Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Toronto the Bad?

This week's Sandwich Run didn't start off that great. We had a group of youths from Michigan visiting us this time.

Jenn and Darlene came out as usual, but Joe couldn't make it. Instead his wife Patricia came out. It's the first time I've gone out with her. She's been doing it for 13 years though.

We started off in the back parking lot south of Knox church at 7:00 p.m. like we normally do. Since we had four leaders we decided to do four slightly different routes. Jenn went down Spadina and across Queen. I went down Spadina and across Dundas. I was going to go directly to City Hall then head over to the park at Metropolitan United Church (beside St. Michael's Hospital). Patricia and Darlene would head east on College. One would go to Allan Gardens and the other to Seaton House.

I started off first with my group. We walked down Spadina to College. Along the way we saw a couple of guys out in front of The Scott Mission. Even though that was officially Jenn's route I thought we should offer the guys bag lunches instead of passing them by. When we got to College my group crossed over to the east side of Spadina while Jenn's group stayed on the west side.

The trouble began when we got to the LCBO at Baldwin and Spadina. I noticed two fellows who looked like they might be in need of a bag lunch. They were arguing though, so I thought it best not let any of the youths approach them so as not to put them in harm's way.

As we passed by things escalated and one fellow smashed a bottle of wine over the head of the other guy. Now this wasn't some pretend candy or sugar glass they use in TV shows or movies. This was a real, heavy, full bottle of wine. It shattered over the victim's head and he fell back onto the ground. As he lie on the street face up and seemingly unconscious, the fellow who hit him over the head wound up and gave him a hard kick to the side of the head. At that point I figured I'd better go over and stop it right there.

I walked over quickly and yelled at the guy as he stood over the other fellow. The attacker was a fairly big guy. About the same height as me, but built a little more thickly. If we were to get into a physical confrontation I'm not sure what would have happened. I was a bit concerned about that.

Anyway, I told him to stop it because I'm pretty sure he wanted to deliver another kick to the guy's head as he lie there. He was angry and said something about the other fellow pulling a knife on him and added they were cousins. I'm not sure what I said next, but it was probably something about the guy needing medical attention.

So the bad cousin scooped his injured victim up and said he would take him to the hospital. The injured fellow was in a semi-conscious state now and stumbled along with the support of his cousin. I was surprised he was able to move at all. From the beating he took I really didn't think he'd regain semi-consciousness that quickly.

Anyway, I sure hope they made it to hospital. The one fellow was a real mess. The back of his head was all bloodied up from the attack, not to mention the blood that was left on the road (from his head).

...And that's how our evening started.

Monday, July 26, 2010

My Toronto - Beaches International Jazz Festival

I went down to the Beaches International Jazz Festival this past Friday with Vince's cousin Fiona. She's here visiting from Australia. Originally she had planned to stay for a couple of years, but finding a job is proving more difficult than she anticipated. So, she's going to cut her losses and do a quick tour of our lovely country then return home.

Anyway, my favorite part of the Jazz Festival is when the bands play on the street. This year they closed off a 2-kilometre stretch of Queen Street heading east from Woodbine Avenue. Along the route they had 50 bands scheduled to play. Though the Festival was just over a week long the Street Festival was just three evenings, Thursday through Saturday. As well, they had all different sorts of music, not just jazz. There was Latin, big band and soul among others.

We arrived early to find parking on Coxwell Avenue, just north of Lake Shore Boulevard (East). On weekdays you can park free after 6:00 p.m. The Street Festival didn't start until 7:00 so we walked along the boardwalk at the Beaches to kill some time. It was quite hot and humid out I have to say. I thought it was a bit uncomfortable, but Fiona, being from Melbourne, seemed to think it was fine.

At 7:00 we headed up to Queen and Woodbine and started walking east. A few bands had started playing, but others were still setting up. I suppose that's normal. Nobody every really starts on time. Especially since it ran until 11:00 p.m. There would be plenty of time to perform.

As time passed the bands were in full swing. Along the way there were also a bunch of vendors from nearby restaurants selling food from their stalls. You could get anything from pulled pork and chicken Souvlaki to roasted corn-on-the-cob and Thai food. Trust me, you'd never go hungry there.

It became a lot busier as more and more people came down to enjoy the music, food and festivities. Normally the organizers say they expect anywhere up to a million people over the 3-day street festival.

Not long after we hit the end at Beech Avenue we got a call from Fiona's sister's friend, Derricka, who is also visiting from Australia. They had arranged to meet up with us earlier in the day. We met her and her boyfriend, Shane (from Mississauga), and his friend, Mark, for a drink at a pub called Lion on the Beach (right by Lick's Homeburgers & Ice Cream).

We spent a bit of time there chatting and listening to music before I had to take Fiona back to Vince's parents' place. They don't like her to stay out too late because they're concerned about her safety.

All-in-all it was a really fun evening. I know I enjoyed myself. I'll try to make it back next year if I'm available. Hopefully Mother Nature will cooperate again. This year it only rained one of the three nights the Street Festival was on. Two out of three ain't bad.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Not a Good Year to be a Cardinal

Not my photo.

For the second time this year the pair of cardinals living around my sister's place had built a nest and laid eggs. The first time things ended tragically (as I previously wrote about). First, one nestling either fell or was knocked out of the nest. Later there was a freak, cold snap where the temperature dropped to freezing for about two days which killed the remaining chick.

About a week or two ago I was at my sister's when I happily discovered the cardinals had built another nest in a tall bush at the back of the house. I was going to trim it back when I saw (and heard) at least two or three nestlings noisy chirping away. I was quite pleased they had given it another shot.

On Monday I was there again. Mom and dad cardinal were flying back and forth bringing lunch to the kids. It was a neat sight to see up close. I wanted to take a few shots, but had forgotten to bring my camera. No matter I thought... I'm going to be there again in a few days, I'll take some then.

A day or two ago my sister sent me an e-mail saying one of the chicks had fallen from the nest and died. She also saw a cat beneath the bush hanging about which she subsequently shooed away.

Well, today when I went by... nothing... Momma and poppa cardinal where nowhere to be seen and there were no chirping sounds coming from the nest. I don't know exactly what happened, but the news seems grim. Who said ever being a cardinal was easy?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Pau to Col du Tourmalet

Not my photo

Today was the last mountain stage raced in the 2010 Tour de France. This, the 17th stage, began in Pau and ended at the top of the Col du Tourmalet at 2115 metres in elevation.

To celebrate the 100th year the Tour has ridden in the Pyrenées they rode four stages here, ending it off with this killer. Along its 174 kilometre path it included one cat-4 climb (low level), two cat-1 (high level), topped off with a 7.5% (grade), 18.6-kilometre HC climb (unclassified, the most difficult) at the Col du Tourmalet. It's enough to make the most seasoned pro cry like a baby.

The stage began with seven riders attacking and breaking away from the peloton (main group of cyclists). Hoping for a win in this epic stage they will stay away until the very last climb up the Col du Tourmalet. That's when what's left of the peloton, led by top contenders' Andy Schleck's Team Saxobank and Alberto Contador's Team Astana, rein them in.

Down by 8 seconds, this was Schelck's last chance to gain time on his rival Contador. Both are superb, world class climbers. But, Contador is a far more superior time trialist. With the penultimate stage on Saturday being a 52-kilometre individual time trial, Schleck, needs to put some distance between himself and Contador.

With under 10-kilometres to go to the finish, Schleck, makes a break for it. The rest of the riders fall like flies around him. That is all but, Contador. He sticks to Schleck's wheel like glue and even attacks at one point near the top.

In the end the cross virtually side by side with Contador graciously conceding the win. It's the honorable thing to do after Schleck did all the work climbing the mountain trying to lose him. Though, in doing this, it will cast Contador with the dubious distinction of being the 8th Tour winner never to have won at least one stage.

In other news... Congratulations go out to Canadian rider, Ryder Hesjedal, who finished 4th, 1:27 behind Schleck and Contador. This vaults him from 10th to 8th in the overall classifications. The best result for a Canadian cyclist since Steve Bauer's 4th place finish in the 1988 Tour.

As well, 7-time Tour de France winner, Lance Armstrong, 38, placed a respectable 17th, 4:12 back of the winner. Now in 23rd place in the G.C. (general classification) this will most likely be the aging veteran's swan song.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

My Toronto - Edwards Gardens

Edwards Gardens is a botanical garden located on the southwest corner of Leslie Street and Lawrence Avenue East in Toronto, Ontario. It is also the site of the Toronto Botanical Garden, a private not-for profit organization previously called the Civic Garden Centre.

It is a former estate garden featuring annuals, roses and wildflowers and an extensive rockery. It is located on Wilket Creek, one of the tributaries of the Don River West Branch. The estate's title was once held by Alexander Milne, a Scottish weaver who settled here after the War of 1812 and left in 1832. The land and the woolen/saw mills was obtained by Rupert E. Edwards in 1944 and created his country home. Edwards home was left in neglect and was purchased by the Municipality of Metro Toronto in 1955 and became Edwards Gardens in 1956. The Civic Garden centre was relocated from another Milne property, the Milne home on Old Lawrence Avenue.

Edwards Gardens is one of several parks located in Toronto's ravines, many of which are connected by hiking and cycling trails ending on the shores of Lake Ontario. The park's manicured lawns and well kept flower beds make it a popular destination for wedding parties to take photographs. ~ Taken directly from Wikipedia

Friday, July 16, 2010

Mountain Biking this past Weekend

I went mountain biking for the second time this year this past Saturday. My friends Lisa and Wayne wanted to go. I know them from gym night (in the winter) and Ultimate (frisbee, in the summer).

We went out to Durham Forest in Uxbridge. It's about 70 kms from where I live. It took about an hour for me to drive there.

Durham Forest is close to Glen Major another place my friends and I used to ride at. Both are free which is great. Glen Major has mostly single track trails while Durham Forest has double track as well. They've really built up the trail systems they have there over the years. Both places are great to ride at. As well there are quite a few spots to park your car which is handy.

The day was great. Sunny and not too hot. We had a really good ride. I was a little concerned because it was Lisa and Wayne's first ride of any sort this year. So I thought they might be a little slow. But, they did really well. I guess they're in decent shape from all the other sports they do. They even did pretty well at some of the steep hills we encountered. I was quite impressed even if they didn't make it up all of them.

This is an old photo of me riding my mountain bike back in 1999. About a year or so after I first bought it. My friend Jay and I drove down to Pennsylvania to ride the Rail Trails there.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

My Toronto - Eaton Centre

This photo was taken last year at the Eaton Centre. Obviously it was shot around Christmastime. The tree in the picture is decorated with Swarovski Crystals. They've been doing it for the past few years.

The Eaton Centre is a large shopping mall in the heart of downtown Toronto. Built in two stages in the late 1970's, it's located on Yonge Street, stretching one city block from Queen Street in the south to Dundas Street in the north.

There are 230 different stores and restaurants located on it's four levels. As well there are offices and parking on other levels.

The glassed-domed galleria was modeled after Milan's Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, by the centre's architect, Ed Zeidler. Suspended from the galleria is a model of a flock of Canadian geese designed by artist Michael Snow.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

My Trip to Sarnia

I went to Sarnia, Ontario recently. My aunt and uncle from New York were visiting, so we packed up the car and drove out there with my mom and grandma. My aunt and my mother spent their teenage years there. It was my first time there as an adult.

Our first stop on our trip was the cemetery. I know it's an odd place to start, but my grandfather and uncle (both of whom I never met) are buried there. Whenever my mom, grandmother and aunt go there I think it's the first place they head to.

After that we toured the city. First we went to Cantara Park. They have a beach there among other things. There were a few people sunbathing and some young people playing volleyball, but it wasn't too crowded. We had lunch at one of the picnic tables there then continued looking around.

Next stop was Point Edward Park and the Blue Water toll bridge to the U.S. I didn't know Sarnia was right on the border of Lake Huron and Michigan state. But, you could see the bridge over to Michigan from here.

After that we went into town. We found the church that my mother used to go to when she lived here. It's called St. Andrew's Presbyterian church and it's on Christina Street, right beside city hall.

Next we headed a bit south and found the spot where their family restaurant used to be. There's a parking lot there now. I guess that's progress for you.

Nearby Sarnia Collegiate Institute where my mom and aunt went to high school followed. Lastly we went to their old family home (where the above shot was taken). I believe they last lived there some 40-50 odd years ago.

All-in-all it was pretty cool visiting these places with my aunt, mom and grandmother. I managed to capture it all digitally with my camera for posterity's sake. I'm sure they were happy about that too.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Old Friends - Tim Wong

I bumped into a couple of old friends recently. The fellow in the photo above is Tim Wong. He used to go to my church many, many years ago. I don't think I've seen him in at least 15 years if I'm not mistaken. I think he's in Hong Kong now. I was at Kim Moon Bakery in Chinatown on Sunday getting buns when I saw him there.

On Monday evening I bumped into my former co-worker, Steve Leblanc. We were laid off on the same day from work just over a year ago. He's taking an HTML course and was just on his way home on the subway at Yonge and Dundas. I hadn't seen him since that fateful day at the end of last June. He hasn't found work yet either. It was great seeing both these guys again.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

My Toronto - Traveling TO with Fiona

I've spent the last few days touring the city with my friend Vincent's cousin, Fiona, from Australia. It's been pretty fun. Of course I've been to most places here already, but we did make a couple of stops to places I haven't been to or seen in awhile.

One place we walked through was Cabbagetown. I haven't really taken the time to look through there before. We tried to visit the Riverdale Zoo/Farm, but it was closed when we dropped by. If I've been there before it was probably many, many years ago when I was a kid.

Last Thursday, on Canada Day, we visited the Beaches and the Distillery District. Since it was a holiday the Beaches was packed. Parking spots were at a premium. I was fortunate enough to be able to park at a church friend's home (Ray and Cathy) who live down there.

Fiona and I walked the boardwalk and had lunch at the Sunset Grill. I had eggs, toast and home fries which was actually part of their all-day breakfast menu. After that we headed over to the Distillery District for about 40 minutes before zipping by Vince's parents' place to pick them up and head up to Vince and Linda's place for Canada Day dinner.

On Saturday Fiona and I got a TTC Day Pass. It's good for unlimited rides on the bus, subway or streetcar for two people on holidays and weekends. So it's a pretty good deal at $10.

We started at Harbourfront. There were some tallships there for the weekend. We took the streetcar back to Union Station and did a walk through next. Then we headed across the street to check out the lobby of the Royal York Hotel. I think it was the first time I've taken shots in there. Next we strolled through Brookfield (formerly BCE) Place and snapped a few photos before walking to Toronto City Hall next to check it out. The new rooftop garden was open there. I believe it was my first time ever up there. I'm pretty sure it was never open to the public before. So that was a new experience for me again. I had planned on walking along Queen West a bit after that, but Fiona was hungry so we went to Rol Jui, my favorite restaurant in Chinatown, for lunch.

Little Italy was nearby so we walked through Kensington Market up to College and headed west. Along the way we encountered throngs of Spanish soccer fans celebrating Spain's 1-0 World Cup victory over Paraguay. We had considered eating dinner in Little Italy, but we were too full from lunch which we had finished only a couple hours earlier. So we decided to hop on the Bathurst streetcar and head towards Ontario Place to catch the fireworks show they were scheduled to have there.

On the way we decided to stop at Tim Horton's and grab a small iced coffee. They're having a summer promotion at 99¢ each. Since the fireworks would be starting fairly late Fiona was concerned that Vince's mom would be worried about her. She had been staying at Vince's parents place since she arrived a few weeks ago. Anyway, instead of stressing out about trying to get back to their place on time after the fireworks show finished we decided it would be best just to head back early. Besides I kind of wanted to catch the prelims of UFC 116 which was being broadcast free on Spike that evening. So we called it a day early.

On Sunday we went to CPC. Again we used the TTC Day Pass. Same deal... Fiona came by my condo at Yonge/Eg and we headed down together. Tom was speaking today. His sermon was about Trustworthiness. It was based upon the bible passage on Ananias and Sapphira who sold their land and donated part of the proceeds to the church. But, their sin was claiming they donated the full amount. So they were being deceitful. It's a little more involved than that of course, but I won't get into all that now.

After church I grabbed buns and Fiona grabbed a Vietnamese sandwich in Chinatown and we headed over to College and Yonge to find a seat for the Pride Parade. Normally it's packed there so you have to arrive early. Since the parade is always held on Sunday afternoons sometimes I can't make it. Every other Sunday afternoon I volunteer at Kelly's boarding home (Carter Manor) at King and Dufferin with Rodger Hunter at Boarding Home Ministries. So for the past four years or so I wasn't able to attend the parade.

The Pride Parade is a huge event in Toronto. Normally we get upwards of one million spectators lining the route. It was a great day out this year too. A bit hot, but the sun was shining and the skies were blue. You couldn't ask for anything more.

The parade was fun as usual. It's always very colourful. You see a lot of nakedness all round. And not necessarily good nakedness, but naked, wrinkly, old men and things like that for instance. But, it's all in good fun. There's always a lot of music and dancing. Of course the big, corporate sponsors come out with their floats too. As do many local politicians and other groups promoting their causes. I suppose that's why it's so long now. The whole thing took about 2-1/2 to 3 hours to pass by. We were both feeling at hot and tired by the end.

After the paraded we zipped up Church Street to see the different Pride booths and things that were set up. Then we headed over to Rancho Relaxo at College and Spadina where we ended the day with Mexican food.