A Toronto Moose even farther afield

Speaking of the Toronto Moose, I’m reminded of my experience with Bay Street Moose a few years ago. He originally stood in the concrete meadow at the corner of King and Bay, where I passed him every day on the streetcar for six months. Of all the moose I saw on my daily travels, he was both the most familiar and my favourite. When he was finally carted away in the autumn of 2000, I figured I’d never see him again. Fast forward to July 2001: I was in the Netherlands on a business trip and had the weekend to do some quick exploring. I took the train to The Hague and decided to stroll through the city in the general direction of the Binnenhof and Queen Bea’s office. I ventured down a tree-lined path between two streets and discovered an outdoor exhibition of various sculptures from around the world. The sculptures ranged from interesting to weird, and my mouth dropped to the ground when I spotted my old friend standing proudly among them:

Bay Street Moose in The Hague, 2001

It was jarring to see a piece of my daily Toronto life on display 6,000 km away, where I happened to find it because I wanted a bit of shade on a sunny day. I gave him a pat, took a couple of pictures, and shook my head all the way home.

A Toronto Moose ventures far afield

Toronto Moose at Primitive Designs

Last seen in their native habitat in Y2K, the Toronto Moose continue to pop up in all kinds of unexpected places. This one guards the tiki huts, (fake) palm trees, and teak carvings of…Port Hope? Standing guard at the entrance to Primitive Designs in Port Hope, this moose migrated here by way of Pickering, where it resided for a number of years before being bought earlier this year by Primitive Designs owner Ron Dacey. Unfortunately, I can’t tell which moose this was; I can’t find a matching mug shot in the City of Toronto’s mooseum gallery. Either it’s one of the missing portraits or (more likely) it’s been repainted since leaving the big city.

Ron wasn’t around when I popped by for a visit this week, but staff were split 2-1 on whether the moose was even for sale, never mind the asking price. Majority opinion was that Ron likes it too much to sell it just yet. But everything has a price, especially in retail.

Related: A number of Toronto Moose still dot the city. I’ve written about two of them.

Dodge's third rule of hiking

Dodge’s first rule of hiking is that you will finish a roll of film just before a deer bounds across your path. The first rule was deprecated about ten years ago. The second rule of hiking is that if you bring a lot of X you won’t need any of it, but if you bring just a little or no X at all, you won’t have enough (where X is anything that you put into or take out of your daypack). The second rule is still in force. The third rule states that on the first hike you take with a brand new pair of boots, you will end up sinking in mud halfway up your shins. The left boot, above, went in first. The right boot, below, was sacrificed so that I could pull the left boot back out.

So much for a light hike to break them in.

In all seriousness, safety is the first rule of hiking and muck like this at the base of a sheer cliff is enough to turn me around. I was walking across the base of a hill that was obviously supersaturated and unstable. Well, it became obvious once my first step sank straight into what looked like hard-packed dirt. I could tell there had been a recent slide on the hill above but once I pulled my boots out and surveyed the scene again, it wasn’t clear whether the slide was six months or six minutes earlier. As I stood there, I could see a few small stones and clumps of mud falling one by one from the top of the hill and decided that this just wasn’t a good place to be contemplating a way forward.

Also on sober second thought, the interesting water patterns in the soil on the hill probably indicate a certain level of instability:

Unstable hillside

I’m sure that if I’d gotten close enough to touch that part of the cliff, it would have been just as soft as the muck I stepped in.

The tough part about turning back here was that my destination was only about 300 metres on the other side. I’d already caught a glimpse of it. If I could have navigated the 30 metres or so of this muck, I would have been there in less than five minutes. There was only one other possible path that would have allowed me to get there from my chosen starting point this day, and it was across the top edge of this very same hill. Sadly, I’d already tried traversing the top before thinking that going across the bottom might work better. Next time I’ll heed Dodge’s second rule of hiking and bring the hip waders for a river crossing to guarantee that I’ll find a nice easy overland route to my target.

Young buck

A young deer crosses the path in Mount Pleasant Cemetery

I frequently encounter joggers, walkers, cyclists, workers, rabbits, squirrels, and birds on my near-daily rides and walks through Mount Pleasant Cemetery, but this is the first time I’ve seen a deer. He was right near the Bayview entrance munching on some floral tributes before crossing the path to see what tasty treats await on the other side. I encounter deer often enough in the Don Valley that I’m not really surprised to see them in the city, but they usually bolt as soon as they see or hear you. This one walked almost straight toward me to get to the path—I moved twice to keep my distance—and didn’t seem fazed by any of the other people who passed no more than 15 metres away.

Also, I’m going to start carrying a real camera with me again; this phone camera just doesn’t cut it.

Leaside swinger

Riding under the Leaside Bridge on Thursday evening, I noticed something hanging off the side. It looked like a wayward piece of scaffolding at first glance, but I quickly realized that it was an art installation. I went back Friday for a closer look and better pictures.

From up top, it becomes obvious that something is attached to the guardrail.

And now it’s a little more clear: it’s a tin man made primarily of air ducting. From this angle, it looks like he’s jumping to his death, but he’s actually sitting on a swing. His body is tilted forward because his left arm is broken and isn’t holding him upright on the swing seat any longer.

It looks like the Tin Man found his heart.

I like. I give it an A for whimsy and concept, plus bonus points for the heart.

This was my first time riding along this route in the Don Valley this year, so I’m not sure how long this installation has been there. I vaguely recall seeing a couple of people doing something at the railing during my ride home across the bridge one evening this week, but they could have just been gawking rather than installing.

Austin miscellany part 2: City of signs

Regular readers of this blog know that I love signs. I could read, interpret, admire, ridicule, and wonder about them all day long. So naturally, when I went to Austin, I read, interpreted, admired, ridiculed, and wondered about a whole lot of new signs that we just don’t see in Toronto.

First off, Texans really like their longhorns. Up here, we think of them adorning the hoods of Cadillacs, but in Texas, they adorn just about everything, including the Golden Arches.

Jail Release

I saw this poor schmuck on billboards around the city on several occasions, so was a little amused to walk by Dunham Law Firm’s downtown office one day. There’s an annoying TV commercial too, which I was lucky enough to see only twice during the week.

I was staying near the University of Texas, and there were many punnily named businesses catering to students:

House of Tutors

Bite Mi

Austinites are so friendly that even the walls make small talk while you’re passing by:

Hi how are you

Even the Internet—home to anonymous trolls, unfettered outrage, and random aggression—is friendly in Austin:

Helpful Internet

Can’t we all just get along?

Coexist bumper sticker

Score one for the name, and another for the logo:

Arab Cowboy

A small subsidiary of Wayne Enterprises:

Bat City Awards and Apparel

And finally, Canada may not be high on the minds of most Texans on any given day, but parts of Canada do have a certain reputation:

BC Smoke Shop

Austin miscellany part 1

I’d written this post before I took my winter blogging break, but never quite got around to posting it. So, a few months late, here’s a random collection of sights I saw in Austin last year. There’s one more of these, and if I’m feeling energetic, I may eventually get around to that post about Calgary that I promised a year and a half ago.

W. 22-1/2 Street

The big problem with giving streets numbers instead of names is that occasionally, you need to squeeze in an additional street and are left with a dilemma: do you renumber all of the streets above it or come up with a new name? In Austin, there are a few of these half-streets downtown. They’re all just a few blocks long and thus don’t intersect whichever main street necessary to qualify as a full street.

From a Torontonian’s perspective, the transportation infrastructure of Austin outside of downtown seems to be overbuilt. As in any North American city, there’s lots of room for cars, but in Austin, everything seems to be a big four-lane road leading to lots of huge, three-quarters-empty parking lots. The picture below was taken just off a major highway at the T-intersection of two broad four-lane roads. In the ten minutes I was walking around the intersection mid-morning on a Friday, maybe three cars went past. The mall parking lot at the top of the T had about a dozen cars in it with room for a hundred and fifty more. My quiet two-lane residential street in east-end Toronto sees way more traffic than this crossroads.

Empty streets in rush hour

Despite the overbuilt car infrastructure, there are some nice touches for pedestrians. Many crossings receive a different surface treatment (as the bricks above) to alert drivers, and many curb cuts are textured to provide grip and warning to pedestrians that they’re entering a roadway. Still, despite the fine detail on the road crossing here, there isn’t a sidewalk in sight on the other side.

Empty parking lots abound

Here’s just one example of the many empty parking lots I encountered on my trip, this one at a business park on Friday morning. Not all parking lots were this empty, but it was common enough to make me wonder why parking was so abundant.

I also didn’t understand this sign, which I saw at the local Taco Cabana on my first day in Austin:

Parking only in a space

I thought it was strange that the sign carried an admonition to park “only in a space,” but chalked it up to poor writing or a bad translation. However, after spending a couple of days in the city, I understood the reason:

Bad parkers

As far as I can tell, no one in Austin can park. Every parking lot I visited abounded with cars taking up two or more spaces. Straddling a line was the most common infraction, but it wasn’t at all rare to see cars parked diagonally across spaces, in the lot aisles, blocking doors or curb cuts at building entrances, in the middle of crosswalks, and just generally ignoring all of the standard rules of conduct in parking lots. Maybe this is why parking seemed so abundant: city planners order up three times as many spots as necessary at any given building, figuring that each car is going to take up two or three spaces.

Incomplete overpass

Another oddity was the number of flyovers, ramps, overpasses, and underpasses that, like this one, just seemed to end somewhat prematurely with no sign of ongoing construction. It looks like they just build a section and then wait months or years until money is available to build the next section. It seems like a highly inefficient approach to infrastructure.

This being Texas, people take their trophies roadkill very seriously:

A useful bit of whimsy

Fishy catch basin grate

Much Toronto infrastructure is notable for its absolute devotion to utilitarianism, so it’s always a pleasant surprise to happen across a piece that combines utility with thoughtful design. This catch basin grate, located just a few steps north of the Leaside Bridge, was installed after the road was resurfaced late last autumn. Toronto has long participated in the Yellow Fish Road program, but incorporating the image of a fish directly into the grate is a nice touch that both looks great (mud and trash notwithstanding) and delivers a message.

These grates seem to have been around Ottawa for a while, and seem to be one of at least two fishy designs currently on the streets of Toronto.