If interested in purchasing a photo, please contact [email protected]

Pics & Prose

The Wonderful Week of Football

The boys practice footballI have to be hon­est, there’s been a good deal of foot­ball in our lives lately; between the kids’ matches and prac­tices as well as the 2016 Euros which star­ted a little over a week ago. But this week, things pick up even more.

The fun star­ted with a Toronto FC “date night” on Sat­urday (see pic­ture below). It was a beau­ti­ful even­ing to enjoy a game after a sunny, hot day, made all the bet­ter as one of our “nights out” which occur a little more often now that the kids are older.

Sundays we have the usual two prac­tices, one for each foot­baller: Mar­ina at 5:30 and Mat­thew at 7:00. I take the Lad’s shift and altern­ate between some read­ing and watch­ing the boys play; if the mood strikes me, I’ll draft an entry for the blog (like today). This week will also see a host of daily matches as the Euros move on to the knock­out stage. Toronto FC play again Tues­day, this time against the Van­couver White­caps as both teams vie for the Voy­ageurs Cup.

Mar­ina has a com­pet­it­ive match on Tues­day and Mat­thew has two games this week. Both are a fair a dis­tance from home; one in Oak­ville and the other in Milton. Not to men­tion that both games will fin­ish around 10:45 p.m. “That’s not much is an issue,” Mat­thew assured us. “I’ve fin­ished exams, so I don’t have school the next day.” Yeah, great, we told him. You’re not up a 6:15 the next morn­ing to go to work.

Still, I’m not com­plain­ing. So far, each of his matches has been incred­ibly enter­tain­ing. I’m not sure if it’s their age or being so close to the action when watch­ing, but there’s a level of intens­ity I haven’t seen before. For one, they’ve developed into quicker play­ers and their skill set has much improved. Plus, it’s become a more aggress­ive game; any­one who says soc­cer isn’t a con­tact sport, hasn’t really watched. I still remem­ber when Mat­thew first com­plained the play­ers were push­ing him. “You have to push back.” I offered. Now he does and has even taken to work­ing his upper body to build the strength to hold off an oppon­ent.

Smoke wafts at BMO

As for Marina’s team, their per­form­ance has grown as well but as they’re a few years younger, the level of skill and know­ledge of the game isn’t quite there. Yet. Occa­sion­ally though, you’ll see a flash of bril­liance when some­thing clicks in a player. And the other day Jen­nifer men­tioned that Mar­ina wanted to be a cap­tain for the team. This took us both com­pletely by sur­prise; first because she’d never men­tioned such a desire and secondly, it just seems out of char­ac­ter. But appar­ently, the Wee-One has been work­ing hard to show her coach that she deserves the hon­our to lead her team. All I can say is that it’s nice to be sur­prised by this sud­den burst of con­fid­ence and I hope she gets the oppor­tun­ity to prove her­self.

Writ­ing this entry, I’m embra­cing a cool-ish breeze that’s just star­ted to stir the air fol­low­ing such a hot day. It feels refresh­ing but even nicer is the sat­is­fac­tion in watch­ing the boys enjoy them­selves as they work hard at prac­tice. Whenever a play is well executed, they laugh and hug one other. Whenever they mess up, they’re quick to chide one another. It’s truly inspir­ing to see such camaraderie and I’m reminded that Mat­thew has never really been part of a team like this. It’s been a good change, mov­ing clubs, and he loves it.

Earlier in the week, dur­ing their last game, the boys had fallen into a bit of lull and their oppon­ents were press­ing. Even though we were up 2–1, there was a sense that the match would soon be level if our boys didn’t pick up their game. One of our mid­field­ers was futz­ing with the ball a little too much—trying to be fancy with his footwork—and was soon dis­pos­sessed. Our keeper, who is quite vocal in a gen­eral, sup­port­ive way, leaned for­ward from his 6-yard box and shouted “Stop fuck­ing around!!!” 

Ah, 15-year old boys. The dads all turned to each other and laughed. To the keeper’s credit, the team did lift them­selves out of their funk to fin­ish the game with a 3–1 sco­reline.

The Biggest Test (so far)

Storm clouds swirling

You’d like to think that when you reach a cer­tain age—say 50-plus—life would settle a bit. You know, cut you some slack…

This whole teen­age boy thing has been quite try­ing. If you know me, then you know I’m not the most patient fel­low on the block. Call it an unfor­tu­nate char­ac­ter flaw. Sadly though, I see this lack of patience in the Lad, but on a teen­age level which exacer­bates the whole thing. It’s an unflat­ter­ing reminder of my own beha­viour, although I don’t have the excuse of youth. Luck­ily, Mat­thew does and there’s a good chance he’ll gain that patience as he gets older.

The recent, more fre­quent out­bursts have been mani­fes­ted by upcom­ing exams (which he starts today). And trust me, I’ve been try­ing hard to bet­ter pro­cess the con­ver­sa­tion and my own responses. But those snippy replies can truly tax your efforts to remain calm. As I men­tioned in a recent exchange with the Boy, “You don’t seem happy unless every­one is angry.” I real­ize that’s not truly the case but his beha­viour sug­gests oth­er­wise.

As the school year ends, it’s clear that high school was tougher than Mat­thew expec­ted. In all hon­esty mind you, I don’t think it’s been all that tough; he just has a habit of mak­ing things seem harder than they actu­ally are. On aver­age, the Lad is an A-student with the major­ity of his marks hov­er­ing in the low-to-mid 90s. When he comes away with a mark in the 80s, he’s genu­inely upset and his ini­tial reac­tion is to blame the teacher (isn’t it always?). More than once, he’s taken the ini­ti­at­ive to ques­tion a teacher about the mark and to his credit, has been able to increase that mark. You have to admire his per­sever­ance.

Still, Mat­thew can float through school without try­ing too hard. So these chal­lenges are wel­comed; at least by Jen­nifer and I. As we’ve told him before, we’d rather he work hard for a lower mark than get a high mark without put­ting in the effort. In the end, it’ll pay dividends.

Des­pite coast­ing on one the hand, on the other he’s some­times too hard on him­self. While it’s great he has that drive to excel, there needs to be some bal­ance. Out­side of aca­dem­ics, we’ve pushed the Lad to par­ti­cip­ate in more school activ­it­ies but he’s been reluct­ant to do so. While he did recently join the school’s Ath­letic Asso­ci­ation, we hope that next year he’ll explore addi­tional activ­it­ies. Both Jen­nifer and I regret not hav­ing done more dur­ing our own high school years and at the risk of being labelled as par­ents who try to right their own wrongs through their chil­dren, we plan to con­tinue push­ing both Mat­thew and Mar­ina to exper­i­ence as much of life as they can.

They can decide to sit on the couch with a bag of potato chips while watch­ing TV when they’re adults.

The Girl On the Train

An iris in bloom after the rain.I can’t seem to let this whole train motif go, can I? Well, I wouldn’t have brought it up but this morn­ing some­thing unusual happened: The Girl on the Train had no book.

Remem­ber the Tall Man? A few years back, I’d occa­sion­ally spy this fel­low on my way to work. Well, this is sort of the same thing. In fact, it is an idea I’ve been keep­ing in the back of my mind for some time, wait­ing for a post such as this. So today’s the day.

On my 50-minute com­mute to work, I don’t read or listen to music; this I do on the way home. In the morn­ing, I typ­ic­ally just stand there—in my usual spot, if available—and look down the train and/or people-watch. More often than not, you’re trav­el­ling with a lot of the same com­muters; folks you don’t, of course, know but people you’re some­what famil­iar with. And maybe it’s just me but I’ve taken to nam­ing a few of my travel com­pan­ions.

This brings us back to the Girl on the Train. She’s named so because, well, the first time I noticed her—and yes, she’s pretty and noticeable—she was read­ing The Girl On the Train. I’ve only seen her a half dozen times because she typ­ic­ally takes a later train but as it hap­pens, I’m occa­sion­ally late and our paths do cross. She’s always read­ing a book. Except for today.

Other char­ac­ters include Dav­is­ville Boo, a young woman who reminds me a bit of Boo from Orange is the New Black. To be hon­est, they don’t look any­thing alike but that’s who I’m reminded of, I’m not sure why. And yeah, she gets off the train at Dav­is­ville sta­tion.

Turbo Rodeo is a tall, thin African-American gen­tle­man who rushes on with his Metro news­pa­per in hand. I remem­ber him because of his base­ball cap which reads Turbo Rodeo. It took me some time to retain the name on his hat; I could always recall the word Turbo because I’d asso­ci­ated it with the anim­ated film of the same name but Rodeo alluded me for some time. Until one day I was close enough to see the buck­ing horse in the logo.

The Mum­bler is an eld­erly lady who, I’m sure through no fault of her own, looks like she’s con­stantly speak­ing to her­self. She could be recit­ing scrip­ture or per­haps has a con­di­tion that mani­fests itself as such.

Piano-Massage Guy takes up a lot of room, typ­ic­ally in the spot where I’m already stand­ing. Every so often, at Yonge and Bloor as I settle myself for the ride North, he’ll rush on just before the doors close with his long case, back­pack and rolly-bag. I’m not sure if the case con­tains a port­able piano or a port­able mas­sage table; he’s artsy-looking enough to be a musi­cian but fit enough to be a mas­sage ther­ap­ist. I may have spot­ted him per­form­ing at a sub­way sta­tion but wasn’t close enough to con­firm it was him.

Then there’s Sci­ence Girl. I don’t get to see her that often because she too travels on a dif­fer­ent sched­ule. Every so often she’ll get on my train at Dav­is­ville sta­tion. I’d like to think she’s a young sci­ent­ist, either teach­ing or tak­ing classes at York Uni­ver­sity. My only evid­ence is that she once wore a Sci­ence Girls Rock! t-shirt; I know, sketchy at best. But she does have a geeky vibe about her…and glasses!

Of course, there’s a whole host of other famil­iar com­muters that join me on the morn­ing train includ­ing Car­digan Red, a red-headed woman who wears a sweater every day. Sit­ting in the blue chairs by the door is Lena Amy who looks like a cross between Lena Dun­ham and Amy Schu­mer. There’s the South­East Swing­ers, a gregari­ous Asian couple who occa­sion­ally have a quiet third party with them.

The point is, every­one has a story and you, as a cas­ual observer, have no idea what that story is.

It’s one of the reas­ons we need to give people some slack and not be so react­ive when their lives cross into ours. As Jen­nifer is wont to point out when we’re driv­ing behind someone who obvi­ously doesn’t know where they’re going: maybe they’re lost.


Exhibit poster on Globe and Mail wall
A couple of weeks ago, a col­league of mine and I ven­tured down to the Globe and Mail offices on Front Street to check out their Cut­line: Pho­to­graphy Archives Exhibit (here’s a tem­por­ary link to an inter­act­ive exhibit). I’ve always loved pho­to­journ­al­ism, so I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss the exhibit, espe­cially know­ing it was a lim­ited time affair with the Globe relo­cat­ing later this year.

The exhibit fea­tures 175 vin­tage prints rep­res­ent­ing a diverse mix of Cana­dian life and pop cul­ture: from polit­ics and sports to enter­tain­ment, archi­tec­ture and life in gen­eral. There was a sur­pris­ing amount of pho­to­graphs centred on fal­lout shel­ters and the atom bomb. I’m not sur­prised the fear of nuc­lear attack was so pre­val­ent through­out the 50s and 60s; I still remem­ber being quite scared through the early 80s as the Cold War wound down. Any­one remem­ber The Day After on TV?

But what was most inter­est­ing was see­ing how the pho­tos were “edited.” It’s so simple these days to fix up a less-than-ideal expos­ure with Pho­toshop but back then, edit­ors had to resort to a few tricks aside from what could be done in the dark­room. For example, to ensure high­lights were well rep­res­en­ted, they’d use a white grease pen­cil to trace over these areas, ensur­ing that once prin­ted in newsprint—a medium with a fair amount of dot gain—you’d get the proper sense of depth from the photo. There were also some crime scene images where the grue­some bits were simply whited-out. Most pho­tos still fea­ture a crop out­line so you can see how the shot appeared in the paper (look for the red out­line and arrows in the photo above; this is one of the images from the exhibit how­ever it was blown up and moun­ted to the side of the build­ing). All quite fas­cin­at­ing but frankly, I left feel­ing a bit mel­an­choly with the thought that yet another art form has van­ished.

Okay, One More Train

A TTC train leaves Davisville station
I had to post this photo, for Dad, because I know how much he loves trains. To be fair, it is the sub­way but it is still a train. This was taken atop the bridge that was fea­tured in the recent video. Oh, yeah baby; it’s all tying together.

I love the detail in this photo; detail you can only really see in black and white. I almost deleted the col­our pho­to­graph because it was so unin­ter­est­ing. But this, I abso­lutely love.

The Daily Train Ride

I wanted to share the best part of my morn­ing com­mute which, for the most part, is long and bor­ing. How­ever, on a sunny day, I always enjoy look­ing across at the Mount Pleas­ant Cemetery as we race from St Clair sta­tion to Dav­is­ville. Yes, this is the same area of town that actu­ally inspired the walk along the Kay Gard­ner Belt­line Trail I pos­ted about the other day. In fact, the bridge near the end of the clip is part of the trail.

The only down­side to shoot­ing with an iPhone (and using a 1970s 8mm cam­era fil­ter prob­ably doesn’t help) is that I’m not able to focus across the street—which is where I tend to look. Everything is unfor­tu­nately in focus, includ­ing the trees nearer the train. Still, if you look at the sun, you’ll get an idea of what I mind­lessly stare at on my way to work around 7:15 in the morn­ing.