Thursday, June 30, 2005


My seven-disk COSMOS set just arrived from Texas (I bought it off eBay). In retrospect, I grew concerned it might be a rip-off since it was billed as being for the Asian market. Sure enough, it's got some Chinese printing on it, even on the box, but get this... it says "made and printed in the USA". I'm pretty sure it's the genuine article; just something made for the overseas market, rather than in an overseas market. My one concern now is... is it region 1, or do I have to leave North America to watch it? :) I guess I should open it. Man, even taking it out of the shrink wrap seems wrong somehow... it looks so lovely and pristine...

Well, the labels on the DVDs, if they're bogus, are certainly cunning. No cheap inkjet printouts; it's a major commercial job. I'm pretty sure I didn't get a bootleg version. I feel good that I have the real thing. Still can't tell if it's region 1 to look at it. Maybe it's region 0, and will play anywhere. Well, one way to test it... my laptop plays DVDs.

[Fifteen minutes later] Yup... it plays. Wow. I can't believe how moving it is, seeing it again. Tears actually fell from my eyes at the swell of the opening credits. I had forgotten just how powerful this is, especially when Ann Druyan sets it up by reminding us of the what we were facing in 1980, with the Cold War and all. I don't know our fate as a species, but if we do one day die out and are replaced by someone else... lemurs or raccoons or squirrels or someone... if I could only bequeath them one thing from our species, COSMOS would be it. It's who we are (good and bad), where we came from, and what we aspired to.

Just this morning, ironically, I was reading my tattered old copy of COSMOS (first real hardcover book I ever bought), and Sagan was lamenting all the things that science in 1980 could do, but wasn't able to (the will wasn't there). Roving vehicles on Mars, trips to comets, probes to the atmosphere of Titan. Looking at that list, it suddenly struck me just how crucial he's been to the exploration of space over the past 25 years, and how bitter it is that he missed out on seeing all those things by less than a decade.

Anyway, I have COSMOS at last... I'll be able to see it for the first time since the early 90s, and peruse it in a way I was never able but ached to when I was 12 or 13.

You first, bigmouth

Bill O'Reilly wants you to die.

He says: "American [sic] must defeat terror in Iraq. And if that takes more troops, send more troops."

You first, Bill. Shut your pie hole, quit your cushy job, get off your opinionated ass, strap on a helmet, and walk the talk in Baghdad.

Oh, what's that? You're too old? Well, fuck-a-doodle-doo; aren't you the lucky boy! How about you extend that same privilege to the 20-somethings you're so eager to shove into the meat grinder? Not to mention the young people of Iraq who, despite your poisonous, all too obvious they're-all-ragheads-anyway-so-what's-the-difference attitude, never did you or your country any harm.

No excuses, Bill. You want the job done, volunteer. Put on the khaki and do your bit. Never mind "send" more troops... go fucking be more troops. Otherwise, to quote your favourite line, "SHUT... UP."

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The changing ties of Morning Star Drive

Map of Morning Star Drive and the 427, MapArt

Have you ever had the experience of going back to a place you thought you knew well and finding it startlingly changed? This is what it is to grow up in Mississauga and then leave it for a while.
When my friend Richard visited from New England last May, we had occasion to drive up Highway 427, which serves as the border between the City of Toronto and the City of Mississauga. We passed under a bridge I hadn't seen before and I suddenly realized that at some point in the past five or six years, Mississauga had won its fight to bridge Morning Star Drive over the 427 and into Etobicoke in Toronto. For me, a lot has changed at that location.

Morning Star Drive and Indian Line, 1977 — City of Toronto Archives, 1977, plate 96, detail

Up until circa 1980, the 427 used to end at Airport/Dixon Road. The track the 427 now takes was, at that time, Indian Line Road. The main east-west through street in Malton, Morning Star Drive, used to effectively end at an intersection with Indian Line Road. (Note: in these aerial photographs, north is more or less at the top of the picture.)

Morning Star Drive and Hwy 427 intersection, 1989 — City of Toronto Archives, 1989, plate 42P, detail

Not long afterwards, the 427 was extended north, first to Finch Avenue (just out of sight at the top of the shot), then ultimately to Hwy 7. When the 427 took over the Indian Line allowance, it was decided to maintain a level access to Morning Star Drive, via a turn lane across the 427. This led to the rather unorthodox appearance of a traffic lighted intersection on a superhighway, which persisted right up into the 1990s...

1989 intersection detail — City of Toronto Archives, 1989, plate 42P, detail

Here you can see that intersection in more detail. Motorists heading north and wishing to exit to Morning Star would line up and wait for the light to change, then proceed across the southbound lanes and up the ramp. Motorists wishing to join the 427 southbound from Morning Star could also turn right onto the highway (though I admit, I don't recall now if they were prohibited from turning right on the red, though I suspect, given the speeds involved, they likely were). Southbound traffic on the 427 would every so often suddenly find itself required to reduced speed from 100 km/h to a full stop to allow the interchange!

I had my license by the late 80s and actually was at this intersection at least a dozen times. One of our high school buddies wound up living in Malton in the very early 90s, and the fastest way to visit him was to cross Mississauga on the 401, head north up the 427 a couple of kilometers, and then make this turn into Malton.

This was not such an issue when the only traffic southbound entered the 427 only a few hundred metres to the north at Finch Avenue, but quite another as the 427 was extended north past Steeles and on up to Hwy 7. As I said, at some point in the 90s, sanity finally prevailed and this dangerous intersection was closed. But that left Morning Star Drive, which had always had an eastern access, suddenly truncated in a dead end. For a long time, Mississauga lobbied to build a bridge to access the road system on the other side of the 427 in Etobicoke, but Etobicoke always refused. The issue, the last I had heard, was taken before the Ontario Municipal Board. It would appear Mississauga won its case.

Crossing the 427 westward over Morning Star Drive bridge

This bridge didn't exist until fairly recently. I was standing in Toronto (formerly Etobicoke) when I took the shot, looking west into Mississauga. Below the bridge is the traffic of the 427.

Looking south down Hwy 427 to the intersection

Here's the view from the middle of the bridge, looking south towards the bridge at Rexdale Blvd./Derry Road. In the medium distance, you can see the old intersection from the aerial shots, the bare patch of ground that once permitted northbound traffic to access Morning Star Drive. Imagine a set of stop lights here!

The ramp in 2005

On the right in this shot, as I cross into Mississauga, you can see the ramp from the aerial shots as it comes up the hillside. This is just an empty patch of pavement now; no access to either the 427 or Morning Star Drive. Apropos of nothing, you can also see a sign indicating at which terminal certain airlines board. Pearson International Airport is just a few kilometers south of this spot.

The ramp with the turn in the background

How many times did I drive up this little stretch to visit my friend, and then back down again to go home? It seems like just a little while ago, but actually, it was well over a decade now.

Looking westward along Morning Star Drive, the end of the ramp at left

So what you see here would have been, not all that long ago, the corner where Morning Star Drive turned and headed down to the highway. There was no bridge and no traveling further east... though where I stood to take the picture would approximately have been the corner of Morning Star Drive and Indian Line Road up to the early 80s, I suppose.

Progress and stagnation

Yesterday the House of Commons gave third and final assent to same-sex marriage. At the same time as the vote was taking place, George Bush was on the tube once again peddling the horseshit that the US is in Iraq because Iraq had something to do with 9/11.

Today I visited where Canada's vote was a topic of conversation. In the course of reading people's comments on the story, I came across this:

Good for you, Canada! And to all the GLBT Americans here, keep fighting, guys and gals.There are a lot of us straight folk who would like OUR country to be as freakin' sensible as that beautiful land just north of us.

Celebrate, Canada, and keep setting a good example for your retarted southern cousin. Maybe someday it will get through to us.

KnaveRupe 06.28.05 - 11:19 pm

...When I got to the part about "retarded southern cousin", I just had to laugh. Remember those maps that came out after the American election, with the "United States of Canada" and "Jesusland" on them? That, combined with the idea that Canada always has to be defined in terms of the United States (Homer Simpson's reference to Canada as "America, Jr.", for instance), prompted me to turn the tables a little bit and produce this. Enjoy. :)

North America as the world sees us today

Monday, June 27, 2005

What country am I in again??

Seen on a car with Ontario license plates (not even Alberta!)...

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Mea Gulpa

Well, it had been my intention at the start of the day to go downtown to the Gay Pride Parade and get some shots of the colourful goings-on there. P-Doug said that there was BBQ day going on down at the Distillery District, and we ought to go there first.

Well... we never made it to the parade. Blame it on the beer, the good music, the great weather, the shade.

The star of the show

Where we were sitting, a band was playing really mellow jazz/blues/rock stuff. I don't know for sure what it was, or who they were. We never found out. But they played a fantastic version of Gershwin's Summertime and Cher's Sonny.

The mystery band!

At one point I went for a bit of a wander, and stumbled upon Kevin Clark's Jazz Kitchen. Yup, they were back down at the District, doing the Dixieland. I stood and listened for about ten minutes before heading back to rejoin P-Doug. In the course of it they played Stardust, Go to the Mardi Gras, and Blueberry Hill. Gotta get back down there to sit and listen to these guys!

Kevin Clark's Jazz Kitchen about to start cookin'...

While I was wandering around, I encountered the first Segway dealership in Canada, right down there in the Distillery District. This young woman spoke to me about the model she was demonstrating, which cost (as I recall) $5200 Canadian, and would run 20 km. on a charge. Since that's just shy of my round trip to work and back, it did kind of peak my interest. I don't really have that kind of money to put on something like this, but if I did, I'd seriously consider it. It would take me anywhere between 30-60 minutes to get to work, but I don't think I'd mind it, especially if I were zipping past all the traffic. Sure, I'd look like a geek, but I'd be a moving geek. :) And a moving geek trumps a cool dude sitting in traffic with his thumb up his ass any day.

Let's Segway into a different discussion...

This weekend, the District was featuring various artists. One who really caught my eye was Margaret Rankin, who is a printmaker. She had some really appealing pieces depicting the Gardiner Expressway that, were I well-heeled enough, I would have liked to have had. There were others, though. One that really impressed me and was in my price range was the one below, Blue Bamboo.

Blue Bamboo by Margaret Rankin

We also came across some work by a Russian artist named Marina Verpakhovskaia. She calls her company, or at least her website, I have a particular appreciation for this style of work, which comes from Eastern Europe. For a little over a year in the mid-90s, I worked in computer animation with a pair of Bulgarian artists. The work was done according to their style, and while I can't claim to have really mastered it, I did grow to admire it. There's a different aesthetic about it that makes it immediately distinguisable from Western artwork. I can't exactly put my finger on the difference, but I know it when I see it.

Catsfriends art booth

My eye was drawn to a canvas of a happy looking tabby cat. It must have stood out in the artist's eye as well, because she had several prints of it, and it is the featured image on the small business cards she gave us. I bought the original. It is, she related, a portrait of her own cat, Bart, whom she named for Bart Simpson. I have hung this canvas just inside the door to my apartment.

Bart by Marina Verpakhovskaia

Afterwards, P-Doug and I went back to East York to pick up his wife, G. We all went down to the Danforth to eat at the Pappas Grill. The food there is excellent. G and I each had the pork souvlaki, and P-Doug had the chicken souvlaki. They had desserts (G a white chocolate truffle and P-Doug key-lime pie), but I succesfully fought off temptation for once. I need to do rather more of that. Some of the pictures P-Doug took today with me in them are not exactly what I'd call flattering. It's time to shed the weight I've put back on the past year and a half.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Someone needs to tell Bob where to Geld Off

Apparently Bob Geldof has some marching orders for the Prime Minister of Canada...

Geldof puts pressure on Martin to increase aid News Staff

Prime Minister Paul Martin shouldn't bother going to the G-8 summit in Scotland in July unless he plans to increase aid to impoverished African nations, Bob Geldof said Tuesday.

Geldof said Canada should take leadership on this issue, and up its contributions to the levels set out by Lester B. Pearson 35 years ago. Pearson set a goal of allocating 0.7 per cent of the GDP for aid.

"There is no use in your prime minister coming to Scotland, unless he is prepared to do this deal," Geldof said to a Canadian audience via satellite Tuesday.

"If he's not prepared, stay at home. Just stay at home. Don't come.

"You're not welcome unless you are prepared to do something finally and irrevocably on behalf of the poor of this world," Geldof said.

Geldof made the comments as it was announced that the Canadian Live 8 concert would be held in Barrie, Ont., north of Toronto.

Can you believe the stones on this guy (rock pun not intended)? Who died and made him King of Ireland, anyway? Sorry, I don't remember all of us electing him President of Earth or anything. I'm sure his heart's in the right place, but how does he get his shirt on in the morning? Must button up, cause he sure as hell couldn't pull it on. Hey, Bob, the Queen of England doesn't talk to her First Ministers like that. I know you feel strongly, but you are not this guy's boss. At least be diplomatic when you're telling him how to spend my money, alright?


Then Man says to the River,
"Man is here.
I will let you live,
but it will be
by my rules."

And what is the River's reply?
A smile, a nod,
and patience... patience.

—January 6, 2005

Monday, June 20, 2005

Discovering the lost city: Fifth Line West

Fifth Line West, south of Hwy 401, MapArt

For years now I've had this interest in old, abandoned roads. I don't know for sure what it is. Maybe it's the fascination and slight horror I find in the idea that a public place, once so important, can not only be eclipsed by improvements, but fall into disuse and, in fact, be completely forgotten, or forgotten by all but a few hikers and dog-walkers.

Given the nature of blogs, I have to post these in reverse order for them to make any sense. So I guess it's only fair that I post last the thing I found first.

Back when I was university, I was out driving with a buddy of mine in our neighbourhood. We were just wandering around, killing time on a Saturday. We came to what was then the end of Aquitaine Avenue, which at that time terminated in a cul-de-sac with a short, crumbly road running from it, which itself ended a few dozen yards south at a creek. The sign gave the name of the stub as Fifth Line. I knew that most of the major north-south streets in Mississauga were once numbered concession lines (McLaughlin was once First Line, Creditview was Third...). But this one? To our backs was the 401. Obviously this particular road had been bisected by the superhighway in the 50s and never bridged. I went home, consulted a map, and realized that this little chunk of road had once been part of one of those concession lines. South, it had become Erin Mills Parkway, a major thoroughfare. But the section between the 401 and Battleford Drive had been erased between the mid-70s and the mid-80s. The little strip in these photos was all that remained.

City of Toronto Archives, 1967, plate 188 detail

To orient the image: north is at the top. The broad diagonal path is Highway 401, today the busiest superhighway in North America. The horizontal east-west road near the bottom is Derry Road. Running north-south at centre-left is Fifth Line West. All sections you see here south of the 401 are closed, including the section immediately south of the highway, which is being discussed here. The property of Bill Arch is between the railroad line and the 401, west (left) of Fifth Line...

Corner of Fifth Line West and Argentia Blvd., winter of 1990-1991

Looking south down Fifth Line West, winter, 1990-1991

Looking south, 1997 or 1998

Closed, Feb. 2002

Even this little chunk has slowly been debilitated. When I first found it in 1990, I could (and did) drive it all the way to the lip of the creek. By the mid-90s, first portable concrete barriers and later permanent wooden ones were erected half way down. You can see them in some of these shots. Then, a couple of years ago when I was passing through in the winter (2002, I think), I noticed the road had finally been closed off to vehicles for good. Large boulders had been placed at the mouth of the street where it connected to Aquitaine, by then a through street all the way to Winston Churchill Blvd.

Looking north, 1997 or 1998

Passing through again on the weekend, I got the biggest shock of all. The road is now entirely gone. Closed, it’s apparently been sold to the adjacent properties. The warehouse it once ran beside has consumed it for its parking lot; the stand of trees that once lined the east side completely gone. I could hardly believe it. These two views are essentially the same, except that I’m probably standing a few yards further right in the new shot. They’re separated by about seven or eight years. The road’s completely gone; not a hint of it remains. No one will ever again stumble upon it, wonder at it, glance at a map and ponder the history. The whole reason the road survived so long is that the other property, which is still treed, was once the home of Canadian general who fought in the Second World War, a man named Bill Arch, who had a lumber business that was (last time I checked in the 90s) still a going concern in Streetsville, due south of these shots. He had a large home in the copse there, with a duck pond that’s still there, and in 1990, his driveway and pillars at its entrance were still there. There’s not a hint of it now.

Looking north towards the 401, 1997 or 1998

Looking north towards the 401, 2005

Looking south towards the creek, railroad tracks, warehouse, and Derry Road, 1997 or 1998

Looking south towards the creek, railroad tracks, warehouse, and Derry Road, 2005

I find such losses of communal memory wistful, generally. But this one has a personal sadness to it. In the mid-90s, I stood with a buddy of mine out there one summer evening. His marriage was coming to an end, and we’d gone out there to talk about his plans. He was about to move out to British Columbia, where his folks were, and I stood there knowing that, odds are, it was one of the last times we would have together. While we were there, the Northern Lights appeared. It’s the only time in my life I can actually remember seeing them. They were beautiful, and they really do make a sound. Like breath, or soft wind, but not quite. They make you feel like a momentary blip in something much more ancient and permanent in a way the stars are much too ever-present to really manage. And I stood there with this high school chum about to disappear from my life, watching these sheets of pink, blue, and green shift above us, shielded from the city lights by the trees, just listening. And now even the place itself is gone.

The following is information I compiled about the property on the west side of these shots (the area in trees in all shots, opposite the warehouse) in October of 1990...


Began investigation Saturday, September 15, 1990 (returning from Cooksville and following Argentia Rd. to its intersection with Fifth Line West in the company of a friend; stopped to investigate Argentia-extention to Winston Churchill Blvd. under construction and stumbled upon remnants of demolished property with driveway on Fifth Line West).

Telephone poles and manhole covers on Argentia Rd. north of Derry Rd. dated 1982; probable construction date: map dating from 1979 does not show Argentia crossing Derry Rd.

Telephone poles on remnant of Fifth Line West south of 401 and north of Derry Rd. dated 1954; spikes in them read "HEPC [(Ontario) Hydro-Electric Power Corporation] 55", possibly the installation date (1955?). Possible extention of Hydro service up Fifth Line West at this time if not sooner (???).

Highway 401 opened in Peel in two segments. Between Highway 10 (Hurontario St.) and Highway 27, the 401 opened on November 3, 1958. Further west, between Highway 10 and Highway 25, the 401 opened a year later on November 26, 1959; this is the section that intersects Fifth Line West. Maps prior to the 1950s show Fifth Line West here as a through street. South of Britannia Rd., Fifth Line West was County Road 18. Fifth Line West formerly made a correction several yards to the northwest at Eglinton Ave. (formerly it ran through what is now the Credit Valley Hospital); this correction was smoothed into continuity by a gentle curve as it now exists on Erin Mills Pkwy.

According to 'A History of Peel County', the 401 "crossed Peel in 1952". Presumably this is when construction began and when Fifth Line West was interrupted.

Fifth Line West at one time ran unbroken between the 401 and Britannia Rd. Between Battleford Rd. and Derry Rd. it ran along what is now the border between Meadowvale's east residential boundary and its west industrial boundary. It was deleted in sections according to by-laws; the section between the corner of Battleford Rd. and Erin Mills Pkwy., and Surveyor Rd., was closed by By-Law 904-81 (81, presumably, is the year of the order); the section between Surveyor Rd. and the corner of Millcreek Dr. and Aquitaine Ave. was closed by By-Law 740-83; the section between Millcreek Dr. and Derry Rd. was closed by By-Law 141-75. North of Derry Rd., Fifth Line West was cut back to its present dimensions (and separated from Derry Rd.) by By-Law 637-83. All these deletions post-date Mississauga's incorporation in 1974.

Manhole covers on Surveyor Rd. date to 1975; it appears on a map dated 1979, intersecting a now-deleted section of Fifth Line West.

The house was probably never serviced with sewage or storm drains; the City has no records of existing or abandoned drains in that area that would have serviced the residence. There is a large, loose patch on the property that could alternately have been either a basement or, it seems more likely, a septic tank.

The property in question is HSW Concession 6, Lot 11. Records from 1877 show the property as part of a larger property stretching from Winston Churchill Blvd. to Fifth Line West, along Derry Rd. and as far north as the point that the 401 intersects Fifth Line West; its is noted as belonging to one Mrs. Isaac Waite. On the property is a house, just to the east of a church, both fronting on Derry Rd. (the church was torn down within living memory; today there is a parkette there; directly across Derry Rd. there is a small cemetery).

The last recorded residential owner is one William C. Arch, recorded as owner and resident in a 1978 survey for 1979 taxation purposes. His mailing address is given as "85 Queen St. N., Streetsville, ON, L5N 1A4. The property is presently, and was then, a wedge of 9.8 acres in the eastern quarter of the land recorded as Mrs. Waite's (in 1877), widening from a point as it heads north. The map from 1979 records a lone structure on the west side of Fifth Line West between Derry Rd. and the 401; although there are several on the east side (where the Canara building now sits). There was also, according to the record, a tenant on the property; there were two tenant portions on the property on record.

The property's deed now resides with the Erin Mills Development Corporation. It now fronts on Argentia Rd., with the address 2785 Argentia Rd., leading one to wonder if the remaining section of Fifth Line West in question is shortly to be deleted as well.

A well-drilling record for the property exists as follows:
Hurontario St., West Concession 6, Lot 11 Well #49-2690; easting 599670, northing 4828042 Elevation 640'
Drilled July 24, 1962, by licence holder 1307 Fresh water at 20'; 75 GPM; domestic use 30" diameter
Brown topsoil to 10', then gravel; well depth 30' Owner, Bill Arch
License 1307 held by Maurice Babiuk
361 West Mall, Apt. 304 Etobicoke, ON

According to Bob Bell, Supervisor of the Northern District (with whom I spoke Oct. 2, 1990; reference, telephone no. 677-0181), Bill Arch was a general in the army; he kept a garden on the property which he tended himself; the pool formed by the stream running through the property was a duck pond; he owned a lumber business called Forest Products on Mississauga Rd. below Derry Rd. near the railroad tracks. Mr. Bell says Fifth Line West was never paved, but was a "Grade B surface" road. Mr. Bell has worked for the City out of the Streetsville office for sixteen years (probably since the Incorporation).

Forest Products is listed in the phone book as 826-1117, with the address of 85 Queen St. N. (Mississauga Rd. is called Queen St. where it runs through Streetsville, since Streetsville was, up till 1974, a separate town). This is the same address as the mailing address on Bill Arch's 1978 survey record.

Another interviewee recalls a struggle to remove "an old man" from the nub of Fifth Line West sometime in the early 1980s (possibly 1982 or 1983); she identified the property in question as this same contested property to her brother, Alan. The property had been re-zoned as industrial by then; the City was probably attempting to secure the land from Bill Arch at the time. This would explain the deletion of Fifth Line West north of Derry Rd. in 1983 stopping exactly at the southern edge of the property's driveway. Presumably the house (along with whatever structures accompanied it) was demolished sometime after 1983.


Toronto Township was named in 1805.

The survey of the northern section of Toronto Township was completed on Oct. 1, 1819, by Richard Bristol, partnered with Timothy Street (founder of Streetsville); herein is the origin of Fifth Line West.

Toronto Township became the Town of Mississauga (named by a vote in December, 1967) on Jan. 1, 1968.

To counter the territorial claims of the Towns of Streetsville and Port Credit in 1973, the Town of Mississauga counter-sued to annex them and form the City of Mississauga. It succeeded; on Jan. 1, 1974, the City of Mississauga and the Regional Municipality of Peel were proclaimed. Mississauga lost Churchville and half the land between Steeles Ave. and the 401 to Brampton, but acquired Streetsville and Port Credit, as well as Halton's Tenth and Eleventh Concessions between the 401 and Dundas St. Otherwise the external boundaries of Peel County did not change with the inception of the Region.

In March, 1989, Peel Region, along with the regions of Halton, York, Metro, and Durham, formed the Greater Toronto Area. Ruth Grier was named the first Minister Responsible for the GTA on Oct. 1, 1990.

McCarron farm, Fifth Line West

McCarron farm location on (closed) Fifth Line, MapArt

This is the other end of the closed section of Fifth Line, about a mile south of the section above that’s now vanished into a parking lot. It’s just north of spot where Erin Mills Parkway (once Fifth Line) suddenly heads northeast to link up with Mississauga Road. The old road surface is closed, and the clearance east and west of the centre line has been sold off the adjacent properties: to the west, a high school built in the 80s, and to the east, a small, 10-acre section of property that was once a little farm. Last time I checked, in the mid-90s, it was actually still zoned agricultural. People lived here until 1974. The road was closed, and the house was torn down.

City of Toronto Archives, 1967, plate 157 detail

In the image above, taken in 1967, the McCarron farm property (then inhabited by a couple named Shortell) is the treelined square just to the upper left of centre. North is at the top. To the west (left) is the Nixon farm. Between them is Fifth Line West, a section closed since the 1980s. To the east is the Canadian Pacific Railway. The fence in the views following is smack in the middle of the road allowance, and end at the upper left of the property. Surveyor Road runs along the north side of the property, from Millcreek Drive, which runs today roughly northwest about half way between the property and the CPR line.

In 1877, a map of Peel County (today Peel Region) shows this property. It belonged to a certain Owen McCarron. I discovered the place in 1990, when the whole story of the road closure was just coming to my attention.

Fence, circa 1990

Fence, Feb. 1999

Fence, Feb. 2002

Fence, June 2005

Back then, there was a new fence that had only recently been put up between the properties, down what had once been the middle of the road. One either side, tall trees stood in long, wind-shielding lines. The whole 10-acre property, in fact, was lined with trees on all sides. You can see the trees that lined both side in the earlier shots. The ones on the McCarron property were cut down in the late 90s. Back then, the property was not so wild. It was easy to move around in it, and I found the foundations of the house that once stood there. There was something like a root cellar, and it was clearly used by teenagers as a hangout to drink. I made a panorama of shots I took there in the mid-90s, and you can see the place was attractive.

More recently, the fence has suffered from repeated snow loads (it’s at the of Surveyor Drive, so snowplows dump tons of snow there every winter). There are posted plans to build a warehouse on the property, but so far, nothing’s been done. The property is increasingly overgrown; I found it far too much trouble when I was there on the weekend to make my way to the house foundations, even if I could have remembered exactly where they were.

Interestingly, in the late 90s, I was briefly in touch with a young woman who was the grandchild of the people who owned the farm and home just the other side of the road from here (on what’s now the land of the high school). The family name was Nixon, and they inhabited their home there till the 1970s as well, when the city closed off this section of Fifth Line.

Looking south, 1997 or 1998

Looking south again, 1997 or 1998

Looking south, 2005

Looking further south, 2005

Panorama, 1997 or 1998

Panorama, 2005

Property foundations, 2002

Ninth Line bridge

Ninth Line bridge map, MapArt

Everything here really stems from that Saturday afternoon in September of 1990 when I “discovered” Fifth Line. Ever since then, I’ve been fascinated by maps, aerial photographs, and looking into the changes in the road grid of the city over time. I’m always moved by the things that get left behind, disused, relegated to history, slow decay... once-important parts of human public life being swallowed up again by nature.

Sometime in the 1990s I noticed there was a little gap in Ninth Line down by the Ford plant at the Queen Elizabeth Way (more commonly called the QEW). I drove down there one afternoon and was completely amazed to discover a bridge completely hidden by the trees, but otherwise literally in sight of a major intersection. It was fascinating reminder of all the hidden things peppered all around us that we never see because nature so completely cloaks her work of reclamation.

Ninth Line bridge

I went back there on the weekend. It’s only the second time I’ve been there, and it’s been most of decade at least since last time, so aside from knowing there was a bridge there, it was a lot like finding it for the first time. I parked south of it on the unused, cul-de-sac tail end of Ninth Line, and stepped into the forest. It was only about fifteen seconds into the woods, and I didn’t even see it till I was right on top of it. Literally! I happened to glance over to the left and caught sight of one of the big concrete anchors to the guard rail, and I actually said, “Oh!”. That’s how completely hidden in the trees this place has become.

It’s the dream of every child who ever had a big imagination. I wish I’d had it when I was ten. Surrounded on trees pressing in from all sides, the bridge stands over a gorgeous, briskly-running stream called Joshua’s Creek. The road surface still exists, but it’s clear that it will eventually be covered with grass and then lost in brush. But as I remarked to a friend when I told him about it, at the moment it would make a wonderful bridge to the Enterprise, or landing deck of an air craft carrier, or any other number of fantastic settings a band of kids could come up with, if they only knew it was there. And it’s smack in the middle of civilization on all sides; a golf course immediately on the west, a major road to the east, a car factory to the south, and subdivisions to the north.

Looking north

Looking south

I don’t know exactly when this bridge was abandoned, but a map I have shows it still in use in the mid-70s. By 1990, it had been circumvented and was no longer on the map. A water main cover at the south end has the date 1987 on it, which suggests to me major construction was going on there about that time, so it was probably closed around then, not quite twenty years ago. I’ve seen a lot of abandoned little bridges, and they all tend to be ancient, one-lane deals that obviously were of use to rural communities with light traffic, but which had to be given up once urbanity rolled up. But this bridge is wide; two lanes, and sidewalks up both sides. While not equal to the traffic that runs from Ninth Line to Ford Drive now, it must have been a comparatively modern bridge in the first place. Strictly at a guess, I’d say it was built in the 1960s; no earlier than the late 50s. As bridges go, it had a pretty brief career. Now it’s been handed over for nature to look after. There’s enough of a footpath in and out that I can see it’s still being visited by a few people. But there’s no garbage on it, and even what little graffiti I did see looked old and faded. If it’s still in use by pedestrians, there aren’t many. Quite a change for a bridge that once probably carried scores or even hundreds of cars a day less than a quarter century ago.

A few notes from Hamilton

My parents live in Hamilton, and last year I leased a car in Brantford (Wayne Gretsky's home town, if you're counting). Hamilton falls neatly between Brantford and Toronto, so I killed two birds with one stone and dropped in on my folks for a short visit while I took my car in for servicing. Since I had Friday off, I showed up at their place in the afternoon.

Dad and I, and my cousin Doug and his family, took off in the evening to go to a race trace on the Six Nations Reserve in Brant County (Joseph Brant, for whom the county and Brantford are named, was an Iroquois Loyalist who sided with the British in the American Revolution, and brought his people to Ontario afterwards). The town of Ohskewen is on the reserve, and that's where the track is. The race featured two different kinds of racing... real, honest-to-God stock car racing, populated by real honest-to-God cars that were once on the road... none of that pretentious NASCAR pretty boy stuff... and something called "dirt sport" cars. Aptly named. The stock car racing was slower and less disruptive. The dirt sport cars covered us with dust each and every time they went by. We started joking that we were going to get in trouble when we left because we figured between the six of us, we were leaving with the land of at least three of the nations on our clothes. It's the first time I can remember having sand in my ears since I was a kid on the beach in Nova Scotia.

Ohsweken Speedway bill of fare

Saturday morning my folks drove in with me to Brantford. Actually, I followed them in my car. We figured we'd catch some breakfast while the dealship did the work. We went to a nice family restaurant just up the road, called The Sherwood. It's a great place; good food and really good prices (in my opinion); nice decore, and very popular. Just popular enough that you know it's good, but not so popular you have to wait to be seated. The perfect mix. If you happen to find yourself in Brantford, definitely make a stop there. I mention the place not just to recommend the food but to remark on something that struck me funny. When I was paying the bill, I happened to noticed they had an unusual way of referring to the taxes. Typically, such a bill will list PST (provincial sales tax, 8% in Ontario) and GST (Goods and Services Tax, 7% federally). But in this case, the restaurant stuck them to the people in charge... "Dalton's tax", which refers to Ontario's premier, Dalton McGuinty, and "Paul's tax", referring to the prime minister, Paul Martin... click to enlarge the image. I think it's funny. :)

Debt and taxes

Twenty bucks for three people? Even adding in the tip, you won't hear me complaining.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

That lynching stuff? Sorry 'bout that... kinda...

Also from e-mail I received today:

(Vol. 11, #27; 16 June 2005)


On 13 June 2005 the U.S. Senate approved a resolution (S. Res. 39) "apologizing to the victims of lynching and the descendants of those victims for the failure of the Senate to enact anti-lynching legislation." This is the first time the upper chamber has apologized for the American nation's treatment of, principally African Americans but also other ethnic minorities, who were victims of lynchings going back as far as 105 years. "Lynching," states the resolution, is "the ultimate expression of racism in the United States following Reconstruction...[and with the enactment of this legislation this body] remembers the history of lynching, to ensure that these tragedies will be neither forgotten nor repeated."

Between the years 1882 and 1968, over 4700 people were lynched throughout this country in all states but four, but most frequently in the Deep South. Over the past 65 years, seven presidents asked Congress to outlaw lynching. Congress responded to various request by introducing more than 200 anti-lynching bills. On three occasions, the House passed legislation but every time, southern legislators in the Senate opposed the measures -- often arguing that "states rights" were being infringed. Consequently, they filibustered every bill thus ending any hope of passing legislation.

The resolution was introduced by Senators Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and George Allen (R-VA) and was co-sponsored by 80 of the Senate's 100 members. Notably missing from the list of co-sponsors were the Republican senators Trent Lott and Thad Cochran from Mississippi -- the state that reported the most lynchings. According to a statement issued by Senator Cochran's press representative, Cochran did not agree to the measure as, "I don't feel I should apologize for the passage or the failure to pass any legislation by the U.S. Senate, but I deplore and regret that lynchings occurred and that those committing them were not punished." By contrast, in his remarks on the floor of the Senate, Senator John Kerry (D-MA) stated, "I am personally struck, even at this significant moment, by the undeniable and inescapable reality that there aren't 100 senators and co-sponsors."

According to spokesperson in Senator Allen's office, "lynching is a thing of the past" and therefore today there is no pressing need for the introduction of legislation making lynching a federal crime. In reality, the 1968 Civil Rights Act includes a provision for "federal intervention" in the case of lynching should it ever be necessary thus negating the need for federal legislation; in addition, many states have enacted anti-lynching legislation at the state level.

Following three hours of debate on the apology, the moment when the resolution passage lacked any drama: few senators were on the floor, there was no roll call and no accounting for each vote. Nevertheless, for the 200 descendants and family friends of lynching victims that were invited to Washington to witness the historic event, it was an experience they soon will not forget.

The sweet sting of irony

Just got in from a short trip; found this link in my e-mail:

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Wanna sleep in my spare room? Only one dead guy...

Man, I had the weirdest dream last night. My friend Kaid, a guy I've known for 15 years now on and off, came around with the news he was dying. Might have been cancer; I don't remember but given how Jody still dwells in my subconscious, I'd have to guess that was the cause. I remember that my home wasn't the apartment I live in now, but much of the rest was the same... me alone, two cats. Kaid, for some reason, wanted to spend time with me before he died. The weather was summery but rainy... like I remember Dallas when I was there for Jody's funeral. Kaid's health was nominally fine and he and I did some kicking around, having some fun just out doing things. Eventually whatever it was that ailed him became too much for him to cope with, and so I stayed beside him while he injected some sort of chemical to put himself to sleep. I don't know why it was Kaid, though. It would have made some sense if it had been Jody; I sometimes used to wonder if he might make such a choice if and when the pain got bad enough, but he never did. Kaid, for the record, is a healthy guy in his mid-30s, and not all in immediate mortal danger that I know of. Though he's nerdy enough that he gives even me a cool edge. On the other hand, he managed to find someone to marry. I'm just ranting now. I'll stop.

Withstanding the notwithstanding clause...

With reference to this posting on BlogsCanada: Green Leader Harris: Invoke Notwithstanding Clause to Save Health Care...

I always wondered what would happen if a court ruling came down that troubled me. Would I change my tune on the notwithstanding clause?

Well, not so far. I'm troubled by the potential implications, but I don't agree Quebec should use the clause to get off the hook. If the system needs to be better funded so people have reasonable access, then that's what Quebec has to do. Either that, or open the flood gates. But just hanging up the phone on the courts accomplishes nothing.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Who'll stop the rain

So I was asking where the rain was...? Well, now I know. Be careful what you ask for!

Tornadoes touch down in Ontario

The weather got pretty interesting yesterday evening around 8 or 8:30. Horizontal rain, trees bending down, couldn't even see into the Don Valley from my balcony. It got strong enough for a while I started wondering if I weren't about to see a twister stroll by. Thankfully, they decided to tour the province a little further to the north.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Red magic

Generally speaking, I'm a Liberal supporter. I've voted Liberal in most (although not all) elections, and by and large, they're the party that best reflects my own views on social progressiveness and fiscal pragmatism.

Even so, I have to confess I'm perplexed by their recent rise in the polls since they hung on by the skin of their teeth in last month's confidence vote. At the moment, they're well ahead of the Tories in nearly all parts of the country. I'm not sure how to account for this. I'm not being smug, though, when I suggest it really could come down to Stephen Harper and how the Tories are perceived.

First of all, there's the lingering sense that Harper's some kind of throwback to Bible Bill Aberhart. I believe that most Canadians, regardless of whether they support or oppose gay marriage, would really rather leave that up to individual people to decide, rather than have a decision forced upon them. Canadians probably aren't the most libertarian bunch in the world but I still get the feeling there's a hesitancy among us to brick people up with legislated norms. That seems too American. That's the kind of thing "they" do... define what's "American" and then fight to put everyone who doesn't agree on the other side of a legislated line. This is a country that endures a separatist party in Parliament, after all.

Secondly, there's this regional aspect to it. More and more, it looks like a grudge match between Alberta and everyone else. The rest of us seem to bend and sway with the breezes, but not them. Having staked their claim, they're bound and determined to have their way. If they don't, they blame Ontario. They blame Quebec. They blame everyone else. But everyone else seems capable of electing other parties. In my voting lifetime, Ontario has elected Conservative, Liberal, and NDP governments. It has helped elect Conservative and Liberal federal governments. When was the last time Alberta had a non-Tory provincial government, or didn't largely vote Tory or Reform federally? Their attitudes are carved in stone, but the rest of us, we're the problem. The idea has been creeping in, particularly since the Reform Party (Alliance, whatever) hijacked the Tories, that the Conservatives are the Bloc Alberta, trying to recruit outside Calgary. As long as it's perceived that way, support even in the rest of the West, particularly B.C., is going to be soft. The Tories really need to find a leader who sounds like he or she is speaking for Canada and addressing the issues of Alberta, instead of the other way around. Alberta already has a provincial Tory party. The CPC is supposed to be the federal one.

I think the third problem for the Tories is the whole Grewal thing. The Tories have been making the Sponsorship Scandal their bread and butter for a long time now. Sleaze, corruption, moral bankruptcy! Then along comes Grewal with his claims that the Grits offered him a cabinet position if he'd cross the floor. Shocking! Scandalous! Till we found out that not only had he gone to them on a fishing expedition and been told it wasn't that simple, but that he fabricated evidence to support his charges. Kickbacks are bad enough, but fraud and blackmail aren't just whistling Dixie either. So now Canadians are left with a choice between a sleazy Liberal government they know can run the country and balance the books, and a potential sleazy Tory government of unknown ability, along with a lot of disquieting talk of banning this, disallowing that, etc., etc., etc. Given the choice, it's not hard to see why they resign themselves to their fallback position.

I don't know what's going to happen in the long run. Canadians have to be a little fed up with the Grits. But they don't trust the NDP with their credit cards and the Tories seem too much like they want everyone to read the Bible and go to bed early. So I think we're looking at low voter turn-out, and likely the Liberals holding on, unless the Gomery Inquiry really digs up a body or something (literally). I know I admitted I generally support the Liberals, and I don't like the idea of kickbacks, but I can't be the only Canadian who, when they heard the money involved was $1.9 million, secretly thought, "What, that's it?" Yes, I know there's a principle involved, but still... you wouldn't quit your job these days if that's all you won in the lottery.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Where's the drought?

I'm kind of a thunderstorm person. Whenever I muse about moving to Vancouver (it rarely snows there), friends say, "Oh, yeah, but it rains, you never see the sun." But I always loved the rain. I get creative when the weather's bad (even snowstorms). Something about the oppression of the weather just works that way.

Lately the Weather Network's been promising us thunderstorms here in Toronto on just about a daily basis. But they never come. They never seem to get here. It's like they evaporate along the way or something. We were supposed to have them yesterday. Not a drop; hardly a cloud. Same thing for this morning. It's overcast, but it doesn't feel like rain. How can they be that wrong over less than 24 hours? I thought they had the 72-hour forecast down. They're sure good at calling the snow... they never got that one wrong.

The other thing that's starting to puzzle me is that I don't think I've seen rain at all in weeks. I mean, literally. I cannot remember the last time I drove out and had to put on my windshield wipers or woke up in the middle of the night and heard the rain outside. But everything's green, the trees are doing fine, the lawns look good. Nobody waters all that stuff. So what's going on? Where's it coming from? I can't remember seeing things like this before.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

The Distillery District Blues Festival (Belch, part two)

As per the plan, I headed out this morning and linked up with P-Doug at his place, and we drove downtown to take in the Blues Festival at the Distillery District. We got there about quarter after eleven, plenty of time to find a good seat. P-Doug demonstrated an unerring knack for finding a great spot that stayed shaded all day, put us in the front rows, and kept us near the suds. The weather co-operated by pouring a gorgeous breeze off the Lake that, combined with the shade, kept us nicely comfortable despite what I understand was 41 degree Celcius weather with the humidex. That's 106 Fahrenheit to you non-Metric types.

Looking back towards the entrance to the District.

A little downrange of this shot is a sandwich place P-Doug and I always eat at when we're down here called the Brick Street Bakery. (N.B.: at time of writing, their site consists of their address and a note " coming soon". But they may eventually have something worth looking at, so I include it as a nod to their good intentions.) Since we didn't want to lose our place, we each went separately. I went first; bought the turkey chili with cheddar. This comes with a couple of slices of their organic bread, robust and chewy; perfect for dunking. I also bought a scone. Scones from this place are bigger than your fist, and they're fantastic. It's like eating a little bit of Scottish cake that's butch enough to kick in the door to The Bread-Only Social Club and demand to be served. P-Doug bought a shepherd's pie and a scone. The irony is, it's a sandwich place, like I said. If you ever find yourself there, check 'em out.

We were surrounded by beer taps. I stood the first round. A couple of little cups, not quite a pint, I'd have to say, cost me twelve bucks. A little steep, but that's the nature of yuppie venues. That one went pretty fast. While we were sitting there letting the music and the breeze pour over us, we noticed a guy buying a pitcher. It had never occurred to either of us that that was an option. P-Doug hopped up and got one. I'm figuring, well, thirty bucks. No way! Eighteen! And we got about five glasses out of it, which cuts the cost-per from $6 to $3.60. Screw buying it by the cup down there anymore. A word to the wise!

Gary Kendall Band.

We sat through the sets of two bands while we were there. The first was the Gary Kendall Band. These guys were good. Downside for them was, they started just after noon, and there was hardly anyone there yet. Upside was, no one was too hot and tired yet, so the applause they got was enthusiastic.

Grant Lyle.

Round about 2PM, Grant Lyle and his band set up. The crowd was getting pretty full by then, especially under the canopy where P-Doug and I were sitting. Maybe I was just getting logy by then, but I didn't think they had the same spark Gary Kendall's band had. The crowd seemed less enthusiastic too. Again, that might have been a function of the heat, but there were also a lot more people to applaud, so... For myself, I found my listening became far less active and more passive. This is not to say I didn't enjoy their music; I did. Just that Kendall's clicked with me more.

Georgette Fry.

At one point during Gary Kendall's set, P-Doug excused himself to go to the washroom. He was gone about 45 minutes. I was wondering if I should call the Coast Guard; did he flush himself into Lake Ontario? Turns out he'd just gone wandering. Came back with a magazine and a CD. So, later on, towards the end of Grant Lyle's set, I decide to do the same. I won't burden you with my speculations as to just what was making the men's room floor so slippery I nearly landed on my keester; I'll just say that I, too, went for a post-piss stroll. I ended up at the main stage where Georgette Fry and her band were playing...

Blues, hell! So happy, they're dancing!

I noticed a couple of young women were up by the stage, dancing, and I couldn't resist taking a few shots of them enjoying themselves. It was one of those rare moments when the American underpinning of the Canadian character pushes through the easily-embarrassed British veneer and says "What the hell." Good for them!

Hope the boss doesn't recognize the back of his head...

Did I mention that we were sitting literally ten feet from one of the bars? We saw an interesting array of people pass by between us and the stage. When P-Doug pointed out this guy's shirt, I just had to get a shot of it. It's a boozy take-off on Green Eggs and Ham of Dr. Seuss fame. Wish I had this shirt. :)

Anyway, by the time the second set was over, around 3:30 or so, I was ready to head out. We headed back to P-Doug's place, got G, and had supper at Shopsy's Deli up at Woodbine and Steeles. P & G dote on the place, but I have to confess, the tuna wrap notwithstanding, I find the fare surprisingly bland and usually a little disappointing, given the prices. The smoked turkey I had this evening ($8.99) was generous, but epicureanistically not at all inspiring. (Okay, I liked the potato salad). Given the tiresome flack we take from Montrealers (including my mother) about how they're the only people in the universe capable of making a smoked meat sandwich worthy of the name, I'd love to be able to take them someplace in T.O. to prove them wrong. Sadly, I think this would be evidence for the defense. But have the tuna wrap; that, they seem to have a real flair for.