TORONTO set a rainfall record last night – a night of flooded GO trains and subways, exploding manhole covers, waterlogged basements, underpasses, airport runways – even City Hall.  More rain fell than we normally get in a month.


<PHOTOS – Don Valley, Mark Blinch/Reuters; the GO train, Kevin Younge/Yahoo Canada News>


      This is one of the best heritage villages in Canada – even if it is surrounded by urban development on all sides.  A living tribute to the TORONTO Region’s pioneering roots, the Village contains architecture dating as far back as the 1790’s.  BLACK CREEK PIONEER VILLAGE consists of 40 buildings considered to be amongst the oldest in TORONTO and its surroundings.  Inside several of them, interpreters and artisans in period costume describe life as it was lived in pioneer Canada.  Well worth your time.

BLACK CREEK PIONEER VILLAGE is open daily from May 1 to December 23.  It’s located in TORONTO’s north-west end, at 1000 Murray Ross Parkway near the intersection of Jane Street and Steeles Avenue.  GETTING THERE BY PUBLIC TRANSPORT – subway to FINCH STATION, then take the Steeles bus #60 westbound; or from JANE SUBWAY STATION use the Jane bus #35.


GO Transit adds ‘Quiet Zones’ to double-decker trains on all lines

GO5  In a recent survey, 83% of passengers voted in favour of Quiet Zones on TORONTO’s suburban commuter trains.  From July 15, upper levels of rush hour trains on all 7 lines, will be off-limits to loud conversations and electronic noise.  Rush hours are defined as 6-9:30 am, and 3-7:30pm.


Visitors to TORONTO are often surprised and delighted to see our famous Black Squirrels.  But for those of us who live here – especially in houses with trees and gardens – these toothy rodents spend 365 days a year chewing through screens, window frames, tree buds, flowerbeds and electric wires.  They also take time to perform amazing acrobatics,  join your picnic lunch, tease the cats, raid garbage bins, make love, and pee on your windowsill.  Still, we love ’em.BLACKSQUIRREL1TORONTO isn’t the only city settled by Black Squirrels.  Some others . . .
1. WASHINGTON, D. C., the National Zoo
2. MARYSVILLE, Kansas, official mascot.
4. LONDON, Ontario, transplanted 10 of them to Kent State University in Ohio
5. KENT, Ohio, Kent State University.  The black squirrel is the unofficial mascot of the school.  Home of a black squirrel road race and an annual “Black Squirrel Festival”.
6. ALBION COLLEGE, Michigan. The black squirrels here have become defining symbols of the college.
7. COLLEGE PARK, University of Maryland. Black squirrels have been spotted in the area.
8. VANCOUVER, University of British Columbia. The black squirrels here are like TORONTO’s – big and fat,.  They were introduced to Stanley Park in 1914, and spread from there to the Fraser Valley, Washington State and the North Shore.
9.  NEW YORK CITY, Bronx Zoo, Peter Cooper Village and Central Park.  They’re thriving in the Big Apple.

Work by & about the late sculptor, LOUISE BOURGEOIS, in London, Ottawa & Toronto


This summer, there’s no escaping the work of sculptor, LOUISE BOURGEOIS, who passed away three years ago.  LONDON’s Saatchi Gallery is showing “After Louise”, created in 2011 by WENDY MAYER.  Her head pops out of a giant black ball, studded with pins and needles. Around her neck is a feather collar as grand as a courtier’s ruff.  To see her face-to-face you must get down on your knees.  Artist WENDY MAYER: “I feel connected to her as a woman, a mother, a sculptor and through our shared background in mathematics. When she died in 2010, I wanted to acknowledge her unwitting contribution to my career as a sculptor and created her portrait as a pin cushion doll’.

BOURGEOIS3The best-known work by LOUISE BOURGEOIS <PHOTO ABOVE> is “Maman”, on permanent display in front of the National Gallery of Canada, OTTAWA.

BOURGEOIS5TORONTO’s Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (MOCCA), 952 Queen Street West recently presented an exhibition of Ms. Bourgeois’ work.


Los Angeles: a great American city rescues its downtown

Anyone who’s seen television’s “DRAGNET” is familiar with the monolithic LOS ANGELES City Hall.  It broods over Downtown L.A. (DTLA) – which only a decade ago was a rundown neighbourhood of urban decay.  That’s rapidly changing.  Los Angeles’ core is reawakening, thanks to business and civic leaders, an influx of young residents, artists, restaurateurs, philanthropists, landscapers, developers and renovators.

<The Broadway Streetcar – http://www.streetcar.la –  <PHOTO ABOVE – a Broadway Streetcar in 1956> Downtown Los Angeles has a vast array of 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s architecture – the largest in North America.  In the last couple of years, a majority of these buildings have undergone renovation, much to the dismay of movie companies.  There’s an Arts District now, at least two new parks (Spring Street and Broadway), reborn monumental theatres, owner-operated coffee bars, trendy restaurants, a fancy wine shop – and even a couple of bike paths.  Combine all this with the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Dorothy Chandler Music Pavilion, the Bradbury Building, Central Market, Museum of Contemporary Art, the upcoming Broad Museum, Japan Town and a subway – and you’ve got the makings of a vibrant city core. To quote GERTRUDE STEIN, there’s now a “there there”.

Chris Cramer photographs the “Humans of Toronto” for all the world to see

TORONTO is a city filled with distinctive individuals of every race, creed and colour.  Some are more distinctive than others, and photographer CHRIS CRAMER routinely sets out to digitize them.  You can see the results on his Facebook page – “HOT – Humans of Toronto”http://www.facebook.com/HumansOfToronto/info#!/HumansOfToronto?fref=ts

CITY ARCHIVES – 2 massive warehouses full of TORONTO’s history

CITYARCHIVES1Our city’s archives, 255 Spadina Road, contains TORONTO’s entire history – 131,119 boxes full.  Blueprints, plans, council records, photographs, paintings, TTC pins, books and magazines – they’re all here, in a climate-controlled, ultra-secure red brick building.

CITYARCHIVES3CITYARCHIVES2<PHOTOS ABOVE – GRIDto and Commodore Gandalf Cunning/Day Trip Canada>


Abandoning a 20-year career in information technology, HENRY CHONG has become an industrial designer.  His pride and joy is the LIFEBIKE, a compact, lightweight two-wheeler, designed for city commuting.  It weighs 15 kilograms, including the lithium battery, gets up to 30 kilometres on five cents of electricity – and it’s good looking.


HENRY CHONG: “There are currently 150 million electric bikes in use worldwide.  But I believe no one has yet created a design best suited for how people live in cities like TORONTO, in small spaces as dictated by condos.  The freedom from congestion and costly transportation options can be extremely empowering.”

LIFEBIKE2A graduate of OCADU’s industrial design program, Mr. Chong developed the LIFEbike as his thesis project. He sought the assistance of MaRS Discovery District, a mission-driven innovation centre located in TORONTO. MaRS works with partners to accelerate innovation.  Its faith in the LIFEbike seems to be paying off.  http://www.revelobikes.com