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.

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.


The once proud Toronto Moose, now relegated to playing bit parts in off-Bayview productions

It’s hard to believe that it’s been ten years since Toronto was overrun by Moose in the City. Why, I remember it like it was ten years ago…

There are still a few moose dotting the city in various states of disrepair, but you can almost see the sadness in this one’s eyes as he gazes back on his glory days as a tourist attraction from his current position as a Halloween prop near the corner of Bayview and Moore. Hang in there, buddy; Halloween’s here in a week and I’m sure you won’t have to wear any silly Christmas costumes afterward. Besides, this getup is much more dignified than the one Google Street View caught you in. They didn’t even have the courtesy to blur your face.

The Amazing Technicolour Dreamdoor

Colourful garage door in East York

If you’re thinking about Space Invaders right now, you probably spent a lot of time exchanging $5 bills for 20 quarters in the arcades of the early 1980s. But according to homeowner Eugene Popov, the inspiration for this colourful garage door wasn’t a youth spent feeding coins into game consoles; it was a few years living in South Africa.

He took the motif from the Ndebele people of northern South Africa, who are renowned for their distinctive traditional house painting with repeating geometric patterns and bright colours. After coming to Toronto, Popov wanted a little something to remind him of his former home. So why did he choose the garage door as the canvas for his remembrance? “I had a rusty garage door,” he explained, “and wanted to do something different.”

I’m still trying to figure out how I cycled and walked past this for two years before noticing it last weekend.

A version of this article originally appeared on Torontoist.

In the Dark at Todmorden

Live with Culture at Todmorden Mills

Risa and I went to an interesting little event at Todmorden Mills Saturday night called Dark. Think a kind of mini-Nuit Blanche at a half-dozen locations within one site and you get the idea.

Sean Dixon plays the banjo under the old Don River bridge

While the concept was solid and the performers talented, the result was a little hit and miss thanks to some questionable decisions made by the organizers. The primary problem from our perspective was that none of the outdoor performances were amplified. With the always-busy Don Valley Parkway only 100 metres away, it was difficult at best to hear Sean Dixon (above, with banjo) and his partner playing. Adding to the noise problem were cars passing over the bridge from the parking lot. They invariably ran over a loose metal plate at the far end making a percussive ka-chunk! just out of beat with the music. The setting—in the old Don River channel before it was diverted to make room for the Parkway—couldn’t have been nicer, though.

Similarly, Melissa D’Agostino’s entertaining one-woman turn as an immigrant casting off her baggage at the train station was all but drowned out by the large diesel generator placed just behind her audience.

Even a couple of small amplifiers would have made a big difference in both cases. I’m sure that the organizers felt that microphones and speakers would have made the performances less intimate. That view is certainly valid, but please lose the generator and traffic on the DVP next time. Maybe the event could be held during one of the Parkway’s scheduled maintenance shutdowns, and the generator could be moved further away from the crowd.

Elyne Quan gives a reading in the basement of Helliwell House

Elyne Quan (above, in a 25 second exposure) gave an emotional reading of a new piece in the basement of the Helliwell House, lit only by a single red compact fluorescent bulb and the LEDs on her copy stand. This performance did not need amplification, but some air conditioning would have been appreciated. I’d have liked more time to explore the rough stone-floored basement, which isn’t normally open to the public.

Other performances included comedy, dance, and theatre spread around the grounds, including performances in the old Don train station and the Wildflower Preserve. Overall, it was an interesting event that shows promise for future editions. I hope the organizers take some lessons from the inaugural attempt.

Just monkeying around

How’s it hanging?

One of my neighbours keeps monkeys, hanging them from the utility wires along the street. There were only a few until last year, when the population exploded to the current dozen or so lining almost the entire block.

Shortly after we all learned through a Fixer column last year that one of the locals was taking the proliferation of monkeys a little too personally, a petition was affixed to the pole closest to the monkeys’ home pleading for the continued presence of the playful primates.

Watching the world And a koala too

The monkeys have since spread so far along the street that it’s hard to miss them unless you’re staring at your feet for the entire block. So I have to admit to a bit of amusement at learning that the Toronto Psychogeography Society walked right past without seeing them last week.

In fairness, many of the monkeys were camouflaged by trees at the time and the Society did their stroll under cover of darkness.

A version of this article originally appeared on Torontoist.

Life out of balance

(I liked the headline from my recent Torontoist post on the same subject that I’m reusing it.)

Rock towers in the Humber River
Peter Riedel could hardly have chosen a better location to ply his trade. I’ve seen rock balancers in the eastern beaches, in the western beaches, and even at the Ex, but this is the first time I’ve seen one working the Humber River. Literally in the river.

The artist and some of his creationsThe Humber cascades over a low waterfall in Étienne Brûlé Park before bubbling just a few centimetres deep across a short stretch of river rock. The only sounds here come from the rushing river and picnicking families. Visitors to the park on a busy Sunday afternoon include cyclists, walkers, joggers, and skaters. And then there’s the guy crouched in the middle of the river with a rock in his hands, surrounded by some 50 rock towers of every imaginable description.

Riedel, who has been balancing rocks on the Sunnyside Beach seawall for three seasons, recently moved up the Humber to take advantage of the idyllic setting, the abundant raw material, and the permanence the river lends to his work. He found Sunnyside less than ideal with the constant din of nearby traffic on Lake Shore and the Gardiner breaking his concentration and the constant danger that his towers would be toppled by careless passersby and malcontents. In contrast, it’s hard to imagine anyone accidentally bumping into a rock tower in the middle of a river.

The phallic sectionDaryl Maddeaux, who builds impressive towers at the Ex and other special events, once answered a query from the crowd by saying that rock balancing is more about patience than skill, and that anyone could do it. Since then, I’ve always wanted to try my hand at it. Unfortunately, I’m fairly certain that I don’t have the patience. For the moment, I’ll settle for the home version I received as a gift last year.

50 perfectly-balanced towers in the river

More than 50 towers dotted the river by the time Peter was done that day.

The view from afar

From afar and backlit, the towers look like people standing in the river. Only one of them in the picture above actually is a person.

There’s no trickery involved in rock balancing, just patience, skill, and artistry. Maddeaux always makes a point of knocking down his towers at the Ex by lobbing little pebbles at them, to demonstrate that the towers are held together by nothing but gravity and even the slightest shift will topple them. Life, out of balance.

A version of this article originally appeared on Torontoist.

You are caught

You are caught thinking about killing anyone you want

This little plaque on the facade of 778 King Street West, just west of Tecumseth, has intrigued me for years. Either it’s wrong, or there are a lot of angry people walking along King Street.

It seems that this is the work of an American artist named Jenny Holzer, as part of a collection of works called Survival. That said, I don’t know if this is an original installation, a reproduction, or merely an homage.