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-Herm├Ęs, 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.