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I think the Empire Sandy is the most elegant three-master in the harbour, though she’s by no means alone – with bigger and smaller friends along the waterfront all summer long. Now that the real cold has set in, she’s tucked-in snug right next to my favourite tugboat MR Kane (that’s Mister Kane, to me).

Across the channel once known as the western gap, at the edge of the harbour (still the shortest scheduled ferry-run in the world?) The new underground tunnel has not displaced the ferry as many feared, it has instead been replaced with a massively upgraded two-story beast – much warmer than chuggy old Ongiara (though she too yet sails the island ferry-runs delivering rarely-allowed vehicles). Porter airlines, who are the major operator at Billy Bishop (CYTZ, to the initiated) really are the airline for pedestrians – city centre to city centre. Hop on the subway, wind up in New York! Toronto built planes (Bombardier-branded now – but still Dehavilland Dash-8s, to me) PWC engines, too!

The larger planes visible here – with the characteristic Dehavilland Canada high-T tail, are stablemates of the 8 – the incredible four-engined STOL Dash 7 – a whole fleet of these are based at CYTZ, and have been sent out to do rough-field humanitarian work for the UN all over the world.

All-day blizzard – minus twenty and worse – four plows doing constant circuits of the longest runway – 26-08 – (which translates as 260º or 80º on the compass for rough-headings, depending on which direction you’re approaching from). But I still greatly admired the pilots’ skill for greasing those snow-slick landings, one after another – and empathized with the passengers relief, every time! (Good curling-instincts, a definite-plus)


Squandered coolness

This spot, right across the channel from the airport (that’s the monster ferry with three boat-lengths to travel – glowering with purple windows, back there), may be best-described as a monument to just how stupid urban planners in combination can manage to be. There are still a few other old elevators left along the waterfront – but this one in particular could have been something entirely grand.

A few years ago I worked for John Harris (of the Harris institute for the recording arts) and learned of his very cool vision for Toronto music – to turn this elevator into “Metronome” a music business complex – with performance spaces, studios, and offices. A hot-house and a showpiece both! He even had the backing of Panasonic (whose recording equipment I repaired for many years – and is broadcast-quality – so this was no trivial endorsement – but real activating-power). Problem is – the whole strip of land along the waterfront has special status which seems to make it impossible for all levels of government to ever agree what to do with it. Too many committees have no-way say. And so the wasted decades passed, and the place has decayed to the point where there really is nothing left to save – it’s an outright hazard now – dropping concrete missiles at joggers and dog-walkers all day long (hence – fence). Seriously-cool blown-chance – and, as I mentioned – a magnificent example of how just bad planning can be.

Not convinced? Some planning imbecile decided to put the monument to the Irish potato famine – which should absolutely be commemorated and discussed far more (like all brutal imperial excess), right out at the end of that point, where anyone who wants to see it, or pay their respects (flowers are laid freshly, all the time), has to brave the stone-tossing building for ten minutes round the pier to do it (an outright affront to the elderly – and a pointless diminution of a monument of importance).


Too busy to chat

Most ubiquitous modern (not quite) icebound transport – busy season, to be sure. One gets the impression that every courier in the world is working overtime all at once – mail-carriers too, though that service is in very weird shape indeed. Once the ultra-professional pride of the civil service, Canada Post is now right off the rails! Can’t get to everyone’s house anymore (community mailboxes in a winter country, are a serious burden for anyone infirm), and they don’t even show up for every route, every day, downtown in our biggest business-city! Don’t get me wrong, I’m always friendly with my mail-people (and indeed have had some great philosophical discussions with them, over the years) – but they too know it’s gone wrong. One wonders how the whole mess will coalesce once again, after so many years of bad management and damaging cuts. Hopefully well, and very very very soon (I am going CRAZY, waiting for my first shipment of books, dadgummit!).
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