Remembering the Don

Cover of the book Remembering the Don

I’ve mentioned Charles Sauriol and his book Remembering the Don before in this space and have used it dozens of times to educate myself about the social history of the Don Valley. I’ve made more trips than I remember to the library to borrow Remembering the Don and Pioneers of the Don, both long out of print and seemingly destined to remain that way. So imagine my surprise when I saw a small stack of new copies of Remembering in Book City on Danforth today, selling for the princely sum of $3.99 each. I snapped one up without a second thought. I figured that someone had finally reprinted it, but as far as I can tell, this is a genuine first edition, first printing from 1981 and has probably just been sitting in a box in a warehouse somewhere for almost thirty years. I swear that I’ve scoured the city and online for new copies of this book with no luck before, but now even Amazon has a single copy in stock.

This gives me an opportunity to share a passage from Remembering the Don that forever altered my impression of voyageurs when I first read it some twenty years ago. I’d always thought of voyageurs as rough, hardy adventurers who criss-crossed the wild expanses of pre-Canada in the name of commerce. These were Real Men (and they would have been Real Women too, if any of them had been women) who would have made the Old Spice guy look like Rudy in Meatballs. Then I read Sauriol quoting artist Fred Finley on the voyageurs’ route through southern Ontario:

Each Spring, in the early nineteenth century, the traders of the great North-West Company of Montreal set out for their posts, scattered far across Canada. When their laden bateaux reached York—now Toronto—the voyageurs turned up the Don River, ascending it until they reached the juncture of the Don and Yonge Street. Here the boats were lashed to wheels and pulled bodily up the old road to the Holland River, where they continued their voyage by water to the West. Thus were trading goods carried far across the continent during Canada’s early years.

Sure, it takes a Real Man to paddle and portage his way across a wild continent. But what’s this guff about strapping their canoes to carts and wheeling them up Yonge Street? It seems like cheating.

There's a co-op for that

Canadian Pallet Council office

The latest entries in the “Who knew?” file are the facts that the Canadian Pallet Council exists, has more than 1,200 members, maintains a prominent storefront office in downtown Cobourg, and is responsible for “setting, monitoring and enforcing policies, procedures and standards” for the manufacture and use of shipping pallets for its members. It also offers pallet-tracking software to its members, pallet administration training for members’ employees, as well as a new pallet inspection program. I know little about shipping pallet economics other than the fact that old ones make good firewood, but I wish the Council luck in its Strategic Focus to “resolve Pallet Imbalances” by next year.

A cyclist's best friend?

Bike rack or dog rack?

So this is what it’s like to be an afterthought. I know that the folks at the Foodland in Millbrook mean well, supplying a bike rack at the store and all (“down back” is still fairly close to the door), but if dogs need a place to sit where they’re out of people’s way, why not provide a dog-specific hitch that doesn’t take space away from cyclists?

(And for the record, the bike rack was bereft of both bikes and dogs when I was at the store on Sunday morning.)

A plateful of frustration

Leafs  ARGGGH licence plate

I really don’t understand Leafs fans. For today’s example, I don’t understand why someone would spend more than $300 not only to declare their undying loyalty to a bunch of millionaires who spend eight months of every year chasing a frozen chunk of rubber, but also to express the unending frustration that is the inevitable and eternal result of said loyalty.

You know, I used to be a Leafs fan, just as rabid as any other. I had an official jersey and countless other bits of merchandise, I went to a few games a year, I watched Hockey Night in Canada every Saturday, and I knew the stats of every player. I cheered like you wouldn’t believe that time that they went all the way to the semi-final before being eliminated. Then, when I was just nine years old, they traded Lanny McDonald to Colorado. I decided right then and there that the Leafs would only ever break my heart and weren’t worthy of my loyalty or energy. So I suffered the Leafs for a total of maybe 4 years before getting out.

Looking back with more than thirty years of hindsight, I think that decision was one of the best of my single-digit years and saved me the kind of annual disappointment that could be expressed only on a personalized licence plate. It’s also the very first decision I can actually remember sitting down, thinking about, and then sticking with. So when I see people of my age or older talking about the Leafs’ chances this year, I just shake my head and wonder how they can stand it year after year.

I eventually gave up on the NHL entirely when the 1994 lockout showed me that the entire league wasn’t worthy of my energy. That’s when I rediscovered that playing sports was way more fun than watching them.

…joined the Ice Capades?

I’ve seen a lot of strange things in antique stores in my day, but this rocking chair tops pretty much all of them. From the nipple rings to the embracing arms to the six-pack lumbar support, absolutely nothing about this chair says “sit on me.” I suppose it would be a great conversation piece, but I can’t imagine any permutation of that conversation being any more comfortable than the chair.

My own personal G20

I don’t live in the G20 security zone and I don’t often find myself there in the normal course of events, but I do need 24/7 emergency access to 151 Front Street West (geeks in the audience should recognize the address), which is directly across the street from the Convention Centre and deep inside the security perimeter. Yay. So I went and got me one of these ultra-high-tech ID cards that appears to be completely unforgeable without the use of an ink jet printer and a laminating machine. And really, who has that kind of stuff just lying around? You’d have to be some kind of Forest Hill zillionaire. Maybe there’s an RFID tag hiding in that card somewhere, but I doubt it.

Anyway, the original info about these cards from the Toronto Police Service said that it was a good idea to have one, but that they weren’t mandatory; you can get into the perimeter if you have this card and government-issued photo ID, or just government-issued photo ID and a plausible reason to be inside, or just a plausible reason to be inside. My take on that is that the cards will go from being optional today, to being mandatory tomorrow, to being useless on Saturday because no one will be getting in, no matter what ID or reasons they have.

My plausible reason for being there yesterday and today was taking due precautions for business continuity in the highly unlikely event that all hell breaks loose and 151 Front is damaged or taken off the grid. Such an event would pretty much screw the Internet in Canada for a few weeks. I expect nothing of the sort, but plan for the worst, hope for the best, and all that.

Both yesterday and today, I got into the perimeter without any problem, locking my bike up in front of 151 and having friendly chats with the police officers nearby; no ID, justification, or body-cavity searches required. One officer today joked that he may need to use my bike lock (Master Lock Street Cuffs) to arrest some protesters. I was certainly aware of being surrounded by cops, but everyone seemed relaxed and friendly, even if on alert.

Many of the bikes locked up along Front Street had police seals on them, for reasons unkown. My bike didn’t get one on either of my two trips down, though it would have been a nifty souvenir. Two of the officers milling about at Front and University did ask me how long I’d be, because if my bike was still there when a security lockdown started, the lock would be cut and my bike removed. Informed that I’d only be about 20 minutes or so, they offered to keep an eye out and save my lock if a removal crew came along. I guess that’s good news. I was surprised to see so many post and rings still in service in the perimeter, but many more than usual were unused.

At the height of lunch hour, Front Street at Simcoe was basically deserted. There are usually more people at this intersection on Sundays at 6 a.m. I’m used to looking out this window while I wait for a server to reboot for the umpteenth time in the middle of the night, so it was a nice change of pace.

Rent-a-cop or rent-a-truck?

For an event like this, the police obviously need more vehicles than they have. The good news is that however much they’re spending on rentals out of the $1 billion security tab, they didn’t direct a significant portion toward painting their temporary vehicles in the official colours, opting instead for a printed sticker and an ID scrawled in grease pencil. The drawback to this is that anyone with a rental truck and an ink jet printer (there’s that subversive tool again!) can do a pretty mean impression of a police van. After I took this picture, I was even more amused to see the POLICE sticker on the driver’s door placed above a prominent Air Miles logo. I thought of a frequent protester program: get arrested in this van three times and get an all-expenses paid flight to Syria. Woo! (Return fare not included.)

All right, now this is the final straw. I don’t mind giant fences, thousands of cops with riot gear patrolling the streets, downtown emptying of all life, the protests, the over-the-top media, the general inconvenience, the highway closures, or the enormous cost. Hell, I don’t even mind the fake lake. But sealing off the cute old mail slot by the elevators in 151 Front is more than I can take.

Truth be told, in the 13 or so years that I’ve been making regular visits to 151, I’ve never been sure that the mail slots were in regular use anyway. I’ve always just assumed that they were part of the building’s semi-old-timey heritage (and more than a bit of an anacronism considering its current duties) and it never occurred to me that I could drop a letter into the slot and have it do anything other than sit forgotten inside the wall for the rest of eternity.

With any luck, I’ll be enjoying the G20 summit from the shores of a real lake. Part of me really wants to hang around for the weekend just to see how the local media goes crazy trying to blow every little thing out of proportion, but a much bigger part of me just wants to snooze on a hammock. Decisions, decisions.

Bi-products revisited

Not content to let sleeping yogs bi, I decided to ask Metro if the “bi-products” label meant something other than what it seemed to. The emailed response from customer care came in this morning:

The Merchandising Team informs me of the following:

“Bi-products” would indicate Milk Bi-products which both Yogurt and Cottage cheese are. Some stores may have yogurt or Cottage cheese or Sour Cream or all. The layout of the counter in every store is unique based on counter size, set size and of course our customers’ needs.

So there you have it. Misspelled or otherwise, there’s nothing more to the sign than “milk leftovers.” Now I have to visit the meat department to see how they label the ground beef and sausages.

Supermarket finds: Bi-products

Would you like a delicious bi-product for breakfast?


Can someone tell me which marketing genius at Metro thought it would be a good idea to have a whole section of the supermarket prominently labelled “Bi-Products”? Besides seeming wrong on at least two levels, it manages to be both meaningless and off-putting. “Yogurt” is pretty clear. But “Bi-Products”? I thought maybe I was missing some obvious marketing push, but a Google search for “Bi-products” just brings up a lot of what you’d expect, including a site offering buffalo skulls (green or boiled), jaw bones, or feet, all “bi-products” of buffalo ranching. Oh, and a lot of fluff about business intelligence, too.

In a food world where “by-product” generally means “stuff that we’d normally throw away because it’s disgusting and inedible, but we found a way to grind it up and sell it to you anyway,” why does Metro think that “Bi-Products” is a good label for premium yogourt?

Who you gonna call?

Fixer on the Roof, sealed with a fix

Lots of businesses can boast clever puns in their names, but few can lay claim to one in their name and a second completely different pun in their slogan. Hello, Fixer on the Roof.

The eternal question about businesses bearing cutesy names is whether you really want to trust your house, car, or life to the person who thinks up these groaners. But that hasn’t stopped me from vowing to call up Bin There Dump That if I ever need a  dumpster, nor did it stop me from calling in the SWAT team (Specialized Wildlife Apprehension Technicians, whose website features the cutest damn illustration of a raccoon in jail that you’ve ever seen) to evict a family of squirrels from the spare bedroom last year, nor did it make my fireplace service choice between Friendly Fires and Burning Sensations any easier.  But trusting my roof to a mad punner? I’m not sure if I’m ready for that.