Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Cornwall to Toronto

    Up at 7:50. The motel provided a breakfast of corn flakes, 2 yogurts, 2 toasts with raspberry jam, coffee, OJ & apple juice. On the road at 8:37 on a chilly gray day, temp 49, 814 on the odometer (I've got to start keeping track of how much I'm traveling). There's a lot more dark red in the bushes and shorter undergrowth, not so much in the trees. A swamp on both sides of the road, the sky brighter, wipers on intermittent. Rockville, City of A Thousand Islands. Kingston at 10:28, the rain over, the sky lighter but still no blue sky. I stop at a Flying J truck stop at Napanee for 97.0 gas (the cheapest yet--in Quebec it was 1.179). I go into the Denny's at the truck stop for an English muffin and coffee. At Port Hope at 12.47 it reaches 60 degrees, the sun shining through clouds.
    I reached Kennedy Road in NE Toronto at 1:34. The Scarborough Inn, where I usually stopped is being renovated demolished. Probably the latter. So now I had to take 401 to the Don Valley Parkway to the Gardiner Expressway to the Deluxe Inn in SW Toronto. The Don Valley was backed up going the other way but that wasn't my problem. My problem was a massive slowdown on the Gardiner, for no good reason that I could see. They're apparently widening it out but traffic was moving but the time we got to the construction. The Toronto skyline is full of tall apartment and business buildings that I don't remember. Some of them are so thin and tall they look like they're about to topple. Just looking at them gave me vertigo.
    I reached the Deluxe Inn at 2:48. It was full up till Sunday. They said normally it's dull this time of year and had no reason why they were so busy. I drove down Queensway looking for the Queensway Motel. I didn't find it but there was Sobey's Grocery, Adult Joy, several spas and adult video stores, the Orchid Gold Restaurant with Asian Hawker's Food (don't ask). I looked in the AAA Travel Guide and went to the Travelodge near the airport. $150/night. They didn't know why they were so busy either. Aliens? They sent me to a place on Dixie Road in Mississauga and they helped me find the Monte Carlo on Dundas Street, where I had stayed about 10 years ago. I got there at 4:15, more expensive than the motel in Cornwall but cheaper than anyone else I had found. I went to a Tim Horton's for the steak wrap combo (with donut and coffee), cheaper than the wrap and iced tea had been in Quebec. The Dragon Palace, Silk Road Restaurant were on one side of Dundas, the Gorkha Palace on the other.
    I finally took my first shower in about a week and went to Sparrow on Bloor Street. It was their 3rd open mike--only one other person showed up, Randy, who was a pretty good guitar player but didn't sing. Although he said he was into 40s and big band music, he played a couple of Burt Bacharach songs, Bojangles, and 2 Christmas songs. He said he has promoted a number of guitar performances in Toronto, including about 15 by Steve (?) of Yes, classical guitarist John Williams, and some guy named Tommy whom he talked a lot about.
    The mike was run by Chris, one of the co-owners. He had been part of a Vancouver rock band that had toured across Canada and the northern United States. He was a pretty good guitar player, although not as good as Randy, but I didn't care for his singing. hHs wife and barmaid Christy both wore the kind of short dresses (think Janis Joplin) we haven't seen in the US since the Sixties ended around 1975. Short skirts seem to very popular in Toronto. That's not a complaint.
    I did "Paisley Highways," "This Old Van," Fred Neil's "That's the Bag I'm In," Bill Morrissey's "Traveling by Cab," and "Four O'Clock on the Highway." Bed at 12:30.

Thursday, October 1
    Up at 9:30 and on the road at 9:50 (temp 4) to bring the car to a Mitsubishi dealer on Eglinton on the other side of town. Mostly blue sky with some cirrus, no cumulus. There was another slowdown on the Gardiner going east this time, not as bad as yesterday's, but again for no apparent reason. The Mitsubishi dealer was unable to help me--it would take 2 or 3 days to get the part. Of course there was a sdlowdown on the Gardiner going west but not as bad as going east had been. Caught with me was a red 30s early 40s Plymouth (?) with a rag top (Cabriolet?), a split windshield, and probably no back seat. I had breakfast (a waffle and coffee) at The Grille up the street from the Deluxe Inn at12:55. Bought cheese and flavored water at Sobey's supermarket and there was a black squirrel (my first this trip) at the motel when I got back at 2:00. I spent the rest of the day trying to catch up on this thing and other stuff, took a short walk in the area, and got to bed at 12:30.

Friday, October 2
    I got up at 8:45, checked in for another day at the Monte Carlo since I still have a lot of Canadian money, and went out for a breakfast bagel and coffee at Tim Horton's on a chilly 46-degree morning. It was gray and overcast, the sun shining through the clouds. I walked around the area some more--Starsky is a grocery and it looks like a Russian and eastern European neighborhood with borscht, lots of strange candy, and raspberry jam with lots of seeds for only $3.27 Canadian. There are a number of furniture stores in the neighborhood, including Smart Furniture (You design it, We build it--If I designed it, it wouldn't be very smart), the huge Bad Boy Furniture Superstore, Amish Furniture, The Brick (furniture, appliances, electronics, home theatre), as well as Skiis and Biikes (sic).
    It was too far for either of the Friday open mikes so I had another steak wrap combo at Tim Horton's and got to bed at 11:00.

Saturday, October 3
Toronto to Burlington, Ontario
    Up at 8:10 on another chilly gray sky day (48 degrees). I left the Monte Carlo at 9:18. I stopped at Starchy to buy a bottle of their raspberry jam. I just couldn't resist. I passed the Elite Restaurant and the Muddy Duck to stop at The Bounty Family Restaurant for a waffle. Then I drove to Burlington to reserve a room at the Motel 6 (nothing was available at 11:00 in the morning). Then I decided to get $20 worth of gas, which should be enough to get me back into the US, but none of my cards would work at the Esso. I was able to get the gas at the PetroCanada across the street.
     Then I drove back to Toronto for the afternoon open mike at the New Times Cafe, making the mistake of driving all the way into town on Dundas Street. But I had plenty of time and it's always interesting to look at the Toronto businesses: the Naked Beauty Bar, Delicious Savoury Pies, Harmony U Spa, Jun Jun Hotel, Kaisar Guest House. I parked on a side street near the cafe where there was only one-hour parking for non-residents and checked out that there was going to be an open mike. Back at the car, I saw a couple more black squirrels. The cheapest parking I could find was on Augusta Street--$2/hour. So eventually I paid $5 for 2 1/2 hours and went to the New Times.

Augusta Avenue

    There were two people ahead of me when I got there, a young man and Anne, probably mid 30s. Then a couple of other people came in and finally the host, who asked us to sign a sheet with email addresses, saying we wouldn't perform in that order, so I signed 5th. Then we performed in that order. Most of the people and performers were middle-aged and there were some pretty good guitarists, particularly a guy by the name of David McLaughlin, who played after I did. I did "Four O'Clock on the Highway" and "This Old Van" and left at 3:55, a light mist in the air.

Anne at the New Times Cafe

    I drove to the next block and turned on Spading, through Chinatown, to the Gardiner Expressway, a slow block by block drive as people making right turns were blocked by pedestrians. Traffic was moving slowly on the Gardiner when I got on it but picked up in seconds then slowed down a bit for a while on the QEW as steady rain fell for a while but had pretty well ended by the time I got to the Motel 6 at 5:08. I had a chicken chipotle wrap and a frosted mug at the A&W.

Sunday, October 4
The Bruce Trail
    I got up at 9:10 and was on the road at 9:51, temp 53, which seemed so warm that I wore only a sweater and I never regretted wearing more. I even thought of taking it off once on the hike. I wanted to eat somewhere besides Tim Horton's but I couldn't find any place else so I settled for their breakfast wrap and coffee. As I headed out Walker Line toward the Bruce Trail, I crossed Dundas Street again, miles away from the Monte Carlo. There were about 30-40 kids walking along Walker Line away from Bruce Trail, 12-16 years old, with packs, a couple of adults, a couple of girls.
    I reached the parking area at 10:45. Last year I got a parking ticket here; now there's a sign saying 5 hours parking. I hiked up a dirt road to where the path went off to the right and eventually to a field of slippery rocks that led to the ladder up to the ridge, the Niagara Escarpment, at 10:58.

    The trail follows the ridge and is more and less level and I hiked it till about 12:10, well past wherever I had hiked before, past the Brock Harris Lookout at Mount Nemo, where a sign said I was 295 meters (967 feet) above sea level, 85 meters (279 feet) above Walkers Line. There were a number of overlooks and there were spaces where the trail skirted sharp drop-offs and breaks, once going between two of them. I saw a black squirrel, several chipmunks, 2 gray squirrels, and 2 ravens. Being Sunday, there were quite a few hikers on the trail, including a couple of kids with more energy than I have, numerous dogs. I was pleased with my pace toward the end of the hike but I still got passed by younger hikers. I got back to the car at 1:24, the temp up to 60, On the way back to the motel, I stopped at Eggs-Zactly for a grilled cheese sandwich and vegetable soup (very good). I now have a little over $25 Canadian left.

    In the evening I made up chords and melodies for "An Anonymous Alba" and "The Last of Outlaws." I found "An Anonymous Alba" a long time ago, perhaps even when I had been at NYU. It was apparently written in the 12th or 13th centuries. Recently I had wanted to see if I could write a melody for it but didn't find it until I was cleaning out the apartment in August and September, and then there was no time. I'm pleased with the melody, which seems a tiny bit medieval to me (not much). I had written the first 4 verses of "The Last of the Outlaws" in Whiskerz back in August but never went back to it so it was also good to get some more done on that.

Monday, October 5
    At 1:00,I was awakened by a high-pitched squeal a fire alarm, which drew 3-4 fire trucks. There apparently was no fire but some kind of electrical problem. It took about 20 minutes but seemed much longer. I had a hard time getting back to sleep, during which I wrote two more verses for "The Last of the Outlaws."
    A bit of mist as I got on the road at 9, the wipers on intermittently. Followed the QEW to 405, the temp 58, the rain over and the sky lightening. I reached the border at 10:10 with only about 4 cars in front of me (there were 4 lines).

    Canada seems to have a lot of A&Ws, something I haven't seen much of in the US for quite a few years. And that frosted mug of root beer tasted damn good. In a lot of ways, that long drive down Dundas was not the most intelligent thing I've ever done. It would have been a lot smarter to have taken the Gardiner to Spading to College Street and the Cafe just one block west of Spading. But it was fun crossing the Humber River and seeing those Toronto businesses of all kinds, something I couldn't see when I drove Bloor Street Wednesday night, and reminded me why I like Toronto so much, and I had plenty of time to do it. But it's almost impossible to park in Toronto, high tariff parking on the main streets and the side streets only one hour parking unless you're a resident. When I first came to Toronto about 20 years ago, I fell in love with Augusta Avenue, which then looked like something out of the Sixties. It's still a pretty nice little street full of local small businesses of all kinds. I wish I had spent more time on it.

    I had intended to do more exploring in Canada and enjoy myself more, as I had in the past, but I guess I was just too impatient. As they say, life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans (or just plain busy).

A blast from the past: Shri Swaminarayan Haveli