropped out. At age 24 she got pregnant with her first child, a daughter, and was pressed into marriage by her mother. She had a second child, a son, a few years later. Not long after she got into drugs again and her marriage failed.

The second episode dealt with a young woman named Linda. She too had what she considered a tough upbringing. It wasn't that her parents were abusive or outright cruel. But, like many Asian parents, they pushed their children at a very young age. This included Linda and her brothers working many long hours at the family-owned laundromat. She longed for the life she saw many of her other young friends living at that age.

After graduating college Linda left home and headed to L.A. where she found happiness working as an extra in movies and television shows. It was at this time she came down with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a disorder characterized by joint dislocations. To fight the pain she started taking Fentanyl, a pain-killer 100X stronger than morphine. Quite often she would take twice the daily suggested dosage. Among the side effects were the rotting of her teeth and damage to her internal organs. In relation to her mental health issues, Linda claims much of her pain was caused by electrical energy discharged by flowers, certain colours and even specific people.

To stop both women from ultimately killing themselves an Intervention was planned. The families got together with the producers of the show and other health experts to confront Marci and Linda about their problems and offer treatment to them. To emphasize the seriousness of the interventions the consequences of refusing treatment would have to be severe. This would include disownment by their families. For both girls this meant, to some extent, the funding for their addictions would be cut off as well.

In Marci's case, her mother would always help her financially if she came over in need. She was her mother after all. How could she refuse her daughter's plea for help? In Linda's case, the problem was similar. Her parents poured their life savings into renting a home for her and helping her buy drugs to ease her pain (real or imagined).

In both cases their parents were unwittingly contributing to their children's problems. Because they loved them so much they would step in to help monetarily any time their daughters asked. And in both cases their mothers were serious stumbling blocks in trying to provide help at the interventions. For some reason it was hard for them to believe their daughters had these problems. As well, they felt deeply pained at the prospect of possibly turning their backs on them if they refused treatments.

In the end both Marci and Linda agreed to get treatment. With all my heart I hope it works out for them. Not only for their sake, but for their family's sake too. Both families (parents, siblings, friend and relatives) had gone through hell and back in their ordeals.

I believe there are two underlying problems here. One, the lack of diagnosis and treatment options for the mentally ill. And, two, easy access to highly addictive drugs (legal or otherwise) in our society today. Marci was able to score Crystal Methamphetamine at will. Linda was able to visit many different doctors to get multiple prescriptions of Fentanyl.

We have to shape up or face dealing with more problems like this in relation to addicts and the people who love them.

*2009 Emmy Award Winner
** The show stated that in many cases drug abusers do have some degree of mental illness

Monday, December 7, 2009

Flavor of the Week

A weekly look at the styles of everyday people as seen through the eyes of, me, your intrepid man on the street.

Name: Rahi High
Occupation: Busker/Musician
Location: Queen Street West/John Street
Clothing details: Hat-Tibetan shop in Parkdale, Shirt-Handmade by Rahi at, Pants-Female from Gap (he likes them because they are tall and lean), Shoes-Puma from a store at Queen and Spadina.
What he was doing when I met him: Busking for an appreciative crowd.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Out of the Cold Program

This photo is of the dishwashing crew from three years ago at the Out of the Cold program at Knox Presbyterian Church. From left to right are Linda, John, Safrina and Chiharu. I started volunteering here in the fall/winter of 2005.

Our program runs every Tuesday night from the beginning of November to the end of April. We provide dinner to under-privileged young people. They can also do some activities here too. Some of the youths play basketball. We have an old video game system that some of them use too. When we had sleepovers the first year I volunteered they used to show a DVD movie. As well, some of the youths could use the three-lane, five-pin bowling alley in the basement of the church. That was pretty popular. There was no automated pin resetter. It was up to the volunteers to manually reset them after they were knocked down. That was a pretty tough job. Besides dodging the odd bowling ball you had to hop down into the pit where the pins fell, reset the pins and hop back up to safety. Up, down, up, down, up, down... you get the idea.

Things changed the following year when they stopped the sleepovers. Not enough young people were staying over to make it worth opening overnight. We began closing down earlier and kicking everyone out by 9:00 p.m. There wasn't enough time to open the alley any longer. Instead the youths just waited a little while after they finished dinner and then hit the food bank when their number was called. Like I said, they could involve themselves with a few of the aforementioned activities or just chill with their friends. Darlene could also help them sew any clothes that needed mending and/or give them lessons on one of the sewing machines she brought in. Bill would also cut and/or dye peoples' hair every couple of weeks too.

There are a few areas people can volunteer in. Buying the food is a big job. So is food prep/cooking. Pat and his crew do a great job at that. Others volunteer at the food bank. And, then there's what I do... I'm part of the clean up crew. Some volunteers will put the tables and chairs away and wipe all the surfaces clean. I wash dishes and/or put them away mostly. I'll mop the floors in the kitchens too. That's a new job for me. John (in the photo above) used to do it previous year or two, but he's out of town in school this year. I miss his help. He did a lot. Besides, Vicki (the co-organizer), John and I would stay to the very end cleaning up. We had fun while we were there. Instead of wasting leftover pitchers of drinks or coffee we'd try to finish them all off. You won't believe how much we'd end up drinking. Let's just say it wasn't a healthy amount. This year we have a couple newer guys helping with the dishes - Trevor and Michael. I think both of them started last year. They're really great too. Things have been good over the past couple of years. I remember the first year when Fred and I would stay way past midnight doing almost everything after the rest of the volunteers had left. That was tough. Now we leave anywhere from 9:00 - 10:00 p.m.

As for where the rest of the people in the photo are now. I'm not sure where Linda is. Safrina moved to Calgary a year or two ago. Chiharu was a student and returned to Japan after the program finished that year.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Jeff's Blogservations

"Every blogger wants to have readers. That’s why we’re here. Me, I want to express myself, and I like to get a response. Otherwise, I’d just keep a journal." -

How true is that? For me it is anyway. And I suppose it's the same for many other bloggers. We enjoy writing our blogs, but we're most gratified when we know other people are reading them too. Whether they like what we say or not; agree with what we've written or think we're completely off our rocker. It doesn't matter. We need our fix. And our fix is knowing our well thought out narratives are being eagerly ingested by others.

On a different note... here are a few Blogservations I've recently made.

As mentioned before, I've recently been looking through peoples' blogs trying to find interesting ones to follow. One blogservation (blog observation) I made was what people of different age ranges tended to write about. For girls under 20, it tends to be boy bands and how they hate school. For young ladies from 20-35, it changes to fashion, design and art. For women over 35, they blog about food/recipes and/or their family life. You know, I had no idea food was such a popular topic to write about.

Another category that's quite popular is the travel blogger. Those are the ones I like following the most. There are certain places in the world that fascinate me to no end. Some I've been to, others I've yet to see. Following these blogs keeps the fire burning in me to eventually travel there (either for the first time, or yet again). I love seeing their photos and hearing of their exploits in exploring foreign lands and discovering new cultures. Besides getting ideas of what you might want to see, you gather insightful analysis of what may make your trip safer, easier or more pleasant.

So, if you find I'm following your blog, these might be one of the reasons why. And, if you're reading this, and you're not currently a follower of mine I'd love to have you aboard. Choo-choo!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Flavor of the Week

A weekly look at the styles of everyday people as seen through the eyes of, me, your intrepid man on the street.

Name: Maryna K.
Occupation: Student (U of T)
Location: Queen Street West/John Street
Clothing details: Top-bebe Sport, Jeans-Guess, Belt-D&G, Bag-No name, Shoes-Payless
What she was doing when I met her: Walking down Queen Street West with her friend Janet.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Project 417 Fundraising Gala

Tonight was the We are Family Fundraising Gala. It was held at the RBC Auditorium at 315 Front Street West in Toronto. The event was put together by volunteers to raise money for Project 417 and their street outreach ministry. Among other things, Andy, from Project 417 organizes Sandwich Runs where he takes volunteers out to the streets of Toronto to hand out bag lunches to our homeless friends. A truly worthwhile cause indeed.

We had a good turnout. Entertainment was provided by Big John & The Night Trippers a Motown/Blues/R&B/60's Rock & Roll band. They kept the crowd hopping with their groovin' tunes. In between sets a DJ spun songs to keep things lively. A variety of tasty hor d'oeuvres and pastries served by the waitstaff throughout the night. That was great. I couldn't get enough of what I can best describe as a pineapple pie dessert. Yumm-y! In addition to the tickets sales, guests were able to donate more through either the live or silent auctions.

All-in-all I'd have to call it a successful evening. Thanks to all the hard work put in by Andy, Ed, Joe and the rest of the crew both money and awareness was raised. I'll be posting more photos soon. Go to my page in a day or two and you'll see them up.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Flashback to 1989

Look what I found... it's a picture of me and my classmates from my graphic design class at George Brown College back in 1989 (I believe). I took these photos with my father's old, Canon AE-1 SLR using black and white film. It was part of a photography class we had back then. We did everything ourselves. From processing the film to printing the pictures in the darkroom. No instant, click and view on the back of your digital camera back then. You took your shots, waited until you finished the whole roll. Developed them (either yourself or took them somewhere to do it) and got to look at them days or weeks later. Oh, how the anticipation built! When you finally got your pictures back you were either pleasantly surprised with how they turned out or kind of disappointed that they didn't look as nice as you thought they would. The thing is, you never knew until sometime later. There's no suspense any longer. I guess, depending on how you look at it, that could be a good thing or a bad thing.

Anyway, I've sort of drifted from my original intention of talking about my former classmates. I currently have some sort of contact with four of the five in the picture above. I'm in the top row in the middle. Anne-Marie (top-left) actually lives two doors down from me on the same floor in my condo. Isn't that a coincidence? I've been here since the end of 2001. She moved in about three years ago. Before that we hadn't had any contact since we graduated back in 1990. What are the chances of that? Lawrence (top-right) lives in Hong Kong. The last time we e-mailed each other was at least five years ago. I just wrote him a few days ago. No response yet. I don't even know if he still uses the address I have for him. Philip Luisi is on the bottom-left. He was one of funnier guys in class. I always liked him. He's the person I most recently reconnected with. Phil's currently working at an ad agency in Toronto. He's living in Etobicoke and has been married for 10 years and has an eight-year-old daughter. I just found Norbert (bottom-middle) on Facebook few weeks ago. He looks different. I suppose we all do. He's still quite thin like before. But, his golden locks are nowhere to be found. Rob Lee is still in the city. I just talked to him about a week ago. We usually talk about once a year. It's been quite a few years since we've actually seen each other face to face. That's too long as far as I'm concerned. I'm going to have to do something about that. After graduation we traveled Europe together for 2-1/2 months. My biggest and longest adventure to date.

Anyway, it was cool digging up these old shots again. I believe the original prints were buried somewhere in my parents' basement before. I scanned them and stored them on a CD quite a few years ago. That lay hidden amongst all my other junk until just recently when I was going through some of my stuff again. Old treasures, once lost, found again. Makes me happy.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Jeff L - International Spy

Not long ago I was looking through different peoples' blogs because I wanted to follow a few more. It was at that time that I came across one from someone I have a slight connection to. This past summer I was laid off from my job of over 20 years. My company decided a few of us "old timers" were expendable, so that was that. To show there were no hard feelings they enrolled us in a two day course at a company that specializes in career transitioning.

Anyway, one of my counsellors from that company, "Bob", has a blog here. I have to say I was a little surprised to see it, but curious none-the-less. It didn't take me long to decided to take a peek and see what he had to say. I can tell you, there were no nasty surprises or anything like that. No skeletons in the closet, no dirty laundry or any incriminating evidence. He just wrote about some of the trials and tribulations in his personal life. Still I kind of felt like I was spying on him. I was debating on whether I should leave a comment or not. In the end I didn't. I'll keep the illusion of his privacy safe.

So, let this be a cautionary tale to you all. Be careful what you blog. You never know who might be reading it. ;-)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Flavor of the Week

A weekly look at the styles of everyday people as seen through the eyes of, me, your intrepid man on the street.

Name: Denis C.
Occupation: Modeling Agent
Location: Bellair Street/Cumberland Street, Yorkville
Clothing details: Sunglasses-Aviator, Shirt-Zara, Blazer-Le Chateau, Jeans-Jean Machine, Shoes-Aldo
What he was doing when I met him: Returning from lunch with a female friend.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Boarding Homes Ministry

I've been visiting Mrs. Carter's boarding home (Carter Manor) since 2000 with Boarding Homes Ministry. It was started by Rodger Hunter (pictured on right, with Owen) back in 1996. The residents in these homes have varying degrees of mental illness, some mild; some severe. Rodger, bless his heart, set out to fill a need he saw in these places. Some residents, for one reason or another, didn't have many friends or family that would come visit. At the best of times life in these homes can be more than trying. Living in close quarters with others who have mental illness is no easy feat. Rodger sought to bring some grace and compassion back into these peoples' lives by visiting them on a regular basis and giving them someone to sound off to. At the beginning he used to visit these homes on his own. When the need became too great he decided to recruit some help. I became involved after Rodger came to our church and gave a sermon on his ministry. It touched my heart.

There have been quite a lot of changes over the many years I've been volunteering here. For one, Mrs. Carter no longer runs the home. She turned it over to Kelly who was her assistant before I believe. Also, many faces have come and gone. Some moved to places that were able to provide more care; some to places that gave less care. It all depended upon the particular individual. There were a few that, sadly, passed away as well. I suppose it mirrors real life in a way. We've all had friends that have come and gone. Out of the thirty-odd residents that lived here when I first started, I believe there are only four left. That would be Robert Cormier, Duchen, Tonica and Ray. There might be one more... I'm not sure. There's another Robert who almost never leaves his room. I think I see him on average less than once a year. Out of the four (or so) residents that I've mentioned only Robert C. functions at a reasonably normal level.

To see Rodger's webpage click here.

Friday, November 20, 2009

What's Wrong with the World Today?

If you stand back and take an objective look at it, sometimes it seems as if the world has gone off the deep end. There is violence, country against country; countryman against countryman. Not to mention the destruction man is waging against this planet we call home. One wonders how we've managed to keep from imploding long before now.

I think part of it can be explained by a lack of respect we not only have for each other, but the earth we live on. But, this topic is too broad, so I'll just focus on the lack of respect man has for his fellow man.

I believe we are all partially to blame for the problems we face today. It all starts with how we raise our kids. Young children are impressionable. They believe what they either see or hear. If we teach them hate, they will hate. If we teach them tolerance and respect for others, then they will generally be tolerant and respectful of others. Let's say you put a White Supremacist's toddler in a room with an African-American, Jewish or Asian toddler with an equal number of toys for each. What do you think would happen? Would they automatically hate each other? Would they automatically fight? Of course not. Racial intolerance is taught.

But, just as racial intolerance is taught, respect can be taught as well. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold committed terrible crimes against their fellow man in the shootings at Columbine High. I'd like to suggest they were a product of the society they grew up in. A society of intolerance where they themselves were bullied at school because they were "different". A society that values money over the well-being of it's young people by allowing violent video games, movies and music to be produced. I'm not for censorship. Far from it. I'm an ardent supporter of freedom of speech. But, there has to be a line drawn when either people or even animals are put at risk. Impressionable minds become desensitized to violence when they see it too often I believe. When we put financial gain, from production of such media, over the welfare of our youth we show a lack of respect for them.

Respect in all forms should be taught - from one ethnic group to another, from men to women, between different religious groups, from the high school jock to the overweight kid with pimples. People should not be treated differently because of where they're from, their gender, their faith or how they look. Not only for their sake, but ours. If we kick a dog long enough it's going to bite back. If we show him love and respect he'll stand by our side forever.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My Friend Roland

This is my friend, Roland. I've known him for at least three of four years I believe. We first met when he was a resident at Carter Manor, a boarding home at King and Dufferin. I'm part of a volunteer group that goes there every other Sunday afternoon to visit.

Roland has been in and out of many places over the years. I visited him, once or twice, when he was at another boarding home in the area (after he left 103 Tyndall). I've seen him various times at Queen Street (CAMH) too. He'd go there for treatment now and then. Sometimes he would call me and I'd go over and we'd chat a bit and he'd ask me for money. I even visited him a few times at Toronto Grace Hospital at the end of 2006. He was there receiving treatment for his injured knee after getting hit by a car. Sometimes we'd go to the common area and I'd buy him a Pepsi and we'd have a little talk. At other times he'd want to go outside. When he was still recovering and couldn't walk I would push him around the neighhourhood in his wheel chair. We'd go down Church Street, cut across Carlton, weave our way through the crowds up Yonge and go across Bloor back to the hospital. One time, after he was able to walk better, he called me to visit him. When I got there he wanted to go to the Bay department store across the street to watch a DVD movie they had playing in the electronics department. I didn't think that was such a good idea, but he insisted. Luckily we didn't stay for the duration of the whole movie. I don't think the staff would have liked it much if we sat on the sofa watching TV for two hours.

After his last move I lost touch with him. By chance I bumped into him last March (2008) walking on Yonge. He told me he was staying nearby at a group home on Sherbourne. We stopped for about half an hour at a local pizza joint to catch up on the latest news then said our good-byes. After that I didn't hear from him again. That was until a couple of weeks ago; just over a year and a half later.

I have to say the circumstances leading up to our most recent meeting were quite interesting. The stars definitely lined up in our favor that day. I had met with my career counsellor in the early afternoon. My plan, after that, was to head over to the Ricoh Coliseum at the C.N.E. that to see the 10th World Wushu Championships (which I previously blogged about). On my way downtown I planned to stop for lunch in Chinatown at my usual haunt, Rol Jui. I go there on a regular basis because I like the food and it's a good deal. Anyway, after I finished eating I was ready to go when the waitress told me to wait because she wanted to give me some red bean soup for dessert on the house. That was very kind of her. So I took a few extra minutes to eat it before heading out. I was going to take the TTC down to the C.N.E. from there, but changed my mind last minute and decided to walk. That's when I bumped into Roland after crossing the street at Dundas and Spadina. You have to admit that a lot of things had to happen to make our meeting possible. Me eating lunch in Chinatown, getting the extra dessert and deciding not to take the TTC. If one of those things didn't happen we would have missed each other by just that much. Makes me wonder if, somehow, a higher power was involved. I dunno. We walked to a nearby restaurant patio and sat down to chat. While we were there a stranger came by and was listening to us (I think he worked at the restaurant). After Roland parted he told me he was a advocate for the mentally ill and had gone through the battles of fighting addiction as well. It was so unusual, I thought, how all these circumstances came together from seemingly random events to form something so cohesive. So, through Roland, I have a new Facebook friend in, Rob, too.

Anyway, Roland, and I traded contact information again. It's definitely hard for me to keep track of him since he's always changing his place of residence. He called me today and we're going to meet tomorrow afternoon. I have to say he's looking good. He lost a lot of weight. I honestly almost didn't recognize him standing there at the street corner. But, I also must say, I'm so glad I did.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Flavor of the Week

A weekly look at the styles of everyday people as seen through the eyes of, me, your intrepid man on the street.

Name: Janet A.
Occupation: Retail @ Melanie Lyne
Location: Queen Street West/John Street
Clothing details: Sunglasses-Melanie Lyne, Top-Melanie Lyne, Jeans-No name, Shoes-Le Chateau, Bag-Guess
What she was doing when I met her: Walking along Queen West with her friend Maryna.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Rancho Relaxo

I went to dinner with my friends at Rancho Relaxo last week. It's a Mexican restaurant on College, one block west of Spadina. I eat here a couple times a year on average. My favorite dish is the Enchilada de Casa. It's a soft, corn tortilla filled with your choice of chicken, steak, pork or veggies and topped with cheese and sour cream. More often than not I opt for the steak. The dish is served with rice, refried beans and house salad. Yummy.

We were supposed to meet at 7:00 p.m. I was there first, followed shortly by my friend Catherine who I used to work with. It was good to see her again. I hadn't seen her in four months. Jay showed up next. I've known him since we were in grade 9. He lived with his parents on the street behind mine. We don't see each other so often now. By chance we ran into each other this past summer at Yonge and Dundas. He was on his motorcycle going south on Yonge and I was riding my bike north. I got stuck at a light, but managed to turn around and catch up to him. Truth is you can't travel that quickly on the roads in the city. It's just too congested. Bike is the best way to get around when the weather is nice.

Daphne and Diane were next. I know Diane through Daphne. We first met three or four years ago, if I'm not mistaken, when Diane came from Korea to visit Daphne here. I traveled with Diane in Japan back in 2007. At that time her company was sending their employees to Tokyo every so often for work. So she knew her way around quite well. It was a great help to me. Daphne and I first met at work. She's a Resale Homes magazine customer service rep. Everybody likes her.

Anyway, dinner was great. Daphne and Catherine also had Enchiladas. Jay had the Fish Tacos and Diane had a Veggie Quesadilla. Afterwards we shared an apple cake dessert and deep fried ice cream.

Delicious food and engaging conversation with good friends. What more could you ask for?

P.S. - The above photo isn't mine. Catherine took it while fooling around with my camera. I thought it was quite colourful, so I decided to use it. All my friends are camera shy for some reason, so no shots of any of them. What can you do?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Remembrance Day

Real Heros

Everyone has heros. Some see Michael Jordan as their hero. Others Derek Jeter or Tiger Woods. While each of them has their own merits I'd like to suggest our real heros are our war vets.

I was at the Remembrance Day ceremony today at Queen's Park. It was the first time I've had the privilege of attending. This was a time for the citizens of our city to pay tribute to the soldiers who fought for our country in wars past and continue to fight in current conflicts. Dalton McGuinty, the premier of Ontario, spoke first. He was followed by other dignitaries, both civilian and military. They reminded us of the many sacrifices our men and women in the military have made and thanked them for their service. I, for one, am deeply gratified.

I had the honour of both shaking hands with and thanking Major-General Richard Rohmer (left) and Bruce Melanson (right) after the ceremony. Both are veterans of World War II. I overheard Mr. Melanson described war as "hell" while speaking to another person there. I can only imagine. It must have been terrifying. He was fighting in France with the Allied forces. As we know many young men never made it back alive. To show our appreciation, the least we can do is honour their memory and never forget.

Check out the complete set of photos on my photostream. View as slideshow is best.

Fallen Heros

I went to the Remembrance Day ceremony at Queen's Park earlier today. Afterwards I dropped by the cenotaph at Old City Hall to view the wreaths laid there. Many people had placed poppies around the grass where it was. I was moved to see two flyers there of recently fallen soldiers, Sapper Sean David Greensfield, and, Corporal Shane Keating. These young men served in the conflict in Afghanistan and paid the ultimate sacrifice. No matter what you think of war, you have to honour the memory of those who put everything on the line to defend our freedoms.

Lest We Forget...

Monday, November 9, 2009

Flavor of the Week

A weekly look at the styles of everyday people as seen through the eyes of, me, your intrepid man on the street.

Name: Derek L.
Occupation: Landscape Designer
Location: Bloor Street/Bay Street
Clothing details: Glasses-Japanese Handmade, T-shirt-Club Monaco,
Jeans-UNIQLO, Hong Kong, Shoes-Town Shoes, Bag-Hermès, Watch-Seiko
What he was doing when I met him: Walking home with a friend after lunch.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Drivers vs. Cyclists

Not long ago there was an incident where a cyclist, Darcy Allan Sheppard, was killed while riding his bicycle in downtown Toronto (memorial pictured above). He was originally involved in an accident with the former attorney-general of Ontario, Michael Bryant. As the story goes, Mr. Bryant was driving home with his wife, Susan Abramovitch, after dinner when something happened between himself and Mr. Sheppard. The details aren't clear yet, but, to make a long story short, tempers flared and things got out of hand. Mr. Sheppard was subsequently dragged hitting his head, sustaining serious injury which led to his tragic passing.

Cyclists' rights advocates had a field day with this. They charged that drivers don't respect cyclists and that they're a menace to everyone on the roads. I find it more than distasteful that they're using this particular event to try and bolster support for their cause. Especially after they tried to paint Mr. Bryant as the sole contributor to this tragedy. They conveniently forgot that earlier that evening police were called to Mr. Sheppard's girlfriend's place to quell a domestic disturbance in which Mr. Sheppard was apparently intoxicated. Anyone who doesn't believe this played a part in this unfortunate incident is fooling themselves.

It's true... cycling in any urban setting can be dangerous. And, drivers do make mistakes. It does happen. I, personally, have been hit by cars on more than one occasion*. But, we as cyclists, have to do our part as well. Let me first say, I'm an avid cyclist and this isn't an anti-cyclist rant, but I see many other less experienced cyclists making all sorts of dumb mistakes. One major no-no is passing a vehicle entering into an intersection on the right. If he goes straight, you're lucky. But, if he makes a turn, you're only asking to get your ass knocked to the ground. Don't be stupid, don't take that chance. If you're impatient enough not to want to wait (like I usually am), check your blindspot and pass on the left. As well, you have to be aware of your surroundings. Don't cut in and out of traffic without first looking behind you. That goes without saying. Signaling is good too. Just as I hate it when drivers don't signal turns, it's not good when cyclists don't do it either. I signal right turns, left turns and even lane changes. If a driver knows what you're going to do he can give you space to do it. Lastly, try to obey traffic signals/signs once in awhile. If you want respect, you're not going to get it by blowing through stop signs, red lights or crosswalks while someone is walking by. If you want to escalate the animosity between drivers and cyclists (not to mention the cops) this is a good way to do it. Respect isn't a God-given right, it has to be earned.

A few other safety tips - Be visible at night. A bright headlight and tail light are necessities. Be careful of sewer grates and streetcar tracks. Try to cross on as much of a perpendicular angle as is safely possible and "float" over tracks by lightening the weight on your front wheel by shifting your weight backwards a bit. In the rain try not to brake hard on any surfaces that have road paint on them as they become much slipperier. As well, you should wear a helmet (that fits snugly). It may be uncomfortable or look dorky. Better that than having your brains splattered on the pavement should you fall and hit your head. It saved my life once. Who knows... maybe it'll save yours.

*As for the times I was hit by cars... once it was my fault, once it was the driver's. When the time comes we have to own up to our mistakes. We have to take responsibility for them and learn from them. You won't last long if you continue doing stupid things on the roads.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Rouge Park Hike

A couple of weeks ago I headed over to the Rouge River Valley near the zoo to take in the fall colours. It's not too far from the city centre and the trails there are pretty decent. One thing I like about them is that, while there are paths that are surrounded by trees on both sides, there are also open areas where you can see the blue skies as well. For taking pictures that's really nice. I love how the vibrant reds, oranges and yellows are met by the striking blue of the sky.

This is the second year I've come here. I went last year too. The overall conditions were a bit better then. It was a little overcast this time and I'm afraid I headed over there a little late in the day. There were more shadows than I would have liked. My bad. As well, I think it's a recent phenomenon, but in certain years the leaves on the trees appear to be "dirty". They aren't the bright yellows, oranges and reds you'd be accustomed to seeing. Often they'd have dingy, brown spots on them. Not very appealing, but you have to make the best of what you're given.

It's funny... whenever I go somewhere with the express purpose of photographing it, I don't enjoy it as much as if I were to go without my camera. Instead of just taking in the beautiful scenery, I'm scouring it looking for opportunities to take the perfect shot. Sometimes I have to take a step back and tell myself that I can do both while I'm out there.

Anyway, it was still nice to get out there for one last splash before the leaves fall and everything turns cold and grey. I really enjoyed the few hours I was out hiking. It gives you time to clear your head and forget about any pressing issues. I encourage everyone to do something where they can get out and take a break from the rigors everyday of life. Many people live lives that are past the point of being stressful. It's important for your well-being to take your foot off the gas, get out of the fast lane and sit by the side of the road and let the craziness go by.

Flavor of the Week

A weekly look at the styles of everyday people as seen through the eyes of, me, your intrepid man on the street.

Name: Mari M.

Occupation: Receptionist/Mail Clerk

Location: Bellair Street/Cumberland Street, Yorkville

Clothing details: Hat-Terranova, Scarf-found in stores everywhere, Top/Pants-Europe, Sunglasses-Mango, Shoes-Payless Shoes

What she was doing when I met her: Waiting to meet a friend.

My blog, my way.

This is a new column I'm starting on my blog. It's going to be called Flavor of the Week. It will feature a couple of photos of someone I approached on the street who I thought was either dressed nicely or in a unique way or both.

Originally I had started doing this for another blog site. But, I didn't like their way of laying the column out or the fact they only wanted a short description of what the subject was doing when I met them and their occupation. I thought it would be much more informative to the reader if I listed the brand names of the items of clothing the person was wearing and/or where you could buy them. I mean, if I saw something that someone was wearing that I liked I'd certainly want to know where I could get it, wouldn't you?

Another ridiculous restriction they had was that the subject had to be standing. Meaning these shots I took of Mari would have been useless. I thought that was silly. So now I'm doing it my way. I'll write what I feel like writing and post the pictures I like.

Okay, enough of me ranting...

This is Mari M. She's the first person I ever approached for this feature. In turn she will have the honour of being the first person I post on my blog. Mari was sitting on a bench in Yorkville talking on the phone with her friend when I saw her. I waited a couple minutes until after she finished before going up to her. She graciously agreed to pose for a few shots while waiting for her friend to show up. We had a few moments to chat after I finished shooting. It turns out she's an amateur photographer too. You can check her shots out here. I have to say, they're really good.

I'm going to use some of the same pictures that were posted on the other site as well as others they didn't use. I'll post every Monday until I run out of photos. Should be good for another five months.

Hope you like it.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween, my friends. I borrowed my roommate's pumpkin for this "photo shoot". It was all I had close at hand. I hope everyone has a fun and safe day.

Take care ~

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Opening a Can of Whoop Ass!


I took this series of shots on the third day of the 10th World Wushu Championships currently being held here in Toronto, Canada. I believe this is the mens' 90+ kg class Sanshou competition (hand to hand combat fighting). Points are given for punches and kicks to certain areas like the head. As well, you can get points for throwing a competitor to the ground or knocking him off the mat. There are three 2-minute rounds. Whoever wins the most rounds is declared the winner of the match. Of course, you can also win by doing what this Chinese competitor did to the Brazilian one. About one or two seconds after the match began the Chinese fellow landed a high kick to the side of the head, and, boom, lights out, it was over.

It was pretty interesting to see. There were a lot more injuries than I thought there would be. The ambulance attendants certainly earned their pay this day. In about half the matches I saw the loser was carted off on a stretcher. Some injuries were minor like a kick to the back of the leg that rendered the competitor unable to stand. Other times it was a bit more serious when the loser lay motionless for a little while.

There are other less violent categories of competition as well. From what I gather there are two main types - Taolu and Sanshou. Taolu is more a demonstrative, not combative competition. Competitors show their form in front of the judges in one of four categories - Barehanded, Short Weapon, Long Weapon and Duilian. Within the first three categories there are sub-categories. I believe different techniques or different weapons are used. In Duilian you perform with one or two other teammates in front of judges. I watched the Taolu Men's Changquan (barehanded competition) and the Taolu Women's Qiangshu (long weapon - spear) too.

It was cool. I'll have to thank my uncle for the ticket the next time I see him.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pedestrian Sunday - Kensington Market

After church, yesterday, I walked over to Kensington Market for their last Pedestrian Sunday of the year. They hold it the last Sunday of every month from May to October.

Pedestrian Sunday first started in 2004. The idea was to close certain neighbourhood streets to vehicular traffic and open them up for people to stroll through while enjoying a diverse assortment of food, music and other performances put on by the local community. At the same time they were trying to "make a statement about climate change, while creating the experience of what a livable city and a sustainable future could be simply by giving walking priority over the habit of driving. It’s a local action that joins a global ecological movement. By hosting a Pedestrian Sunday, a community takes back their common space and celebrates a day of cleaner air." or so says their website.

I arrived in the area at about 3:30 p.m. Pedestrian Sunday was already in full swing. The streets were bustling with people taking in a multitude of sights and sounds. While down here you'll find a myriad of ethnic groups represented by both merchants and residents alike. As well, there's an eclectic mix of cafés, restaurants and vintage clothing stores that's sure to put a smile on the face of any humdrum guy or gal you know. It's a kaleidoscopic ride for the senses to say the least. Musicians were playing curbside with their bands. Various street performers entertained the mass of onlookers. You could grab a chicken empanada from Jumbo Empanadas to go, or sit on a patio at Aspetta with a cold bottle of Peroni and watch the world go by. The choice was yours.

Two performers of note I enjoyed watching were the crazy, half-baked, half-naked, sword-juggling unicyclist DynaMike (Michael Bonnici) and the improv song and dance puppetry of Mr. Verg's Theatre of the Absurd (pictured above). He's an artist I've had the pleasure of seeing in various incarnations a couple times in the past.

DynaMike is totally nutty. But, in an amusing and entertaining way. He plays well to the crowd often getting them to take part in his performance. He starts by gathering everyone around and picking certain audience members to help him with his props such as his swords for juggling or stretch unicycle. This is followed by a balancing act with various objects and a finale that has him strip down to his skivvies then juggle three swords while balancing high atop his unicycle, all the while poking fun everyone that helps him.

Mr. Verg (a.k.a Alexander Winfield) is a little more cerebral. His creative and highly amusing, one man puppet show is utterly charming to both adults and children alike. For the price of a handful of spare change he will sing a song with his funny accent about any topic you care to put forth. According to his interview he came upon the idea of performing his show back in 2006 when, in his words, he "had enough of trying to make do with very poor part-time jobs." He can be reached at if you wish to inquire about his services or where he may be performing next.

All-in-all, it was a delightful way to pass a couple of hours on a lovely fall afternoon in the city. Next time you're here, you should make a point of dropping by.