One challenge I sometimes face with my personal projects is that I can complicate them to death. I can take a simple weekend bike trip, decide that there must be the perfect destination, spend hours looking for it – not being satisfied with any particular one, and then realize that “Oops, I’ve spent the whole time planning instead of riding…”
I admit to some extent that I’ve done this with libraries. With 100 to choose from you would think it would be easy – but I want to make sure I go to ones that will be interesting to write about and so I often eliminate choices that are nearby that I’ve visited many times. The problem this creates is that if I only choose to visit far away libraries, I now guarantee myself a 2-3 hour round trip travel time to the library. And that means that it really isn’t feasible to work a full day, go for a run or a bike ride and then come back and go out for 3-4 hours. This is especially true on nights I already have plans.
This past week Sage comes up with an obvious solution: Why not go visit a nearby library on a weekday. And so we do. We board a bus and head to the nearest subway station. We take it one stop – a little distance away from our library where we start our night at The Only Cafe. This place is an interesting combination. On one side is a well lit cafe with espresso drinks and tables for chatting and working at. But we grab our coffees and pass through the door in the back to the other side where we enter a dimly lit bar – the other half of the place. Here we find pinball games (sadly out of order) and card and board games – classic rock can often be heard here, played from vinyl albums. We sit down and Sage grabs a backgammon board and sit at a table near the bar. Ozzy Osbourne is playing at the moment. The board is pretty wonky with mismatched poker chips used in the place of playing pieces. They are just a little bit too large for the board but we make due.
After a few turns we notice that the pieces aren’t the only strange thing about this game. The dice are a bit off as well:
As we sit, we hear two men talking at the bar. At first it sounds like many conversations I’ve heard among my friends. One man is talking about how he needs to take care of his needs, have “me time” and perform “self care”. It all sounds normal until it becomes clear that this is all in reference to his apparently large daily drinking habit. Neither Sage nor I drink, and we don’t generally hang out with people who do so it is always strange to hear things like this.
We finish the game – I think Sage won this one, I finish my coffee and we head out to our next stop, a specialty bakery.
Among their specialities are jeera biscuits. Semi-sweet cookies made with cumin seeds. They are a favourite of ours and are delicious with coffee. I buy a bag and, ever hopeful, I ask if they have ajwain biscuits. I had them some time ago and I’m a huge fan. I really like the taste of ajwain. Sadly, I have yet to find anywhere to get them here and I can’t even remember where I had them the first time. It may not have even been in Canada. My record holds and I find none here. I think I am just going to have to bake some of my own.
Next up we visit one of my favourite markets in the city. Maselli’s is an Italian grocery with great produce, meat, and cheese options. It reminds me a lot of the little grocery store in Vermont that my grandparents and I would walk to when I was a kid in the late 1970’s. Though small, it has nearly everything you could want – especially if what you want are Italian speciality goods.
All of this food is making us hungry and we head east to the dinner spot we’d picked out near the library. On the way, though, we come across Circus Books and Music. I feel like over the past several weeks I’ve started noticing tons of shops selling combinations of used books and records. This one is particularly good. We browse through the books for a long time and I make a note to come back – their travel book selection is especially good. Then I go to visit the record section. Even though most of the bands I listened to in my teen years haven’t made many new albums recently, I still make the same rounds: Art of Noise, B-52’s, Depeche Mode, and then to the other end of the alphabet to Yello. I luck out this time and find this album:
I actually owned this on CD in 1987 and adored it. At the time I paid about $25 for it. This time, I find it on vinyl for $12. Unlike many of the other albums here, this one is now much cheaper than it ever was – even with the US/Canadian dollar exchange.
Onward we head, passing in to the neighbourhood where the library is, known to many as “Greektown” or “The Danforth”
Along the way we pass by a restaurant whose design has always charmed me. One of these days I’m going to give them a try.
We manage to make it to Il Fornello for dinner and settle in to order dinner. Sage orders pasta with chicken. I’m intrigued by the vegan menu and in particular, I’m very curious about the vegan fettuccine alfredo with vegan “sausage”. Before I started having trouble with cheese, this was one of my favourite dishes. As it was still early, our meals arrived quickly.
Sage’s dinner is delicious. Really nice flavour balance and the cheese has a nice sharp flavour.
As for mine. Well, it tastes mostly like relatively good pasta with margarine on it. There is nothing, not even a sharp cheese flavour to cut through the fatty, oily nature of it. A word I’ve heard on Masterchef Australia fit really well: It was gluggy. I am hugely disappointed and can’t finish it. The sausage, however, was quite good. But don’t let this turn you off the restaurant – I’ve had many of their other dishes and they are amazing. Just avoid this dish – and perhaps anything with the imitation parmesan cheese.
We head to the library now, passing the iconic “Holy Name Parish” church:
Before long we arrive at the library. Unlike many of the newly renovated libraries (this one was last renovated in 2005-2006), it retains many of its original architectural features and they are really pleasing.
I really love how brightly lit and cheery this library is. It’s a place that invites you to sit and read and many have taken them up on it. The picture above is from the second floor where the adult collection is. The children’s collection is on the first floor along with computers and additional seating.
The non-official Canadian language offerings here are slim. I can find only one language on offer other than English or French. But I know the branches do a lot of research in to what is needed for their usual patrons and, after all, we are in Greektown.
We go downstairs and check out our books. In my hand I have a couple of collections of travel writing. I’m really hoping to take that on as a more serious pursuit and I want some more inspiration. I also grab a book that’s waiting for me on the hold shelf: Twilight in Delhi. This one is next on my “to-read” list thanks to Anupriya’s suggestion.
We pack our books in our backpack and cross the street to the subway station. 15 minutes later we are walking in our front door. It really is possible to do a trip like this on a weekday – if I am willing to get out of my own way first!
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.