Last week Sage came to me: “I want to choose the next library we go to.” I was thrilled. People who know me also know I love the unexpected. Where would we go? What would we see?
Sage dropped very few details during the week leading up to the visit. The only information I had was simply that we would have lunch be “allowance exempt” – so it sounded like if nothing else there was a more pricey meal than usual on the agenda.
Saturday morning comes and Sage is her usual efficient self. Unless I have an actual flight to catch I often fly by the seat of my pants with no exact departure planned. I get up in the morning, have a bit of breakfast and then relax a bit for some nebulous amount of time until I get around to leaving. Sage is very different and far more organized. We had a 10:30 AM deadline. By that point I would be showered, fed, dressed, and out the door. No more clues would be offered.
Out the door we go and I’m already off balance. Were we going south toward the subway or north toward the suburbs? I ask Sage and she confirms we need to cross the street. OK, we’re going south. That doesn’t give me much to work with. The subway goes east/west and connects to two north/south lines along with dozens of bus routes. We board a westbound train. In the back of the train is a big guy with a mohawk in a jean jacket. Sage remarks how he appears to have come along from the 1985 movie “After Hours” (a favourite of both of ours). We reach the point where you can switch to a line leading downtown or to the northern suburbs. We don’t get off, but the guy with the mohawk does. We laugh as he’s replaced by another character from the same film – the guy on the right:
We then amuse ourselves for the rest of the ride by imagining other people from the 80’s who could come by – the guy with spiked hair and the OP t-shirt. The other guy with the skinny tie and checkerboard vans, the woman wearing jelly shoes and lots of Aqua Net.
Eventually we get to our stop and Sage hops up, leaving our After Hours character to ride onwards. We go upstairs to find our busy is right there waiting for us. I don’t realize until now how much attention I pay to navigation in the city. I don’t necessarily lead the way but I’ve always got a part of my mind occupied with watching for our next stop, choosing a spot on the subway platform to wait so that when we get off the train we’re about to board we’re right next to the stairs to get out of the station. Without that internal monologue I’m a little off balance – in a fun way.
After about 15 minutes, Sage pulls the stop-request cord and we get up and find ourselves here:
I’ve rarely been to this area. When we lived in another part of the city it was on a bike route that led to a nice bike path in a ravine but other than that I didn’t spend much time here.
Sage gestures for me to follow her and we head west on the street and stop in front of an unassuming strip mall. There are a few restaurants that have not yet opened, and in one corner is a cafe with a bunch of older men outside drinking coffee and smoking. There’s also sushi – Sage’s favourite food.
The two of us go in. We are clearly the first customers as the restaurant is empty. The door is open and it is too cold to take off our coat. A smell of cigarette smoke lingers. Clearly customers were not expected for a few more minutes and they were airing out the restaurant after someone’s last smoke before opening.
We make our orders and wait. The room slowly warms and the smell of tobacco dissipates. Had we arrived only 15 minutes later we’d never have known anyone had smoked in here.
As we’re the only customers, the food arrives quickly.
Sage’s soup and salad arrive first. She tastes the salad and tells me to try some also. The dressing is good. Before any other food arrives, she makes a prediction: “I find that if the salad dressing is good, the sushi is also good.” We don’t have to wait long to find out.
Before she tastes the avocado rolls, she points at the pickled ginger and makes another prediction: “See the ginger? If it’s the unnatural pink kind, the sushi isn’t usually as good as if it is white.”
She tastes the sushi and remarks that she was right, it’s delicious. Meanwhile, my entree has arrived.
The weather today is cold and damp and for me, Sushi is usually a warm-weather food. I wanted something more hearty and warming. I have chicken yakisoba – stir-fried buckwheat noodles with chicken and a few vegetables. It is OK but a little on the bland side. If these were take-out and I had them at home, I would have added chili-garlic paste to them.
As I finish my noodles and Sage finishes her avocado maki, her last sushi order arrives.
Before she ordered this, she asked me if I wanted to have any. Eel sushi is one of my favourites but I didn’t want any. But after she eats the first one she says that it was the best eel she’d ever eaten and insists that I have half of the second one. She’s absolutely right. It’s delicious. Perfectly cooked and with a delicious sauce. I wish I had ordered the unagi donburi – a bowl of BBQ eel on rice instead of the noodles.
We finish our meal and walk out the door, it’s time to go to the library. Luckily it’s just a couple of minutes down the street.
This library, the Perth/Dupont branch, is one of the smallest branches in the city. I think the only smaller branch is the Todmorden Room – literally a room. The style of the architecture and logo are so different from others I’ve seen – even lacking the standard blue/white sign – that I don’t recognize it as a library at first. The logo, though, seems to give away its age. The library itself was opened in 1977 – the year I first really began to get interested in libraries.
We go inside and it is indeed, very small. Were this a town’s only library I’d find it very disappointing. But as a branch only a few km from other much larger branches, and with hold access to all of Toronto’s collection, it’s perfectly adequate. A full third of it is devoted to the children’s collection and today that’s who is using it – a few parents and children are here clearly enjoying themselves.
As you can see, it really is quite small. The above two photos are taken in about the same spot, just in the opposite direction. Both Sage and I were charmed by the hand-drawn houses around the upper perimeter of the room. One feature I was surprised to see is that this library has a “back yard”. I’m not sure if they ever open it up but it feels like it could be a wonderful little public space.
We take back our books and wander the stacks. I don’t see much of interest, though. It’s not unexpected, though, given the size of the library. That said, it won’t be small much longer. They will be breaking ground on a new location for this branch, with 10,000 square feet of space this time, in 2020.
We head out again and now the weather has taken a turn for the worse. A cold rain is falling. Lucky for me, though, this is one of the few times I have remembered to bring an umbrella.
We head west toward The Junction, a neighbourhood of Toronto I’m a bit intrigued by. As we walk, Sage remarks that it reminds her of small town Pennsylvania mixed with Guelph, another small Ontario town. This feels less like a city and more like a village.
We notice one strange thing, though: it seems that this is an area where pets tend to stay.
I think I know what happens in the Dog Lounge:
Further along we come to a bridge with a number of murals.
As a cyclist, this last one is one of my favourites.
We pass a house where someone has some strong opinions about our upcoming provincial election. For those outside Ontario, if you’re wondering who Doug Ford is, imagine Donald Trump.
We head over to a game cafe we haven’t been to before. When we get there we find it looks very intriguing and interesting. Sadly, despite the sign saying otherwise, they are most definitely closed.
From there we go to a wonderful book and vinyl store, Pandemonium. The selection of both is really excellent. Unlike many used bookstores, this one was meticulously organized and alphabetized. If they have a book you’re looking for, you will find it with a minimum of searching. My favourite thing about it, though, is the sign posted near the cash. I’m sensing a theme for the day:
Across the street we see a store that advertises “Indian Inspired Design” – while we aren’t really attracted to many of the things there, I am charmed by a poster. I pick it up as “reading practice material”. I learn a new word from it that afternoon, “Aadat” – habit, that I hear later in my Hindi class and I smile to know that the entire reason I understand it is because I picked up this poster. I don’t know about others but I find that having images and experiences attached to new vocabulary words helps a lot. I learn words slowly from flash cards (though I still try), but if I have a memory or an image that goes with it it sticks in my mind forever.
We leave there and head for a couple of other bookstores. There’s no shortage of used bookstores in this area.
The first one is apparently Toronto’s oldest bookstore but it is going out of business. It is the complete opposite of the previous bookstore we went to. The room was a warren of bookshelves with little rhyme or reason. Either the selection is picked clean or it is really dated. There’s not much of interest. I shake my head, though, as I notice a whole shelf overflowing with books from the Gor series. I read the first 3-4 when I was 12 and I thought they were great. Looking back they may well have been among the trashiest things I’ve ever read. Just looking at the covers makes me cringe to think that I paid good money for these and spent hours reading them.
We leave and go literally next door to another used bookstore.
Sage and I are divided on this one. I like it and see many books I loved and am interested in. Sage, spoiled by the first bookstore, is frustrated by the fact that it’s not terribly well organized. “The owners have so much time to sit at places like this, why don’t they take the time to alphebetize things?!?” she says – and though I haven’t thought of it before I agree. I am happy, though, to see many of the books have the covers I remember from when I was younger such as this one:
This book, in particular, was a revelation for me. While I might’ve been reading really terrible fantasy novels at the time, I had also just discovered the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, accidentally coming across it first on the radio and then the BBC series on PBS and I was completely hooked. After so long of growing up and feeling like I was nothing like the people I grew up around, finding this book with its intelligent humour and wit made me feel like perhaps I wasn’t alone. That same year I discovered Monty Python, and Devo – guys who were clearly very nerdy but also completely OK with it. They might’ve been wearing glasses but not only did they think they were cool, other people did as well.
At 12-13 years old, it was really the right time to be bombarded with a bunch of messages that it was OK to not be like the people around me.
Having finished our visit to the bookstores, we head back out in to the rain and wait for the bus to take us home. As we sit on the subway we’re amused to see a guy wearing these glasses near the door – the glasses we hadn’t seen since Video Killed the Radio Star just at the beginning of the 80’s. We talk a bit and I look up again and see someone else – this time in matching acid-washed jeans and jean jacket. The patterns in our lives can be pretty hilarious when we pay attention to them.
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.