Track twenty-nine


Is that the cat that ate your new shoes?  (top photo)

The massive revamp of Union station has been going on for years – and clearly has years yet to run. The tracks themselves are currently open to the sky for the first time in decades – giving a very wrought-iron Victorian look to departures for now (a decidedly more romantic effect when it’s not minus-twenty, to be sure).

Must say though – early skepticism about the place becoming less useful and public-friendly seems (thankfully) to have been misplaced – even while constructing, they’re reaching-out. The street-market set up out front (next to the ‘atlas-braiding’ statue), to substitute for the many closed shops within, is already a super popular and successful summer attraction. Lots of music, too!

Just before Christmas, Nada and I also discovered that a few shops had finally opened again on the lower concourse, right across from the depressing and yet always well-attended old video and pinball arcade “Destroy the humanoid! Get the intruder!” and the once-indispensable central news-stand (both sadly-shuttered, and unlikely candidates for return, triumphant or otherwise).

There is now a fine Swedish bakery (which we tested and found fantastic), and a wild new geometrically inspired Chocolatier, headquartered in Kensington market (which also proved very fine) – and to go with those sweets, there was even a sweet band playing upstairs – Angelique Francis. We did not get to hear her announcing the band-members, but if they aren’t mostly family, I’d be very surprised. The warmth of spirit and sharing ran right through the act.

Certainly, the way the drummer (tucked in-behind) was smiling at the star felt like a dad-proud look. Not to mention the evil glare he shot the guitarist, when he was looking at her a bit too much! ;o) Great sound and much warmth – and they had a really cool approach to many overplayed Christmas tunes.

It was lovely to hear the effort they put into creating genuinely novel arrangements – finding something new in the familiar music we can all sing-along-to (and adding plenty of swing and well-crafted humour, in the process). Truly promising talent! (Ottawa native – but hopefully we will lure her here often, for more).

Very pretty decorations, too (my friend Susan is super-right in her recent tip – Christmas balls are not only irresistible seasonal selfie-targets, but are in fact effectively selfie-inescapable!)

And fear not – the grand old marble ticket-hall is not being distorted or disfigured – this is just a part of the ever-prettier elevated pedestrian walkway that takes you straight across the main tracks and out to Baseball, the aquarium, the CN tower, the railway museum, hotels and the convention centre, without getting snowy.

Sensible notion – and of course it also connects into the PATH pedestrian system at Union for still more snow-dodging – kilometres-worth! There’s a whole weird world of full-time undergrounders tucked along that worker-funnelling marble-sided groundhog-tunnel. (Cautionary note: do not even try to walk south against the flow from Union, at eight-thirty in the morning – especially if you’re still pretty wasted from the night before – just trust me – Kafka would have to write it – or Lovecraft – the seething impersonal human futility of the exercise imparts a surreal horror well beyond my own literary powers to effectively convey)

One of these days I’m going to have to get down there and spellunk it’s full extent again (keeps mutating and growing branches, even after decades). Always best to bring a few bucks for this – you find the strangest micro stores hidden away down there, that couldn’t possibly afford to exist, paying topside street-frontage rent – (cheap pocket-watches – reeee-freakin’-sult!) ;o)

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