The 2018 Road, Day 13: Toronto The Good

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June 8, 2018, Toronto-

Of course, I pulled into Canada’s largest city at rush hour.  Hey, what fun is there in empty streets?  With my phone telling me there is no Internet access in Ontario, I drove to a Starbucks, where there was indeed Internet access and a wonderful pair of baristas, who wrote out the directions to Neill-Wycik Backpackers’ Hotel.  Turned out, the place was in the Garden District, past downtown.  So, I negotiated my way down there, finding the high rise building, then finding its parking garage, in twenty minutes’ time.

Being a large enterprise, in one of North America’s most officious urban centres, Neill-Wycik is chock full of rules and regulations, with a full security staff, uniformed and ready to enforce each and every rule.

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My room was on the ninth floor.  There are 26 floors, in all.

After  settling in and enjoying two huge slices of pizza, prepared by an elderly Chinese “multicultural chef”, I set out for a look at the Garden District.  The first place I spotted was Jarvis Street Baptist Church.

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Allan Gardens is an indoor botanical conservatory, the centerpiece of the District. A spacious outdoor park abuts the facility.  It was being enjoyed by a wide cross-section of Toronto’s society, on  Thursday evening. A few of them were okay with being photographed, from a distance.

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The outdoor gardens are a riot of botanica, leading some of the locals to remark that the place needs work.

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The east end of the conservatory is a Children’s Section.

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I next headed towards the south end of the Garden District, where a number of great churches may be found.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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Above is St. Peter’s Catholic Church.  Below, CN Tower is put in perspective, from back at Allan Gardens.

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Here are a few more scenes, from the northeast corner of the park.

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Here is another view of Toronto, old and new.

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Ryerson University, a private institution, is the driving force of the Garden District. It owns Neill-Wycik’s building.

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St. Michael’s Cathedral, now under renovation, is Toronto’s diocesan center.

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Like any vibrant city, Toronto has its share of murals.

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Not far from St. Michael’s, the Anglican Cathedral of St. James holds sway.

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The Metropolitan United Church completes the ecclesiastical triad.

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So, my evening walk around the Garden District came to an end.  The rest of the evening was spent with fellow hostelers, around the lounge television, watching as Ontario’s voters chose a vocal conservative, from a prominent family, as their next Provincial Premier (Canada’s counterpart to an American state governor).  People, regardless of locale, are more alike than different-and people these days are often motivated by fear.

NEXT:  Toronto to Montreal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 2018 Road, Day 12: Along Canada’s Thames

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June 7, 2018, London, ON-

In 2011, I met a gentleman from this city, who seemed the epitome of a proper gentleman from the English countryside, but with a definite Ontario accent.  Since then, I have made a mental note to check the town out, in the event I visited Ontario.

That time came today, as the Elantra needed a break, between Ridgetown and Toronto.  I had already had lunch, at one of Ontario’s excellent highway service areas.  London still beckoned, though, so I pulled alongside the city’s Victoria Park. At first, I was unsure where the Master Meter was, so I asked a vendor, who pointed towards the meter in front of his personal vehicle.  Ha, ha!  I found the Master Meter, on my own and had a lovely forty minutes, walking about the Centre of London.

Here are some scenes of Victoria Park:

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The Band Shell serves as a community gathering spot, several evenings throughout the summer into Fall.

 

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This is Dundas Street Centre United Church. Several middle school students were taking in this fine edifice and others in London’s Centre, as part of an Ontario History field trip.

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Many of Canada’s great buildings were built to house insurance companies.  Across Dundas Street, we see London Life Insurance, Ltd.

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Metropolitan United Church is also found along Dundas Street.

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Back up to London life, which certainly looks like a government edifice.

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St. Peter’s Cathedral Basilica is the center of Roman Catholic life in central Ontario.

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Garlic’s is one of the centerpieces of London’s small, but energetic, Arts District.

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Above, are several others.

I will make more time for this street,  when next in Ontario, most likely two years hence.

NEXT:  Toronto

 

 

The 2018 Road, Day 11: The Essenhaus Kerfuffle

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June 6, 2018, Ridgetown, ON-

On the 36th anniversary of my wedding, I sat on the edge of the bed in Ridgetown Inn, pondering the power of one word.  Not seeing the word, tomorrow, on a friend’s post, cost me a fine dining experience, at Essenhaus, an amazing resort property in Middlebury, IN.

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All the comforts of the homey Midwest are captured here, and thousands of visitors flock to Essenhaus, each year.  I waited for my friends, in the foyer, for twenty minutes, re-read the message that had been sent early this morning, and, yes- as another friend said, not long ago, “It’s the reading comprehension, stupid.”

Not feeling right about dining alone, in the midst of so many happy parties of seven and eight, I headed up the road, found the delightful Hilltop Restaurant, and enjoyed a fish fry/salad bar.  I still stood out, being one of the few “English” patrons, in what is a favourite of local Mennonites and Amish, but folks were no more inclined to leer, than in any other small town establishment. I found Hilltop a delight.

 

Having had the Elantra serviced, earlier today, in Elkhart, I felt confident heading northeast, through Michigan, and across the Ambassador Bridge, the older of the two large commuter thoroughfares between Detroit and Windsor. I wanted to get as close as possible to Toronto, this late night, in the event I was able to meet with two friends there, tomorrow.  Their minds, and schedules, change as often as their clothes, though, so I remain open to doing Toronto solo, this time.  I love my friends, though, just so we’re clear and we do have a plan to get together, when I make a Trans-Canada trek, in summer of 2020.

Anyway, Ridgetown is a pleasant little burg, in west-central Ontario, so this is where I settled, for what was left of the night.

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NEXT:  Ontario’s London

 

The Song Resumes

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June 26, 2018, Spring Hill-

This post comes to you, via my new laptop.  I will miss the old warhorse, which may be in the hands of the Montreal Police by now.  In any case, my important files are secure, and the new puppy is going to fill the Lenovo’s shoes.

I will resume my photo posts, tomorrow morning, with an account going all the way back to Elkhart, IN and June 6, which would have been my 36th wedding anniversary.

Tonight was devoted to catching up on the ton of e-mails and business matters that have only been handled sporadically, via cell phone, since I left Baltimore, eight days ago.  I’ve also had a good rest here, at the southern Home Base, which as I’ve mentioned before, is the third point on the triangle.

It’s also a joy to read my friends’ posts more readily again.  I won’t be such a stranger as I’ve been since June 9.

 

Old Haven, New Family

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June 24, 2018, Spring Hill, FL-

I have hopped around a lot, over the past week or so, spending Father’s Day with my son, and daughter-in-law to be, in the Independence Hall area of Philadelphia, touring more historic sites in Baltimore and in Virginia’s Tidewater region, meeting a surrogate daughter for dinner, paying homage at a Baha’i property in South Carolina, then driving across the Palmetto State, for another afternoon visit with an old friend from Xanga days.

Camping, the other night, featured my tent protecting me from three separate downpours, which had thunder and lightning make several appearances. I visited a couple of small towns, prior to coming here, yesterday, after breaking soggy camp.

Edgefield has a lovely town square and many friendly people out and about. Aiken is even more engaging and welcoming, and has my newest coffee shop friend: New Moon. I put this establishment right up there with Wild Iris and Artful Dodger, whose praises I have sung more than once. As Artful was way out of my way this time, New Moon made up for it.

I cherish finding places in which I almost immediately feel like family. It certainly makes what could feel old, after a bit, a good deal more rewarding.

It was getting old, yesterday evening, driving across narrow mid-Georgia roadways and down along I-75. Ocala, though, has established itself as a mid-way comfort point, so I stayed at Budget Host.

Spring Hill is now part of my triangle of homes, with Prescott and Saugus at the other two points. There are many other safe havens as well, from southern California to Montreal, southeast Alaska to the Shenandoah.

So, regardless of what the next many weeks, months and years hold, I feel confident and safe. Oh, and I have started checking out computers, so photo blogs are not far from being back.

Glory in Perspective

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June 19, 2018, Williamsburg-

I have used the two days, since leaving Philadelphia, to visit a couple of places that Penny, Aram and I missed on an ambitious, but tortuous, road trip, in 2007.

Throwing in a short photo shoot at the closed Edgar Allan Poe House, on Baltimore’s West Side, and some scenes in the Mount Vernon section, I found used on Fort McHenry, one of the places we missed, 11 years ago.

I found the structural aspects fascinating and Francis Scott Key’s complicated story, compelling. More about these, when The 2018 Road series resumes.

My next mission was to visit Penny’s second cousin, in southeast Maryland, as she had lost her mother, four months ago. It was a cathartic and crucial two hours.

As it happens, two other events occurred, as I was leaving HI-Baltimore: Penny’s only living aunt passed away, at the age of 99 and Aram got engaged.

Today, after meandering some, as far as Point Lookout, Maryland’s southern tip, I headed for Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in the U.S. For lack of a $5 bill, I forewent visiting Point Lookout, with nearby Scotland Beach as a substitute. Just as well, as Jamestown is well worth a full four hours, or more.

This brings up the matters of nationalism and glory. Both at Fort McHenry and at Jamestown, the curators have taken great pains to illustrate the roles of people of colour in every chapter of our national story. I hope to see more of this, as the educational portion of my journey continues.

I Felt Like The Waterboy

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June 17, 2018, Philadelphia-

From Friday night until about 11 A.M., today, my bio;logical family was giving my youngest niece and her new husband the respect and honour they completely deserve.  The wedding rehearsal dinner, and all that pertained to food, last night and this morning, were among the richest and most generous culinary festivals I have seen in many years, now.

I stuck to grilled fish, as my entree, for each meal, but the hors d’oeuvres for the two dinners were an astonishing parade, and no words could do justice to the intensity of the work done by the planners, the servers and the wedding party itself.  Then, there was last night’s musical troupe, who gave their all, with a constant stream of dance-able music.  Thus, for the first family wedding, in memory, I was relaxed and out on the floor, tripping the light fantastic, rather than tripping over my two left feet.  Like Adam Sandler’s water boy, in the movie of that name, I was hearing the voice of his buddy: “You can dooo eeet!”     So I danced, almost constantly, to tunes from the 1960’d through today, though I sat out the slow songs. Some things just don’t get done, for a  long time afterward.

This weekend was special in another way:  My son and his girlfriend came, clear from South Korea, for the wedding.  So, Father’s Day was also the most meaningful in years.  We went about  taking in the historical core of Philadelphia, in particular, the American Constitution Center, parts of Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell Center.  The Korean War Memorial, near Penn’s Landing, was also of interest to Y.H., she being a Korean national.

Summer is in full swing here, sticky and hot, but the sky has been clear and calm, all three days.  After a light supper, I have to bid farewell to Philly, to my new “little family” and to the new Mr & Mrs.  I’ve watched that girl grow up and with her entry into the full bounds of marriage, I found tears coming even more readily than in betrothals past.  Long may this, and all my family’s unions, last and bring happiness.

Freedom Within

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June 14,2018, Oley, PA-

The past two days have been spent taking in some aspects of history. Yesterday afternoon, I learned about American railroads, by visiting Steamtown National Historical Park, in Scranton, PA. Today, I spent almost the entire day at Valley Forge, the place where George Washington regrouped and shored up his forces, for a more concerted run at the powerful British Army.

The knowledge of history is right up there with the natural world, in my pursuit of understanding. I regret not posting photos, but when I get my new laptop, all these visits will be reprised, with the photos I’ve been taking.

Back to the matter of freedom. Valley Forge is a symbol of fighting for freedom. There is even an active organization in the town:Freedom’s Foundation, made famous in the 1969’s by the late American singer, Frankie Laine.

My take, in a nutshell: Freedom is a state of mind and heart. Of course, as with money, one must work to secure outward freedom, and never take it for granted. Yet, even those living in a dictatorship have the option of keeping the flame of freedom alive in their heart and mind.

I will have more to say about this,later, but I am getting tired,after a wonderful day, capped by a lovely dinner with a new friend.

Grama in Time

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June 12, 2018, Plattsburgh-

My maternal grandmother, Estella Myers Kusch, was born here, in 1892 and passed on in 1960, in Stoneham, MA. It’s been a long-standing desire of my siblings and me, to spend time in this area. Last night, and this morning, I got the chance.

Sunday brought me back to Auberge Bishop, which now takes its place among the places where I feel a special measure of love. These places exist in every part of the world I’ve visited and are sure to grow in number. As another friend pointed out, the opposite is also true. Yes, every place has its shadows, as well as its light. I was, however, enormously comforted by my young friends at Bishop, forming a cordon of love around me on Sunday.

Monday came and went, nicely. I had no problem getting cleared by theU.S. Consulate to leave Canada. The auto glass replacement took mu h of the day, but it, too, got done. I fetched my bags from Auberge Bishop, then navigated my way to TC-15 and the border. By 8 p.m., I arrived here, my Grama’s hometown.

Grama was an anchoring presence in my first decade of life. She watched my sister and me, when our parents went shopping on Saturday morning, always warning us to behave, lest Mom get “terry”-her term for being angry. I loved going up to her house, about a mile from our duplex, from which we moved when I was four. In fact, the first time I caught a hair brush to my backside, was when I walked up there alone. I was three. I can only imagine my Mom, crying and trembling, even as she tended to my punishment.

I saw several people around Plattsburgh, who resemble my Grama, my maternal Uncle Jim and few others in the Myers-Kusch family.

The town itself is a most picturesque place, with a compelling story, especially relative to the War of 1812.

I will have photos of Plattsburgh, nearby Ausable Chasm, and all the places before and after, when I get my new laptop and The 2018 Road series resumes.

She became seriously ill, when I was eight years old and I didn’t see her anymore after that.

Dear Thug

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June 10, 2018, Montreal-

You thought you got the drop on me, yesterday, waiting until I was far enough away from my car that I didn’t hear the smashing of window glass, did not witness you taking my seven-year-old laptop and my passport. To the extent you thought of me at all, you probably imagined a terified, whimpering American tourist, who was wondering “Oh, whatever shall I DO?”.

So, let’s get real about what this means, for each of us. I spent The rest if my Saturday being assisted by your better neighbours: A confident and dedicated young police officer, who knows her role in society, far better than you know yours; a strong, but gentle, young man who is a Muslim, by the way, and who carefully and diligently removed the bulk of the glass you left in my car, following your act of rage; two hostel workers who called around, for a space for me, to no avail. It is one of Montreal’s signature weekends, after all: Formula One Grand Prix.

Today, I am back at my favourite place to stay in Montreal. I made my car fitted with protection from the elements. I gave back to the young people who have so gracefully welcomed me into their community. I got a fine haircut from Irina. I am singing along to Eddie Vedder’s “I’m Still Alive”. Tomorrow, I will move forward, with new glass on my car windows and clearance from my government, to cross back into the land of my birth. In two years’ time, I will be back in Montreal.

So what of you? Perhaps, you are bragging to your friends and associates, about how you took advantage of a stupid Yankee. You may find someone who can break my laptop’s encryption and enable you, or your “employer”, to read my posts, to harass me or, God forbid to use the device for more nefarious purposes. You may try to sell my passport to the wide world of imposters. You will, in the long of it, fail. You are probably well-known to the Montreal Police Department, and the young officer took evidence with her. You are certainly known, at least in terms of your actions, by the people who live around McGill University. Their patience is running thin.

So, we both move forward. I will continue to live a life that values people and a Higher Power. You have a choice to make. Give up what is not yours or face one element or another, of civil society.