Monday, August 03, 2015

Amen

Memento Mori

Home Again

We arrived home again after our short, but sweet vacation weekend in Chicago. Flying from Porter was as always really simple and straightforward. Arriving at Midway we purchased a 3 day metro pass from a machine located in the L station attached to the airport. Not only was the L station close to the airport buying a pass was relatively painless. When you see how easy it is to make transportation to and from an airport so easy and accessible it leaves you feeling sad about Toronto's inability to offer such simplicity. 

Heading downtown on the orange L we got off at State and Lake and then walked up State street exploring a little of the downtown area on our way to our hotel, the Courtyard Marriot, North River. Located on Hubbard Street just north of the river in an area devoted to lots of hotels the street itself actually runs under another street in an odd arrangement that we discovered a couple of times in the area. It was almost as if Chicago had built one section of city streets and then decided to build another section on top of those. 

While the hotel was pricey at $ 250.00 per night it was the cheapest option I could find when I booked it. Turns out the reason for the high prices was that Chicago was hosting Lolapoolooza that weekend in Millennium Park. After checking we decided to go for a walk exploring the city. We headed over to the Wills Tower, formally the Sears Tower, only to discover that it was an hour and half wait. It was lunchtime and we were hungry so we decided to have a falafel at a little place across the road, I Dream of Falafel. The place was a busy lunch counter with an assembly line making falafel, donner and shawarma wraps. You choose what you wanted, then your protein, added toppings and dressing. It was quick and actually pretty good, safe for the fact that the bread was a wrap rather than pita. 

After lunch we made our way back to the Wills Tower, fortified with food for the wait. Sadly, we didn't realize how badly organized the wait was for the SkyDeck. It was more than and hour and half, and like a Disney line you gained access to one area only to learn there was another lineup. By the time we felt we were near the door you were then subjected to short film which left us no longer interested whatever waited at the top of the tower. Exploring the SkyDeck was a letdown after the ridiculous wait and setup below. 

After seeing the city from above we walked across the city to Millennium Park, only to discover most of it was blocked off by Lolapoolooza. It was surrounded by fences and you could only access the park with wristbands for the music festival. The area around the festival was teeming with young people all with far too much intense energy so we made our way to the lake and walked along the lakeshore trail. Like the trail in Toronto it followed the lake with a combination of bike trails and walking trails all landscaped beautifully with lots of green. Walking back to our hotel we explored a little of the river walk another beautifully designed trail that follows the path of the Chicago river. 

On our way back to our hotel we discovered a Whole Foods and a Trader Joe's within walking distance and loaded up on some snacks and drinks for the little hotel fridge. For dinner we had spotted a Thai place just behind our hotel and found it was actually really good. The Star of Siam is located on the second floor of an old factory, loft building and had a really nice interior feel. The food was what one expected from a Thai place, featuring lots of interesting appetizers and dishes and everything was delicious. After dinner we walked over to Navy Pier a throwback to 19th-century entertainment themed piers. 


On Saturday morning we walked back to Millennium Park to check out the Cloud Gate because we had passed by it on Friday without realizing where it was. Early in the morning there was no one around giving us private access to it. We then found a bagel place Einstein Bros Bagels for breakfast and then caught an architectural boat tour of the river. This was one of the best things about our trip. We caught the first cruise of the day and really enjoyed the tour along the river exploring the diverse architecture of the city directed by a volunteer guide from the Architectural Society. 

After the cruise we walked north on the Magnificent Mile trying to stay on the shady side of the street  to avoid the intense sun. We then hopped on the red line to its Northern end as a way to explore more of the city. We rode it back downtown and opted for a swim back at the hotel. For dinner we headed back downtown to the Chicago Curry House for a really nice Indian dinner. 

On Sunday we checked out of our hotel early and walked north along State Street discovering a really beautiful residential neighbourhood just south of Lincoln Park. In the park we had a nice breakfast on the patio at Cafe Brauer. A tourist like place it is located in the park beside the zoo and while pricey it was a nice place to sit and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of the park. We waited for the zoo to open and then explored it. Again, we were disappointed that something so wonderful, like a free zoo in a public park is something that Toronto has never been able to copy. The place was nicely laid out, well staffed and well attended attesting to the beauty of the park and the idea. 

After walking through the zoo we made our way back to the L, and back to the Loop where we caught the Orange Line back out to Midway. Again, we were reminded how simple transportation can be when the powers that be work together to make travel easy and painless. We had a great weekend that was not marred by any bad weather leaving us enjoying our time in Chicago. 

Friday, July 31, 2015

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Connect the Trails

On Sunday Mr.T and I had a nice long walk exploring CraigLeigh Park and then the trails through the ravines behind the park. Every time we explore some of Toronto trails it is exciting to discover how much of the city and its green areas lay hidden away from the general public. It is sad however that more of the parks, ravines and trails are not connected together allowing travel from one end of the city to the next. To often trails end at busy roads or peter out without any connections to trails on the other side of the road or in some cases across a river. Wouldn't it be nice to see all these green areas linked together. When we followed Milkman's Lane down through a ravine it connected to another trail but was interrupted by the busy road of Bayview Avenue. We had to cross the busy road to pick up another trail on the other side of the road. Wouldn't it be nice to have either a tunnel under the road or pedestrian crossover connecting the trails? Walking over to the trail on east side of Bayview we discovered this trail also ended back at the road forcing on to the side of the road before crossing back to another trail leading up to the Necropolis. I know there is another trail on the east side of the Don River that connects with a trail that goes either west or east at the base of the Don. Wouldn't it be nice to see the eastern Bayview trail connected with this trail with a pedestrian bridge, like the one that crosses from Riverview park farther south? All it would take is the political will to connect these and many other trails across the city. 

This...made me laugh

An animated Norse warrior princess.

Darkness

Monday, July 27, 2015

Things

For some time I have been thinking about possessions, the things we surround ourselves with. As we age we accumulate more and yet there has been a movement to declutter and simplify especially with Millenials. 

Has our relationship with things changed because of the internet. Think about it, you can find almost anything online and once you see it, do you really need to own it? I know when I was younger finding something unique for your walls or space was a badge that helped define oneself. Part of the fun was scouring junk shops for interesting and unique things. This was also part of a larger cultural project of definition, but has our access to the Internet changed our relationship with things in general? Has it changed how we define ourselves? 

As I have aged I have found more pleasure in decluttering than collecting, something that is opposite to how I defined myself in the first 25 years of my life. Is it because I recognize that we are not our things, that as much as capitalism wants us to consume, to believe we are what we buy and own, in the end we are defined by our experiences. Too often it seems people accumulate not for themselves but as a way to define themselves in the eyes of others and as we get older I think we tire of this game. We learn not to worry about what others think, because in the end you will never be able to control that, to accept others and their opinions on their own terms. At the same time there has to be some kind of relationship between the growth of hoarding, an over accumulation of things, and the rejection of things by a generation seeking to simplify. At the same time most science fiction films imagine a future that is filled with decluttered spaces and simple and clean lines. 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

A Summer Walk



This morning after reading about hidden parks in Toronto on BlogTO, Mr.T and I decided to go for a walk to the park. We walked along Harbord to Queen's Park then north on Sherbourne to Elm Street. The park is hidden at the end of a street in Rosedale and features a beautiful entrance gate. A trapezoid in shape it is wedged between the backs of fancy houses and the ravine on the other side and is shaded with lots of trees and benches to take in the park's beauty. 


After walking through the park we walked north to Milkman's Lane entering the Moore Ravine following it as it wound northwards alongside of Bayview Avenue. Instead of following the trail as it made it's way north we headed across Bayview to another trail on the west side of the Don River. 


Walking the trails is always exciting, as they are used by so few people, but it is always frustrating that the trail network is not better connected. It would be nice to see bridges and tunnels connecting all the trails in the ravines and along the Don allowing bikes and hikers to explore without having to cross busy streets. After walking south the trail ended on the eastern side of Bayview and we had to cross over near the Necropolis, climbing the stairs back up to Cabbagetown. We then walked west on Wellesley to Church Street then headed home along College Street completing a nice morning walk before it became too hot. 

...Not the end?



It's been a rough weekend. While the weather has been beautiful I can't shake this feeling of frustration and tension that lies just beneath my skin. Why is it that bureaucracies are allowed to treat those in need in our society in a manner that makes people feel more vulnerable than they already are. I know some people thrive on the stress, but I just find it debilitating and exhausting. 

Yesterday after our trip to Kensington for dry goods my Mom called to tell me that about issues with my family that were even more stressful. Mom was crying on the phone about the situation, which always leaves me feeling like I need to do more to help her, but there is little I can actually do. All weekend I have tried to remind myself "everything will be all right in the end, and if it is not alright it is not the end," Sonny's mantra from The Best Marigold Hotel, but I still find myself nursing this uneasy feeling.