Cee’s Share Your World – July 16, 2018

I’m a big fan of questions and prompts as you’ve likely gathered by now. The Share Your World challenge invites us to share a few random bits of information in the form of answers to Cee’s questions of the week. This week’s questions are below. Visit the original entry to play along!

Since we are approaching the hottest part of our summer in the northern hemisphere, what’s your favorite ice-cream or sorbet flavor?

I can’t eat a lot of dairy – more than a little gives me a headache and sick stomach for the better part of a day afterward. But in the past several years, many dairy free alternatives have come out. I remember trying “Ice Bean” made with soy milk in the mid 90’s and finding it awful with a grainy texture and aftertaste. Now, though, some of the coconut milk based ones, in particular are really good.

But my absolute favourite would be lemon sorbet. There’s something about the tart flavour that is so refreshing.

How often do you people watch?

How often do I see people? I’m always people watching. I’m curious about everyone. Living in the city is especially good for this as there are always people doing surprising and interesting things. Someone might be dancing to their own music on the opposite platform, another person could be wearing a cool outfit. I might be touched by seeing a dad reading to his daughter on the subway or a stranger helping an old woman find her way in the city. You never know what you’ll see if you keep your eyes open out in the world. Sometimes, after watching them a bit it’s fun to go talk to them.


These guys are both named Leonid and come from Ukraine and played in the subway for many years. I haven’t seen them recently but interviewed them some time back


Mike loved playing on the subway. His happiest moment was watching a little girl dancing with wild abandon as he played. Soon after he had drawn such a huge crowd that they had to ask him to stop playing as the crowd was so big near the platform that it was a safety hazard. 

doin time

This is Scott from a band called “Doin’ Time” that used to perform great bluegrass in the subway along the lines of what you might have heard in “O Brother Where Art Thou?” On the day we talked, his friend wasn’t there. They hadn’t been playing together so often. I guess he escaped.

If you had a choice which would be your preference salt water beaches, fresh water lakes, ocean cruise, hot tub, ski resort or desert?

Salt water beaches for sure. We have one of the biggest lakes in the world just a short transit ride from home. It’s nice, but it can’t compare to sitting on a beach. A desert is a close second. But really, I love people (see the previous answer) so really, before any of those I’d take a city. Put me in a park filled with people, or a lively cafe and I’m happy.

What did you appreciate or what made you smile this past week? 

I have really appreciated Sage helping me stay on track this week. She’s been an “accountability partner – with teeth.”  The arrangement is simple: I make a list of things I want to get done in the day – Hindi study, work tasks, exercise, household chores. These must be done or I forfeit my spending money for the week. I can earn some of it back the usual way – but that’s not the only penalty. I also clean the cat litter box for at least two days. To me this is far worse than losing any sum of money. As you might imagine, facing that kind of consequence has meant that I am getting all sorts of things done. I’ve had the most productive week in recent memory on all fronts.


Tuesday Photo Challenge – Play

This week’s Tuesday Photo Challenge at Dutch goes the Photo is “Play” and though the topic is as broad as we want it to be, the photo of a dog used with the post seems to have me focused on dogs this week as well.

daegan1When we were staying on the Konkan coast in Maharashtra back in February, there were two dogs who lived at the guesthouse we stayed at. They LOVED to visit the beach with us and especially loved Daegan. I told Sage about how they reacted to Daegan and she said “Of course that’s true – he’s like Justin Bieber for dogs.” which is totally true. If an animal is the least bit friendly to humans in general, they seem to be drawn to be Daegan’s best friend. This was definitely the case with these two. Any time he looked like he was going to go to the beach they would be behind him, ready to play with him on the beach or in the water.

dogsA 10 minute bus ride from us is “The Danforth” – a neighbourhood along Danforth Avenue on Toronto’s east end. There are a few markets we sometimes shop at. One day when I left the fish market, what should I see but this guy. He had three Siberian Huskies, commonly used as sled dogs, in a triple-harness attached to a single leash. He would get on his skateboard and the dogs would take off, carrying him wherever he wanted to go.  What a brilliantly playful form of transportation.

Finally, inspired only by the subject of play and not dogs, or even my own photos is this final photo that was too fun not to share. Project Murphy is an AI that was developed by Microsoft and remixes faces and other things. For example, you can say “What if Justin Bieber were a dog?” and the pictures it would give back to you would doubtless be of some horrifying Bieber-Beagle hybrid.  One night I spent what seemed like hours feeding various ideas in to it. My favourite of the night was one that showed my alternate future. I have to admit, I am a little jealous of my other self’s fame and wardrobe.


Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Week 2 Photo – Gooze’s Truck


I love the prompts that Cee gives. They force me to go back through some of my photos and find photos. And behind many of the photos are stories.

This one takes me back to the fall of 1998.

It’s October of 1998. Just about 6 after Daegan was born, I am sent by my company across the country to Denver for a week-long training. Sage remains home with Daegan. Her mom, Kiteweather, is there to help out, visiting us on an extended visit from the Missouri Ozarks where she lives simply in a tiny chicken coop on land shared with several other women.

My time in Denver is mixed. On the one hand, it is a lovely break. I don’t have to cook any meals or shop for groceries. No babies are waking up at 3:00 AM wide awake and wanting to hang out for an hour or two. In many senses this is a vacation. On the other hand, though, I miss Daegan. I am literally missing the latest 16% of his life!

When I get home, I can tell he missed me too. While I immediately go to pick him up, he’s having none of it and starts to cry. This is a long way from when I saw his first smile just before I left. Apparently he really liked dancing to Kool and the Gang.

It takes several days for us to resume our stride. We are now on good terms again and have resumed our evening walks through the neighbourhood with him in the sling and now with a hat and sweater. The weather’s getting colder.

One night I get home and Sage’s mom goes out for a smoke in the back yard. I take Daegan in the sling with me and sit upwind of her so the smoke doesn’t bother him. I end up talking about my dreams for the future.

“One day, in five years or so, I want to buy a little land, maybe build a small cabin on it. I won’t need to work so much because we will be “living small” – without electricity or running water. Keeping our needs low would mean I wouldn’t have to work. Daegan and I could walk in the woods together, have a garden and cook the food we grow.”

Kite takes a long puff on her cigarette, holds it in for a bit, her eyes narrowing in thought. She exhales and speaks.

“Why are you waiting five years?”

This is so obvious I wonder why she’s even asking. We may have no credit card debt but we also have hardly any savings beyond a little saved for retirement. The most obvious thing, though, sat at the other end of the back yard: a car with four and a half years of payments left on it. How would I buy land? How could I live simply if I was paying $400/month in car payments and insurance?

I tell her all of this and she simply says: “Why not move to Missouri. You have community there. We will help you.”

“What about the car?”

“Can’t you just bring it back to the bank?”

Kiteweather calls the woman Daegan is named after and comes back with a plan. Daegan just bought a house on 40 acres for her to live in and care for her aging mom and dad. We were welcome to build a space for ourselves on that land.

A second phone call happens, and Dolphin, a friend of Sage’s mom who is like an aunt to us arranges to borrow a van and promises to be up to help us move. She arrives a few days later.

The next day I call the bank and say “I can’t pay for this car. I need to bring it back.” They told me it would be a huge black mark on my credit rating but at this point I didn’t see myself using credit any time soon. I scheduled an appointment with the bank to drop the car off and give them the keys. Dolphin drives us home. It is the first time since I was 16 in which I have not owned my own car. It feels very strange.

I hand in my resignation at work, giving a month’s notice. Everyone asks where I’m going to work next. I tell them “Nowhere.” and let them in on my plan. I will move to a small Missouri town, have a small computer repair business and pick up whatever odd jobs I can but primarily focus on being an at-home dad. With no rent, electric bill, water bill, or heating bill, we only needed to pay for food and money for gas in the car we were allowed to share. Half of my colleagues think I’m crazy, 75% of them are jealous and excited to hear how it goes. One of my colleagues would write me a few weeks after I left to say “When you left I realized that I was almost at retirement age and didn’t need to stay here. I could have the life I want. My last day is Friday.”

Preparations to move begin. We would live in a 30 foot RV for a month while we figured things out. Our final home, whatever it would be, wouldn’t be any bigger than that so we needed to get rid of a lot of things in our three bedroom, 1,400 square foot rowhouse. We would do it in several steps:

First we have a “Free Yard Sale” – we invite our neighbours over and said “Except for the computer, these books or my cookware, take what you like.” They seem uncomfortable but walk out with a few things. We still have a ton of things left, though.

Next we call the Salvation Army and tell them what we have. They come and take several pieces of furniture, our television, stereo and VCR. Another charity comes by and takes nearly everything else.

We pack what’s left, some cassettes and CDs, our books and photo albums, and a few items of sentimental value in to twelve boxes. The books we send at book rate by US Postal Service, and UPS takes the rest. We’ll see them again when we get to Missouri.

Finally, we need to get rid of our refrigerator. We call a refrigerator repair company and tell them we have a perfectly good fridge, can they come and take it for free? They happily send over a guy named “Gooze” who single-handedly muscles the fridge on to a cart and then out the door, down the porch steps and in to his car.

The house is so empty it echoes now. There are a few boxes in the living room that will be traveling in the van – our cookware that we needed until our last day, and our computer, six cat carriers for the 8 cats (some get along well enough to share a big one), and our computer.

The next morning we wake up on our futon. We take off the bedclothes and tape it in to a roll. The next time we will see it is when we unload it from the van in Missouri. We take our backpacks, a suitcase with a few clothes, and head for the van. We sit in the back and Dolphin hands us two big bowls covered in plastic. “I made you some veggie sushi for the trip last night after you went to bed.” It is enough food to last us for the two day train trip we have ahead of us.

We step out in to the cold morning, hug Kite and Dolphin goodbye and board the bus that will take us to the train that will carry us to our new, and unknown life.

Happy Morning Multitasking

I’ve started making a list at the beginning of the day of must-do items. These are the things that, should I finish them, I know I will feel I had a productive day. Yesterday I got a bit panicked at the end of the day, what with trying to figure out how to fit in 30 minutes of daily Hindi practice, a bike ride, making dinner and grocery shopping all after work. Sage and Daegan bailed me out, though, by going shopping together and then Daegan made dinner. But I can’t always count on them.

Today’s list also had 30 minutes of Hindi practice and a bike ride in it but today I did two things to avoid the afternoon panic:

  1. I started in the morning so it was done and out of the way early.
  2. I did a couple of my tasks at the same time.


Also: if you recognize the film, NO SPOILERS – I’m only 30 minutes in. I also already despise the dad.

And for my friends who don’t follow Hindi cinema as closely, here’s the trailer for the movie I’m watching in pieces as I exercise:

So far I’m really enjoy it but the relationship between the mom and dad and dad and daughter is really tough to watch.  I knew it was going to be good, though. I’m a huge fan of Aamir Khan.

I’m glad I discovered this approach to exercise. Finding a good movie means I am motivated to get back on the bike to see what happens next.  And choosing a Hindi movie means I get practice as well. I’m pretty happy with this arrangement.


Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge: July 15, 2018 – Lost Cat


Last week as we left a storytelling show what should we see but this poster. It seems a perfect item for this weeks edition of Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge.

Raccoons are everywhere in Toronto and we have a bit of a love/hate relationship with them. On the one hand, they get in to our garbage bins no matter what preventive measures we take. They eat what they like and scatter the rest everywhere.

On the other hand, we seem to have a fondness for them. They may be pests but they’re our pests. For some of us, they’re as much a part of the city as the CN Tower. And when they’re on their best behaviour, they, and especially their babies, can be quite adorable. So as we grumble about them tipping over our bins, we’re also, only somewhat tongue in cheek, creating memorials to dead ones that city services was slow to pick up.

We’re not just moved by raccoons in our city, though. Other animals get our attention. Two years ago a couple of capybara (large, dog-sized rodents) escaped a zoo and people cheered them on.

A year before, a peacock made its escape and was the subject of lots of online cheering:

We’re fascinated by animals wherever they might be. Be careful where you sit on the subway – some of the seats have crabs.

This pigeon was having none of it so they just left.

This city is a delightfully weird place. I’m happy to call it home.

Toronto by Library #20: Thorncliffe Library

For today’s library I go as close to home as I can possibly go: the Thorncliffe Branch. In 2004 we got our first Toronto Public Library cards there and for many years it was our home branch. We moved away from the neighbourhood in 2009 but in 2017 we returned, remembering how much we loved the area.

The neighbourhood is an interesting one. From 1917 to 1952, this area was home to a horse race track. In 1953, though, development started. The design was simple and, in my opinion, ahead of its time.

The neighbourhood itself is arranged in a U shape along Thorncliffe Park Drive. Overlea Boulevard crosses over the top of the U.


Along the outside of the U are high-rise buildings in the 20-44 storey range. On the inside near the top of the U is East York Town Centre – a small neighbourhood mall with a grocery store, banks, drug store, restaurants and a few miscellaneous shops. On the sides of the U you will find low rise apartment buildings. All in all there are about 34 apartment buildings in the neighbourhood. In those buildings in that small area just over 20,000 people live. This still amazes me as the town I grew up in currently has a population of 694. There are more people in my building alone than my hometown.

Just below the mall is the local elementary school and early education centre. This is next door to the park. And just below the park is the library that shares a building with a community centre.

The layout works extremely well, in my opinion. Overlea Boulevard is a bit of a busy street providing access to the area from outside while Thorncliffe Park Drive is a slower (maybe not slow enough) route providing access to the neighbourhood. Walking paths criss-cross the area making it very pedestrian friendly. We are all within a few minutes walk of the things we need: Grocery store, post office, school, pharmacy, and of course, library.

When we used to own a car, we would bring it wherever we went. And thus, no matter what we needed to bring back we had something to easily carry it. But now that we live without a car a bit of forethought is needed. We need to bring something to carry whatever we plan on picking up. If it’s a small shopping or library trip we might just bring a backpack. If I’m travelling by bike I will bring one or two panniers to do that job. If it’s a larger trip, for example to buy several day’s worth of groceries, we need to bring something a little bigger. Today I have a several library books to return and a small grocery trip to do so today I bring the larger of our two carts.


When Daegan was little and we would go to the library we would bring a cart just like this. It drew the attention of a librarian who always remarked fondly that there we were with our “bundle buggy” again.  We would return all of our books and load it up again. Daegan is an avid reader and each of us were allowed to check out up to 50 books so we would often bring a cart nearly full of books for us all to read.

Today, though, I’m only bringing back a few and picking up a single book on hold, a Hindi children’s book for me to read.

Out the door I go and down toward the library.


Then across the street I go – it’s more pleasant and a little shorter to cut through the park.


Today there are a few kids playing in the splash pad and running around the playground, parents sitting and talking as they go. On market days, though, it can get very busy.


Delicious snacks are always available on market days.snacksAnd on some market days Sage has been known to tell stories to children.


We approach the library from behind where you can see that in the latest renovation just about ten years ago they installed big lovely windows.


Around to the front I go…


Inside you can see how lovely the big windows have made the space.


This is a library that serves the neighbourhood well, and is targeted especially at kids. If you arrive on a day after school it is packed with kids. Some of them studying or reading, others playing games on the public computers. From what I read online this is a bit of a point of contention for some adults who would prefer a library be what many of us remember from our own childhood: a quiet place where children shall not make noise lest they first be shushed and then banished if they make more than a peep.  I don’t mind the noise at all when I’m there, though. To me it is happy noise – rarely if ever argumentative – that means people are enjoying the space. And as a grown-up I also know that if I need absolute silence, there are many places in the city including several other nearby libraries as well as my own home in which to find it.  I’m actually excited to see how in many ways the Toronto Public Library is redefining public space and how a library can and should serve a community. And I like the transformation I see from a library’s being a solemn and silent temple for books in to a place filled with life that people want to spend time in.

There are a number of DVDs in many languages available to browse here.


There’s also a relatively good Hindi movie collection which is useful to me for practice. That said, I admit that if I don’t get a movie online, I will go to a nearby paan shop to get cheap DVDs there. Not only do I get to keep the DVD, I can get a little practice speaking Hindi / Urdu there when I buy it as well.

There is a relatively small adult section in the library but for me, it isn’t a particularly great place to browse. It’s close to home, though, so it’s an excellent place to have them drop off my holds.

I drop off our returns and pick up my hold and off I go, following the path through the park again to the mall.


It looks like they’re going shopping as well as they’ve got their own cart.


I pass the Fraser Mustard Early Learning Academy – an all-kindergarten school recently built next door to the existing Elementary school.

I just learned that with over 1,900 students, this is North America’s largest elementary school. The last count I can find shows that students here come from 47 different countries. It poses unique challenges to teachers who will find themselves with many kids whom they can’t speak with when they first arrive. There was a fascinating article in the New York Times on how the teachers are dealing with this and other challenges. I think you’ll find it interesting. Have a look here.

Living in this neighbourhood makes me very happy. Just a trip to the local library and grocery store means meeting people from all over the world. There are some things that are different about it – for example, I have felt a bit self-conscious going running here in short shorts and a t-shirt as men and women all around me are dressing as modestly as they can. On the other hand, something I really appreciate is the lack of bars in this neighbourhood. As it is mostly a Muslim neighbourhood there isn’t much demand for it, and so none have opened. After living in a part of town filled with university students and another in a relatively trendy neighbourhood filled with young people, I really appreciate not having many drunk people walking the streets and riding the buses to, from and between bars – or waking up to vomit on the sidewalks as I walk to the subway on a Sunday morning.

On the positive side, I love being able to go out for nihari or halwa puri for breakfast on the weekend or to find nearly any ingredient for Indian, Thai, Chinese, Korean, or any European food within a few minutes walk from the house.  This is a wonderful thing for someone who grew up in a town of 694 and dreamed of travelling the world when he grew up. I still may not be able to travel the world as much as I like, so now I live in a city where the world comes to me.


Cee’s Which Way Photo Challenge – July 13, 2018 – Biking my Walk


This week in Cee’s Which Way challenge, I decided to go with signs – particularly ones that made me laugh or think a little.  Here are a few I think you’ll enjoy also:


This was taken on my recent circumnavigation of the city along the top portion in what felt like the middle of nowhere. I didn’t bike my walk, nor did I walk my bike. There was nobody around for miles!


Yes, sometimes we are, but nice bike lanes and courteous drivers cheer us up a lot!


I didn’t go in there. I felt it best to stay out of our way.


Elsewhere in Toronto just a friendly reminder…


I’m not sure what personal protective equipment I should use for a site like this. I’m going to try my voter registration card.


Is it any surprise that the state with Mardi Gras, Bourbon Street, and drive-through daiquiri shops would also have the hospital that is #1 in the nation for liver transplants?

No really, there are drive-through alcoholic daiquiri shops in Louisiana. They operate on a technicality: As long as you don’t open the drink in the car, it’s legal to sell.


Perhaps drive through daiquiris are why the smiles are free? 


There are some things you need to be careful of down there, though.


Not that we don’t have things to watch out for here in Toronto.


There are some days I feel an apology is necessary for my social awkwardness. I completely identify with this guy…

If you enjoyed this, why not participate in this and other challenges over at Cee’s Photography.




Crawfish Dinner

I wrote this for a class but I liked it so much I am sharing it with you also:


The humid Louisiana air makes my white dress shirt stick to me. A chemical smell a little reminiscent of freshly cut grass hangs in the air. There’s been no emission alarm so I know it’s not deadly phosgene gas – just the normal, allowable emissions expected from an active chemical plant. My escape respirator can stay attached to my belt.

My colleagues and I leave work and minutes later we all arrive at the picnic grounds just outside of the chemical plant. The reactor towers are now hidden just behind the a stand of oak trees, Spanish moss hanging from the older ones. We could be in a city park anywhere but the security gates give away the fact that we aren’t.

Tents are set up and a crowd of employees have gathered for a celebration meal. Kenny Chesney sings over the PA about how sexy his tractor is. When I get to the front of the line, the woman behind the folding table grabs a dustpan-sized scoop and dips it in to a blue plastic bin. There’s a clattering of shells against metal as a massive scoop of boiled crawfish are picked up and then a clatter again as they are dumped in to a cardboard tray, nearly filling it. There’s some room left, though, for me to top it with a few boiled potatoes, and corn on the cob. Add a side dish of jambalaya to the plate and I’m happy

I plunge my hand in to a drum filled with ice water and come out with a Coke. The ice water feels good in the 32 degree heat and I don’t wipe it off. I sit down, grab my first crawfish, feeling its weight lying limp in my hand. It feels a little morbid. I don’t hold it long, instead quickly pinching its tail, giving its body a twist, cleanly removing the tail meat. I pull it out with my teeth, tasting the cayenne, salt and thyme on it and then, like the locals, I suck the juice from the head. Before long, my hands are covered. Napkins will be no match for this.

Graffiti Advice

After yesterday’s post about messages in graffiti I realized I had a whole bunch more to share. There is clearly a trend – at least in this city – among graffiti artists to provide positive messages. Here are some of my favourites. Enjoy!

(All photos taken in Toronto unless otherwise noted)



Taken in Centralia, Pennsylvania


Taken in Mumbai, Maharashtra

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Week 1 Photo: Green

This week’s Fun Foto Challenge included a whole list of words from which to choose and of them all, “green” was the word that spoke to me. Off to Google Photos I went to put their AI to work for me (It’s a big help with going through thousands of photos dating back up to 20 years). As I did it, I noticed that among a whole bunch of photos of trees, mountains, and grass was something else: Advice and wholesome messages. Here, is all I found:


Near where we used to live was a small street where residents set up a number of art installations including this blackboard. While childish people would sometimes draw offensive things, mostly there were messages like this.


Another blackboard in another part of the city.


[Be a force for…]


Sounds like a good plan…


You do know this about yourself, yes?


I saw this message near a school in Mumbai. You’ve got enough time.


A simple and important message…


This bridge is right next door to our apartment building. Like any high bridge, it can be a destination for people committing suicide. I love that someone tried to do a little something.

Wait, you don’t think little things matter? You bet they do. Check out this story from several years back:

A man with five guns and more than 6,000 rounds of ammunition set himself up beside a Beaches water plant yesterday planning to commit mass homicide. But a dog’s affection apparently persuaded him not to go through with his plan.

The man started to ready his weapons in the early afternoon sunshine outside the grounds of the R.C. Harris filtration plant at Victoria Park Avenue and Queen Street. He later told police that he planned to shoot people in the park and then drive around the city killing whomever he could to ensure he would get life in jail.

“It’s scary how close it could have been,” Toronto Police Detective Nick Ashley said last night. “We have a dog to thank somewhere.”


He changed his mind when a dog on a walk in the park would not leave him alone.

“He happens to be a pet lover, and he decided that if there was such a nice dog in the area the people were too nice and he wasn’t going to carry out his plan,” Det. Ashley said.

Full story here

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