A few days after I got back from India my phone rings. The caller tells me they are from the Toronto Public Library and want to know if it was Todd on the line. I can’t think of what they could want and assume the worst. Did I forget to return something for a long time? I’ve never had such terrible fines that they called my house. (OK, maybe not in the last 15 years anyway)
But no, as it turned out they were calling to let me know that another patron had found my immunization records in a book I had returned. They had them behind the desk at the City Hall branch where the patron had returned the book. I took this as a sign – the next library would be City Hall. (also: How much do I love that someone was thoughtful enough to bring my records to the library to ensure I still had them?)
The trip to the library is coloured with thoughts of New York City. I had just read the Beastie Boys Book along with Tenements, Towers & Trash: An Unconventional Illustrated History of New York City – an awesome graphic novel about New York City. If I could have boarded a bus for Brooklyn right that moment I would have. Instead I contented myself with listening to a Bowery Boys podcast about the history of Automats, Luncheonettes, and Diners in NYC. It was a good day to go to one of the more densely populated parts of our city, the downtown core.
I get off at Queen Station. From here you can get to one of the busiest malls in the country, Eaton Centre. I end up going here a few times a year and only when I can reasonably avoid it. Somehow it always seems to be during the holiday shopping season when I am there – shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of other grumpy shoppers. Today, though, I head outside the mall and on to Queen Street.
The city hall is a short walk west from the subway station. To get there you first must pass the old City Hall which served the city from 1899 to 1966. I love the old gothic details including gargoyles and even grotesques representing members of city council from the time as well as one for the architect himself.
Now most of the city hall functions have moved to the new city hall next door. The old city hall still has courthouses in it, though.
The building of the new city hall was not without drama. Much of Toronto’s Chinatown was in the area that was to be the building. Demolished along with it was a neighbourhood called “The Ward” where a lot of new immigrants had lived for decades before.
Year round there is a lot of activity near the city hall. Tour buses pull up to drop people off at the hotel across the street or the shopping mall. Along the street some of the only “allowable” street food in the city may be found: hot dogs, sausage, and french fries – the rules are too strict to allow any other foods: no satay, no gol gappe, no tacos for us!
Grab a pair of skates or bring your own and you can spend the day skating and go inside the library to warm up.
Does our city hall look familiar to you? It might be if you’re a Star Trek fan:
As I stood there I realized how glad I was to have left the house. On a day like today in the winter I am very likely to just stay inside and avoid the cold and wind. But in doing that I also avoid seeing other people, breathing fresh air, having new experiences and eating new food.
Just inside the building is the library. It’s one of the smaller branches with hours limited by the hours of City Hall itself. I walked inside and they found my immunization records. Wandering through the library took very little time as it was simply one large room:
The design is very nice. And like most of the libraries in our system it is well used and a comfortable place to spend time. This one, however, is like many of the smaller libraries in my opinion: a spot to pick up your holds if you happen to live or work nearby. The browsing here was pretty limited – find a bigger branch for this.
Other than French, I found very few materials in other languages.
I didn’t find anything that spoke to me so I left with only my records in hand. On the way out I did find this section which many visitors might find interesting:
I’m not a huge fan of poetry – or maybe I’m really fussy about what I do like, so I didn’t pick up any of these. However, before leaving, I did wander through city hall to see their public art.
I really like this sculpture. The sign says:
Ekow Nimako in collaboration with Director X- Cavalier Noir: “If Scarborough was to commemorate its own heroes, what would the monument look like? Who would it represent? Using more than 0,000 lego pieces, Ekow Nimako proposes his vision of a monument for his community – a black child warrior astride a dauntless black unicorn.”
To get anywhere else in the building requires a security screening and bag check. As Council wasn’t in session at the time I didn’t go upstairs to the chamber. It can be both very interesting and discouraging to see your city at work and I highly recommend it. When I went there was a huge turnout. It was one of the earlier sessions while Rob Ford was mayor and there was a concern that as his brother is currently doing at the provincial level, he would gut social and progressive initiatives so many of us went to show our support for those councillors working toward taking care of the more vulnerable in our city.
After I left the library it was time to get something to eat. Not wanting a hot dog, I headed north to Chinatown. There are a number of new restaurants and stores in that stretch and I was interested in trying one. The one I chose that day was one that Daegan and I had been to once before but I wanted to try a different dish.
Gyugyuya is a restaurant that specializes in Japanese curries. The British brought the idea of curry from India to Japan and then, like most countries do with dishes new to them, they adapt it to their local tastes and ingredients.
The place is relatively small but cozy with brightly coloured walls. I’m a fan of bold choices like this.
I sit at the bar with other people eating alone and order what appears to be a signature dish – a beef curry. It arrives within five minutes.
I must say I was hugely disappointed. The meat was fairly dry, there wasn’t a lot of gravy or rice beneath it and the cabbage was pretty bland. There was some seasoning but it was fairly mild, eclipsed by the dry meat. I ended up shaking tons of chilli powder on to it hoping to add some flavour but somehow it managed to not even make the food spicy.
The curry flavours themselves are are less bold than an Indian curry. There seems to be less cumin and coriander and more warm spices like cinnamon and nutmeg and even a bit of sugar. It was just OK. I feel like perhaps another restaurant might do it better.
On the other hand it may also be something else. I’ve noticed in recent years that my desire for meat is fading rapidly. It has gone from being something I crave to something that I eat if it is there but if it isn’t there I’m fine. Compare that to our time in India when it seemed that every day someone would serve us a new vegetarian dish each more delicious and interesting than the last until I began to look forward to dinner as I was taking my last bite of lunch. At this rate I might end up vegetarian again soon.
Watch for more entries coming soon. After coming back from India, getting to a routine has been challenging. However, I’ve managed to wrangle my schedule a bit and will soon be back out to a few more libraries and writing a few other things – especially as the weather warms. (And catching up on many of your blogs as well).