It’s a beautiful, sunny day and the weather is just starting to get warm. Daegan and I have been riding for over an hour, spread across three buses. The windows on these buses do not open, but it must be too early in the year for the air conditioning to be activated so the passengers are all slowly cooking. We’re in good spirits, though. Daegan asks me to guess what odd sponsor AwesomeCon has taken on. I’m surprised when he reveals that it’s the CIA. I’m surprised but not as surprised as the 40something man in front of us is. Soon he, his partner, Daegan and I are all talking about this.
Finally, after almost 90 minutes we’re dropped off at our first destination on this trip, an intersection nearly at the eastern border of the city. We had both eaten breakfast before leaving but it has been a long bus trip and we’re both hungry again. Fortunately, we’ve anticipated this and the bus has dropped us in front of Ted’s Restaurant, a classic diner that’s been in the area since 1954. I’m sure the area has changed a lot since the 1950’s but still the area feels like more of a small village than a part of Canada’s largest city.
We cross the street and get a look at the place up close. The kitschy slogan in the window somehow makes me feel this is going to be a good find. This tells me they’re not self-conscious. A pretentious downtown restaurant might be embarrassed to post this – or if they did it would have to be paired with over the top levels of fake vintage kitsch. This sort of fakery seems to be used when feel diners might need a distraction from the food.
We sit down and take a look around. When I see an old restaurant like this with so much happening in a design sense: signs, knick-knacks, photos, and so on, I wonder how it got there. Was there a point where the walls were mostly bare and it grew organically over time or did they have other decorations that they replaced as time went on with ones that fit better or had some historical significance for the space.
All of the appearances are well and good, but it means nothing if the food is bad. By coincidence, Daegan and I order two dishes that can do a good job of measuring the quality of any diner. Daegan orders the breakfast special which includes eggs, peameal bacon, regular bacon, sausage, and ham along with home fries, tomatoes, toast and coffee. I’m feeling more like lunch so I order a “Banquet Burger” – something I only recently discovered is a regional name meaning “bacon cheeseburger”.
Our food arrives quickly. My burger comes with cole slaw that tastes a little fermented, not in a bad way – it was clearly intentional. It’s a unique hybrid of sauerkraut and cole slaw and quite good. It also comes with two massive slices of onion. I notice diners here do this – giving an entire massive cross-section of an onion for a burger. That’s far more than I ever want and I remove all but a couple of rings. The burger is perfectly cooked, the fries are not homemade but are well cooked – crispy on the outside and soft on the inside without the least bit of grease.
Daegan’s breakfast is equally good, everything is on par with our favourite downtown haunt, the Patrician Grill, by which we judge every other breakfast we eat in the city. The coffee is delicious – not fancy but good fresh diner coffee. Were it not so far away from home, I think we’d come here often.
The bill comes and we finish up. Daegan has been defeated by his meal and isn’t quite able to finish it despite how delicious it is. When we get to the front counter we see that a huge shrine has been made to what might be considered the god of diners: Bacon.
We head out in to the sunny day and wait for another bus to take us closer to the library. In the bus shelter, we see an ad for a lost pet.
After a few minutes the bus comes and takes us a kilometre or so away. A short walk past some sketchy looking motels and down a quiet suburban street brings us to Lawrence Avenue just across from the library. As I stand here I wonder if I am in Toronto still, or in a small town in the middle of America. Behind us a man sits on an aluminum-webbed lawn chair on a porch overlooking a broken down early 1970’s muscle car on the lawn. Across the street from us baseball teams practice.
We walk a good distance past the library on the opposite side. Here in the distant suburbs, traffic is too fast to cross without a traffic light, and the lights are widely spaced. Finally we make it to the library.
While a library has been in the neighbourhood since the 1960’s, usually in a local shopping mall, this site has only been active since 2006. It is shiny, bright and new with high ceilings and natural wood. On a sunny day like today it is a lovely place to visit.
One of the things I love about the newer libraries and more recently renovated older ones is how much natural light is allowed in. This branch has lots of large windows as well as skylights making the fluorescent lights in the room nearly unnecessary. Daegan and I browse separately. I am currently in the midst of one book with a huge backlog behind it so I don’t really need to check out anything but am very excited to find a book called “Top 125 unusual things to see in Ontario”. I’m always looking for new things to see and share here. Daegan picked up a few books for himself and off we went back in to the world.
Here in the fringes of the city, the buses don’t come as frequently as downtown and we end up waiting nearly ten minutes for a bus but the one that arrives is nearly empty so I’m able to take my preferred seat, one that lets me stretch my legs out behind the other seats essentially giving myself unlimited legroom without inconveniencing others. I settle in and start reading. However, for me travel and reading don’t mix. No, I don’t get motion sick. Instead I get so comfortable and content that I drift off to sleep. I spend the next 30 minutes reading the same few paragraphs over and over and falling asleep between them while Daegan laughs at me.
When I wake up we’re nearly at our next stop to change buses. An older woman is loudly talking to a twenty-something woman. “I like you. You’re beautiful. No, not just the way you look. Your soul is beautiful. I’m Bobbi, by the way, and I’m 52 years old. How old are you?” They strike up a conversation, talking about the art work that the young woman, whom we now know is 25, does. Bobbi thinks she is doing a great job and should be really proud of herself and if she keeps it up she’s sure to be famous. A woman about eighty joins the conversation and Bobbi starts talking to her as well saying how wonderful the older woman is and isn’t it a lovely day to be out on the town? By now many of the passengers are looking on as well and I’m happy that in this case, someone is drawing the attention of a crowd by being really nice to others.
At our last stop to transfer buses, there’s a Tim Hortons coffee shop. I need to perk up and so Daegan and I go inside and get two coffees. By the time we come outside the stop is packed with high school students. Clearly we waited just a little bit too long. Schools are getting out and for the next 30 minutes or so the buses will be packed. The weather is beautiful and so Daegan and I resolve to just sit here and relax a while to let the better part of the school rush pass. As we sit, bus after bus comes, every 3-5 minutes, and on the cross street other buses start to drop of more students keeping the bus stop busy for longer than I expect. Soon I notice that Bobbi has the same idea as we do. She’s sitting on the neighbouring bench also having a drink, a tall can of beer. Perhaps this is the source of her great friendliness.
It isn’t long before Daegan and I finish our coffees, Bobbi finishes her beer, and the students finish boarding the buses to capacity and we all head home.
Have I visited your neighbourhood yet? Which library is yours and what should I see when I go to your neighbourhood? Click here now and let me know.