Sage and I plan library visits very differently. I wake up in the morning, think “I think I have time for a library visit today.” then agonize over the map for a bit. Where should I go? Do I feel like a suburban one or a more busy part of town? And then off I go to the library. Once I get there, especially if it is a long distance away I think “Where can I find a bite to eat?” and then walk around the neighbourhood partly taking in the neighbourhood, and partly looking for somewhere interesting to get something to eat.
Sage, on the other hand, is a planner.
“Block out the whole afternoon three Saturdays from now. We’re going to the library.” she says. And then, fully in secret she begins to plan until she has a full itinerary for us. And then, like today, she starts printing off maps and directions scolding me not to look even in the direction of the printer when I come in the room to get a pair of socks to wear outside.
The weather is beautiful and as soon as we are on the bus I look to the left and see a peloton of about a dozen cyclists out for a morning ride. This is the first group I’ve seen this year – all in full length tights instead of bike shorts. It’s too cold for me to enjoy riding today but I’m excited that soon it will be the right weather for me as well. I feel like I’ve seen the first robin of spring and I’m happy.
We switch to the subway and rocket westbound. The last time we were this far west it was nearly Christmas time. Now it’s warm enough for cyclists to be hitting the roads en masse. The person behind us on the subway didn’t get the memo, though, and is loudly and enthusiastically singing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas!”
We stop at the second to last station on the subway line. It is so far west that not only are there Toronto buses, there are also buses from Mississauga here, the suburb immediately to our west. We catch a bus headed to the south and Sage and I play a game: we each let the other know when we see a house that looks like we could live in it. For us that means a house with character and small enough (yes, small – most of the houses today are too big and who needs all that space?), and so we are both really happy to see a number of 1950’s and 1960’s bungalows on the side of the road, each with probably less than 1,000 square feet and two bedrooms. Sadly there’s an encroachment of massive, characterless townhomes coming in so if we want to live in one of those houses we’d better move fast. (true confession: we’re not interested in owning a home or even moving down to street-level again)
Sage pulls the cord when they call the stop “The Queensway” and we get off the bus. I’m not entirely sure where she’s taking me.
Fortunately we turn before there. Unfortunately it’s down a sketchy looking path. But then there’s a sign of hope!
Now I’m excited. I know there’s pie on offer. Sage knows I’m not a huge fan of sweets, especially before lunch so this can only mean one thing: Savoury pies will be on offer. One look at the menu shows I’m right.
We each order one with fries. Sage gets a “Macaroni and Cheese” filled pie while I go for a more traditional “Beef and Beer” pie. We both get an order of fries. If I’m going to eat unhealthy food, I might as well fully commit to it.
We both really enjoy the fries and the pastry on the pie is fantastic. That said we’re both a little disappointed in the filling. It isn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination, but it was just didn’t live up to the standard that the pastry and fries set.
Well fed, we head back outside. Sage is being secretive again, telling me that we need to catch a bus. Which bus? She won’t say. I finally remind her that she’ll at least have to tell me which stop to walk toward and we find our way to the stop we got off at before. We are heading further down Islington. This is mostly uncharted territory for me so I still have no idea. A bus comes and she says it isn’t the correct one. It’s a 110A bus and she says we need a 110C – whatever that means. It’s delightful outside, though, so we don’t mind sitting and watching the world go by.
The world in this part of town lives inside cars. They’re also grumpy and in a rush and so there’s lots of honking and the occasional squealing of tires. We amuse ourselves by taking turns telling stories about the people who stop right in front of us when the light turns red:
“Oh her? She’s on the way to a Real Estate training course. She’s not happy working doing social media marketing for the company she’s at. She’s hoping to get some more flexible hours and to be able to spend time with her family.”
(The light turns green)
“That guy? Oh, it’s very sad. He’s taking his mom (in the passenger seat) to her sister’s funeral. They knew it was coming so it wasn’t a shock but still they’re upset, of course. They’re talking about traffic and the weather, though, because things have been strained since he came out to her and she didn’t even acknowledge it. It was as if he didn’t even say a word. And not ones to have a family conflict they just don’t talk about anything of substance any more.”
(The light turns green and another 110A pulls up – not the 110C we’re hoping for.)
Sage says we should just get on this and take it as far as it will take us and walk the rest of the way. This is fine with me and so we board. We cross a big bridge over the Queen Elizabeth Expressway and go deeper in to suburbia. This part of town has a bit more of an industrial feel to it, though. We’re both reminded of Pennsylvania or New Jersey. Are we in Allentown or Toronto?
We walk a short distance and then it’s up and over another big bridge. This one takes us over the railroad tracks leading westbound out of Toronto. Local trains might go to Burlington or, in the summer, Niagara Falls. Others could go farther – all the way across country, over to Buffalo and down to New York City or over to Chicago. No matter where I am, trains make me excited to travel in a way that cars, buses, and even airplanes don’t.
A few minutes after we cross the bridge, it gets a bit less industrial. I think we’re in to a place where people live again. We still have not seen anyone on the streets since we boarded the 110A bus some time ago.
There may be no people on the street but judging by the houses of worship alone, there are lots of people from different places living here.
Soon we reach a busy street: Lake Shore Boulevard. I know this road a bit because I’ve passed by on my bike many times. Served by the 501 Streetcar it gets a lot of traffic and so has a lot of businesses on it. There are a few people out and about down here.
After a few minutes we pass a Caribbean restaurant bakery / restaurant. I think they’re permanently closed, though. Either that or our singing friend from the subway was also on his way here.
We walk a few blocks west and turn on to a quiet street, and Sage’s destination isn’t a secret anymore. We’re going to the New Toronto branch.
As this project goes on I’m beginning to notice patterns and styles in terms of building and renovation of the libraries here. For example, recent renovations all seem to have massive floor to ceiling windows and are really well designed for comfort – to be places that one wants not only to come visit but to stay a while. This one shares some of the same colour schemes and design elements that the Pleasant View library, renovated in 1995, has. The exterior of the Pleasant View library is older style giving away its original construction date of 1975. This library has a newer style but many similar design elements and a similar feel. When I walked in I knew it was built in the mid 1990’s, and indeed, it was opened in 1994. This isn’t a criticism, though. In fact, there’s only one design faux pas I can see.
I think the two photos above are redundant. Anyone wanting to know what year the library was built in need only look at the sign or the glass block wall. They both give the same information.
But other than that visiting this library is a joy. It is one of my favourites and is hugely comfortable. Just have a look.
This library is so comfortable I sit down and relax a bit with Sage in front of the big windows, diving in to a graphic novel, “Earthbound” by Blonk. It’s short and starts off with a compelling idea. What if someone came back from the dead after several months but wasn’t an evil brain-eating zombie but just tried to go back to their life after people had moved on. I read for a while, but the quiet of the library with just 8-9 people and a few murmuring voices is too much for me. I am warm and comfortable and start to doze off. It is time for us to leave. (For those curious about the book, it was a great concept but while the artwork was enjoyable, the story was poorly executed.)
Sage had another secret in store for me. And so she leads me further south down the quiet street. We come to a T-intersection across from a parking lot. “Left or right?” I ask. Sage tells me to go straight in to the parking lot and so in we go.
And now I can see why. A path leads in to a park, “Colonel Sam Smith Park”, named after the last owner of the park. Now it’s a beautiful waterfront park at the edge of Lake Ontario with lots of walking/bike trails, wildlife and fishing spots. Like the Leslie Spit, much of this area comes from clean landfill being dumped here growing our shoreline. Today there are a number of people out walking with their families, dogs, or both. The biggest thing I noticed, though, was the sound of birdsong. Spring is definitely coming. Seagulls and geese were the biggest noisemakers of the day but there were many others. We followed a path out to the land’s end at Whimbrel Point.
On our way back we pass by a pond. As we stand there a red-winged black bird scolds us from a nearby tree while carefully staying just out of reach for a good photo. Ducks were courting in the pond and nesting by it. They were much less shy about being photographed.
After a day like this it is impossible not to feel incredibly lucky and grateful. We live in a city that has made both public space and libraries such a huge priority. I’m only about 1/3 of the way through seeing all of the libraries and nearly every one had some sort of park within a short walk. And nearly every neighbourhood in the city is a short distance from a library. This is a big part of why, as much as I love to travel and spend time in other places, this will always be home.