Ummm

So I started a new job.
They were in the middle of preparing for a couple of events so my first few days were atypical and I was mostly out of the office:  coordinating with venues, arranging for catering, and shopping for various things.

On my first day they sent me out with their credit card to shop for chocolate.

choc

I should have taken more photos.

I’ll say that again.

THEY GAVE ME A CREDIT CARD AND SENT ME TO A CHOCOLATE SHOP.
That’s like sending a gambling addict to a racetrack with a blank cheque.

The building I work in is very appealing.  It’s an old warehouse that has been converted to offices, galleries and interesting shops.  The original wide plank squeaky wood floors are intact and most of the offices are occupied by non-profit organisations like the one I’m working for.

Leaving via the back door there is a view of parking lot, back alley, a hotel, a crane and the tower:
office-rear

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MONSTER!!!

In my mid-twenties, I thought this book was a plausible explanation for the phenomenon of the commitment-wary male. Now I think that’s rubbish.

I’m the monster.
Logic dictates that I’m also Grover. So that’s a plus.

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Look out there’s a monster coming

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Options

Options

We had to look at this a couple of times to realise that, given a set order, last first would put first last and vice versa. D’oh!

Stupid phone.

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Road trip

Okay so Montreal was cool.

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Thanks to my very good, very kind, especially terrific friend C, I was able to go to Montreal with her.  We took the bus and we ran into traffic as you may recall.

The flat we stayed in was nice with a fire-escape balcony looking onto alleyways patrolled by cats.  The neighbourhood was fantastic with shops and restaurants and cafes everywhere and a very chill park across the street.

No travelogue this time.  Just an opportunity to post photos.

The sculpture garden:

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If you zoom in, you can see that one of the teachers leading this group has a crossing guard stop (arret) sign.

If you zoom in, you can see that one of the teachers has her own crossing guard stop (arret) sign.

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A maze was painted on the street.

A maze was painted on the street.

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The longer you look at it the creepier and more amazing it gets.

The longer you look at it the creepier and more amazing it gets.

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Mechanical ostrich on rollerskates.  This may be my favourite thing of all time.

Mechanical ostrich on rollerskates. This may be my favourite thing of all time.

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And my favourite photo from the botanical gardens because despite the flower (and wasp) being overexposed, the clouds look so nice in reflection:

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And my new avatar, should I ever require another avatar:

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My neighbourhood: featuring The Mattress Family

Apropos of nothing…

We long suspected that the house next door is some sort of halfway house.  When we first moved in, we would be routinely awoken by some asshole yelling up at a window next door:  “Hey Mike!!  Hey Mike!!”  as if they didn’t have a doorbell or hadn’t heard of knocking.  One day a squad car stopped outside our house.  The officer said he’d heard reports of someone in the area with a weapon and had I seen anything suspicious.  Without thinking about it, I pointed to the house next door.

“Mike” moved out and the yelling stopped.  Since then there has been a revolving cast of characters moving in and out of that house.  I’m on nodding acquaintance with many of them apart from the old man who I think owns the house and who overwaters his lawn.  Among the many who regularly make their way through the revolving door you will see: Limpy, Grumpy, Shouty, Quiet Guy, and Mike’s Creepy Friend.  Shouty is a youngish guy who’s pretty friendly and seems to know everyone in the neighbourhood.  He tends to mutter to himself and every once in a while he’ll get into a mood and earn the nickname I’ve given him.  He’ll walk up and down the sidewalk outside the house and just yell whatever is going through his head.  A couple of months back it was about someone stealing a bag of potato chips.  Last week he got into it with the old guy, saying “YOU MAKE ME SICK!!” over and over and over again for about 15 minutes (which is a really long time to say “YOU MAKE ME SICK” over and over and over again).  I like Quiet Guy.  He mostly sits up on the deck and keeps to himself.  Limpy is okay too.

On the other side of us is a retired teacher.  I know this because R spoke to her a few times.  Her son works in finance and he has a remarkable voice.  You know how on TV they sometimes have to protect a person’s identity so they film them in shadow and alter their voice?  His voice sounds exactly like that. It’s a bit eerie.  He moved out a couple of years ago and since then R has taken it upon himself to shovel her walk.  Because R is sweet like that.  I mention them because I don’t want you to get the idea that my neighbours are all, um, unusual.  Oh, there’s also the dude who used to be the crossing guard down the road:  he’s quiet and has a gentle smile.

About three months ago we got new neighbours.  They moved in a few houses down across the street.  The first thing I noticed about them was that they had a really big TV in an upstairs room and someone was playing video games A LOT.  Then there was the garbage.  Holy hopping hell the garbage.  So.  much.  garbage.  It started out with maybe six garbage bags.  The city picks up garbage and recycling on alternate Wednesdays and picks up our green bins every week but this family was putting out six bags of garbage every week.  The recycling people don’t pick up garbage so it would just sit on the sidewalk until the following week.  After several weeks of this, I thought they would either figure it out and only put their garbage out on garbage night OR they would just put their garbage out as it accumulated throughout the week.  But no.  They continued to wait until Wednesday to put their masses of garbage on the curb.  Also, the city has these bins that you’re supposed to put your garbage, recycling and food waste in.  Grey ones for garbage, blue ones for recycling, and green ones for food waste (and cat litter).  I like to watch them on Wednesday nights:  the truck has a driver-operated arm that reaches out to grab the bin then lifts it and turns it out over the open cargo area, shakes it a little and then puts it back down on the sidewalk.  The driver recognises me now.

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Our garbage trucks have arms a bit like this but not exactly like this.

Then the folks across the road started with the furniture and the mattresses.  Every week there’d be a minivan’s worth of “large items” requiring a special truck that would come along after the other trucks.  We started a weekly mattress count:  they averaged 4 per week but we saw six one time.  R and I were fascinated by the volume.  My theory was that they had started a junk removal business but rather than paying to have the dump take it, they were just putting it out in front of their house.   After the 20th mattress, R hypothesised that the mattresses were a device for importing large quantities of illegal substances.  Any way you looked it at, it was just plain weird.

It took a couple of months but one night the men on the large items truck lost patience with the mattress family.  There were 8 or 9 pieces of crappy wood furniture – dressers and bedside tables mostly – and another 5 mattresses.  And it was raining.  We saw one of the truck guys calling someone on his cell phone and the next night there was a squad car outside the house.  The mattress family cooled it for a couple of weeks but I guess they just couldn’t help themselves and the mattresses started reappearing.  Once they reached a critical mass of 4 mattresses, the police arrived the following day.  This cycle repeated a few times.  And then…

And then there was a for rent sign on the fence outside the house!  And a final deposit of three mattresses.

The for rent sign is gone but another two mattresses appeared. It's like the gift that keeps on giving.

The for rent sign is gone but another two mattresses appeared. It’s like the gift that keeps on giving.

And a couple of couches. Because a family cannot exist on dumping mattresses alone.

And a couple of couches. Because a family cannot exist on dumping mattresses alone.

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In your neighbourhood

I’ve lived in some pretty bad areas of the city.  And some of the nicer ones too.  Living in the west end and having my house broken into and hearing someone being stabbed outside and listening to prostitutes fight and having weird dudes in cars follow me when I walked home at night probably constitutes a not-so-good neighbourhood.  Then I lived in the east end and it was just odd: inbetween two established areas (b/w India Town and a quaint, posh area), the few blocks around my flat were a sort of neutral zone with no real personality apart from being slightly trashy. ( I worked at a lunch counter there – the last of its kind in our city – and heard little old ladies say crazy-ass racist things.  To say I was shocked would be gross understatement.)

Now, I’ve sort of come full circle.  The first place I lived in the city when my mother left her marriage with me and whatever she could fit into her tiny car was a basement apartment a block away from where I live now.  Then, (a million years ago) it was an Italian neighbourhood with many amazing restaurants and cafes and gelato places.  It hasn’t aged terribly well.  It’s a bit down at the heel with more doctor’s offices and pharmacies and (for whatever reason) shoe stores and bridal shops.  You can tell from the names of the restaurants that remain that the Italians largely moved out only to be taken up by the Portuguese people who moved in and the Spanish-speaking people (mostly from Central America) who moved in after that.  It’s a pleasant mix of this and that.  My electoral riding is the most culturally diverse in a very culturally diverse city and my neighbourhood sits near the handle of our dagger-shaped riding.

See how most of the other ridings are vaguely rectangular? Not us. In case you were wondering,, this is what gerrymandering looks like.

I’m not a big fan of our city councillor.  If you watch any council meetings, (they are occasionally broadcast on the public access station) you are unlikely the see him.  On a sliding scale of prominence I’d put him somewhere between “lying low” and “invisible”.   He is against public transit and in favour of privatisation of garbage collection.  He is also against prostitution, by which I mean he is against sex workers rather than johns.  His main priority (as evidenced by his website) is getting rid of the methadone clinic because of the “problems it causes”.  From that website:

The Province … continues to fund the Methadone Clinic … despite the fact that it is operating in a manner that is both disruptive and harmful to the revitalization of our community. Unfortunately, the clinic is treating many more patients than it is equipped to handle. This has led to an overflow of patients that has resulted in disturbing and unacceptable behaviour.

The situation has gotten completely out of control and has reached the point where the local McDonald’s has installed a safe needle disposal station in its washroom. This has shocked the many children, seniors, and families who regularly visit this establishment.

A sharps box:  o! the horror!  Imagine the nightmares all those senoirs are having for having seen a plastic box in a washroom.  Councillor Jerkface seems to be making a distinction between the ‘decent’ people in the neighbourhood and everyone else.  Seniors, children and families are decent, as are business owners and johns.  Single people, sex workers, street people are everyone else.  Tidy.

A few days ago someone was stabbed in broad daylight in the clothing store (nestled between the aforementioned McDonalds and a ubiquitous Canadian coffee shop) across the street from the methadone clinic and two blocks from where I live.  Our municipal representative was quick to link the stabbing with the methadone clinic without any evidence that the suspect (“described as a man in his 30s with cornrows and a goatee who fled the area on foot”) had ever visited the clinic.  But if we’re gonna get all speculate-ey and just make shit up, my theory is that it has a lot more to do with the defunding of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

About 10 years back,  a number of mental health and addiction facilities were amalgamated to form CAMH (as it is known). When that happened, there were winners and losers as some facilites gained funding, others lost ground and still others broke new ground.  The southernmost location was one of the winners.  This facility is interesting.  Known as 999 (for its address) when I was small, it was infamous in the city.  Dark stories were told about the residents and darker stories  about how they were treated by the staff.  When I was still young, the address was changed to 1001 “in an effort to symbolically disconnect the new centre from its stigmatized past“.  (Because that kind of thing totally works – sheesh.)  So when facilities from all over the city became one happy family, the plan was to totally redesign 999 and in order to do that, they just kicked a whole bunch of the residents out onto the streets.  Which could maybe be justified if there were dozens of smaller drop-in centres and shelters to make sure people got their medication and were taking it and weren’t just sleeping rough without access to anti-psychotics.

What 999 looked like when it opened in 1850

What 999 looked like when it opened in 1850.  Apparently.

But no.  “Good luck and make sure to take your meds!  See you in a few years at our grand re-opening!”

But there’s also this from a local paper from last year:

The Mental Health Commission of Canada released a series of recommendations Wednesday aimed at improving how police forces interact with people with mental health issues in order to avoid some of the tragic outcomes that have occurred in recent years.

The commission’s review came out of several controversial cases in which individuals with mental health problems died in confrontations with police officers.

Well, that’s sort of like closing the barn door after the horse has bolted.

 

 

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Road to nowhere….

The wheels on the bus go ’round and ’round.  And the wi-fi on the bus  makes the wheel on my iPad go ’round and ’round.

Happy to be going out of town for a couple of days.

but…

Photos below taken 20 minutes apart.  And we’re currently ambling along at a leisurely stroll.

imageimageBut the air conditioning  works and I don’t have to do anything but sit and wait to be elsewhere. I’m fine with that.

UPDATE:

after 2 hours to travel > 45 km, this…..

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A cautionary tale

I love watching documentaries.  One of the things I liked about living in the UK was that they had great television.  They did more with 4 channels (at the time) than I’d seen on 100 channels back home and documentaries were a big part of that.

But Americans make excellent documentaries too.  Errol Morris is one of my favourites with his give-’em-enough-rope style.  Linked below is one of his docs which combines a few things, however obliquely, that interest me:  JFK, emergence theory, and conspiracy theorists.  It’s short.  You go watch it.  I’ll wait here.

http://nyti.ms/1bDcZw3

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Castle Addendum – the wall walk

The castle featured a “wall walk”.

Recall that the castle is HUGE.

Holy shit!  It's a castle!

Holy shit! It’s a castle!

The stairs to the wall walk don’t look all that impressive and they aren’t near the highest parts of the castle.

trip 1105My fear of heights made them appear much more intimidating.
Also, it had begun to rain intermittently.
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So rather than attempt the wall walk, I did my own version called climb-the-steps-and-sit-as-still-as-possible.

Half-way up, I took a moment to sit and try to talk myself out of the vertigo.  I find standing on a chair to change a lightbulb challenging so this was a bit out of my comfort zone.

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The stairs feature a railing. I like this.

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I plan on continuing up the stairs. … Soon.

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Whew, I made it to the top. Left hand takes photo: right hand attaches to railing.

You can see that the first part of the wall walk has a metal railing.  Then there is a wood railing.  Then there is no railing.  Because the metal railing is not higher than my hip, I am not going any further;  that is for crazy people, Spiderman, and young men.

There was a small group of young men who ventured out a little way onto the wall.  The only other visitors were a man in a wheelchair scooter and the guy assisting him.

Apart from the wasps and the bloody birds, it was very quiet.

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