TORONTO SHORT STORIES – AUGUST 1-11/2017

<Chinatown West – waiting for the bus on a sweltering Sunday afternoon>

Neighbours are outraged over a box-like house that has appeared in their Victorian nirvana. The Cabbagetown house, on St. James Court, has been the subject of a 10-year battle over proposals for a bigger house on the lot, and then over damage and the incovenience caused by construction. – Toronto Star, August 11/2017>

<Five cheetah cubs born at TORONTO ZOO in April/2017>

The Canada/150 train rolls into HAMILTON in recognition of Cansda’s 150th birthday. Canadian Pacific is sending the historic engine and 10 heritage cars across the country, starting out from Port Moody, British Columbia on July 28. It’s a beauty! – Hamilton Spectator, August 10/2017Residents of CATHEDRALTOWN (a MARKHAM suburb) have something else to look at these days – besides the cathedral. It’s a chrome statue of a cow titled “Charity, Perpetuation of Perfection”, put there with the approval of city councillor Alan Ho – who is now facing the wrath of the populace. They want it gone ASAP.  “The last thing that would cross my mind would be to raise a life-sized cow with chrome-like finish two storeys in the air and consider that proper,” said local resident Danny Dasilva. “I hate it.”

TORONTO SHORT STORIES – JULY 8-25/2017

JEFF ROCK, a scientist, has been appointed the next senior pastor at TORONTO’s Metropolitan Community Church. He will succeed Rev. Dr. BRENT HAWKES who is retiring after 38 years with MCC.  Pastor Rock: “I look at myself as a 33-year-old young gay man in ministry and I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without people like Rev. Dr. Brent Hawkes. I think that there are deep conversations that need to happen in TORONTO about class, and about housing costs and poverty.”

The CN Tower, TORONTO’s #1 tourist attraction, now has a new mascot. It’s a miniature version of the tower itself – only with arms.

Over the past two years TORONTO-based Cyberworks Robotics & the University of Toronto have developed a cost-efficient technology that will allow power wheelchairs to drive themselves. The concept was originally intended for users with upper-body-disabilities such as hand tremors, ALS, and spinal cord injuries. These new wheelchairs could dramatically enhance quality of life, and make it much easier to accomplish everyday things.  Cyberworks is currently in the process of getting necessary approvals to allow wheelchair users to test the technology, and eventually making it useable outdoors.

A 6-foot TORONTO sign, made from washed-up driftwood has appeared on the water in Humber Bay Park, the work of artists Thelia Sanders-Shelton and Julie Ryan.  Making the sign was a challenge. The duo spent five days on their project, up to seven hours at a time, collecting driftwood and lugging rocks. Julie Ryan said they put a heart at the end of the sculpture to celebrate TORONTO as “a city of love. It’s a place of goodness and kindness.”

TORONTO SHORT STORIES – June 20 to July 7/2017

TORONTO’s TTC has been named the Outstanding Public Transportation System in North America by APTA – the American Public Transportation Association. The Toronto Transit Commission was last honoured this way in 1986.  Mayor JOHN TORY – “This award recognizes the transformation and modernization that the TTC has been undergoing over the last few years.” The mayor noted there was a $90-million investment in the TTC in 2015 and an additional $80 million in 2017 to continue rolling out PRESTO across the system, and the York-Spadina subway extension, among other improvements.

The federal government will write a check for $4.8-billion to be spent on TORONTO’s public transit services . . . IF the province kicks in one-third of the costs. The money will be spent on the Downtown Relief Line (DRL), SmartTrack, the Eglinton East LRT & Waterfront Transit.  Infrastructure Minister AMARJEET SOHI has written to Bob Chiarelli, his counterpart at Queen’s Park, outlining the federal government’s plans and stating clearly Ontario will have to cost-share “at a minimum of 33.3% or no dice.

On their way to the G20 Summit, Canada’s Prime Minister JUSTIN TRUDEAU and his wife Sophie Grégoire Trudeau stopped off on July 5 to meet Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. The audience took place in the Palace of Holyroodhouse in EDINBURGH, her official Scottish residence. The Queen was presented with the Canadian flag that flew atop the Peace Tower in Ottawa on Canada Day.

49 baby Blanding’s Turtles have been released into a wetland, soon to become part of TORONTO’s Rouge National Urban Park. The Toronto Zoo has been monitoring and working with this threatened species since 2005, including a program which involves raising hatchlings until they get big enough to be released into the wild.  The Blanding’s Turtle Head-Start conservation program is part of a partnership between the Toronto Zoo, Parks Canada, the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF).

No longer a government white elephant, TORONTO’s MaRS Discovery District has become downtown’s tech hub. Among those who’ve moved in – the Advanced Technologies Group of Uber Technologies Inc., Facebook Inc., Google Inc. Okta Inc., a fast-growing Silicon Valley software company and, in the near future, an expanded Amazon.com Inc.  The federal government has begun fast-tracking visa applications for high-skilled workers. They can be in as quickly as two weeks. The feds have also committed $950-million to tech hubs across Canada – including $125-million for AI (Artificial Intelligence). TORONTO has the engineers. The door is open.

Partnering with Cineplex, THE VOID is opening Canada’s first VR Experience Centre in TORONTO. At its flagship location in NEW YORK’s Times Square, the location-based virtual reality experience allows up to four players to visit the world of “Ghostbusters” by using custom-made headsets and special rumble vests to roam through a set equipped with VR trackers.  Along with TORONTO and NYC, The Void can be found in DUBAI and UTAH. “TORONTO is in the heart of Ontario’s tourism hub and represents the type of market that The Void is looking for,” said CEO Cliff Plumer.

Globe and Mail’s Independence Day cartoon, by BRIAN GABLE, July 4/2017

GERMANY has said ‘yes’ to same-sex marriage in a snap vote. Couples have been granted full marital rights and they’ll be allowed to adopt children. The vote – 393 to 226 with 4 abstentions. – BBC

TORONTO SHORT STORIES – JUNE 5-19/2017

Mayor JOHN TORY welcomed ROSS, an artificial intelligence company, headquartered in San Francisco to TORONTO. The company uses computers to do research for lawyers by sifting through thousands of legal documents looking for key information.  ROSS intelligence co-founder and University of Toronto graduate, ANDREW ARUDA, saysopening a research and development centre here a “no brainer.” calling the city “the hub of artificial intelligence development. TORONTO is where we always knew we had to be.” The Centre will be called ROSS North. <PHOTO – CBC>

TORONTO’s movie, animation & television production business continues to boom – from $1.13-billion in 2011 to $2.01-billion in 2016.  The outlook for 2017 is more of the same.

TORONTO Mayor JOHN TORY has no problem with medical marijuana dispensaries, and decriminalizing smokers of small amounts of pot. “That’s something that should have been done years ago.” But he’s not keen on neighbourhood rogue pop-up pot shops.  The federal government has said nothing about having some wide network of shops on every street corner to sell marijuana,” he said. “They’re in stable neighbourhoods and cause disruptions to families and to other retailers.”

“If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.” With that in mind RYERSON University’s DMZ Startup Incubator has opened an outpost in New York City’s financial district. In the past, Canadian startups have moved to the US, but with this free space in Manhattan they can tap the American market while keeping their headquarters in Canada.  DMZ executive director Abdullah Snobar said “Our play here is not to get talent to leave the country; it’s to grow talent internationally.”

PETRINA BROMLEY & ROMANO DINILLO, the two Newfoundlanders in the cast of ‘Come From Away’ couldn’t contain themselves when their show won the Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical.  Director CHRISTOPHER ASHLEY accepted the Tony and dedicated it to the people of Newfoundland. – The Telegram, St. John’s, Nfld. & Labrador

TORONTO artist Janet Romero has unveiled her wood-paneled mural to commemorate those who died in ORLANDO’s Pulse nightclub shooting one year ago. 49 people lost their lives when a gunman opened fire inside the Florida club – the worst mass shooting in US history.  The mural features four faces as well as natural motifs like cacti and birds. Romero wanted to simultaneously honour the Hispanic victims of the Pulse massacre as well as other groups within the LGBTQ community targeted in violent hate crimes. Her piece – at the 519 Community Centre – is entitled Still Estmaos Aqui – Spanish for “we are still here”.

Just a couple of regular guys kickin’ back at Joe Beef – Liverpool House in MONTREAL’s Little Burgundy – President Barack Obama & Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, June 13/2017

TORONTO SHORT STORIES – MAY 23 – JUNE 3/2017

This was the week Donald Trump pulled America out of the Paris Accord on Climate Change.  In Sunday’s New York Times MAUREEN DOWD headlined her column ‘Trump Stomps Planet Earth”.  She writes “You know you’re in trouble when beclouded Beijing, where birds go to die, replaces you as a leader on climate change.  America is living through a fractured fairy tale, in the grip of a lonely and uninformed mad king, an arrogant and naive princeling, a comely but complicit blond princess and a dyspeptic, dystopian troll (Steve Bannon) under the bridge.” – Sunday, June 4/New York Times

TORONTO’s police union has been invited to march in New York’s Pride Parade in uniform. “The invitation was extended because we felt they were being excluded from the Pride festivities in Toronto, and we fought very hard over a very long period of time here in New York City to have the right to march in uniform,” said Brian Downey, president of the Gay Officers Action League.  Way to go, NEW YORK!

After 25 years in retirement, TORONTO’s maroon-and-cream coloured streetcars are back on Queen’s Quay West. Rides on the Presidents’ Conference Committee cars are free from now until Labour Day – but only on Sundays.

The first NOBU restaurant in Canada is full-speed-ahead even if TORONTO’s real estate bubble might burst. The project on Mercer Street incorporates the Pilkington Glass Factory building, and will include 660 condominium units, a hotel and Nobu. The apartment units will start at roughly $400,000.  Partner ROBERT DE NIRO, who has visited TORONTO several times, will be getting a free apartment. “TORONTO is a great city. It’s got a great film festival, “ he said. “It’s an important city.”

It appears TORONTO’s booming housing real estate market is melting, thanks partly to new provincial regulations. BLOOMBERG NANOS found the share of Canadians expecting house prices to rise in the next six months has fallen to 45.5% from a record high of 50.1% three weeks ago.

TORONTO SHORT STORIES – MAY 15-22/2017

<BASS ISLAND property in Muskoka, listed at $10,800,000>. TORONTO’s real estate frenzy has spread to cottage country as city dwellers cash out and head north. The value of waterfront property in Muskoka, Haliburton and Orillia surged 51.4% year over year in April. The median price of $485,000 was up 30.4% from April/2016. Last week in Haliburton/Muskoka on three big lakes, there were 51 properties listed with an average price of $3-million.  “Privacy is still the key factor when it comes to price. Up here, the definition of privacy is when you can stand on your front deck naked and nobody can see you. You need 200 feet of waterfront to do that.” – Hugh Nichols, Re/Max North Country agent

TORONTO’s Little Portugal and Trinity-Bellwoods Park area have just been ranked #1 for music production in Canada. In a news release The Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN) says “”This diverse and culturally-rich neighbourhood in TORONTO’s south-western quadrant is a hub of creative musical talent, live music venues, and businesses using music to their advantage.”  <PHOTO – Canterbury Music Company, 322 Dufferin Street>

A newborn lamb, one of three, at TORONTO’s inner-city Riverdale Farm. The Farm is located on Sumach Street, north of Carlton. You can reach it easily on the #506 eastbound streetcar. Get off at Sumach and walk north to Riverdale Park.

TORONTO again proves its key importance by landing the federal government’s infrastructure bank. The city’s Financial District will give members easy access to investors whose cash the feds need to make their bank work.  $35-billion in federal funds will be used to entice private investment in public transit, highways and electrical grids that generate revenues through user fees or tolls. Approximately $15-billion of that will be cash, with the remaining $20-billion in repayable loans or equity stakes that shouldn’t affect the government’s bottom line.

Londoner ROSE POWER sent her best wishes to TORONTO this week in a letter published by Metro News.  “I would recommend anyone wanting to enjoy great food, sights and friendly people in a safe city, really ought to give TORONTO a try!  They won’t be disappointed.  I also think TORONTO should be held up as an awesome model of multiculturalism working at its finest.”

TORONTO SHORT STORIES – APRIL 29 TO MAY 6/2017

The TORONTO skyline in the late 1960’sMark Blinch/Reuters

TORONTO skyline as it was in February/2017 and it keeps on growing – by Razz/urbantoronto.ca

TORONTO, MONTREAL & everything in between was drenched by continuous downpours this week. Lake Ontario rose higher than it’s been in 3 decades.  There were fears the Don River <PHOTO ABOVE> would overflow its banks.  Didn’t happen.

What are the 23-year-olds up to these days? This one climbed a construction crane in the middle of the night, sat down on the hook and waited to be rescued. Firefighter ROB WONFOR risked his life by climbing the tower in two difficult hours, descending the crane’s cabling (!) and bringing MARISA LAZO safely back to earth where police were waiting.  <PHOTO ABOVE – Tyler Anderson/National Post>

We love you, NEW YORK CITY, but the “rhetoric” coming out of Donald Trump’s White House is turning us off. His diatribe against Canada’s dairy & softwood lumber industries and NAFTA aren’t helping matters. Predictions are that The Big Apple will see 300,000 fewer foreign tourists in 2017, and 17,000 of those will be Canadians.  Fred Dixon, CEO of NYC’s official tourism organization says “We recognize there are challenges at the border . . . We want to remind everyone that New York City is welcoming and that we are a diverse and safe city, a sanctuary city like TORONTO, and we value the same things.”

For the first time in history, there are as many seniors as young people in this country, and they’re living longer than ever before. This phenomenon will have ripple effects on everything from the cost of benefits to the age of retirement as Canada tries to find its footing in the new age of aging. – TORONTO STAR, May 2/2017

TORONTO SHORT STORIES – MARCH 21-31/2017

The three green cubes at the foot of Sumach Street, TORONTO landmarks since 1996, are up for sale. Unfortunately they’re sitting on a prime piece of land and could go for over $3-million. The home was last sold in 2002 for $265,000 when the neighbourhood was pretty much an undeveloped wasteland. But all of this is changing rapidly.  Hopes are high that they can somehow be saved.  <PHOTO – Eduardo Lima/Metro News>

Bonnie and Clyde, High Park Zoo’s most famous rodents, are now mom and dad to three bundles of joy. Born on February 23, the pups have been kept indoors because “they’re South American and they’re babies, so they need to stay inside,” said city spokesperson Megan Price. <PHOTO – Jason McCullough>

BETTY KENNEDY, once one of Canada’s best-known television and radio personalities, died at 91. For 27 years she hosted ‘The Betty Kennedy Show’ on TORONTO’s CFRB. And for 33 years she was the only female panelist on CBC television’s “Front Page Challenge”. Mrs. Kennedy-Burton was also a senator for seven months – retiring, as required, in January/2001 upon reaching the mandatory age.  <PHOTO – Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press>

TOURISM TORONTO has launched a new campaign – ‘The Views Are Different Here’ – promoting our city as Canada’s Downtown.
Andrew Weir, CEO of Tourism Toronto says T.O. is the most-visited destination in Canada. While other cities have vibrant downtowns “international visitors will start in TORONTO … because that’s where the planes fly. People want Canada, and they want the cities of Canada.”  Check out Tourism Toronto’s website and see their new video – http://www.seetorontonow.com/#sm.00003d3687bc0ctvw3r19grtn5c68

A grand piece of TORONTO architecture – the Dominion Public Building – has been sold for $275.1-million. It was purchased by Larco Investments, a Vancouver-based company that also owns Ottawa’s Chateau Laurier Hotel.  The Dominion Public building, 1 Front Street West, was the federal government’s first customs house, where imports and exports were administered and inspected. The building’s first of two phases was built from 1929 to 1931. In 1934 and 1935 the west pavilion was added.

GILBERT BAKER, the “Betsy Ross” of the Rainbow Flag died on Friday, March 31. Although the original underwent a few revisions, the design has endured for over 30 years as the international symbol of the LGBTQ community.  The first Rainbow Flag appeared at San Francisco Pride on June 25, 1978. Mr. Baker said “I knew instantly when I saw the reaction that it was going to be something. I didn’t know what or how or – but I knew.” He refused to apply for a trademark for his creation, saying it was his life’s work and his gift to the world. Mr. Baker was 65.

TORONTO SHORT STORIES – MARCH 6-20/2017

NOBU Hospitality, the luxury restaurant and hotel chain founded by actor Robert De Niro, famous Japanese chef Nobu Matsuhisa and Hollywood producer Meir Teper, will soon be coming to TORONTO. Two 49-storey bronze towers will be built above the current Pilkington Glass Factory on Mercer Street, and will include a hotel, NOBU, retail space and an outdoor Zen garden. The glass factory’s facade will be part of the development.

Sidewalk superintendents gathered to watch DON, one of two tunnel-boring machines (TBMs), hoisted above ground and taken apart. It had been digging underground for nearly four years, helping to build the Crosstown LRT’s north tunnel.  The 400-tonne monster was disassembled along Eglinton Avenue. A second TBM, named HUMBER (after the river), surfaced a few days later. The TBM’s bored 16-20 metres below ground, around the clock, with a crew of six operators each.

German Chancellor ANGELA MERKEL spent some time at the White House and left many of us wondering just what she was thinking as the day progressed. Ms. Merkel has a very expressive face, and news photographers captured a variety of candid nuances from pleasure to bewilderment.

Charles Edward Anderson CHUCK BERRY, one of the founding fathers of rock ‘n roll, has died at the age of 90. He grew up in Missouri during the time of racial segregation; rose to become a worldwide star; was jailed for robbery at the age of 17; lived an outrageous life; became famous for his ‘duck walk’ as well as Johnny B. Goode, Roll Over Beethoven and Sweet Little Sixteen“He lit up our teenage years, and blew life into our dreams of being musicians and performers,” – Mick Jagger.

TORONTO SHORT STORIES – FEBRUARY 13-27/2017

lastfarmer1The Reesors came to the TORONTO area in 1804. “It was a Mennonite family. They came from Pennsylvania. travelled up and bought land in this area. It’s been in the same family ever since,” said Dale Reesor to Metro News reporter Chris Bateman. Their farm is the last significant chunk of undeveloped land in northern SCARBOROUGH.

Shawn Micallef EventSo near and yet so far. In his new book, Shawn Micallef – among other things – brings some old skeletons out of the closet. The Rob Ford ‘administration’, the gravy train, amalgamation, the village mentality, NIMBYism, suburbs vs downtown elites, taxes, transit, gridlock, the province – the whole roiling mass.  Micallef paints a picture of a city facing serious social, environmental and economic challenges, yet also in a position to create a promising future.

stuartmclean1STUART McLEAN, CBC radio host of ‘The Vinyl Cafe’ and award-winning humorist and storyteller died of melanoma at the age of 68. Both on the stage and on radio he had millions of fans from the late 70’s to the present day.  McLean also created current affairs radio documentaries for CBC Radio’s ‘Sunday Morning’, including an ACTRA Award-winning piece in 1979 about the Jonestown massacre.

banksy1A stencil painting by BANKSY, created several years ago in a TORONTO laneway, has been saved and reinstalled at #1 York Street. The restored artwork can be found in a second-floor PATH pedestrian walkway in a condo, office and retail building, just south of the Gardiner Expressway.  The piece was created during the artist’s trip to TORONTO for the release of his film, ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop’, a documentary about street art.

nandu1NANDU, the Indian Rhino calf at Toronto Zoo is one year old this month and weighs in at nearly 1,400 pounds.  His horn continues to grow and he’s still playful with his mom ASHAKIRAN. The marks you see are minor scratches as he and mom spend a lot of time playing with one another. The marks heal quite quickly and it isn’t long before they are both playfighting again.

meme5Prime Minister JUSTIN TRUDEAU meets with President Trump in Washington DC.  He neatly avoids the Trumpster’s crushing handshake.

bookmobile1TORONTO Public Library has unveiled its new technology-filled bookmobile ready to hit the streets this coming May. The $300,000 vehicle is equipped with free Wi-Fi, large computer screens and tablets – ideal for job searches and research.

realestate1TORONTO has placed 8th out of 500 cities in the 10th annual Innovation Cities Index by Melbourne-based 2thinknow consulting company. The cities are scored on 162 indicators grouped into 3 categories: culture, infrastructure and location & access to networked markets.  The Top 10 – 1) London 2) New York 3) Tokyo 4) San Francisco/San Jose 5) Boston 6) Los Angeles 7) Singapore 8) TORONTO 9) Paris 10) Vienna