We did it!

Tunnel Boring Machine gets started on the Eglinton Crosstown LRT

After a merciless robocalling campaign, months of behind the scenes schmoozing, and whistle stop visits from Senators Duffy and Wallin (remind me to double-check those expense forms), Don and Humber—my picks for tunnel boring machine names—carried the day, along with Dennis and Lea. I’m happy to confirm that I’ll be splitting my incredible winnings equally with everyone who helped achieve this victory by voting, mumbling their general support, or just ignoring me entirely. Please submit your mailing addresses ASAP so that I can drop your full share of absolutely nothing into the mailbox.

The only part of my priceless winnings that I can’t divvy up with everyone is Wednesday’s trip into the launch pit at Black Creek Drive and Eglinton Avenue for the launch ceremony. There were actually four winners in total who were invited to the ceremony: one person who had suggested Dennis and Lea, and three of us who had all suggested Don and Humber. We got to wander around the coolest construction site in the city for the low, low, price of having to listen to a couple of speeches. Then in recognition of the enormous contributions that my fellow TBM-namers and I made to the  project, we (along with several workers much more deserving of the honour) signed our names to the belly of the beast before sending it on its way:

Everyone got to sign the TBM before it heads into its new tunnel

Glen Murray, the Minister of Infrastructure, announced proudly that the TBMs for the Crosstown line were built right here in Ontario. What he didn’t announce was that the plant where they were built is closing next year. Caterpillar seems to make a habit of buying up local manufacturers only to shut them down.

Lea again

The tunnel boring machines were both impressive in size yet smaller than I expected. I somehow thought they’d be bigger, but I guess the thing with TBMs is that they pretty much have to be the same size as the tunnel they’re digging.

Head-on view of Lea, the next TBM to be launched

Dennis is the first TBM to start, and Lea, seen above, will be up next. Don and Humber will be starting to dig toward Yonge Street from Brentcliffe Road in about a year and a half.

‘sup? Just hangin’.

The rigging is checked twice by each of two different people. The harness is double-checked by each of three different people. Even your shoes are checked twice to make sure they’re on tight. You have to pass a breathalyzer test, get frisked with a metal detector, remove all jewellery and personal items, and be swabbed for explosives and narcotics. By the time you step outside onto the 1,168-foot-high walkway, you’d probably be in more imminent danger if you were swaying in a hammock reading a book. Yet casually leaning over the edge of the CN Tower requires your still-unconvinced brain to override your body’s instinctive resistance in order to push your centre of gravity out beyond the relative comfort of the walkway. After all, the next step down the staircase is a ten-second freefall away. By the time you’ve done it forwards and backwards and get around to posing for pictures, it’s almost second nature. Almost.

Right to left: Felicity, Val, and four other people with nothing to do on a Thursday afternoon.

So Felicity and I went on the CN Tower EdgeWalk last week. The walk itself takes about 30 minutes to circumnavigate the Tower on a 150-metre-long track, with nothing between you and your view of the city but the weather. The whole experience starts about 30-45 minutes before you step outside with the signing of the waiver, the donning of the red jumpsuit, and undergoing the aforementioned security and safety checks. Most of these preparations take place in a glassed-in room just off the gift shop at the base of the Tower, allowing a disbelieving public to watch six people calmly preparing for a short urban stroll. When the harnessed and jumpsuited walkers stride out of the prep room toward the elevator, staff and onlookers applaud and cheer. You can’t help but feel like a dorktastic version of the Mercury 7 strutting down the passage to the admiration of all and expectation of glory to come.

In addition to just walking around the deck and seeing the sights, the guide takes everyone through a series of exercises: stepping your toes over the edge, leaning backward, and leaning forward over the abyss. Then it’s picture time and you’re back inside almost before you know it. The funniest thing about it is that walking on the outside of the Tower quickly comes to seem so normal that all of the locals start doing what they usually do whenever they go up to the observation deck with out-of-town friends: they trace streets and scope landmarks, trying to pinpoint their houses somewhere below. I got as close as an apartment building on my street. The EdgeWalk is an expensive way to spend the afternoon, but it’s worth every loonie. I highly recommend it unless you’re completely jaded. And then I’d recommend it just to restore your sense of fun.

Bucket man

I fulfilled a lifelong fantasy yesterday and rode a bucket 45 feet into the air. York Mills Collegiate, where Risa teaches, was doing an outdoor photo shoot to mark their 50th anniversary and the official photographer was running late. As the husband of the event organizer, I was quickly drafted to stand in a basket at the end of a really long pole.

Looking straight down the boom that’s holding me aloft

That’s my new best friend Ian three storeys below me at the bucket controls.

1,100 York Mills students prove that high schoolers really can spell

All of the students gathered on the field behind the school to spell out the York Mills initials, paying homage to a similar image taken 20 years ago for the 30th anniversary. Risa is one of the few to be in both pictures — the first as a student, the second as a teacher.

I’m glad it wasn’t very windy.

Naturally, I made Risa take pictures of me up in the bucket after my official duties concluded. Weee!