Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Sandwich Run to Remember



We went on another Sandwich Run this evening. This time it was with a CSM (Center for Student Missions) hosted youth group from North Carolina. I enjoy taking groups from smaller towns around the city. When you live here you sometimes take it for granted. It doesn't seem like that special a place to live in. But, to see it through someone else's eyes is neat. One fellow, Keith (one of the adult chaperones), said his hometown pretty much shuts down after 8:00 or 9:00 p.m. ... perhaps a little later on weekends. To be out and about and seeing so much activity on the streets at 10:30 on a Monday night was pretty unusual to him.

We began the evening in the parking lot behind Knox church as usual. The group from the U.S. was about 20+ strong. Joe gave his customary introductory speech outlining his safety tips and so on. After that we split into two smaller groups with Darlene and Jenn leading one, and Joe and I leading the other and headed off.

Darlene and Jenn had a rather interesting start to their evening. They ran into an apr├Ęs-G20, anti-police, protest march on University Avenue as they were trying to make their way east towards Allan Gardens and Seaton House. Joe and I missed those guys as we headed south on Spadina towards Queen.

Along the way we saw a few homeless folk who we said, hi, to and gave bag lunches and socks. When we hit Queen we headed east past Steve's Music Store which had been damaged during the "protests" on Saturday. A cop car had been set on fire in front of it and the resulting heat melted the windows out front and partially damaged the store sign.

Our brush with trouble happened when we got to John Street and turned left to head north towards Grange Park. Before we got there we decided to cut through a back alley (Renfrew Place) because there's a small park there that people sometimes hang out in. As we were doing that a minivan full of police officers pulled up and approached some people there. From my previous blog you know that a so-called "Anarchist" group called the Black Bloc had been vandalizing certain stores and banks around the area. Well the police were still out looking for them. Any decent-sized group of young people (such as ours), especially ones carrying backpacks (as we were also doing) was at risk of being picked up. So we promptly did an about face and head back up John to the park. I mean, what were the high school students going to tell their parents when they returned home from their visit to Toronto? Mom, Dad... I spent the evening in a holding cell after trying to give out bag lunches to homeless people? That wouldn't be very good. Not at all.

Nobody needing a bag lunch was hanging out in the park when we arrived. So we walked back down to Queen and continued heading east towards City Hall. The windows at the Scotia Bank at Queen and McCaul had already been repaired I noticed. They had been smashed in by the "protesters" just two days earlier. I was surprised to see they had been fixed so quickly. The three ATMs out front were another story altogether. They still showed the ill effects of being hit by a hammer or rock or whatever other objects the vandals could find around the neighbourhood.

As we were crossing University heading towards City Hall we got stuck on the island in the middle because we weren't walking fast enough. It was at that time I saw a homeless gentleman on a bench on the south island opposite us. I took three people from our group over to offer him a bag lunch while the others continued on to City Hall. We would meet Joe and the rest of them there after we were done. Well, that didn't exactly happen. We never did meet them. Not until the very end of the night anyway.

After giving the fellow on the bench a bag lunch we approached another fellow sitting nearby. We asked if he'd like one too, but he said he didn't need one. We also had socks which we offered as well, but again he declined.

As we were about to leave he stopped us and asked us what we were doing. I mentioned that we were a charitable group that went around the city handing out bag lunches to homeless people. He replied that he was doing very well financially speaking, but had other issues that he was dealing with. He wanted us to stay and talk if we could. We told him that we had people who were waiting for us, but would try to stay a little while if it would help.

Well, that little while turned into a long time. Perry (not his real name) recently found out some very troubling personal news. As well he had Osteogenesis Imperfecta, a serious disease that makes his bones brittle thus making them prone to breaking easily. Visual proof of his ailment was his very slight stature (almost anorexic-like) and the knee brace that supported his right leg (which I believe had recently healed after being broken). He mentioned he suffered numerous broken bones in his 50 some odd years on this planet. As well I'm sure he must have endured some job related stress (to put it mildly). He told us 100-hour work weeks were par for him. That, in my view, is completely insane.

Everything seemed to have all caught up with him at the same time. Sitting there a broken man, alone on an island (both literally and metaphorically speaking) in the middle of University Avenue. With no release valve, no one to tell his troubles too, he just shut down. When we came by and took the time to listen... to show genuine concern for him... to pray on his behalf, a tremendous weight was lifted from his shoulders. He was so very, very grateful for that. You could see tears coming into his eyes.

That moment touched us. I think it's something the four of us will never forget. We broke our "no hugging" rule (for safety purposes) and all gave him one before we departed. I only hope this moment in time can be the start of a road to recovery for him, I truly do.

Monday, June 28, 2010

G20 "Protesters"

not my photo

The G20 Summit was held this past weekend (June 25th-27th, 2010) in Toronto. This rant has nothing to do with it, rather it focuses on the "protesters" that caused mayhem in our city.

While I fully support the right to peaceful protest these self-proclaimed "Anarchists", the Black Bloc, can't dignify calling themselves anything more than common street thugs. Their only agenda was to break windows of hardworking business owners and generally cause trouble.

That really annoyed me as well as many other citizens of our city. We saw news footage of these black clad people going around smashing car and store windows and setting police cars on fire. Some of us wondered why the police didn't step in to stop it. I believe it's because they didn't want to appear too heavy handed. I can understand their point. A lot of police forces worldwide have been accused of abuse in the past.

Now we're hearing reports from the "protesters" of being "abused". To them I say, grow up. You know exactly what you're getting into when you join these violent groups, when you confront police officers trying to keep order. What do you think would happen? That you'd be given gold stars and a pat on the back? If you don't want to be jumped on and restrained stay home. Are you that dumb? You know full well the risks of going into the security zone. It's like going to the zoo and jumping into the tiger pit and trying to pet it. If you're that stupid you deserve to be eaten.

There are others saying that our "freedoms" are being infringed upon. That "our streets", as some of them are chanting on TV, are being closed off to everyday citizens. Boo-hoo, I don't have any sympathy for you either. So certain streets have been closed off to the general public for a few days. Who cares? Do you even go down there anyway? I doubt it. You're just looking for another reason to complain about the government and other authority figures or whatever. Why don't you get a hobby? Perhaps a pottery class will mellow you out. Important political figures are down there discussing business that affect the rest of us. Of course they have to close the streets off. Anyone with half a mind would understand this, why don't you?

If you don't like living in Canada feel free to leave. Thousands upon thousands of people worldwide risk everything (money, life, etc.) to try and gain citizenship to this country. Think about it. Maybe then you'd realize how lucky you really are.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

My Toronto - G20 Summit



The 2010 G8 and G20 Summits are being held in Huntsville and Toronto, Ontario respectively (June 25th-27th, 2010). Many leaders from all over the world are descending on our city as we speak.

In previous years that the summits have been held there have been violent protests. So our federal government has assembled a 20,000 man force made up of police officers and security guards from all around the country.

In the downtown core there is also a 3 metre high, 5 kilometre long fence surrounding vital buildings such as the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. In total the bill to pay for all this is supposed to top out at just over $1 billion. I thought I would ride down and have a look at this spectacle on Friday.

It was pretty weird. The northern border the fence runs along Wellington Street. It's western boundary is just west of Peter St. along the western edge of the Rogers Centre. It's southern boundary is Lakeshore Blvd. West. And it's eastern boundary is Bay Street.

I first entered the fenced off area at University and Front (where the photo was taken). Besides the odd tourist or two it was pretty much empty except for a huge police presence. Normally it's bustling with activity being right by the CN Tower, Rogers Centre and Union Station. There were almost no civilian vehicles inside. Those that entered the area were subject to a police check of course. In some areas pedestrians and cyclists like me were asked to have our bags/knapsacks checked too. In other areas I was able to ride straight in. I was denied access to one area. But, let in everywhere else. Including the back of the area I was denied access to after I rode around another way. Hmm.

Most of the officers I spoke with were very friendly. I chatted with cops from Calgary, Vancouver, Manitoba and Markham. I asked the out of towners what they thought of our city. They didn't really get a chance to see much on this trip, but most of them have been here before. I think some of them got to see the C.N. Tower on their free time and the "Fake Lake" at the press centre and the Direct Energy Centre at the CNE grounds.

I also told them the $1 billion+ price tag for the summit seemed pretty excessive. I think most of them had to agree. But, one officer said, "You can't put a price on safety". It's true that safety is important, but I'm sure we could have gotten it done for less.

They were all really shy too. None of them wanted their photos taken. I asked a whole bunch of them. Two agreed at one point, but when I asked them if I could shoot the rest of the guys they were standing with the others didn't want their photo taken. Okay, fine. No problem. I thought it might be nice to get a few group shots to highlight how many of them there were. Still you can see groups of them in the backgrounds of some of my photos.

Anyway, it was fun riding around. It's probably the only time any of us (including the officers I spoke with) will get to experience something like this. I thought it would be good to document it with my camera. Check my Flickr.com page soon for the rest of the shots.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Dinner at DT Bistro



A few of my friends and I went to dinner at DT Bistro last week. One friend, Taku, suggested it. I have to say we were all happy he did.

DT Bistro is located at 154 Harbord Street a few blocks west of Spadina. It's owned by award winning pastry chef Donald Duong.

Our group ordered from the Prix Fixe menu. For either $25 or $35 you can choose from various appetizers, main courses, desserts plus a coffee or tea. That's the best option I believe.

Pictured here is Taku's Orange Roughy and my Ricotta and Crabmeat Cannelloni on the left, and everyone's favorite dessert option the Berry Box with Chocolate Mousse. The fish dish was a little salty. We believe it was due to the fact it was wrapped in prosciutto. Overall the dining experience was really wonderful though.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Toronto Rocks: Earthquake Shakes City



My, my, my... something to take our minds off the upcoming G20 Summit here in the city. This afternoon (Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010) at 1:41 p.m. local time a magnitude 5.0 earthquake (according to the US Geological Survey) shook Toronto. The epicenter was located 60 kilometres north of the national capital of Ottawa. It was felt as far west as Michigan and Ohio, as far east as Montreal and in some parts of New York State.

I, for one, was sitting on my sofa in my condo when the quake hit. It was the strangest sensation. The whole room seemed to move beneath me. The floor lamp beside me started to sway and I could hear the large, floor-to-ceiling windows in my kitchen and even the building creaking. I have to say I was a little bit concerned. I didn't know if I should hightail it out of my condo or not. I walked into the kitchen and noticed some workers in the office buildings across the road from me streaming out onto the street. Perhaps they were genuinely scared or maybe they just wanted an early afternoon break. In all the shaking lasted from 20-30 seconds.

Now that I look back at it, it was kind of exciting. I phoned my mom and asked her if she felt it. She mentioned she did. My sister called her from work and talked to her too. The local news media was on top of the story right away broadcasting all sorts of reports and analysis. For a moment all the G20 protesters and their attention grabbing antics took a backseat to something of far greater interest to the citizens of this city.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

My Toronto - Gay Pride Parade



This is a photo I took from the 2006 Gay Pride Parade here in Toronto. This year is it's 30th anniversary.

It's a hugely popular event that attracts upwards of a million people along it's route. Major corporate sponsors have floats and people of all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds participate.

2010 Pride Week begins on June 25th culminating with the much anticipated Pride Parade on Sunday, July 4th. The parade starts at 2:00 p.m. at Bloor and Church, runs south on Yonge to Gerrard before heading back to Church.

If you want to get a curbside spot be sure to arrive at least an hour or two before the parade starts. And if you have a camera be sure to look out for the many parade participants with squirt guns. Have fun!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Rest In Peace, James Michael "Pitt" Potter



An acquaintance of mine, James Michael Potter, passed away this past Saturday (June 12th). From all accounts it was supposed to be from complications due to his affliction with diabetes.

I knew James from volunteering together at the Out of the Cold program at Knox Presbyterian Church. We used to go there every Tuesday night through the winter to help underprivileged young people with a hot meal. I have to say, I never was that close to him. But, he would always offer a friendly smile whenever we crossed paths. He seemed like a really great guy, well liked by everybody.

It was such a shock to hear of his passing on Facebook. To me he seemed to be a picture of perfect health. And he was so young too. Only 33-years-old. It's so sad to be taken at such an early age. I know he will be missed by many. The Knox OOTC community is pretty tight. To his family and friends I send my most sincere condolences.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

My Toronto - Distillery District



This a shot from the Distillery District I took from Nuit Blanche back in 2007. It's a pretty nice area. They redeveloped it a few years ago. I can't remember exactly when. They're building condos and have a lot of nice restaurants and stores there now.

In a past life was former the grounds of the Gooderham and Worts Distillery. It was started in 1837 after William Gooderham had an excess of grain from his farming operations. By 1871 it was a booming business. He was rolling in dough. I heard this on a tour I went on to one of his other buildings, the Flatiron building, down on Front and Church.

Anyway, it's a good place to spend a few hours on a sunny afternoon if you get the chance. You can take the TTC, ride your bike down or drive. If you drive make sure you look for the "cheap lot". There are three in the immediate area with different hourly rates. The least expensive is 75¢ for 1/2 hour. It's the second lot north of Mill Street on the east side of Parliament Street.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

I went to Ottawa



I went to Ottawa this past weekend. My friend's friend's friend was getting married there so a few of us decided to hop into a car and make a road trip out of it.

We left Friday morning and got to Ottawa in the early afternoon. Upon arrival we promptly crossed the border into Quebec where we grabbed lunch at St. Hubert. It's a French version of Swiss Chalet. They used to have a lot of them here in Ontario, but in recent years they've disappeared.

In the early evening we headed over to the ByWard Market for a walk through, then crossed the Rideau Canal to check out Parliament Hill. We snapped a few pictures outside before finding out there was a 6:50 p.m. guided tour. The tour was pretty neat. Being that it was the end of the day we were able to see some things that the general public rarely get a chance to view. One such thing was the library. I have to say it was quite fantastic.

After the tour we headed back to the ByWard Market and grabbed a bite at Wonton Mama. It's a "Pan-Asian restaurant featuring simple yet delicious dishes from China, Thailand, Vietnam and Japan" (according to their website). The food was fine there.

The next day was the wedding. DY and Diane attended it. I went to Doors Open Ottawa with Daphne. It's an event held in many cities around the world (including Toronto) where "residents and visitors are invited to discover first-hand Ontario’s hidden heritage treasures, some of which have never been open to the public."

Daphne and I checked out about 8-10 buildings including the former Union Station (train station), the National Capital Commission and Cartier Square Drill Hall. We also dropped by Notre Dame Cathedral (which wasn't an official Doors Open participant) across the street from the National Gallery of Canada. I have to say it was really nice looking inside.

Since Diane and DY were busy the whole day, Daphne and I had dinner on our own. We picked a diner called Zak's in the ByWard Market. The food was under par and overpriced. I suppose that's what you get for eating in a tourist spot.

The weather on Sunday morning wasn't that great. It was raining lightly, but steadily. We took Diane and DY by Notre Dame because they hadn't seen it yet. Afterwards we walked across the street to the National Gallery which was also part of Doors Open Ottawa and spent a couple of hours there.

After the gallery we decided to get lunch. Diane wanted to drive back over the border into Quebec to eat again. We gave it a go, but the GPS system that she bought the previous day after she got lost after dropping Daphne and I off downtown kept telling us to drive into the river. Since we didn't feel like going for a swim we decided to head back to the highway and drive towards Toronto. When we felt like it we would stop somewhere and grab a bite along the way.

Not long after we hit the 401 we stopped in a town called Prescott. We found a place on Diane's GPS called Wok House Restaurant which served Westernized "Chinese" food. It had things like chicken balls with phosphorescent red sauce and things like that. We shared dishes of beef and broccoli, beef "chow mein", battered deep fried shrimp and friend rice instead.

After lunch Daphne took the wheel as I figured I needed a nap. She drove a little while before asking DY if she wanted to stop by Kingston as we were driving through. I wasn't so keen on the idea because it was getting later and we probably wouldn't be getting into town until after 10:00 p.m. as it was. That would be a bit late for dinner as far as I was concerned. But, they decided to stop anyway.

Kingston isn't the most interesting town as far as I'm concerned. It's kind of quaint. We didn't really get to see too much as our time was kind of limited. We stopped by a nice coffee/dessert shop for a bite. That ended up being our dinner. By the time we hit the road again it was probably 9-10:00 p.m. I was the first to be dropped off and I got home at just after midnight.

All in all it was a good trip. Nobody in our room snored. I have to get Daphne a walkie talkie so we can communicate though. Sometimes she wanders off without telling me. Then I have to look all over for her.

Monday, June 7, 2010

My Toronto - Sam The Record Man



This is a photo of local record shop Sam The Record Man I took in the summer of 2006. Established in 1961 by Sam Sniderman it was located on Yonge Street just north of Dundas. With it's iconic twin, giant, neon records it was landmark in the local music scene for many years until it's closing on June 30th, 2007. Sadly it couldn't keep up with big box stores like HMV and the availability of "free" music on the internet.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Me and my Friends



This is an old photo of me and my church friends taken back in 1997 when we went out to eat at Memories of Japan in Don Mills. I got it from my friend, Will, who is seated third from the right. The rest of the group, starting from the left are - Jan, Will's sister, Anna, me, Will, Vince's now wife, Linda, and Vince.

Will and I met up for my birthday dinner at the beginning of May at Imperial Buffet in Scarborough. I met with Vince and Linda and Jan and his wife Amy this past weekend for a late birthday lunch at Yang's on Hwy. 7. We often do that... celebrate birthdays up to a month late. Those guys are busier now with family obligations. It's not always easy to coordinate time together.

Lunch was good. It was AYCE sushi. I like Yang's. The service is quick and I think it's reasonably priced. After lunch I headed over to Vince and Linda's place. Vince and I hung out on their back patio under the shade of a canopy drinking orange juice and catching up on what was going on in our lives and talking about how our parents were doing. It was like the old days again. When we were younger we used to play hockey together and often I would go over to his parents' place afterwards and just hang out and chat. It's been awhile since we've done that I have to say. It was really nice to do it again.