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.
This was our route:
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.