Re-hatted, pre-hatted and un-hatted


Today, the Colombos treated us to lunch. We were celebrating publication of John’s latest book, Immense Estates. First, though, they took me over to The Hatter to pick up my freshly-cleaned and blocked fedora.

So I am rehatted. We all had fun trying on headgear. Inspired, Danica remembered a hat she had stashed in the basement. It’s a winner … not red, like the one she tried on in the photo, but black like mine and still brand new. I would like to have bought her a grey hat that looked very smart with her parka. Maybe next time.

John Robert Colombo looked seriously good in a grey Stetson fedora and Ruth almost found the purple wide-brim she is after, but today was not the day, as you see.

The Colombos can return to The Hatter easily. It’s in their neighbourhood and right next door to one of their frequent food-shopping stops.

Ararat International Fine Foods is a small store with a long history. “Forty-six blessed years.” said the genial owner. “Were there other years that weren’t so good?” I asked. “Forty-six blessed years,” he repeated, ignoring my attempt at humour.

Photography inside was not wanted, which is a pity because the place is absolutely packed with interesting products, curios and kitchenware. Outside, a photo was deemed OK.


Miigwetch, miigwetch, all around


As a thank you (Miigwetch in Ojibway) for sharing Bear Song with her drum circle friends, Joni made a deer hoof shaker for Red Bear and sent it via me. I made the delivery over coffee today.

The photo shows the shaker sitting on a drum that Joni made for me. The shaker’s deer hoof rattles are sewn to a fabric band, quite thick and sturdy, with velcro on the ends. It can be worn on the drum hand or on a leg while dancing. I like the sound, which is surprisingly strong.

 At first glance, the hooves look like mussel shells because they are folded. Maybe Joni will comment on the making process. My guess is that the hooves have to be heated and softened to shape them this way.

Red Bear is teaching language and culture to people whose ways of life were almost destroyed by colonization. It is important work, being recognized as such, painfully slowly, by Canadians, their courts and their governments.

We still have a long, long way to go, but I hope we are beginning the journey to understanding and reconciliation … not just for justice to people who have been (and continue to be) wronged, but for concepts that could help sustain all of us, if we are open to learning.

Two treats for a snowy day

Treat Number One: A link to this and many more gorgeous, high resolution photographs, free to use as you please. The site is Unsplash. Click the starry image to go to this particular picture.


Treat Number Two: Sent by Joni during our exchange about singing stars of the 1950s. Who doesn’t love the voice, diction and phrasing of the great Nat King Cole.

Very cool art

It was opening day for the Beach Winter Stations or Warming Stations. Whichever you call them, they are art installations covering lifeguard towers. An international competition was held, hundreds of applications judged and 7 designs chosen for fabrication.

We arrived while artists were still at work in the freezing wind. The pieces will be up until March 19th, luring humanity to our icy shores.

We started with some creative destruction of children’s ice art. I found the culprit hiding behind the broken wall and we took off, heading past the outdoor rink to Kew Beach. The slides will take you the rest of the way … and you can find out more about the installations, here.

 We didn’t see all of the winter stations and some we saw were not finished, so another walk is in order.

We had planned to have lunch at Hakka Wow but it was closed for Family Day. That gave us the opportunity for a first visit to Karma’s Kitchen. We were VERY happy with our Crispy cauliflower appetizer, Chicken Tangra Sizzler and Steamed Beef Momos (soft dumplings, also available with chicken or vegetarian). Nice little place. The cooking is nice and spicy, very tasty and attractively presented. Perfect way to warm up from the inside out.

No alcohol is served, but there is coffee, tea and cold pop. The waiter brought us complimentary sample cups of their sweet chai tea, which will be my choice next time.

Learning my way around

“Why is Bathroom Man running?” I wondered when I saw him on the UP Express platform the other day. “I know green means GO. Bathroom Man in a hurry to go? Is that it?”


To confirm my interpretation, I followed the arrow. Aha! Emergency Exit … not Emergency Urinal. Good to know.

I avoid 21st century border and boarding unpleasantries as much as possible, and have lost travel-symbol literacy as a result. Running Bathroom Man is apparently familiar to frequent flyers, especially outside of North America.

Emergency Exit Man (as I now understand him) has been around since the 1970s and is the work of Japanese designer Yukio Ota. His pictogram gets around language barriers. Red EXIT signs fail by depending on an English word.

Much of the world has been coping with the English STOP sign, but Quebeckers know that’s risky. The HAND pictogram also risks confusion. Drivers apply brakes not with the hand, but the foot.


I offer this solution freely, for any and all who wish to use it. The foot is bare, for universality and gender neutrality.

Free Ride Day: UP Express

Come along with me from the Union Station subway to Pearson International Airport and back again. The return trip would cost us $55.00 on a regular day, but today we ride the UP Express for free.

 At 6:50 a.m., I was out the door, heading for the streetcar and then the subway to Union Station.

It’s quite a walk through the station to get to the UP departure platform. I boarded the train and arrived at the airport about an hour and 20 minutes after I left home. A limo from my door would have taken half as long … maybe less.

Even UP Express management finally realizes that present fares are wrong. Here’s the math, if Danica and I went from our door to the airport: $70 plus tip. Easy and quick, with luggage handled.

The UP Express way? $55.00 for two fares to the airport plus $5.00 for our transit fares to the UP platform, humping our luggage from streetcar to subway to station. Who’s going to do that to save 10 or 15 dollars on the price of a trip? Take a cab to UP? Add $25.00 to the $55.00 and cost is greater than for the more convenient, faster limo.

Correcting the fare is simple, compared with the other big problem. The UP Express stations are not connected to the rest of Toronto’s transit system. You see what it’s like at the Union end. It’s also a 5 minute walk from the UP platform on Bloor to the nearest subway station. How sad. How expensive to correct … if it can be corrected.

My slides show views along the route … a “first impression” for visitors. Sound barrier walls are common, because the diesel trains cut close through residential areas. Graffiti artists love the canvas space, but the neighbours aren’t happy about noise and air pollution.

Electrification of the train has been promised, but somebody renovating the Union Station shed roof failed to make it high enough for electric trains. Raising the roof is expensive. Retro-fitting diesel trains to electric is expensive. And fares are going to have to come down. Problem, no?

I felt sad for the wonderfully friendly, welcoming UP staff people who were greeting riders enthusiastically. They seemed genuinely proud of their shiny new train service, with its 15 minute frequency and its comfortable seats. Planners and management have let them down badly, I think.

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