Thursday, July 15, 2010

Raid and boxes, rails and beer

So in keeping with what I said the other day about tallying events...

Well, so, Friday night I took the 407 over to Bolt's place in Oakville. He moved back from the States after about ten years of his employers jerking him around about getting him permanent residency, keeping him on the leash of the lowest-order work visa, till he called their bluff and came back to Canada. Larry and I have been hanging around with him a little bit because he sure needs to let off steam. He hasn't even gotten serious about finding a job again in his career field because right now he's looking after two invalid parents (diabetes on the one hand and advanced Alzheimer's on the other), and his soccer-mom sister sounds like no help at all, unless she's paid. Disgusting. So day-to-day, it's mostly down to Bolt. We show up and he can vent. Hey, what are friends for?

Level crossing heading south on Fourth Line in Oakville.

Bolt asked me to help him move some of his stuff on Saturday. He needed to get it out of storage and into the garage. So, yeah, I signed on for that. Unfortunately Larry works Saturdays so it was down to me and Bolt, for the most part.

There's a hot tub in the backyard there so, as usual, as the sky faded to pink and orange the three of us headed out back. There's something about being casually naked in the backyard, drinking beer, and listening to twenty-year-old Bill Hicks routines on an iMac that's just the epitome of the upper-middle class WASP experience. This was qualified somewhat: I'd expressed concerns about mosquitoes, which had prompted Bolt to issue two liberal blasts of Raid into the air around the hot tub at the start of the evening. Some of it settled on the cans, and as a result, the Molson's Honey Lager tasted faintly but persistently of insecticide all evening. Two and a half cans in, that was enough for me. One way to cut down on your drinking, I guess.

Come 6 a.m. the sun was rising, Larry had already headed out to work, and Bolt and I got our ducks in a row and headed out a bit after 7, I think. Since we were likely to be heading in opposite directions when the chore was over, he suggested I follow him in my car. We headed along the QE, 403, and 401 to Rexdale. There was a U-Haul there where his stuff had been stored since his return last winter, and a rental truck waiting for him. I guess it took us somewhere between and hour and an hour-and-a-half to get his stuff loaded. At first, the idea was to use two carts to get his stuff, push it up the ramp, and dump it. This proved to be impractical. We never succeeded in getting any of it up the ramp. Instead, he retrieved the stuff from storage and carted it out, handed it up to me, and I arranged it in the back of truck. Most of what he brought first was heavy, well-packed boxes, and three or four loads in I thought I wasn't going to make it through the day. Luckily, that trailed off to smaller loads of lighter, more voluminous items, and my back adjusted pretty quickly.

Bolt told me in the course of this that another of his buddies was going to help us out with unpacking; a guy he used to know from around college days. This fellow, Jay, didn't drive, so we were going to have to pick him up at Islington station. What's more, he was bringing his 6- or 7-year-old autistic son with him. I was trying to imagine how this was going to amount to "help", but hey, we're here to learn, right? And in all, it wasn't so bad, aside from the kid reminding his dad he wanted to get back to the "train" (subway) every five minutes for most of the drive... it's like, dude, lift the needle out of the groove, okay? Please? Well, eventually he did. :) Jay was sharp, interesting, and easy to talk to, so it was fairly enjoyable, in truth.

We grabbed a quick bite at Wendy's and then headed back to Oakville. Unpacking the truck went much faster, mostly because there were no long pauses carting stuff back and forth; we were simply backed up to the garage. I handed stuff down to Bolt and Jay (and, when we got to stuff light enough, Jay's boy). Not much more than half an hour, I'd say. After that, we lingered in the refreshing coolness of the family room in the basement for another half an hour before heading back to Rexdale, where I parted company from them. That was about two in the afternoon, or so, and to my surprise my back was fine, so I decided to go ahead with my hoped-for plan for the afternoon and shoot some of the level crossings on the Stouffville GO line before they're eventually bridged, which I think has to happen sooner or later.

I started at Steeles and worked my way south. Incredibly, there are seven level crossings on this line in Toronto alone, without even getting up into York Region (which I should). Steeles is an otherwise six-lane thoroughfare, humbled to four for a level crossing... yeah, in 2010 (the same is true for Finch and Sheppard as well). It boggles the mind. Pretty much everywhere else in what used to be Metro, this was dealt with in the 1960s.

Level crossing on Steeles, looking east. (Technically speaking, Toronto is on the right here, south of Steeles, and the Town of Markham in York Region is on the left, on the north side.)

Level crossing on Passmore Avenue, looking east.

Level crossing on McNicoll Avenue, looking east.

Level crossing on Finch Avenue, looking west.

Level crossing on Huntingwood Drive, looking east.

Level crossing on Havendale Road, looking east. Isn't this one particularly gorgeous? I would have haunted this place when I was a kid if I'd lived here.

Some of the crossings are on smaller streets that are either industrial, like the much-diminished Passmore Avenue, or residential. Still, there exist level crossings with this line on three of Toronto's top-tier thoroughfares: Steeles, Finch, and Sheppard Avenues. Sheppard was the furthest south, so I got there last. By that time, even the back-up batteries on both the cameras I'd brought with me (the Fuji 3D W1 and the Sony HX5V) were ready to expire, so I had to shoot fast and sparingly. But I was surprised, stunned, and delighted to see that on the north side of the Sheppard crossing, there was already a well-established and recently-paved diversion road. Signs around it confirmed my guess: the Sheppard crossing is about to be bridged! It wasn't for the reason I expected, though, which would be simple easing of the traffic flow, as everywhere else. No, this is in conjunction with the building of a new LRT line on Sheppard Avenue. I guess it's fine for cars to be impeded by railroad tracks, but not other trains. Well, whatever. It should make for some interesting shots over time as the work proceeds.

Level crossing on Sheppard Avenue, looking west.

 Closer view of the crossing.

 Diversion road being prepared on the north side of Sheppard, seen from across the tracks. This view looks east.

Diversion road on the west side of the tracks, looking west.

Sign announcing the LRT project.

Sunday I went down to P-Doug's place and we walked along the Danforth. He manned the 3D camera and the PhotoTrackr and I used the HX5V. We got some pretty good work done that ought to be of some interest to people 40 or 50 years from now. I made a joke at one point that I should start shooting from the waist like James Salmon (he was using a Roloflex that was held about belt-level and gazed down into), and then it occurred to me that might be a good way to get some candid shots of people just walking and being natural without being intrusive. So I simply held the camera at the end of my arm as I waited for P-Doug to line up shots, and angled the lens to face passers-by. Not all the shots came out, but the majority of them did, and some of them are really pleasingly. Taken from a yard off the ground, everyone looks tall, impressive, and their strides are such that they seem to be wearing invisible seven-league boots. The styles, fashions, and character of the people of the east end will make an impression on the future, I think. :)

After that, it was beer o'clock. I don't remember the name of the pub now (I'll see if I can look it up [later: P-Doug says it was The Court Jester]), but... gosh, I don't even remember what I ordered! P-Doug had the chicken stir-fry; I remember that because it was an unusually light choice for him. Oh, yes, I had a tandoori pork burger and mashed potatoes. It wasn't bad, but I think once was enough,  you know? So, we drank beer and talked while two dozen largely Dutch-derived people watched a spectacularly uninspiring World Cup final (I think we were interrupted only three or four times by actual gasps of excitement; the thing was unscored and well into overtime when we finally left). Probably the most interesting thing about World Cup 2010 was the first half-decent mascot to ever come out of the World Cup, Zakumi (don't believe me? Just look at his predecessors... this is the best the world has to offer, huh?).
And there; that was the weekend that was. :)

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