Thursday, October 31, 2013

Highline Park, Manhattan

I recently drove down to Long Island, New York with my parents for my aunt and uncle's 55th Wedding Anniversary. My sister and nephews and aunt and uncle from France also went down.

I took advantage of one of my free days to go into the city. Though I've been a number of times before there were a couple of things I wanted to see. One was the High Line park, the other the 9/11 Memorial. Unfortunately I didn't get down to the Ground Zero site in time so I missed that one.

I took the train in from Huntington Station on Long Island to Penn Station in Manhattan. Angela and Jacques joined me on the ride in. Off-peak adult fare is $21.50 round-trip.

When we arrived in the city we headed to Times Square. My cousin David said we could pick up a tourist map there. While I didn't find a tourist information place I was able to procure a map off a bus tour operator. After that Angela and Jacques went off to find the High Line and I hung around to take some photos.

After I finished shooting around Times Square I headed over to 10th Avenue. The north access point of the High Line park is in between 10th and 11th Avenues at West 30th Street. It ends in the south at Gansevoort Street which is a few streets south of West 14th Street. It took me a little while to find.

I have to say the park is quite nice. There are a lot of plants up there along with benches for sitting and relaxing on. At the south end there are vendors selling food and other things. It's pretty fancy. I spent 2 hours walking it and taking photos.

Here is some info I pulled from their website.


What is the High Line?

The High Line is a public park built on a 1.45-mile-long elevated rail structure running from Gansevoort Street to West 34th Street on Manhattan's West Side.

What was it used for?

The High Line was a freight rail line, in operation from 1934 to 1980. It carried meat to the meatpacking district, agricultural goods to the factories and warehouses of the industrial West Side, and mail to the Post Office.

Who owns the High Line?

The High Line is owned by the City of New York and is under the jurisdiction of the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation. It was donated to the City by CSX Transportation, Inc.

The land beneath the High Line is owned in parcels by New York State, New York City, and more than 20 private property owners.

The High Line is a public park built on an historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. It is owned by the City of New York, and maintained and operated by Friends of the High Line. Founded in 1999 by community residents, Friends of the High Line fought for the High Line’s preservation and transformation at a time when the historic structure was under the threat of demolition. It is now the nonprofit conservancy working with the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation to make sure the High Line is maintained as an extraordinary public space for all visitors to enjoy. In addition to overseeing maintenance, operations, and public programming for the park, Friends of the High Line works to raise the essential private funds to support more than 90 percent of the park’s annual operating budget, and to advocate for the preservation and transformation of the High Line at the Rail Yards, the third and final section of the historic structure, which runs between West 30th and West 34th Streets.

The High Line is located on Manhattan's West Side. It runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street, between 10th and 11th Avenues. The first section of the High Line opened on June 9, 2009. It runs from Gansevoort Street to West 20th Street. The second section, which runs between West 20th and West 30th Streets, opened June 8, 2011.

The High Line is operating on its fall schedule, with the park open daily from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Access between 10th and 11th Avenues:
Gansevoort Street
14th Street (elevator access)
West 16th Street (elevator access)
West 18th Street
West 20th Street
23rd Street (elevator access)
West 26th Street
West 28th Street
West 30th Street (elevator access)

Sunday, October 27, 2013

When All You Have Is Hope

I recently read When All You Have Is Hope. It's an autobiography by Second Cup co-founder Frank O'Dea. I have to say, it's quite the comeback story. From someone who was down and out to a man who beat immense odds to come out on top.

Mr. O'Dea's story began in the well-to-do neighbourhood of West Montreal. He was the son of a handsome, Irish-Canadian man and a Quebecois woman. His father was the manager of a paint factory; his mother a doting wife. He was emotionally reserved; she, as best can be described, tolerated her children. There wasn't a lot of emotional support for the four O'Dea children; Sean, Frank, Maureen and Bill. Frank O'Dea describes his childhood like "Growing up among strangers."

Frank looked up to his father even though he was emotionally distant. In his heart he knew his father cared for him. When Frank was thirteen his father included him in helping one of the local Conservative candidates in his bid to win a seat in the federal election.

On election night they celebrated the win. The adult reveling with alcohol, young Frank with a soda. As the night wore on Frank was approached by a visibly intoxicated campaign volunteer named, Lana. One thing led to another and she ended up sexually assaulting him. This was the first of four sexual assaults he faced as a young person. The others were by a police officer and two different priests.

Though he doesn't say it outright, this could have been the catalyst in his downward spiral of alcoholism. He started drinking as a young teen. At first it was an act of curiosity. Later, a way to "Provide a release from his unbearable loneliness."

This addiction destroyed his life. His grades began to suffer. Life at home understandably became even more intolerable. He stole money from his parents. He wrecked the family car a number of times after driving drunk. Though he miraculously escaped serious physical harm, his home life was a disaster.

After numerous attempts at giving young Frank a chance to redeem himself, his father finally had enough. He shipped him off to Toronto with a few dollars in hand and a promise of a job as a paint salesman when he arrived there. He was no longer welcome at home.

Frank was determined to prove his family wrong for kicking him out. And, for awhile, he was successful at what he did. He was a charming man and he managed to make quite a few sales. But, this success did not last long. For lurking in the shadows his demons awoke. He began drinking again and his world, once again, fell apart.

First he lost his job, then his car, and, finally, his apartment. He was homeless.

While this may have been of great concern to most people, Frank only had one thing on his mind - to panhandle $1.50. 99¢ for a bottle of cheap booze; 50¢ for a shared room in a flophouse. This is what all but consumed him while living on the mean streets of Toronto in the early 70s.

It was two days before Christmas, on December 23rd, 1971 that Frank's life turned. He had come to the realization that he had only two options left: Die or change. After saying, tomorrow I'll change, tomorrow I'll change, tomorrow I'll change, he finally took charge. He remembered a commercial he heard on the radio promoting a self help group for alcoholics.

After panhandling for a dime, he looked their number up and gave them a call. They invited him over to their second floor office on Yonge. That was the beginning of him turning over a new leaf in life.

Frank's volunteer support worker was, Joe. Joe helped Frank immensely. While he had never lived on the streets, Joe, had encountered the same struggles with alcoholism as Frank. His support was invaluable.

After staying sober for some time Joe helped Frank get a job selling industrial equipment to clean grime off buildings. Not long after he started dating a woman, Joanne, he met at the support group sessions. She was there in support of an uncle of hers. They married not long after.

The marriage didn't last long. Just six months. Though they cared deeply about one another, their differences were just too vast. She was from a family of the social elite; he was a recovering alcoholic. It just wasn't an ideal mix.

After the break up of his marriage, Frank continued his salesman job which he did well. He bought a car and, eventually, was able to afford an apartment of his own.

Frank met his business partner and Second Cup co-founder, Tom Culligan, while they were working together on the election campaign of Liberal candidate, Frank Philbrook. Frank was a saavy campaign strategist, while Tom was the finance committee chairman. Besides both having a Roman Catholic upbringing, they shared an even stronger connection - the same birthdate, June 14th, 1945.

After a successful election campaign in which Frank Philbrook upset Tory contender, Terry O'Connor, Frank and Tom considered their future. Would Frank return to his salesman job and Tom to his job managing shopping malls? Both had been successful at what they were doing, but they wanted more. One day Tom proposed they should go into business together.

Their first gig was selling mail order coin sorters. They sold these mostly to Roman Catholic churches across Canada. It did relatively well, but it wasn't raking in the big bucks.

Their big break came when Tom approached a husband and wife couple with the offer of expanding their coffee bean selling business from their current location at a kiosk in a Burlington mall to one in the Scarborough Town Centre. The 80 kilometre travel distance between the two malls didn't appeal to the couple so they turned it down. It was then Tom suggested to Frank, maybe they could operate it themselves.

While neither of them knew anything about coffee, Frank was a born salesman and, Tom, a retail business guru. They jumped in feet first.

Their new business still needed a name. They enlisted the help of a fellow named, Jack Burkholder, whom they met while working on the election campaign. He was a marketing whiz. One day while watching television, Jack's heard a beer commercial with the slogan, "The one beer to have when you're having more than one." He thought it was catchy. His wife had overheard him saying that and suggested calling the coffee bean business Second Cup.

At first Frank and Tom just sold dry coffee beans. One day, while sampling different flavors of ice cream at Baskin Robbins, Tom had the idea of giving customers cups of coffee to try. But, instead of giving it to them for free they would charge them.

At the beginning their kiosks didn't having running water. So they had to buy five-gallon containers of water from Canadian Tire. They did this for over a year. The problem was finally solved when they eventually moved into a larger, store-sized units.

This book is fairly long. So I'm going to skip a few chapters and sum things up neatly.

Tom and Frank were revolutionary in the world of selling high quality coffee. While it's commonplace nowadays, it was unheard of in the early 70s.

After ten years in business together in which they did extraordinarily well, they hit an impasse. They could solve their disagreements in management style. Frank decided to buy Tom out. He made him an offer, but as a gesture of goodwill, said that Tom could buy him out if he wanted. He just didn't think Tom would do it. But, he did. And, with that, Frank's dream of becoming sole owner of Second Cup was over.

Frank went on to head many other successful businesses and philanthropic endeavors over the next few decades. He married a second time to his current wife, Nancy. They have two daughters, Taylor and Morgan, together. He's a multi-millionaire who in May of 2004 walked up the red carpet at Rideau Hall and was declared an Officer of the Order of Canada.

All in all, light years away from his darkest days on streets of Toronto begging for spare change in order to lose himself in the haze of alcohol addiction. An amazing turn around if I don't say so myself.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Old People Can't Drive.

Perhaps I should qualify my statement... Old people can't drive well.

I'll give you an example. I was out making deliveries for Sid a week ago in Oakville. I had just finished dropping some hot towels off at a dental office and was making my way back to the van which was parked in a medium sized parking lot of, perhaps, 100 spots.

As I was getting into the van an elderly lady in a minivan pulled up. She wanted to park in the empty spot beside me.

I thought she might wait until I left before she tried parking, but she didn't. The spot was tight especially since she was pulling in going forward. That's because the back end of your vehicle has a tighter turning radius than your front when you park that way. It's always much easier to back into a tight spot.

Anyway, as I was sitting in the GMC I watched her trying to pull into the spot beside me. It wasn't even close. She barely got the front of her minivan into the spot before the side of her vehicle touched the front-right bumper of Sid's van. That didn't seem to concern her.

She kept going totally ignoring the crunching sound the side of her minivan was making as it was scraping noisily against the GMC's hard, steel bumper. She only stopped when she literally couldn't move anymore (because her minivan was wedged so very tightly against the front bumper of Sid's van).

At this point I would have licked my wounds and tried to back out accepting whatever damage was done. She didn't. Instead she hit the gas, squealing her tires, forcing her way into the parking spot doing even more damage to her vehicle. That's how badly wedged up against Sid's van that she had to literally squeal her tires to get it to move. Incredible.

After that she got out and came up to me and said she thought she had more room than she did to get into the parking spot. Ob-vi-ous-ly not, lady.

Now I have to say, Sid's van is quite old and beat up. It has bumps, scratches and dings from many, many years on the road. A little more green paint on the bumper only gives it more character. If it were any other vehicle I'm sure this old lady would have done a thousand dollars damage to it at the very least. She got lucky. The only thing she had to worry about was the four or five foot long, Godzilla-like claw marks along the side of her minivan. Unbelievable.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Brunch with Anne-Marie and Bonita

I finally met up with Anne-Marie and Bonita, my floor mates in my condo. Bonita lives in the unit next door; Anne-Marie, two units down. I believe Bonita was one of the first people to move into the building besides me. Anne-Marie moved in about five years ago at least.

I knew Anne-Marie from our days at George Brown College. We were in the same Graphic Design class. After we graduated we lost touch (like most of the people from my class).

A few years ago the elderly gentleman who owned her unit (whom she and her parents actually know) moved out. I believe he was the priest at their church or something like that.

Anyway, the person who moved in had the same name as my college classmate. I noticed this one day after walking by the unit and seeing her name on the newspaper in front of the door. So I left a note at the door asking if she, indeed, was who I thought she was and, lo and behold, she was.

The next two or three years were punctuated by brief meetings in the hall or lobby. We kept saying we would get together for a drink, but never did.

That was until I bumped into both Bonita and Anne-Marie chatting in the hall around month or two ago. It was then we set a firm date to meet.

As it turns out, Bonita, is Anne-Marie's high school classmate. Small world, isn't it? Next door to Anne-Marie is her high school classmate and two doors down her college classmate. All in a row. This wasn't new news. Anne-Marie had mentioned it to me previously.

We met for brunch at 1:00 p.m. I requested that time because I wanted to make it to church on Sunday. I went down with my parents and took the subway back up.

We hadn't made any plans on where to go to eat. I suggested all-you-can-eat sushi at Echo. Anne-Marie doesn't like raw stuff (or is it Japanese food?) and Bonita thought it was too early for all-you-can-eat. We considered Sunset Grill on Yonge, but they don't have windows in there, Bonita said.

Bonita suggested a couple of places. We ended up choosing The Homeway on Mount Pleasant and Erskine. It's a small family-run restaurant that's been open since 1948.

It was fairly busy when we arrived. There was a short wait to get in. We noticed free tables on the patio, but we were warned that there were wasps outside. So we decided to wait for one of the tables inside. That turned out to be a wise decision. The wasps outside were terrible. One brave (or foolish?) couple outside had an awful time fending them off.

After we were seated the waitress took our order. The girls both had orange juice. I had a coffee and so did Bonita. I don't know what she ordered to eat. Maybe it was eggs and something. Anne-Marie had the steak and eggs. I ordered the "Fabulous Florentine" - 2 large poached eggs on a bed of baby spinach and fried tomatoes, atop a toasted English muffin smothered with homemade hollandaise sauce, baked porky beans or home fries. It was very good.

We had a nice conversation over brunch. We talked about what we did for work and what we thought about living in the neighbourhood among other things. I think both of them have a Catholic background. Maybe they went to Catholic schools. Bonita is a high school guidance councillor. I think Anne-Marie is a "runner" at CBC downtown.

After lunch we strolled across Erskine to Yonge. It was a lovely day out. Bonita headed off to do something when we reached Yonge. I can't remember what. Anne-Marie and I walked back home.

I'm happy we finally got a chance to meet up.

*No photo of the girls. Bonita was camera shy.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Subway Hanging Contest

I was riding the subway home from church one Sunday not long ago. I was on my way to meet a couple of my condo floor mates (from the two units beside me) for lunch and was running a bit late.

I got on the southbound subway at St. Patrick station intending to take it around the loop at Union Station and back up to Eglinton, my stop.

Since I was short on time I wanted to try to get to the subway car nearest to the front of the train. That way when I arrived at Eglinton Station I could immediately go up the stairs and run over to my condo (where I was supposed to meet my friends in the lobby).

Unfortunately I only made it to car number 3 (from the front) when the train arrived in the station. So that's where I hopped in. I knew the train would stop a bit longer at Union Station and planned to move up one car there.

When we arrived at Union Station I quickly changed cars (before the doors closed and would end up stranding me until the next train arrived).

I found a seat opposite these four 20-something-year-old girls, two of which were getting ready to have a "Hanging Contest". Basically they were waiting for the train to start moving then they would see who could last longest hanging from the ceiling bar.

All four of them moved up the car a bit to a less crowded spot because they thought they might inadvertently kick someone while they were hanging there.

One girl who was sitting brought her smartphone out and her friend said, she'd better not be videotaping them. The smartphone girl said she was just taking pictures. She then turned to me and said I should join in their contest.

At first I resisted, saying I'd just watch. But, then I thought, why not, and opted to join in.

It was pretty funny. The subway car wasn't that full, but I'm sure the passengers there probably thought we were crazy. We were laughing our heads off all the way up towards King Station.

The girl on the far right of the photo dropped first. It was harder than she anticipated. The girl in the middle and I lasted until one of the other girls who was sitting figured, enough was enough, and tried to tickled us so we'd let go.

Silly fun.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Rest In Peace, Doug

I received a text from my friend, Jan, this afternoon that both shocked and deeply saddened me. He reported that our friend, Doug Lem, had passed away this morning.

I believe I first met Doug through mountain biking with mutual friends. Doug was an excellent cyclist. He was especially proficient at traversing steep mountainside descents. Something that would scare the pants off the rest of us.

For a number of years a group of us would regularly drive to Mont Tremblant in Quebec over the Canada Day long weekend to go mountain biking. We would rent a number of condo units and pile in. During the day, we'd take the lift up and ride down. It was great fun.

In the winter we would play hockey together. Doug would normally play defense like me. But, more often than not, you'd see him rush end to end trying to score a goal.

Doug was in excellent shape. Pretty much skinny like me. And he wasn't very old either. I'm guessing in his mid to late 40s like most of us. That's why I was surprised to hear he may have died of a heart attack.

Our Friday night ice hockey was supposed to start this upcoming Friday (October 18th). And, Doug, was slated to play. There will be a large hole in our line up that will never be filled.

Rest in peace, my friend.

Friday, October 11, 2013

2013 Scotiabank Nuit Blanche

I went to Scotiabank Nuit Blanche again this year. It's an annual all-night contemporary arts and culture exhibition held normally on the first Saturday of October here in Toronto. It's the 8th time it's been held here. I believe I've attended every year since the start.

This year it was slightly different for me. Instead of going to a bunch of different installations throughout the evening, I was part of one of nine teams of photographers and videographers hired by the folks at the Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art (CCCA) to take pictures (or videos) at five different installations. Mine were C11 - Smoke House, C19 - Display-Displace, C28 - The Soniferous Æther of The Land Beyond The Land Beyond, C29 - Pink Punch v.2, and C34 - Mariner 9.

I went down early because I wanted to talk to the artists to see what their displays were about and if they had any particular instructions or direction of what they wanted me to shoot. Only two of the five artists were actually there though. For the other three I either talked to a helper or one of the Nuit Blanche volunteers assigned to that particular installation.

After doing my rounds I headed over to Nathan Philips Square to kill a bit of time before the action heated up. Ai Weiwei had an installation, Forever Bicycles, there. It consisted of 3,144 interconnected bicycles forming a shiny, three-dimensional structure. I took a bunch of pictures there before returning to shoot my assignment.

The first one I shot was C11 - Smoke House. It was on Richmond Street, east of York. The artists had constructed a large-scale cedar smoking hut powered by three bicycles. Participants were invited to pedal throughout the night to keep the salmon smoking and ultimately served the smoked fish. It was the best installation to shoot because there was a lot of audience participation.

The next installation I shot was C19 - Display-Displace. My CCCA contacts gave me the wrong address for that one. They said it was 130 Richmond Street when it was actually 130 Adelaide Street. So, needless to say, I had some trouble finding it.

It was the worst installation to shoot. The artist had rejigged three pieces furniture in the lobby of an office building. The thing is, no one was allowed to go in to view it. They had to look through the building windows. So I couldn't get any audience interaction.

Even when I gained access to the building the security guard said I had to stand behind the perimeter barriers to shoot it. And if people had been allowed into the lobby I wouldn't be able to take pictures of them. That was pretty stupid. I don't know why they had this particular set up. The Nuit Blanche volunteer who was assigned to this particular installation thought it was ridiculous. She was quite upset at having to oversee it. Most passersby didn't even realize there was an installation here. And when they saw it weren't at all impressed.

Next was C29 - Pink Punch v.2. For this installation the artist had wrapped six trees along the courtyard at First Canadian Place on King Street West in bubble wrap with pink LED lights underneath. It was so-so. I got some okay shots, but the construction vehicles parked on the street behind the installation sort of ruined some of the pictures I thought.

C28 - The Soniferous Æther of The Land Beyond The Land Beyond was nearby in the lobby of First Canadian Place. It was a film installation shot at the CFS ALERT Signals Intelligence Station on Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, the northernmost settlement on earth. It was the only real indoor installation I shot. There had been some warnings by the weather forecasters about the possibility of rain this evening, so I was hoping for more indoor shoots. But the weather actually turned out to be quite good. It only sprinkled a few times.

Finally I made my way to C34 - Mariner 9. It was a video installation where the artist set up a 12-metre-long panoramic view of a Martian landscape set hundreds of years in the future, littered with the rusting remains of various missions to the planet. It was neat to look at. I think it was the second best installation for me (out of the five) to shoot. There were benches for the audience to sit on to watch it. A number of people went up to the screen to take pictures of themselves standing in front of the "Martian" landscape.

After that I went back and shot the whole thing over again. They wanted us to get shots at different times with different people viewing the installations. It was the second time around the Smoke House that I bumped into Richard's brother, Kerry. He accompanied me the rest of the evening.

At 5:30 I ended up crashing on the couch at his mother's condo instead of going back home. It made more sense than taking the subway back up to my place and then having to turn around and come right back down to go to church a few hours later.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Virginia's Housewarming

Virginia invited a bunch of us over for her housewarming party. She actually had moved in a little while ago, but had been earnestly renovating. The results were very nice. Her place looked beautiful.

I carpooled with Di. We were the first to arrive besides, Denise, who came early to help prepare the food. I just brought some wine. A bottle of Jackson Triggs Merlot that I had sampled at Tony and Iris' not long ago.

I believe I knew over half the people in attendance. Most of them through gatherings at Tom and Florianne's. Though the last time was nearly a year ago at a Christmas dinner at their home.

It was good seeing everyone again. And to meet some new people. Virginia's next door neighbour came over. She was an older lady. We had a nice chat mostly about traveling. I had brought my free Shutterfly books over that I made. They had photos from my trips to Chicago, Washington, and Beijing and Cambodia.

As well I brought my nephews Smart Games, Camouflage and Airport, over. It seems like most people enjoy the challenge of trying solve the puzzles. Though, tonight, I don't believe people wanted to think too much. The games were giving them a bit too much trouble.

Anyway, the food was great. I got to try a few different types of wine (I still liked the one I brought the best). And it was nice hanging out with everyone again.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Traffic Court Advice - This Could Save you Money and/or Points

I went to traffic court today. Back in the spring I had received a ticket for "Failing to Stop" at a stop sign. To me, it was pretty much a ridiculous ticket. I had been driving south on Avenue Road and came to a stop at the traffic lights at Dupont Street. The car in front of me turned right at the lights and I followed him. A short distance away there's a stop sign at Bedford Road. The car in front of me stopped and went. I came up next and I believe I stopped and went. I remember looking ahead and seeing no cars, then to my left and not seeing any cars then proceeding. The next thing I know there are flashing lights in my rearview mirror.

Now it may be possible that I didn't come to a complete stop. I can't be sure of that. But, let's be reasonable, no one ever follows the traffic laws to the letter. According to the court prosecutor (as I was listening in when she was talking with some people who had received speeding tickets) she said that even if you go one kilometre an hour over the speed limit you're breaking the law. It's just another tax grab if you ask me.

Anyway, after receiving the ticket you have the option of paying the fine and receiving whatever demerit points that come along with it. Or you can choose to set up a court date. I don't believe you can ask for a specific date. It's whatever they give you. They send you the Trial Date in a letter in the mail.

You're asked to arrive half an hour early (of your trial time) to speak to the prosecutor. That's important. You should definitely try to talk to her (in this case) ahead of time.

Since this was my first time in court for a traffic offense I didn't know what to expect. I thought I would go and talk to the prosecutor and explain my side of the story.

When I first arrive at the courthouse (Old City Hall), the prosecutor was outside in the hall. A few people had lined up to talk to her. Most people had speeding tickets and different explanations of what happened. She wasn't really interested in listening to any of the explanations. Though she did offer to reduce the speed infraction, say from 30 km/h over the limit to 20 km/h over the limit, thus reducing the fine and possibly demerit points if they plead guilty. She said it would save the court money if they didn't have to go to trial. Most people took that.

When it was my turn to talk to her a court clerk came out into the hall and said we could go into the courtroom. So I had to wait.

After a few minutes I had my chance to speak to the prosecutor. I thought I could go up to her and explain what happened (as I related above). I was going to tell her that there was a car ahead of me and that if I hadn't come to a stop I would have run into him.

But, she wasn't interested in hearing any of that. She only wanted to know if I wanted to plead guilty or not. What she didn't tell me was that if I agreed to plead guilty she would reduce the charge from "Failing to Stop" to something like "Failing to Make a Proper Stop". The fine would be reduced from $110 (plus costs and a Victim Fine Surcharge, whatever that is) and 3 demerit points to $60 (plus costs and Victim Fine Surcharge) and no demerit points. All I heard from her is if I wanted to plead guilty or not, and that if I didn't want to plead guilty she would go to trial and if I was found guilty she would seek a maximum fine of $500.

Faced with the possibility of paying a fine of $500 I decided the best thing to do would be pay the original fine of $110. So I asked her if I could do that. But, all she wanted to know is if I wanted to plead guilty or not. So I said, yes. That's when she told me she would reduce the charge (resulting in a lower fine and no points). I believe I asked her if there were any other options earlier in our conversation, but she didn't say anything about it. Perhaps they're not allowed to give advice like that. Anyway, I guess I got lucky.

A few minutes later, after I had finished speaking with the prosecutor, another lady walked into the courtroom. She went up to the prosecutor with the same traffic infraction as I had. Like me, she had an explanation of what happened. She told the prosecutor that she had stopped before the line then moved up so she could see if there was oncoming traffic. The prosecutor told her she just admitted that she didn't stop on the line (where the stop sign was) and that she would be found guilty. She also mentioned that she would be seeking the maximum $500 fine. I guess the lady was flustered and didn't know what to say. The prosecutor told the lady to sit down (in the gallery) and wait for her trial then proceeded to talk to other defendants.

Like me, the prosecutor didn't offer the lady the lesser charge with the lower fine. She only asked the lady if she wanted to plead guilty or not. As well, the lady "admitted" her guilt in talking with the prosecutor, so she was in serious trouble. I was worried she would have to pay the $500 fine which is way worse than paying the original $110 fine.

I wanted to go over to the lady and tell her what happened to me. That if she told the prosecutor that she would plead guilty she could get away with a lesser charge and lower fine. But, I was worried if I went over and talked with her I might get into some sort of trouble. After all it was a small courtroom and we were only sitting a few feet away from the prosecutor. So I just sat in my spot in the front row.

In the following 5-10 minutes a larger group of people had crowded around the prosecutor talking with her. The lady with the same ticket as me got up and was walking in my direction (presumably to go around the railing to speak with the prosector). I discreetly waved her over and motioned for her to sit down as she was passing by. I let her know the deal I got and told her to go to the prosecutor and tell her you want to plead guilty. When she got the chance to speak to the prosecutor she did that and she got her charge and fine reduced with no demerit points.

Anyway, if you ever get a traffic ticket and decide to go to court I hope this helps. I'd suggest going early to talk to the prosecutor. But, instead of just pleading guilty at first (because that would be too obvious), try making up some excuses for your offense. Only relent after a short time and admit you were wrong. The prosecutor should offer you a deal at that time.