A Pandemic Night’s Wanderings: The Beaches, AGO, Grange Park

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All photos in this post taken on May 11, 2020 and copyright Jamie Bradburn. 

A crisp night with few people out and about: the perfect time for my wife and I to wander around the city.

We began our journey on Queen Street in the east end of The Beaches. So far we haven’t relied on wine to get us through the crisis, but, judging from the regular lineups we’ve seen outside of LCBO stores, plenty of others are. Perhaps this is a good time to branch out and try different brands and styles, or conduct experiments in home vintages.

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Outside a pet supply store, spaces were marked out for socially distanced pickup. Or was it a tribute to those unfortunate souls who earn three strikes on Family Feud?

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At Beech Avenue, a quartet of Muskoka chairs for a socially distanced rest.

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Films on extended run at the Fox Theatre.

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A message similar to those on marquees across the city, with a touch of Bogey.

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A quiet night at the laundromat, with baskets lined up neatly in a row.

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With the speed that businesses were forced to close, there are still a few St. Patrick’s Day displays kicking around. Later on, we reflected on how many window displays in the city have frozen a moment in time, and wondered if that’s incredible or unsettling.

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A note of thanks painted on Valumart’s window.

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We walked down to the lake, where warnings about ongoing work by the TRCA and COVID greeted us at the bottom of Silver Birch Avenue.

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All along the boardwalk, there were signs that chairs and benches had once been covered with police tape, but the public had other ideas regarding their use. Other wanderers were seen admiring the clear night sky from Muskoka chairs along the beach.

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After weaving our way along side streets back to the car, we headed into downtown. I’ve barely visited the core since the crisis began, and the few experiences haven’t been entirely pleasant. One night I drove along Yonge Street and played dodge ball with panhandlers driven by the lack of foot traffic into more desperate behaviour towards motorists. I feared for their safety (wandering in and out of traffic in a way that could have been fatal had they encountered road racers) and mine (blocking my path as I tried to turn, aggressively knocking on the window).  It was an uncomfortable experience for many reasons, ranging from practical (don’t accidentally injure or kill somebody!) to societal (was I nervous because these were desperate people coping with poverty and mental illness?).

We parked along McCaul across from OCAD. Few people were around, and the silence was broken by the occasional diverted streetcar passing by. The school was well lit.

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At the AGO, a reminder of exhibitions I’ll never get to see. We talked about how museums might reopen, figuring those with large, roomy exhibition spaces where social distancing occur easily might return first, perhaps with reduced capacity or a reservation system for viewing time. Special exhibitions may have to have less “wow” factor to keep crowds away.

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So, so quiet.

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On the backside of the AGO, the garbage and recycling containers in Grange Park were taped off.

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Henry Moore’s Two Large Forms seems to have found a good home in the revitalized park since moving from the other side of the gallery in 2017. Google Maps currently describes the park as a “city oasis with a Henry Moore sculpture.”

Won’t deny that…

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Like several other downtown landmarks, OCAD was bathed in a purple glow to honour those working in the hospitality industry.

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Its doors may be closed due to COVID, but the University Settlement Community Centre still shines its lights on Grange Road.

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Among the other buildings lit in purple: Casa Loma, which we drove by on our way home.

Snapshots from Celebration Square

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Needing an escape from the house before last weekend’s snowstorm, I wandered out to Mississauga’s city centre in the middle of a west-end errand run. For all the sunshine, it was a quiet afternoon, with few skaters enjoying the skyline surrounding Celebration Square.

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Maybe people were afraid to take a lunch time risk, or maybe they were stuck in surrounding office buildings, dreaming of tying on skates to start their weekend.

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The east side of the rink was lined with neon signs to brighten the January blahs.

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From CS&P Architects website:

The transformation of both the Mississauga City Hall and Library Squares into Celebration Square, a single, coherent public space, has helped to revitalize the City’s downtown core, and serves as a catalyst for economic development and tourism. The project scope includes a major outdoor sound stage and video screens, a smaller amphitheatre, as well as landscape gardens and lawn, water fountains, skating rinks, public plazas, a multi-purpose pavilion, food services, a market structure, and a War Memorial. The initiative was based on the principles developed in close collaboration with multiple citizen groups. The dramatic transformation has significantly increased the use of the Square for daily civil life.

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Opened in June 2011, Celebration Square works well as the heart of Mississauga. It was developed in consultation with New York City-based Project for Public Spaces. “Our impression is that they have bravely gone forward with radical ideas that I think every city should be trying and not every city does,” Philip Myrick, a consultant working with the Project told the Mississauga News in 2012. “I think more and more cities are realizing standard procedures aren’t what people are looking for these days and they need to pay attention to how to create the desirability (for residents).” On opening day, mayor Hazel McCallion hoped that the space would “develop a citywide spirit.”

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Pull up a chair, soak up the sun, sit back, relax, and await the next day’s blast of winter.

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Whenever I walk through Celebration Square, especially when festivities are happening, I feel like I’m in the heart of a city rather than a plaza slapped down in the middle of a suburb.

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The book sale section of the Mississauga Public Library’s central branch is not large, but tends to be filled with interesting finds, such as a shelf-and-a-half of Ontario Hydro reports stretching from the pre-First World War era to the opening of its first nuclear plants. All yours for a dollar each.

I grabbed four volumes from the early 1920s, partly in case I ever have to write about a key period in the development of hydro in the province, partly to decipher half the Twitter-esque editorials published in the Telegram during this era (public ownership of hydro, and support for Adam Beck’s dream of a radial railway system were pet causes of the paper at the time).

Also purchased: a book of notes from Dionne Brand, a Pelican tie-in to Britain’s Open University, and a paperback of English working class oral history.

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I took a quick walk around Square One, entering by this nod to the lunar new year.

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I didn’t see any “brownie ate my cookie” treats in the window of Reds, but nearly gave in to the temptation of their delicious two-bite butter tarts.

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Locally-inspired art in the men’s department of Simons. Here’s the description of this piece, Raincity Robot, by Brendan Lee Satish Tang:

Fusing futuristic and traditional ideas, Brendan L.S. Tang’s Raincity Robot (an extension of his Manga Ormulu series) illustrates the tensions and contradictions that characterize contemporary culture. The Chinese vase of the Raincity Robot is reminiscent of the Four Sisters smokestacks at the former Lakeview Generating Station, while the barnacle-like robotic prosthetics at the base reference the lakeside geography and technological industry of Mississauga.

Art and shopping malls go well together. As owners and communities devise new uses for mall space as chains fold, more art galleries would work well, either as satellites to existing institutions, pop-ups, or new creations. The Art Gallery of Windsor temporarily moved into Devonshire Mall during the mid-1990s after its former home became the city’s first casino site and. As the Canadian Encyclopedia puts it, “the gallery board saw the move to a shopping mall as an opportunity to bring art closer to the world that inspires it and to find out more about how art finds its place in to our culture.” I took advantage of the relocation, often sticking my head in after scouring the mall’s record stores.

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Outside Simons, it appeared the we-don’t-take-your-stinkin’-cash Eva’s Chimneys is being replaced with something called “Stuffies.” I quickly imagined a food stall catering to furries.

It’s a New Year. Let’s Take a Look.

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Toronto Star, December 31, 1969. Full-size version.

As the action-packed year that was 1969 drew to a close, many drew on the moon landing and its images of Earth to reflect on the state of the world and its future. Eaton’s chose its final ad of its centennial year to contemplate the issues of the day.

Fifty years on, many of the concerns discussed in this ad remain. Elders still belittle idealistic youth. Holdouts still refuse to clean up our world. War is still with us, with the lessons of earlier global conflicts being rapidly forgotten in some quarters. Feeding and housing people at affordable levels remains problematic, and grows worse in “developed” nations. Great strides have been made against discrimination, but old attitudes die hard and are, in some cases, slow to change or stumbling backwards. And responsibility, especially in the political realm?

(cue maniacal laughter)

tely 1969-12-31 editorials on 1960s and 1970s

Cartoon by Yardley Jones, the Telegram, December 31, 1969.

As for the comment that “if the sixties taught us anything, they taught us once and for all that we are a community,” a lot of people took that to heart and have done their best to work toward the common good. But a loud segment has gone the other way, preferring to promote divisiveness for personal and political gain. Excessive partisanship seems to be leading us down a dead-end road or worse. The media trades on despair and misery, driving people deeper into those states, making it hard some days to focus on those working towards a hopeful, survivable future.

Maybe we need to channel our anger better, ignoring rage for the sake of rage. Anger requires meaning, not a Tweeted outburst or hanging on every outrageous comment somebody makes because they require attention 24/7. Or, to paraphrase this ad, our future will be full enough of rational problems without having to expend energy on irrational ones.

Except that we will.

Such is life.

My resolution for 2020 is seeking the positive and productive wherever I can in an environment dominated by doom, gloom, and more doom. I will strive to write material and share historical knowledge and research that enlightens and entertains, reconnect with my surroundings and community, temper cynicism with hope and compassion, and generally help others whenever I can without my misanthropic impulses getting in the way (except when cursing at people in this city who don’t care to know how to drive, bike, or walk).

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What this site will look like in 2020? While there’s still plenty of material waiting to be updated, I will add more new content as time permits. There will be more pieces based on present-day wanderings around the city. I’d like to write some general posts about history and its processes, but may either start a separate site for those, or include them on my still-in-progress professional page. Depending on interest, I may try to launch some tie-in activities, such as walks or talks. I feel like this is the year I need to break through a few barriers, and hope you’ll join me as I smash through them.