Best of

Hello everyone, I don’t really blog much anymore but hey, I’ve written some pretty good stuff here and elsewhere, so why not put it in a big ole round up post? Why not indeed. So in case you’re looking for something to read, here’s some things.

You come here beautifully dressed: on the horror of good grooming in the middle of the apocalypse. Somehow or other I wrote this BEFORE the pandemic.

Intellectually I know that she was just dressed in her uniform, doing her job. Young female news anchors are supposed to look good. The stainless white coat was a prop, like her ironed hair and professional makeup. Yet I couldn’t help hating her for standing there, beautifully dressed, while everything was falling apart.

Peace in our time: The superhero and his shadow in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: me trying to think about what the dominance of superhero movies says about our culture and its obsessions.

It’s always a good question to ask, why these stories, and why now? How did comic book superheroes go from a dying industry in the early 2000s to a media juggernaut? What is so captivating about these stories anyway? Stories don’t just entertain us; they also tell us what matters to us. What are we afraid of? What do we desire? What anxieties are we carrying, which ones can we acknowledge, and which ones must we deny?

Why War? Freud and Einstein discuss violence.

There is a certain sad irony about these two Jewish men solemnly discussing the problems of the world of 1932 as if it were in their power to solve them. They both understand that something very bad is brewing but not that they and their people are going to be victims of it. There’s something very touching about this attempt to understand the intractable problem of collective human violence, and something very sad and futile.

This is not an armchair psychoanalysis of Rob Ford: an attempt to grapple with the many meanings and implications of Rob Ford’s Toronto. Oh, that one did not go well.

The challenge is, in a political arena revitalized by the past three years of mayoral drama, what do we do with them? How do we honour those feelings of disenfranchisement and exclusion without enacting Rob Ford’s program of destruction?

Three Faces of Poverty: A brief, personal history of Parkdale: my grappling with my complicity in the gentrification of a beautiful neighbourhood.

When I moved to Parkdale in 2003 gentrification was already well underway. Artists and students had been slowly moving into the area, attracted by low rent and cheap beer; middle-class families were snapping up the decaying but affordable and beautiful Victorian houses and restoring them. Parkdale in the early 2000s was thought of as a bit ‘dangerous’, just enough to make a romantic young woman who’d read a lot of Simone de Beauvoir feel like she was doing something cool by living in one room with a hotplate and a toaster oven instead of a kitchen.

Strollers on public transit: a feminist issue: in which I try and fail to get around town with an infant.

No matter what they do, mothers can’t win.…You are excoriated for being environmentally irresponsible by procreating, but also for being environmentally responsible by taking your child on public transit. You are told over and over again that you have to breastfeed or you’re a horrible selfish parent, yet people give you everything from the side-eye to the horrified stare to outright discrimination if you do it in public. You are expected to bring up a perfectly socialized child…without ever bringing them into society, because you can’t expect people in stores or restaurants or, hell, streetcars to put up with your child crying or whining or running around or otherwise acting like a child. Mothering is expected to be perfect, joyous, and invisible.

Budget tips for the 1%: how to manage your money, from someone who’s never had any.

While I would not exactly call myself the proverbial Excellent Wife, I do have a shit ton of experience running an establisment on an income that has never quite crossed the boundary from inadequate to adequate…So in the spirit of positivity and all that crap I offer to share my experience with the cash-strapped upper-upper-upper middle class.

The view from the council chamber: I dabble in municipal politics and unnerve Giorgio Mammoliti.

So if you’re a bit old or a bit forgetful or god forbid have a disability, the City of Toronto invites you to go fuck yourself.

Someday I will blog again! Today is not that day. A bientot, mes amis.

It was the last night of Occupy Toronto. I was there, but not there, as I am at so many things in my life. I was pregnant and too scared to fully take part, but I would go sometimes and hang out. Ben stayed over about half the time.

We knew it was almost over – the authorities had put up with us as long as they were going to put up with us. There were court orders and threats of arrest. It was going down, very possibly that night.

Anyway, that night, as the police were massing to take the whole thing down, I had been at the camp. I started to head home in the early evening, not wanting to get pepper sprayed or tackled, because I was both pregnant and a bit of a physical coward (still am, not really ashamed of it). I was upset and scared and sad and not, frankly, looking my best, as my personal appearance was not high on my list of concerns in that moment. So I was walking up one of the adjacent streets in my giant pregnancy duffle coat, when a reporter stopped me.

There’s a scene in some ancient Greek drama about the destruction of Troy – I can’t remember which one, I don’t know these things and haven’t done any research about it, it was in a book of Greek plays which my parents had for some reason, I read it as a teen because I would and will read anything. In this play, Helen of Troy swans into the scene of devastation, looking like a million bucks as usual, and another woman (Hecuba, probably) attacks her, saying “you come here beautifully dressed!” How dare she look so put together when the world was falling apart?

That reporter was a woman, my own age (30-ish) or younger, long, straightened hair, full makeup, dressed in a dazzling white coat. I remember the white coat, because they’ve always seemed so decadent to me. How can you live in this land of dirt and slush and own a white winter coat? How can you possibly expend the time and resources needed to keep it from instantly being ruined? How dare you come here so beautifully dressed?

She leaned down and looked me in the face (why in my memory is she so much taller than me?) with a kind, patient expression on her face, like I was a child, and asked me something harmless and stupid. I can’t remember what. How dare you come here, so beautifully dressed, was all I could think. I said nothing, just stared at her with a hate I can’t remember feeling for another person before or since.

Intellectually I know that she was just dressed in her uniform, doing her job. Young female news anchors are supposed to look good. The stainless white coat was a prop, like her ironed hair and professional makeup. Yet I couldn’t help hating her for standing there, beautifully dressed, while everything was falling apart.

I stared at her and said nothing. In my memory she drew back like I’d slapped her. I walked away, and in the morning, when the psychological moment was over and everyone was cold and tired, the police broke up the camp with minimal violence and a sense of anti-climax, and everyone went home.

Today I watched on the internet as the police much more violently broke up the Tyendinaga demonstration. All the pretty talk and promises of reconciliation have come to nothing. Nothing has changed and nothing will change. We all show up, beautifully dressed, as the world falls apart around us, and I will never stop hating us for it.

Life after dryers

Hello! Longtime no blog. Rather than regale you with all of my doings since my last post (mostly work, parenting, and a Fringe show or two), I have more Relevant Life Advice from the Lower Middle Class to share.

If you like me were rattled by the latest climate doom report and wondering what, barring violent revolution, you can do to ensure your children have at least a semi-livable planet (or, hell, ensure that you can retire somewhere other than Mad Max), you may have been pondering that list of “things you can do for climate change” that was going around, which was:

  • eat less (or no) meat;
  • drive less (or not at all);
  • avoid air travel as much as possible;
  • use a washing line instead of a tumble dryer.

I don’t know if I can convince you to become a smug non-driving vegan who’s only flown a handful of times in her life (mostly because I can’t afford it) like me, but I can at least tell you what’s it’s like to give up your dryer and exclusively airdry your clothes and household linens. Because our dryer broke about a month ago and we decided not to replace it.

Our situation: two able-bodied adults, two kids (6 and 3), one dog (13). No one is in diapers or having frequent bathroom accidents. Neither of us has a job that requires fancy office clothes (much). We have a backyard with a washing line and a large indoor drying rack, and our washing machine is high-quality and fairly new. I work about half time and largely from home, so have lots of time to get stuff done around the house, and while laundry is mostly my responsibility, my partner and I share household chores and expect the kids to help in age-appropriate ways. If you are already finding your domestic chores difficult to balance with work outside the home, or have disabilities/health issues that limit the domestic work you can do, or have kids in diapers or very messy pets, or are sharing laundry facilities, this might not work for you. But if you have the space, capacity, and a bit of time, air drying is an easy thing to work into your routine to do a tiny bit for the planet.

So here’s what it’s like. The good:

  • It’s free! Depending on how much laundry you do and how much power costs in your area, you have now saved…according to this, about $1.08/load. We do about 4 loads of laundry per week, so that adds up to over $200/year. It’s not an enormous amount of money but hey, that’s one really nice date night or one really cheap dirty weekend, so get a babysitter and have fun, guys!
  • Your clothes will last longer. Tumble drying makes clothes rub up against each other, that is quite obviously how it works, as well as exposing them to heat. This will cause them to wear out quicker. So yay, less shopping and less waste. Which I suppose also saves you money. Order an extra bottle of wine!
  • If you dry them outside, your sheets will smell a m a z i n g. If you could bottle line-dried sheet smell I would wear it as a perfume, it’s that good.
  • You’ll never have to worry about accidentally putting something that shouldn’t go in the dryer, in the dryer. If you have meddling and/or passive-aggressive relatives they can’t “accidentally” put that nice cashmere sweater or silk dress in the dryer because they were trying to “help”. Yay?
  • The planet is still likely to be uninhabitable in a few decades, but at least you did the bare minimum. Gold star.

The meh:

  • Congratulations on increasing the mental load of your housework! This was the biggest adjustment, the amount of planning involved. Toronto’s climate is fairly damp, so every load takes an average of 24-48 hours to dry – thin items will tend to dry faster, obviously, but don’t count on it. So you can’t think “fuck, I’m out of underwear” or whatever, throw a load in the washer, throw it in the dryer, and be able to leave the house in clean clothes 2-3 hours later. You need to keep a running tally of that underwear count, and depending how reliable the rest of your family is, of everyone else’s too. (Sidenote: if your partner is domestically useless this will probably be extra hard. For your own sanity make him keep track of his own underwear status or at least mercilessly tease him if he doesn’t.)
  • If you don’t hang things well, or if it’s really damp, your stuff might dry too slowly and smell musty. You can spritz your clothes with Febreze, air them out some more, or just live with it. Usually the smell goes away the next wash. This mostly applies to rack drying, usually line-dried clothes don’t have this problem.
  • The “never done”-ness of laundry is magnified. Even when we had a dryer I felt like laundry always either needed doing, was in the middle of being done, or needed to be put away. I now have a laundry room and/or a backyard more or less permanently full of in-progress laundry. Sorry.
  • You’ll have to compromise your standards of cleanliness a bit (see below).
  • Do you own thick fluffy bath towels? They will dry into hard lumpy sheets of cardboard. You can sort of shake them out and pull at them to soften them up a bit, but there’s really no way around this. RIP fluffy bath towels, I’ll miss you.nSame with your dishcloths and tea towels, though I find the hand-crocheted ones dry softer. I’ve also read that Turkish towels air dry much softer but haven’t tested this yet – they’re expensive! Paypal me $40 and I’ll do some field research. Or maybe I’ll crochet a bath towel, just try and stop me.
  • You need more sheets, probably. There is no area of our house that’s large enough to air dry a sheet indoors, so sheets MUST go on the line. I’ve read that even in sub-zero temperatures they will dry (you might have to break some ice off them, though), but if it’s raining you really can’t do anything about it. So minimum 3 sets of sheets/bed are a necessity. Wait for a sale and stock up, bitches! That sheet smell is a nice bonus, though.

How to do it:

  • Wash your clothes and hang them up on a rack or a line until they’re dry. It’s not rocket science, people.
  • OK, to be serious, hit on a rhythm that works for you. I wash around every other night (power is cheap after 7:00 PM here), then either hang it before bed or in the morning, and put the laundry away after 2-3 loads are dry. I wash sheets weekly if the weather is clear. So far this is working out. We’ll see how it goes in the winter!
  • Don’t knee-jerk wash everything every time you wear it. Look it over and give it a sniff. If it doesn’t look or smell dirty, don’t wash it! I promise no one will notice as long as you don’t wear it two days in a row. Unless you are doing dirty, physical labour most clothes can go 2-3 wears before washing. If something doesn’t look dirty but is a bit stinky, try airing it out before washing it.

This is far more than I ever imagined I’d have to write on the subject, but I’m sure there are acres of ground yet to cover. Do Turkish towels really dry soft? How can I get my dishcloths to not be disgusting? What exciting developments in sock dryers do you know about? I’m all ears.

The stars remember us

In time, all ripples disappear in sand,
In wave, in sound, in line and gravity
No deed or being, word or ampersand
Will ever find true immortality.
But death, while welcome, never is the end
As ripple joins to current joins to sea,
And all we are, subsumed, will ever bend
The wave which bent us in totality –
While all of us will die without reprieve,
The stars remember us – and do not grieve.

Lighted windows

In the dockside towers the windows slowly light,
One by one, as their owners carefully file
themselves and their lives away
I see curtains and plants, posters and vases
Tiny tastes of their lives, little scraps of their being.
Inside these boxes a million worlds evolve
Betrayal, passion, boredom, lust
An opera of emotions on every floor
And the elevators divide them, shut in and alone
And I wonder, what is it like, what is it like
(I inhabit this city, but cannot say I live here,
Here in this palace, all curves and glass and light –
Beautiful, hateful, hopeful, doomed
I wonder and wonder, where it is that I am?)
In the blank spaces, where nobody lives
Under the bridges and underpasses
Unlooked-for, unloved, the places nobody creates,
there is a sort of beauty
A beauty of endurance, like those who grow old alone,
And on the bare concrete wall, I read my name:
No one.

She writes sad songs

She writes sad songs with fancy pens
And written, scratches out again
And again she writes in smeary scrawl
A song of love and loss (et al)
And draws another damp, thick line
Through verses good or bad or fine
She writes sad love songs with her pen
Again, again, again.

She thinks, if only she were free
Her songs would spark, would simply BE,
Would simply soar across her breath
And not demand a speedy death.
Her eyes would blaze with verses true
As that is what true artists do.
She writes sad songs and strikes them out
And out and out and out.

I wish I could relate the end
Of my sad-love-song-writing friend
For all I know she writes them still
For good, indifferent, or ill;
And if her pen sleeps peacefully
I hope the same is true of she.
This is the most we can aspire:
Continue on, if we desire,
And find some happiness if not,
Forget – and be forgot.

Simple pleasures

The simple pleasures remain, at least.
If nothing else, they do remain –
A sunlit glow through a covered pane,
A breeze, a scent, a sudden taste,
A fine-turned phrase or a soft embrace,
They remain. They remain.

If nothing else, hold on to these
These quick-sweet moments, darting bright
Hold on to life and hope and light
All you who breathe, here, now, and still
And still beneath the ocean’s swell
We remain. We remain.

There is no answer, no way to peace
The rot within us will come out.
No cure, no change, no turnabout
This is the fate our hearts maintain.
But the simple pleasures, they do remain.
I do not know how long.

I was walking my kid to school the other day – YES THAT BABY I HAD FOUR YEARS AGO THAT TOOK UP ALL MY BLOGGING TIME IS IN SCHOOL NOW, NO I’M NOT CRYING, WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT – thinking about how humans get from one place to another. On one hand we’re pretty awesome at creating complicated machines to transport our weak little human bodies around. On the other hand we stink at it.

I mean, take a city. A city is the human equivalent of an ant hill – it’s where we live together in close proximity because life is easier that way. The entire *point* of a city is to keep the necessities of human life within a manageable distance. Yet few North American cities are really walkable, and even in the few that are the majority of people drive the majority of the time.

As a way of life and an allocation of resources this is really inefficient. Driving is difficult, dangerous, and expensive. That something like 80% of trips within Toronto are done by car bothers me not just because it’s bad for the environment and destructive to public space, but because it’s so colossally wasteful. It offends my frugal soul. Don’t you know that gas costs money? I want to yell at the guy around the corner who drives his kids to school (it’s about a 10 minute walk). Don’t you know that car is going to cost you like 8 grand a year? I refrain from posting as a comment on a friend’s Facebook picture of their new wheels.

But of course people drive. Because it’s easier that way, because it’s normal, because they want to maintain status with their peers, because no other option seems viable, because they’ve structured their lives so that they have no other choice. So be it, when gas gets up to $10/L that’ll change. But if you had to design an urban transport system from scratch, what would it be?

I’m starting from the basic principles that good transportation: a) is good for the user; b) is good for the environment; c) doesn’t unduly harm other people or animals; d) inexpensive; e) is accessible to the greatest number of people, and f) is easy. Bearing that in mind…

1. WALKING AND MOBILITY DEVICES – Walking with or without a mobility device should be the default mode of transport. Walking is good for you, safe, almost impact-free on the environment, free to the user (though mobility devices are not), and very easy.

2. CYCLING – Riding a bike is also very good for you, relatively safe for the user – though not as safe as walking, of course – generally safe for pedestrians, and relatively easy. Most of us learn to ride bikes in childhood and, as they say, you never forget. You have to pay for your bike and any parts and maintenance, but that’s it. Don’t let anyone tell you that you need specialized clothing to ride a bike around town, other than a helmet and maybe a reflective vest. You can ride a bike safely in almost anything.

3. PUBLIC TRANSIT – Public transit is mostly safe for the user and the non-user alike, though women often experience sexual harassement and attacks on public transit – ask me about the time a guy tried to lick my face on the subway!  Buses which run on petroleum products do harm to the environment, though not as much as private cars. Ease of use and cost vary between regions. The TTC is easy enough to use but expensive.

4. DRIVING – If this were the food pyramid “Driving” would be about as big as “Fats and oils”. Use sparingly. Driving is bad for the user, destructive to the community, dangerous both to the user and to non-users, very difficult, and really really expensive. Not to mention, in spite of a rigorous testing programme, most people can’t drive for shit. Just stand at any reasonably busy intersection at rush hour and see how many Ontario Highway Traffic Act infractions you can count if you don’t believe me. I once counted 7 waiting for a light to change, including someone doing a U -Turn against the light IN THE MIDDLE OF THE INTERSECTION. No wonder it feels like you’re taking your life into your hands every time you leave the house.

Of course, if you live outside of the human anthill (I suppose there are solitary ant species?) your pyramid is going to look different, but then I’m not talking about you, am I? You go on with your…solitary ant life, whatever that is.

A few weeks ago the worst thing that has ever happened to anyone happened to me: the local grocery store abruptly shut down.

There was no warning. One day it was open, the next there was a sign on the door that some kind of serious structural issue needed to be fixed right away and the store was closed until further notice. Rumours went through the neighbourhood. The roof had caved in. The floor had collapsed. It was a nefarious plot on the part of the parent company to tear it down and sell the very valuable land for condos. The man in the hardware store on the corner told me the parent company wanted to buy up the whole block, tear everything down, and build a huge Shoppers Drugmart.

I will be the first to say that it was a bad No Frills. It frequently made lists of “The worst No Frills in Toronto”, of which there have been a few. The quality of the produce was decent, if you knew what you were looking for, but it frequently ran out of staples, like garlic or sweet potatoes or soy milk. What kind of grocery store runs out of garlic? This one did more than once. But as bad as it was, not having it is much worse.

Here are some things I have started rationing since No Frills shut down:

  • Fresh fruit other than apples
  • Tofu
  • Broccoli
  • Greens

Here are somethings I buy more of than before:

  • Frozen fruit and veg, they keep a long time and are space-efficient 
  • Samosas. They have really good ones at one of the small groceries I go to in the neighbourhood. Not complaining.

Here are some things I have given up in buying period:

  • Whole wheat pasta (they sell name-brand white pasta at the dollar store, that’ll do)
  • Whole wheat flour (too heavy and bulky)
  • Juice (too heavy to carry from anywhere else)
  • Bulk toilet paper (too bulky to carry on transit)
  • White vinegar (too heavy, not worth it)

Here are some things I haven’t figured out how to reliably buy yet:

  • Disposable diapers and wipes
  • Baby cereal 
  • Canned beans unless it’s an emergency (too expensive to buy in local stores)
  • Olive oil (I found some reasonably-priced stuff at a fruit stand on the Dabforth but it’s hardly in my orbit or a reliable source)

It could be much worse. There are multiple small South Asian groceries in the neighbourhood, whose prices are on the high side, but carry a decent selection of fresh fruits and vegetables, dry goods, dried beans, and spices. There’s an organic grocery store for your $3 avocado and vegan marshmallow needs, and two dollar stores which carry an inconsistent but reasonable selection of dry goods. One even had baby cereal last week! (Personally I will buy name-brand food from a dollar store but not store-brand or unrecognizable brand. Call me a snob, I don’t care.) The possibly-nefarious parent company of the shuttered No Frills even runs a free shuttle bus to the closest No Frills, about 5 km away. It’s an infinitely nicer store – a friend who lives nearby refers to it as “Some Frills” – but there is no getting around the fact that what used to take 20-30 minutes out of my week now takes 2-3 hours, or that I have to think carefully about my ability to carry whatever I buy, or that I have switched to less healthy foods or rationed staples in an effort to save my sanity.

I know that even without No Frills you couldn’t call this a food desert – maybe a food semi-arid area? – and that eventually we’ll figure out a routine of food acquisition that ensures a reliable and reasonably cost-effective food supply without tearing our collective hair out. My kids will not die because I fed the more simple carbs or more frozen veg than before. But it still stinks and I would like to strongly register my disapproval of the entire situation.

In closing if you would like to buy me a giant thing of toilet paper and about 35 packets of vegan baby cereal I will not say no.

Hi! Did you miss me for the last…really long time? I’m not going to go through all of what I’ve been up to for the last year and a half other than a) I had another baby! Her name is Alice and she’s almost 8 months and b) I had to spend the last three weeks of my pregnancy and the first two weeks after the birth on bed rest and while you’d think that would get me blogging again, it did not.

Anyway. I am still not 100% back to my normal level of mobility and my studio is a bit slow right now, BUT I have a metropass and a curious almost-four-year-old who loves public transit and , incidentally, a really sweet-natured and easygoing baby. So I thought I’d start doing something I used to do on my own, only with my kids.

Back in 2006 I quit my sort-of day job of ballet accompanying and started my studio. While I was trying to build up by client base, I got into the habit of going on an “adventure” every Wednesday. I had a weekly budget of $20, including TTC fare, and would basically just go somewhere I hadn’t been and do something, usually involving a café.

You may have noticed by now, but I am not by nature a particularly adventurous person. I often feel awkward in new situations and don’t have a desire to plunge into other people’s spaces and take part. However, I do enjoy just going places and looking around, maybe having a coffee or lunch or something.

The past few years of small child-having have kept me either at home or only going out to familiar places/on planned excursions. And of course the city keeps changing – my own neighbourhood certainly has. So, since I have a bit of not-exactly-spare-since-I’m-looking-after-at-least-one-kid-but-not-exactly-scheduled-either time and, as I said, a metropass, I’ve decided to start having adventures again.

Normally I plan on going on Tuesdays, because weekend transit is a shitshow, but today I had to do a distant errand and Cecil wanted to come with me, so we can call this one an adventure.

Victoria Park/Lawrence

This was our route:

viclaw map

Due to the general incompetence of the TTC the entire Coxwell station bus bay is closed down while they do…something which will apparently take a year? Anyway, more detail than you probably want, but the Coxwell bus route is combined with another bus that goes north into Scarborough, which is unexpectedly convenient. To get to Victoria Park and Lawrence from our house was only two buses.

We had to go there to go to a dingy Babies R Us so I could buy a new breast pump because I very stupidly left the old one on the bus and couldn’t wait to get it back from the TTC lost-and-found/order one online. Downtown Toronto being surprisingly poorly served for things like inexpensive breast pumps, at least of the brand which I prefer, I found a Babies R Us at Victoria Park and Lawrence which carried them and figured out how to get there.

I asked Cecil, who enjoys riding the bus, if he wanted to come, and sure enough he did.

Some points about weekend TTC in general:

  • It stinks, both literally and figuratively.
  • Sometimes it is empty, sometimes it is super-crowded.
  • No one in power appears to think that it matters.

These points all stand doubly for the more outlying areas which are already poorly served…like the intersection of Scarborough and North York or wherever the hell Victoria Park and Lawrence is. Getting there looked easy on paper: take one bus, then change to another bus arriving a minute or two later and go about 8 more stops north. Except, of course, on the way there the bus we were supposed to change to blew right past the stop and we had to wait something like 20 minutes for the next one, which was super crowded with people who didn’t think a woman travelling alone with a three-year-old deserved a seat.

Scarborough/North York is mostly small detached houses, somewhat larger semi-detached houses, the kind of apartment buildings that seemed like a good idea 40 years ago, and strip malls. It looks like everywhere in Ontario, which makes it kind of look like nowhere. I cannot call the bus ride up Coxwell, along O’Connor, and up Victoria Park particularly exciting BUT I spied a ginormous Value Village, which I intend to go back to another time, and got some knitting done to boot.

Even though housing prices have probably doubled over the last 10 years, like they have everywhere else, there are not many indicators of gentrification along O’Connor. There is the occasional newly-built McMansion – well, at least newly-built house that’s 25% bigger than any of its neighbours and doesn’t look like it came out of a mold 50 years ago – a bowling alley that’s being converted to condos, and the odd store with a black sign with tiny white writing on it, but that’s about it. The rest of the shops are the kinds of places that flourish in a low-rent environment – “Doll Hair Emporium!” “Cat antiques!”  “Make your own kilt!”– or cater to Scarborough’s many ethnic communities, or are so junky I would never consider shopping there, and I have few inhibitions in that regard. Stores too gross for me to shop in surrounded by houses I can’t afford, that is Toronto in a nutshell.

Anyway.  We got there eventually. You’re going to have to take my word for it, but the view from the intersection of Victoria Park and Lawrence – literally from the middle of the intersection, looking west as you cross the street – is gorgeous. The elevation is relatively high, so you can see all the way to downtown. Today was warm for January, a few degrees above zero; in the distance the city buildings were all shrouded in mist. Cecil was thrilled to see a distant crane, because he’s three and construction is pure excitement. If there were an island halfway across the street I’d expect to see watercolourists camped out on it on foggy days. As it is I couldn’t exactly stop and take a picture and it doesn’t seem like anyone else ever has. Toronto Public Works, call me and we’ll discuss closing the intersection so I can get a snap, OK?

The Babies R Us was in a – you guessed it – strip mall. I would hesitate to call it a high-class strip mall, but it’s a cut above the usual strip of 2-3 restaurants/dollar store/vet or dentist office/something improbable like a bathroom fixture showroom/ “holistic spa” combination. I’m guessing that’s because it’s not technically in Scarborough but in North York, which is generally less deprived. There was a No Frills – with a hotdog stand out front! – a Baskin Robbins, a few small businesses, and (of course) a Toys/Babies R Us.

They were having some kind of sale, so the store was full of people who apparently had never handled money before and were convinced the store was trying to cheat them out of their discount high chair, but we got what we needed without incident, then failed to get a snack at the hotdog stand. They were out of veggie dogs, causing the main drama of the afternoon. I dragged a weeping toddler back to the bus stop and we began the long trip home.

This is not a particularly exciting adventure – oh, I forgot, we had another 20-minute wait in the middle and went to Tim Hortons for snacks – but you know what, we enjoyed it.

If you plan to go because you also lost your breast pump/want a veggie dog but have to justify it with extreme effort, or just want to see the view:

  • Bring snacks
  • Don’t expect too much from the TTC, and if you’re 3:
  • Plan your bathroom breaks.
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