Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and here to see the full list of topics for the year.
There have been quite a few books set in Toronto over the years!
One of the recent ones was Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. I read it when it first came out in 2014 and do remember enjoying it.
Since my brain has decided to only retain vague memories of what I liked about it and why, here is the official blurb :
Set in the days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.
One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time—from the actor’s early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as the Traveling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains—this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor’s first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet.
If you like books that are half science fiction and half literary fiction, you might enjoy this one!
Someday I’ll try to read it again and see if I can dislodge any old memories of it. Isn’t it irritating when you read a book but can’t remember much about it at all? 🙂
Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and here to see the full list of topics for the year.
About eight years ago, my spouse and I spent the day at Toronto Island with some relatives who were visiting from out of town.
If you’ve never been to Toronto Island, know that it’s a large public park that also has other amenities like a petting zoo, beaches, restaurants, bike and boat rentals, and a small amusement park.
It’s the quintessential place to spend a day with your entire family when the weather is nice. There is something to do there for everyone no matter your age or interests.
After spending several happy hours exploring the island, we hopped on the ferry to back to the mainland. There were between 50 and 100 other people on the ferry, including infants, disabled people, and senior citizens.
The ferries here move quickly on the water to save time, and they only slow down right before they approach the dock.
For reasons I’ve never been able to ascertain, this ferry didn’t slow down. It slammed into the dock instead, sending multiple people crashing to the floor because they were either standing up at the time or weren’t physically strong enough to remain seated. One of the people who fell was my own father!
My mother, who was a nurse back then, immediately leapt up to see if anyone needed medical assistance. We feared the worst given how hard and abruptly the ferry slammed into the pier and how many people were onboard who could be at higher risk of being seriously hurt by falling.
Miraculously, no one needed first aid. A few people who fell might have woken up with a bruise or two the next morning, but that would have been the absolutely worst of it to the best of my knowledge. No one needed my mother’s help after all.
I was very lucky that day, and so was everyone else onboard.
(Yes, I have taken the ferry once or twice since then. Don’t let this story scare you off if you haven’t tried this form of transportation yet. It’s usually perfectly safe, and you get a marvellous view of the city during the ride as well).
Last year I shared photos from one of the parks in Toronto once a month to show my readers what our landscape looks like throughout the year. This is an update to two trees in that series that were badly damaged in a winter storm in early 2020.
Welcome back to this photo essay series! This post will be shorter than previous instalments in it since I’m only focusing on the two damaged trees that some readers requested an update on after the winter of 2020-2021 ended.
Let’s begin with the tree that lost a third of its leaves in that storm last year.
Look at how nearly all of its branches continue to bend down. You rarely see anything like that here.
A week or two ago, I noticed a branch that was taller than me lying on the ground next to it. I suspect that it fell off during a recent storm due to the lack of cut marks on it and the way the bark was peeled off, but I can’t say for certain.
On a more recent visit, I saw this. I thought it was the same branch but also couldn’t confirm it.
The trunk looks like it’s beginning to split open, and something appears to be growing inside of it. Maybe it’s mould or a fungus of some sort?
I worry about the survival of this tree as well as the possibility of someone getting hurt if a large branch falls on them while they’re standing near it.
In happier news, the tree that originally lost half of its branches and a good chunk of its trunk is not showing any signs of mould (or whatever that stringy stuff was) growing in it. The wound on its drunk appears to be dry. There are no deep cracks in the wood, and all of it’s branches are as straight as the branches on healthy trees nearby.
And to think I originally assumed this tree had been killed in that storm! Nature is full of surprises.
May it stick around for many years to come.
I’ll continue to keep an eye on these trees and will provide another update in this series if either one of them experiences a dramatic change in health for the better or the worse. My hope is that any future update in this series will only contain good news, but we’ll have to see what happens.
If you’ve ever seen trees in your area go through similar injuries, I’d love to hear about your experiences there.
My reduction in blogging time will continue on for now. As much as I miss interacting with all of you more often, I’m enjoying the quieter schedule and using that writing time to focus on my speculative fiction.
Since most of the people who read this site don’t live in Toronto and Halloween is my favourite holiday of the year by far, this seemed like the perfect time to share some of our spooky local urban legends.
The Lady in Red
Lower Bay subway station was built in 1966 and shut down six months later because the Toronto Transit Commission realized that any delays at that stop would shut down our entire subway system.
A new subway station was built on top of it, and the original one is only rarely available for public viewing.
Legend has it that a woman wearing a red dress wanders around Lower Bay station, but no one knows who she is
. There are no records of accidents that might explain why this spirit spooks TTC employees and the occasional film crew that wander around down there.
We do know that this patch of land was once a Potter’s Field whose coffins were partially cleared out when the city wanted space for public transit, so she might be the ghost of someone who either had no next of kin when she died or who was abandoned by them.
The Underwater UFO Base in Lake Ontario
Multiple people have reported seeing lights shimmering over, plunging into, or leaping out of Lake Ontario. These sightings have given rise to the legend that there is an underwater UFO base located in the bottom of this lake.
Perhaps the aliens come from an aquatic planet and wouldn’t do well out here on dry land?
The Seneca First Nations tribe were the first people to record sightings of our own sea monster. As early as the 1850s, white settlers claimed to see something much bigger than the average fish swimming around in Lake Ontario as well. They described it as a blue-grey serpent that was about 50 feet long.
A Haunting at Old Finch Road
There are many different versions of this tale. They all tend agree that a girl was murdered on Old Finch Road, possibly near a bridge.
Many versions say she died on her birthday and will appear to you if you sing Happy Birthday to her because the person who murdered her wrote “Happy Birthday, Susie” on a nearby rock after killing her. (Although the victim’s name changes quite a bit depending on which version of the story you hear).
Some people have also claimed to hear screams and moans when travelling along this road.
Gibraltar Point Lighthouse on Toronto Island
Mr. John Paul Rademuller was the first lighthouse keeper on this little island back when it was still a peninsula. In order to make some extra money, he was a brewer and bootlegger as well.
Legend has it that two drunken sailors came to visit him one day to buy some of his beer. When Rademuller refused to sell it to them, they killed him, dismembered his body, and buried pieces of it around the island.
In some versions of this tale, it is said that parts of him were eventually found but that his head was never recovered at all. Other versions say his ghost still continues to wander the island because his killers were never punished for their crime and not because parts of his skeleton might still be waiting to be found.
Allegedly, there were some bones found near the lighthouse in 1893, but investigators didn’t yet have the scientific tools to tell if they belonged to Mr. Rademuller or not.
Mrs. Jemima Howard’s Last Days
The unique thing about Mrs. Howard is that we have many historical records that document her life. She was the wife of John G. Howard, and they both gave the land that would later become High Park to the city of Toronto after their deaths.
Mr. and Mrs. Howard lived happily in Colborne Lodge for many years. They never had children, but they doted on their nieces and nephews who temporarily came to live with them while finishing their educations.
Sadly, Jemima Howard was diagnosed with breast cancer long before we had any treatments for it other than morphine and laudanum for her pain. She died at home in her own bed surrounded by loved ones. If she looked out her window, she could see the spot where she (and later her husband) would be buried.
Their headstone is the only one allowed in High Park, and it’s a beautiful, peaceful spot a short distance from their home.
Some visitors to Colborne Lodge have reported seeing a woman peering out of the second story bedroom where Jemima spent her last days. Others have reported cold spots and poltergeist activity.
Maybe Jemima never left home after all.
What is your favourite urban legend from your city, town, or community?
There are a few things about Canadian and, more specifically, Torontonian culture that I should explain here for anyone who isn’t already familiar with them before diving into the meat of this post.
I am speaking in broad generalities here and this is a large, diverse country, so please make friendly allowances for that if your Canadian cousin/acquaintance/coworker etc. has had other experiences. There are no secret Canadian meetings where we come to a consensus on this stuff, and it’s just about impossible to get 38 million folks to agree on everything anyways.
With that being said, people make less small talk here there than do in my birth country, the United States. It’s good manners to nod and say hello to neighbours and other folks you’ve seen around before, but you generally don’t talk to strangers unless you have an excellent reason to do so.
At least in large cities here, sidewalks are serious business. Locals walk briskly and single file unless the sidewalk is large enough for larger groups to walk side-by-side. Loitering should only be done in places where you won’t slow down the flow of traffic, especially at lunchtime and in the early evening when the sidewalks are filled with nonstop crowds.
Tourists are the exceptions to these rules. If a stranger asks you for directions or advice on visiting your neighbourhood, you always stop and help them to the best of your ability. Sometimes a large group of tourists will walk slowly down the middle of the sidewalk while trying to figure out where to eat dinner or which attraction to visit next . This, too, is okay. Guests should always be treated with respect and kindness. Just turn the corner and take another street if you’re truly in a rush. If not, slow down and savour the moment.
Now that you know a little bit about how things normally function in urban Canada, let’s continue.
Toronto was eerily quiet in March and April when the Covid-19 lockdowns began. It’s slowly grown more active again as our public health agencies have given our premier permission to reopen certain businesses and relax the quarantine and physical distancing rules.
Yet this still isn’t like any July I’ve known in all my years here. Just like everywhere else, there are no tourists here.
The sidewalks by the busiest roads are beginning to fill up again, but they’re much quieter than they should be. Some streets are still completely empty even at what should be the busiest portions of the weekend.
No one has asked me about good local restaurants and whether the trendy, expensive ones are worth the money. (Some are, but most aren’t in my opinion unless you’re a diehard foodie and Instagrammer. Let me direct you to an awesome hole-in-the-wall down the street instead if what you really want is a full, happy belly).
Nobody wants to know whether they should visit the Toronto Zoo or the Royal Ontario Museum. (They’re both fun, but save the zoo for a day with nice weather when you’re not planning to do much else at all. It’s 90% outdoors, requires hours of walking to see it all, and really isn’t close to any other major attractions at all).
People don’t approach each other much at all these days. We generally keep our distance whenever possible for disease prevention reasons. With the exception of the occasional person asking for spare change, I can’t remember the last time I spoke to a stranger.
Each month I share photos from one of the parks in Toronto to show my readers what our landscape looks like throughout the year. This is the fifth instalment of this series. Click on February, March, April, and May to read the earlier posts. It was 20 Celsius (68 Fahrenheit) and sunny this time which I think… Read More
Click on the tag “hope” at this bottom of this post to read about all of my suggestions for hopeful science fiction. If you have recommendations for future instalments of this series, I’d sure like to hear them. Leave a comment below or send me message about it on Twitter. Earlier this year I discovered… Read More
Hosted by Long and Short Reviews. Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and here to see the full list of topics for the year. Most people immediately think of Toronto when they hear the word Ontario. I love my city, but today I wanted to highlight the province as a whole.… Read More