Last Friday night a buzz was building in our city – an odd combination of excitement and dread. The weather forecast said something big was coming: a large ice storm would hit on Saturday and continue through the next day. People stocked up on groceries, things that don’t require cooking in case the power goes out, others bought candles and flashlight batteries. When you get enough ice built up on tree limbs, something has to give and the limbs often fall on power lines.
Saturday things started to escalate. Things were a bit grey as Sage and I ate our blueberry pancakes and omelette at the Detroit Eatery but four hours later, as we left our improv class we were pelted by ice pellets and the ground was covered in a slushy mess of them. Cars were slowing down but things were still moving. We changed our plans, though. Instead of getting off the subway early and picking up a few special things for dinner we decided to head straight home. Who wanted to spend any more time than was necessary in this sloppy mess.
Saturday night and in to Sunday morning things took a turn for the worse. By the time we woke up Sunday morning, most things were cancelled. Stores and restaurants were closed. Though we have a corner apartment over 400 feet above the city and can see dozens of kilometres to the north and west, looking around we could see only two cars slowly navigating the streets. We saw no city buses. Sunday was going to be spent inside. I still managed to get on my bike and ride for a couple of hours indoors, pretending it was a warm summer day as I rode. They expand on the weather forecast: freezing rain will continue until the afternoon when it will warm up enough to turn in to rain. The warnings of ice changes to warnings of possible flooding.
Now it’s Monday, and things are still not quite back to normal. Somehow it snowed a bit in the night on top of the ice. It seems to be raining now, though. As I get on the elevator after putting our laundry in the washer at 9:00 AM I meet my neighbour and his son. They’re heading back from school. They tell me they were turned away at the school – it’s closed due to flooding.
I look online and I see new developments brought by the weather. There are streets closed because as the weather warms up, ice is beginning to fall from highrises. Not only that, the CN tower is closed. It’s shedding ice and smashing things.
Chunks of ice have gone through the roof of the Rogers Centre and several entrances are closed – tonight’s Blue Jay’s game will be cancelled. I am not sure anyone would want to risk having a chunk of ice landing on them with the weight and speed that damaged the car in the photo above.
I work all day but can feel myself getting stir-crazy. I haven’t been outdoors since 2PM on Saturday. I try to think of something to write here and go over what I’d been up to for the previous two days. I ate, I did laundry, I took a nap when the rapidly changing weather gave me a headache. It’s hard to find inspiration when one is stuck indoors. Finally, though, by 5PM, I can’t stand it anymore and Sage and I head for a library in the suburbs. The weather is still quite dismal with cold drizzle falling on grey snow.
We trudge through the snow to the bus stop, then stomp through puddles as we cross the street to change buses. Rain is falling just enough to make us have to clean our glasses every time we come in from outside. After about 40 minutes we arrive at the Parkway Mall – the home of the Maryvale Library. I am grateful that I still have a few “mall libraries” left on the list for dismal days such as this.
The mall was built in 1958 and while much of it appears to have seen better days, the Metro grocery store happens to be a designated heritage property. And you can see it in the futuristic swoosh of its facade.
The rest of the mall’s facade isn’t nearly as welcoming. In the 1970’s, all of the stores that used to face outward to the street were turned inward so their entrances were indoors. As a result, there are now blank walls and service entrances where there once were storefronts.
I don’t know if it was the weather or just the nature of the mall itself but compared to other similar malls in the city, this one was nearly empty and had very little inner life. Many stores are closed, others are empty. Some with good reason:
The food court only has a few restaurants, all with steam tables of food and nobody buying it. Missing are the families and the senior citizens chatting or playing chess like I see in many similar places in the city. I still find something to enjoy, though. The aesthetic brings me back to my teenage years back in the 1980’s when all of the malls seemed to have a similar design aesthetic.
I am very excited, though, to see a hobby store. I haven’t seen one in years. When I was a kid these were places I loved to go. I first started going there for the model cars and airplanes that I never did very well at assembling. After that I switched to Dungeons and Dragons books and miniatures. Finally, I would go there for model rocketry supplies. Stores like this fueled my childhood passions.
We make our way to the library, tucked away next to a cell phone store and an Ontario Early Years Centre.
Inside we find it to be in about the same state as the mall. The aesthetic is spartan and in line with the rest of the mall. Even the map on the wall appears to have been made a 1980’s style. Just looking at it makes me nostalgic to be back in Grade 4. There might be a spelling test today, but I know that after that will be sustained silent reading so it will all be worth it.
There were a few patrons but mostly it was quiet and not animated at all. I wonder to myself if there’s a particularly draconian librarian there – one from the 1980’s who allows no noise at any time.
There was a pretty good sized Hindi film collection including one film I really enjoyed watching. It was pretty dark but enjoyable and I found the opening scene hilarious.
I am really disappointed in the travel section. Unlike many branches that have both guides like this, and literary travel, they only have guides. Where are my travel stories? Where is Bill Bryson? Where is V. S. Naipaul? Where is Tahir Shah? I can’t afford to travel all the time so I need to get my fix somehow – but it won’t be at this library.
They do offer a pretty great selection of community events, though with something for everyone of all ages.
We leave and wander the mall a bit more and in another corner of the mall we notice a door.
We don’t realize it from this side of the door, but it isn’t an ordinary door. It’s a magic portal. In some stories a door with powers like this might be on what looks like a big blue police box, but this one is even less presumptuous. We pass through and are in 1983.
On the wall is a poster with photographs of three kids below it.
But the most clear indication that we had left 2018 is the fact that the tinny PA system in the room was playing, as loudly as it could, this song:
It is a little overwhelming to have travelled so far in time and I’m honestly a little worried that I might accidentally change history for the worst so we quietly close the door and head back to 2018.
Looking back, though, I am not sure I should have gone there even for a minute, though. I’m pretty sure when we first opened that door, Hillary Clinton was president. I’m really sorry…
If you’d like to read about more of Toronto’s awesome libraries and the neighbourhoods they’re in, visit the Toronto by Library page.