Scenes of Toronto: Fall 2007

Part One: Pumpkin Watch

Originally published on Torontoist on October 29, 2007.

Torontoist firmly believes in the old adage that one can never have too many photographs of pumpkins. Whether they are ornately carved, falling from a 32nd floor window or baked into a luscious pie, we are always on the prowl at this time of the year for interesting shots of glorious gourds.

Unfortunately, many of the city’s pumpkins come to a tragic end. Take the smashed specimen above, found sitting atop a phone at Duncan and Queen on Sunday afternoon.

Our guess is that Saturday-night revelers in Clubland found this innocent gourd and decided to have fun with it. Perhaps they drop-kicked the pumpkin, with a portion landing on the phone. Perhaps they were stricken with a sudden case of the munchies. Perhaps in its final minutes the pumpkin attempted to call 911 for help, until it realized that it had no opposable digits.

Part Two: A Crack in the Infrastructure

Originally published on Torontoist on November 8, 2007.


Spray-painted markings for infrastructure projects are a common sight in the urban landscape. A myriad of numbers and arrows painted on lawns and sidewalks form a special language for technical crews to follow, usually to locate buried pipes and wires.

Sometimes they point out the obvious.

Torontoist is relieved that we no will no longer trip over breaks in the pavement without warning whenever we walk through Rosedale. Mothers everywhere are grateful that fewer broken backs may stem from this crack.

We tip our hat to the utility crew (or prankster) responsible.

Marking discovered on Sherbourne Street near Elm Avenue. 

Part Three: The Coziest Coffee Shop in Town

Originally published on Torontoist on November 30, 2007.

Coffee Shop Inside

Torontoist likes its java joints in all shapes and sizes. Whether it’s a mom-and-pop lunch counter that has fired up the pots since Confederation, multinational chains, or the latest in fairly traded barista artistry, Toronto is home to a wide variety of places where one can find an honest cup of joe and a comfortable place to sit.

Our latest discovery may be the city’s coziest coffee counter. Located on College west of Bathurst, it is not recommended for the claustrophobic. Space inside may be at a premium, but the weathered sign indicates that sitting in a position reminiscent of an elementary school fire drill barely hinders one’s enjoyment of a freshly ground drink.


For a time, I wrote these little vignettes based on photos I took while strolling around the city. They were quick to prepare, and allowed me to be silly. I’ll group them by season as I come across them in the vaults.

One other thing you may notice if you click the link to the original sidewalk crack story: the story is credited to Kevin Plummer. Due to a glitch which occurred during one of Torontoist’s revamps, posts from November 2007 are not necessarily credited to the people who actually wrote them. There are at least three bearing my name which I didn’t write, covering ballet, a Slash biography, and holiday skating in Nathan Phillips Square. On the other hand, three installments of “Vintage Toronto Ads” wound up under Kevin’s name. Here’s a post from that period that is definitely one of Kevin’s: a proto-Historicist on William Lyon Mackenzie and the Rebellion of 1837.


Time Machine: Towering Over TO

Originally published on Torontoist on June 30, 2007.


Image pieced together from the June 26, 1976 editions of The Globe and Mail and Toronto Star.

Who’s up for a trip through time?

While an H.G. Wells-style contraption or fourth dimension-smashing telephone box are not available in the consumer market, there are simpler methods of going back through time. All that’s required are a date and the arcane knowledge of knowing how to load a microfilm reader.

Toronto has a rich newspaper history, with no fewer than three dailies at a time battling for the city’s readers. This series of columns will dig through the piles of paper printed since the colonial government’s offical fishwrap, The Upper Canada Gazette, moved its presses here in 1798 to cover milestones in the city’s history as they happened.

Our first trip back in time is 31-years ago this week, when the CN Tower opened its doors to the public on June 26, 1976.

The day’s headlines concerned the grounding of most Canadian air traffic due to a week-long walkout by air traffic controllers, who were joined in sympathy (and fear of unsafe conditions) by pilots. The issue was a federal proposal to extend bilingual air traffic control services in Quebec, especially in Montreal. The Globe and Mailindicated that Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau felt the dispute was a threat to national unity—possibly the country’s most serious crisis since conscription during World War II. The walkout ended a few days later, when the feds agreed to, in the Canadian way, hold a commission to study the issue.

As for the tower, the Sun was the least impressed of the three dailies:

At $2.75 a shot just to get to the inside observation deck, you could call the CN Tower, which opened to the public yesterday, the world’s tallest free-standing tourist trap.” They also reported that 10,000-12,000 visitors showed up for the opening, though nobody knew for sure as somebody forgot to reset the automatic counters at the turnstiles.

The Star featured a special insert section about the tower, boasting that “the only place higher man has stood is on the moon.” It also reassured visitors to “relax, it won’t fall down.” No mention about the dangers of snow falling off the tower.

The Globe and Mail sent city alderman (and soon-to-be CityTV reporter) Colin Vaughan to take a look at the tower. He was less than impressed:

Undoubtedly the tower will draw millions of visitors who will come and gawk at the mechanical and electronic bric-a-brac and buy the CN tower-shaped rye bottles as souvenirs. But none will experience the unique sensation, the vertigo and the straight excitement which should accompany a visit to a structure of this scale.

Other local news:
• Sam “The Record Man” Sniderman received the Order of Canada, along with former federal finance minister Walter Gordon.
• The Mariposa Folk Festival enjoyed a successful weekend on the Toronto Islands. Headliners included Taj Mahal and Robert Pete Williams.
• At the movies, the summer season was in full swing, with The OmenMurder By DeathOde to Billy Joe and The Man Who Fell to Earth opening at the box office.
• Honest Ed’s special of the week was one pound of imported Austrian gruyere cheese for 47 cents.


Along with various pieces by Kevin Plummer and myself, this first (and final) installment of “Time Machine” could be considered a distant ancestor of Historicist. I honestly don’t remember the circumstances behind this piece, and suspect I pitched it to see what would happen with it. The intent appears to have been to set the historical context when major events in Toronto history, such as the opening of the CN Tower, occurred.

Looking at it now is a little cringe-y. The intro is fine for an ongoing column, but the rest feels a little…slight? The opening of the CN Tower isn’t given much room, and more detail could have been provided for the “other local news” tidbits. If anything, this column looks like it was in danger of becoming one of those “remember when such-and-such cost five cents” and “let’s wallow in nostalgia for the sake of nostalgia” columns I loathe whenever I come across them during research marathons. I’m not surprised, and kind of relieved, that “Time Machine” didn’t go any further.

We’re going to encounter a few more hiccups in the evolutionary path toward Historicist. But hang in there. It gets better. A lot better…