Tuesday is a strange day in Toronto. It starts with a look out the window to our west. There is smoke in the sky.
As it turns out the smoke is coming from a six alarm fire in a high school on the other side of town from us. It’s particularly strange because there had been a separate fire the night before in the same school that had been put out, and another school on our side of town had also been on fire on Monday night – three school fires in two days.
Coincidentally it happens to be not too far from where we’re going for today’s library visit. Though the neighbourhood immediately surrounding the school has been evacuated due to smoke, I’m sure we can find our way there.
We take the subway to Keele Station. Though I know which library we’re going to, I don’t know anything else that’s planned. I ask Sage where else we’re going. Here’s her answer:
Our bus comes and we are heading north. The ride takes us through a mix of neighbourhoods, past auto body shops, small bungalows, townhouses, and then back in to an industrial area with small factories and a massive waste transfer station in the distance. My Google Maps Heat Map that I made some time ago shows that we are in an area I’ve never visited before and I can see why. With mostly commercial and light industrial businesses here, many to deal with cars (which I don’t own), there’s never been a reason to come here.
Travel is slow and it takes longer than we expect to get to our destination thanks to the bus’ being diverted around the evacuated area. We’re dropped off a bit north of where Sage has decided our first stop would be. It’s almost 2:00 and I’m hungry and impatient. I am happy that the walk wasn’t far, and our first stop was lunch.
For a change of pace, Sage has chosen to take us out for Portuguese BBQ at Churrasqueira Estrela. Even at a late lunch hour it’s still quite busy. We are faced with a hot table with grilled sardines, roasted potatoes and rice. Behind the counter a woman is grilling all sorts of meat. I ask what she’s making – grilled pork, beef, and sausage. They also have 1/4 or 1/2 chicken. By now Sage and I are ravenous. I get a mixed plate with pork, beef, and sausage with potatoes and rice. Sage chooses to go with 1/2 a chicken. It arrives within just a few minutes.
Along with our meals we’re given a large squirt bottle of hot sauce, vinegary and delicious. All conversation halts as Sage and I dig in to our food.
Everything is cooked to perfection. My favourite is the pork whose fat is cooked until it is crispy but the sausage and beef are a close second. Sage’s chicken is delicious with crispy skin. Finally fed, I’m no longer hungry, my patience is restored and I can think once again.
I follow Sage down Keele Street to within about a kilometre of the school fire. The scene is surreal. While the weather is nice and partly cloudy to the north, it is quite dark to the south due to smoke from the school.
A look around really illustrates the contrast, made more stark by the fact that we also appear to be standing right on the edge of a cloud front.
Sage takes us in to the nearby park in which runs a branch of the Black Creek. It’s a bit of a trickle now (though I can hear lots of water in a storm drain below – perhaps this is like other creeks in our city, confined to underground pipes). The ground is really soft, though, and I did not bring good shoes for the mud. I gingerly step my way through the mud, trying to keep them clean. I’m glad I did, the park is really beautiful.
The greens look enhanced but they truly aren’t. After a few nice days and a lot of spring rain the plants in our area are finally waking up – and not a moment too soon if you ask me.
As we walk in the park, the absence of people combined with the frequent sounds of sirens and helicopters headed off to the fire give the feeling that there might be a zombie apocalypse. While we know there’s a fire what we’re not aware of is just how big it is. While we’re walking through the quiet park, over 150 firefighters are hard at work.
We come to a path that crosses the park and I suggest we leave the muddy park, as beautiful as it is.
Sage suggests we look at Google Maps to try to find the library as she doesn’t have a map printed for that. I’m excited to try to find it on my own based on where I think it is having seen it once on a map. I figure we need to head north to the next major street and then try to find it from there.
The path drops us off in a quaint suburban neighbourhood that would be perfectly suited for the opening credits of an 80’s TV show – a 10 year old boy rides his bike past bungalows as people wave from their porches. Sage and I both think it feels like we’re no longer in Toronto. We’re in a small Ontario town. This city truly is a city of neighbourhoods.
Meanwhile in the real world, a man stands on his lawn with a machine a bit bigger than a coffee cup in his hands As he turns a crank on the side, grass seeds are scattered from the bottom, landing on a small bald patch of his lawn.
The only imperfection in this neighbourhood is McMansion creep. There are still lots of older bungalows – two or three bedrooms, a small living room, dining room and a kitchen but next door to some are two to three story monstrosities with several garages and stone facades. As if in protest to the encroaching pretentiousness, one house has taken a different track with decorations. They’ve put as many decorations, statues, and signs on their lawn as they can. I cheer for them internally as I take these photos:
The road ends at another incredibly green park: Amesbury Park.
We cross the park to a more populated and developed part of the park next door to the community centre. We start to see people and pets out and about. Teenagers are playing basketball in the basketball courts and kids are swinging on the swings.
An iron sculpture catches my eye.
These sunflowers are always in bloom. I’m happy to say it won’t be too much longer before the real ones will be blooming.
My instincts were correct and after a quick look around, we see the library at the other side of a playground, just over a small hill.
Down the hill we go and around to the front where we can get inside.
We go inside. I love the big windows that you can see from outside both in the walls and the ones on the arches on the left hand side of the pictures. On a day like today it lets in so much beautiful sunlight. Inside much of the space was monochromatic with white walls and black trim around the windows. An activities room is bordered by aluminum framed floor to ceiling windows. In the back of this room a large collection of Lego awaits the students that are expected to arrive in the next hour or so.
I look around and make a note of what year I think this was built. The black and white contrast makes me think it’s from 1991. Sage later tells me she thinks it had to have been built in 1961 based in great part on its exterior design. When she mentions this I immediately begin to question myself. She’s right. It really does look like a 1960’s building.
In the end I look it up and find that we’re both close in our own way. The library was built in 1967 – so Sage was close as far as the exterior. They closed it again in 1997 and did some renovations. So it is possible that the design elements I thought were from the 90’s really were. Of course another complication is added: it was renovated again in 2017.
I browse a bit starting in my usual spots. The travel section is very sparse – a few guidebooks but no travel memoirs. There are a few books in the sociology section – The 300’s of Dewey Decimal are often a good bet for finding something interesting but nothing moves me here. There’s a single bookshelf of science fiction and fantasy but many shelves of mystery and as much romance as science fiction. I wonder about how individual branches determine what they should provide. I’ve never been surveyed for what I want to see for my own branch. Is it the preference of the head librarian? Is it decided at the region or even city level?
As I browse a boy of about eight years old comes in breathing heavily. He’s pretty upset. Some kids from a local school attacked him and took his stuff including his library card. He wants a replacement. Unfortunately without anything with his name on it he’s unable to get a replacement and can only mark his existing one as lost. He’s pretty shaken as he tells the story to the librarians.
I find a small collection (a single shelf of a bookshelf) of graphic novels and come across the book Tetris: The Games People Play by Box Brown. I take it to a table and sit down. It’s an interesting historical read about the history of Nintendo, how Tetris was invented and how it went from being just someone’s pet project in the USSR to being a huge game around the world. There was a lot of discussion about the intellectual property rights associated with that process. You would think that that would have been really dry but even that was interesting. Even Mikhail Gorbachev got involved in the story.
The spot I found is quite nice. There are a number of people around, and it is right next to a big window that looks out on a tall green hill – the kind of hill that 40 years ago I most certainly would have rolled down. Across from me an older man sits writing in a notebook and listening to an old yellow Sports Walkman cassette player. In between sentences his eyes close and he nods off. I don’t blame him. It is a comfortable place to be.
Sage sits with me, but she isn’t reading, she is doing something else. A couple of entries ago a librarian with the Toronto Public Library mentioned that prior written permission was required for photos to be taken within the library. I investigated the permission request procedure, and while it might be possible, there is a fair bit of paperwork required, dates and times to be coordinated and set, and it looks as if one request form is required per library meaning there will be at least 60 forms to fill out and process. On the other hand, there is no stated policy on drawing. So going forward, Sage has kindly offered to provide interior illustrations for these entries. Here is the view from where we sat.
When Sage finishes this entry’s illustration we head out. As I walk out I see that the activities room is full of kids. The little boy who had been bullied earlier and lost his library card is now happily building with Lego together with a bunch of other kids.
It takes us well over an hour to get back home, and by the time we get home we can still see the smoke coming from the school. Two days later the school is still closed and despite its being just days away from it’s 90th anniversary it will be closed for the forseeable future. Students will finish out their year in other neighbouring schools. Local businesses patronized by the students and already impacted by major road construction nearby are now especially concerned for their businesses’ viability. Let’s hope the rebuilding is as quick and simple as it can be.
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.