160 cm & 1:30 p.m.

25 September 2014 — Goodness, the things your body can tell you when you explore Toronto’s east-end parks! All these metrics (both senses of the word, now that I think about it) and a trip down Memory Lane to boot. A literal, physical, located-in-geographic-space Memory Lane.

But all that comes later. The day’s amusement starts with Blue Dog.

Main & Gerrard wall mural

The picture is not upside-down, the dog is upside-down and perfectly happy, as you can see. So am I, because it is Saturday, the weather is sunny & a balmy 24C, and I am working my way south from Main & Danforth toward Lake Ontario.

I don’t expect Blue Dog, but there he is at Main & Gerrard, part of a wall mural sponsored by two adjoining businesses. One makes perfect sense: it’s a very trendy dog spa. The other … well, how surprising. And delightful. A decidedly old-style electric motor shop has its name on the wall as well.

I turn from Main St. onto Kingston Road , start following its curve south-west, love the way all the shops have their doors & windows open to the beautiful day and, on impulse, wander into one of them — a very stylish garden accessory shop. I buy nothing, but I am rewarded anyway.

Are you ready? Quote of the Day. Maybe of the Year.

“Don’t judge a book by its movie.” This is neatly printed on a rather chunky block of wood, presumably the perfect blunt object with which to wallop loutish movie producers.

And on. Down some leafy residential streets, last blooms still glorious but trees & shrubs starting to change colour.

Onto Woodbine now, and a straight drop toward the lake — but I stop short at Queen East & walk through Measurement Park. It is the goofiest theme for a park I can imagine, and I find it irresistible.

Measurement Park, Eastern  Av.

You got it. A lot — a whole lot — of bright blue poles, each calibrated to 270 cm. I discover I am 160 cm. I read once, somewhere, why someone decided to drive the creation of a park of measuring sticks; I now forget why, but I am so glad it exists.

For all it’s called Measurement Park, it is a kind of sub-park, tucked into the N/E corner of Woodbine Park — which stretches south from here to Lakeshore Blvd. East and butts up against Coxwell Av. on its western flank. I follow it south, enjoying the open grassy stretches but looking forward to the shrubs & pathways to come.

boardwalk in Woodbine Park

Heart of the city, traffic on all sides, and look. Trails in the woods. This part is boardwalk, there is wetland underneath, and that is because …

… around the next curve, there is a great big pond. It is big enough for a rowboat or canoe, with reeds & grasses to the south side and waterways through them for boaters to explore. All that is still hidden from view, but the pond’s central feature is already drawing me in.

I can hear it, I can see the tip of it, a plume of water that soars into the air, and dances its way back down again. I come round the curve, and there it is.

Woodbine Park jet d'eau

There’s something visceral about the sight & sound of dancing water. Tattoo Man feels it, I feel it, anyone of any age or origin responds.

And the pond’s generous curve of benches invite you to sit, and enjoy your response for a while.

benches by the Woodbine Park pond

Which I do.

Then, bright-eyed again, I walk on along Lakeshore Blvd., noticing how the trees are morphing from one season to the next. Soon these leaves will be fully orange, then they’ll bleach & drop to the ground … but, for the moment, they sway in the breeze, richly dappled in the dappled light.

trees along Lakeshore Blvd East

I spend a moment in Skateboard Park, just the other side of Coxwell, watch young teenage boys leap & spin & hone their skills. Slap-SLAP go the wheels on impact.

But I stay only for a moment, because now I want to go tell the time. With my very own 160 centimetres.

Millennium Garden sun clock

See? It’s the sun clock in Millennium Garden, at the N/W corner of Woodbine Park. The central column is incised with the months of the year — not in calendar order, but in sun time-telling order. The great arcs above are incised from 1 to 12. Two arcs, of course: one each, Standard Time & Daylight Saving.

So you line up your toes on the appropriate month …

toes to September, sun clock Millennium Garden

… and, hey presto, your head tells you the time.

it's 1:30!

My wristwatch & my head-clock agree: it is now 1:30 p.m.

Time to get moving! On westward, on along Queen St. East. Brief stop for a latte; slightly longer stop in Jaws Antiques, whose extremely crowded front window also advertises the owner’s Retirement Sale. Jaws? I bet there is a shark or two inside. I swear I saw everything else, starting with, right inside the front door …

doorway roosters, Jaws Antiques

My nest goal is Maple Leaf Forever Park.

I didn’t even know it existed, until today — and only now, thanks to my wonderful crumple-cloth map of the city. (A $1 bargain in the Cabbagetown yard sales a few weeks ago.) It turns out to be the garden park immediately behind the one-time home of Alexander Muir, the schoolteacher-patriot who wrote The Maple Leaf Forever. His home, now called Maple Cottage, is still preserved, as is the trunk of the silver maple tree that inspired the song. Both are situated at the intersection of Laing St. & Memory Lane, which you follow to reach the park.

I read the plaque:

plaque at Maple Cottage

How fitting that, as I take the photo, a wasp hovers over my hand. How pleased the Grand Orange Lodge of British America would be, to know that a WASP (aka White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) guards the property!

Whole other mood when I hit Queen & Broadview. The N/E corner is home to Dangerous Dan’s Diner, a neighbourhood icon & as Gastronomically Incorrect as it is possible to be. These are the people who once advertised Cholesterol Burgers. They are also the people who will sell you posters guaranteed to scare your health-conscious friends into a heart attack.

Dangerous Dan’s posters

Just $1.50, or 5 for $5.00, what a deal.

Speaking of health conscious, how about a bike trail? With art work thrown in.

Dundas E. bridge over the Don River, bike trail below

I peer through the lattice-work railings of the Dundas St. bridge over the Don River, and there it is.

One last impulse stop, one last bit of art work, and again a big change in mood. I follow several others through the open doors of St. Batholomew’s Anglican Church, just opposite the new Regent Park park near Parliament. St. Bart’s is very high church (oh, you have to be Anglican to follow this), self-described as Anglo-Catholic, but also proud of its open doors, and open arms, for all members of this highly diverse community.

St Bartholomew’s Anglican Church

This window glows in the darkened entrance-well. The others who entered with me sign a prayer request, then gather up pamphlets. “A contemplative space in Regent Park,” says one. “The ancient faith for the contemporary world,” says another.

I walk on home.


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  1. Don’t judge a book by its movie has to be some of the best literary advice ever. And I want one of those burgers… but I don’t think I could manage five!

    • The diner neer lacks customers. I haven’t chosen to eat there myself, but I admire their cheerful rejection of all those good-health rules (even though I try to follow them myself). The area has been gentrifying itself around them, and I always like to see some hold-outs from earlier times.

  2. The boardwalk through the trees reminds me of when I lived in Wisconsin…so beautiful, all of your photos!


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    "Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking" -- Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

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