In which my limbic system commutes to Mississauga

The day we got back from Nova Scotia — a trip that got off to a rough start because traffic kept us from making our flight out — the Toronto Star published an article titled “East-enders seeing red over ‘postapocalyptic hellscape’ on Lake Shore. How will they cope with years of traffic turmoil?”

How indeed?

Given our travel woes, this line seemed topical:

It’s not just that their trips takes longer, but they are unpredictable. Sometimes it’s a few extra minutes. Sometimes it’s an hour or worse.


Anyway, the article did a good job of describing the very specific east-end commuting pains (“As Aaron McIntosh inched forward, he tried to make sense of the chaos. He was in the lane destined for the Gardiner, but cars kept zipping by on his left, turning on their indicator light for the last-minute merge. It was every person for themselves, and it was infuriating.”) while also articulating the conflict of feeling drained and exhausted by the tumult even while knowing the work is (largely) necessary.

Building in a city is disruptive, but we desperately need these projects, says Matti Siemiatycki, the director of the Infrastructure Institute at the University of Toronto’s School of Cities. It’s easy to say from a position of remove, but much harder when you’re experiencing it, he says, speaking as an academic and east-ender.

“You can know that this is all so critically necessary,” he says, but you can also be “immensely frustrated” by the longer and less-predictable commutes.

The brain is wired that way. “We think of ourselves as one person, but really, we are two distinct individuals at all times,” says Steve Joordens, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto Scarborough. In the frontal lobes of the brain, a person might think, “I support this infrastructure work, even though traffic is bad,” he says.

But lurking just below those rational thoughts, is the older and more powerful limbic system, constantly scanning for threats.

“It’s where all of our emotionality kind of resides,” he says. When it senses danger, cortisol and adrenalin flood the body, preparing for fight or flight mode. Blood flow in the brain switches to favour the limbic system, and “those lofty left-wing ideas started to recede,” he says.


I can’t even tell you what a joy it was to drive when I was back home in Nova Scotia. I remembered that “the open road” is actually still a thing in some places.

Retro booster

We finally got our bivalent boosters on Friday. We were scheduled to get them back in October, but then we got COVID again so we had to wait six months for this. I felt relatively okay Friday night and even first thing Saturday morning, but by noon I felt gross. By mid-afternoon I felt sick. By evening I felt real sick. A good measure of how sick I am is how much work/puttering I did that day (absolutely nothing) and how much wine I drank (absolutely nothing). I was flat out on either a couch or a bed the whole day, watching most of season 2 of Borgen and all of season 1 of The Good Place.

Today I’m feeling somewhat better — I’ve already cleaned up a disastrous kitchen, done some laundry, gone to Shopper’s Drug Mart, and answered a dozen emails; I’m also pretty sure there’ll be wine later — but ended up not driving down to Hidden Bench for their wine club release day. Couldn’t handle the idea of the drive, let alone lose another ~3 hours.

And with the warmer weather come the visitors

It has been — and continues to be — a week of visitors. Petite mainstay friend N (sans J, this time) is in from Montreal and has hung out with us a few times. Then Lindsay’s brother and his girlfriend arrived Friday. The five of us had a later dinner around the corner at Frankie’s, our first time back there in yonks. Their servers did yeoman duty, bravely surviving a lot more traffic than they expected, and helped us through a menu in transition for our first patio meal of the year. Felt nice.

The next day was another lovely one, so after dealing with a minor plumbing emergency, we walked to Eastbound for brunch, then took a streetcar up to Riverdale Park east where half the city seemed to be gathered. We sat under a tree and drank beers & pet nat. I got to throw a ball with a cute dog a few times.

Today was a bit more sedate — I did contemplate a Jays game but had too much to catch up on, so watching on TV sufficed — but we did squeeze in a late dinner at Richmond Station:

  • Cocktails
    • Black Walnut Old Fashioned
    • Cardi P
    • Spring Fling
  • Appetizers
    • Brigid’s Brie w/ truffled wildflower honey, brown butter, petits croutons, grilled sourdough focaccia
    • Pain Au Lait w/ grass-fed butter, Vancouver island sea salt
    • Spanish Mackerel Sashimi w/ granny smith apple, horseradish, pickled celery, buttermilk sauce
    • Smoked Cookstown Beets w/ whipped ricotta, aged balsamic, roasted hazelnuts, endive
  • Mains
    • Berkshire Pork w/ Brussels sprouts, caramelized apple, potato rösti, apple cider vinaigrette
    • Duo Of Muscovy Duck w/ dry aged breast, grilled endive, confit Cookstown rutabaga, orange-cognac jus
    • Cave-Aged Comté Agnolotti w/ grilled wild spring onions, morel mushroom jus, ramp oil, verjus butter
    • Grilled Leek & Chickpea Burger w/ beet chutney, aged cheddar, green chili & coriander mayo, iceberg lettuce, rosemary fries
    • 2020 Domaine Breton “Trinch” Cabernet Franc

I hate winter

It’s been brutally cold for the last 36 hours or so. Well, brutally cold for Toronto, not for the rest of Canada. There was at least a bit of sunlight, a rarity these last two months, but it was too cold to go outside and enjoy it. I feel trapped inside, though I’m glad we’re in the house and not the loft anymore.

I have to say: in recent years I’ve found Januaries and Februaries harder and harder to deal with. I’m not sure I’d be formally diagnosed with SAD, but I certainly recognize the struggle in myself in the tough parts of the season. So, I’m trying to push out of it. I have drinks lined up two old friends/ex-colleagues this week. Then Lindsay and I are going to a play on Saturday, and might work a dinner in there too. I’m also trying to organize myself into a work trip in March.

Lord knows, I can’t keep drowning myself in TV…though it’s been good TV. I finished the exceptional Better Call Saul, I binged Yellowstone (which is mediocre, but entertaining), I’ve started The Last Of Us and the new season of The Bad Batch, and I’ve somehow found myself halfway through The Staircase. Just as well there’re so many good shows; it’s been hard to watch both the Canadiens and Raptors lately. I’m basically hoping for good trade deadline drama and high draft picks.

To sum this year up: I know Groundhog Day is absurd, but — having a vested interest in eventually seeing the sun — I found myself wondering what the woodchuck’s prognosis for spring would be on Thursday. Of course, this is the year they found the poor groundhog dead.

[Insert Christmas Carol Title Here]

Today is day one of ~1.5 weeks’ vacation. We’re not traveling to Nova Scotia this year, though, choosing instead to stay here in Toronto and be cozy. Good thing, too — today would have been our likely travel day, and it’s a brutal winter storm out there.

So, we’ll stay put. We’ll catch up on TV shows (we just finished season one of Yellowjackets (imdb) and an old British miniseries called Secret State (imdb), and I have plenty more lined up). We’ll delve into the wine collection. We might finish Pandemic: Legacy. I’ll watch the World Juniors and write up my year-end lists & summary. We’ll try to tackle the mountain of sweets our parents sent to our home. We’ll snuggle with Kramer. We’ll watch Die Hard and Four Christmases.

We’ll miss visiting family, but it’s going to be a fun end of the year.

The unwanted comeback

Welp, I have COVID-19 again. I had a bunch of social events this week — a meeting downtown, a two-day offsite with my whole team, a dinner out — and then, a few days later, I tested positive.

So far (I’m on day three of the symptoms) it hasn’t been as bad as when I had Delta, pre-vaccinations. It just feels like a bad cold. No lung stuff. No body aches. Yesterday was pretty brutal. and I slept for nearly all of it, but so far today doesn’t seem as bad, touch wood.

To be honest, I’m mostly pissed at myself for not booking the second (biovalent) booster sooner. We dilly-dallied on it; if we hadn’t, I might have been vaxxed all the way up before this week. So let that be a lesson to you, kids.


On Thursday I got to go to the eighth installment of an annual ceremony celebrating winners of a digital art prize, sponsored by my old company, which Lindsay created in a past life. It was great to see many of my old colleagues again, and just to…get out. Post-vaccination, as in-person things have returned again, I find we’ve struggled to mobilize on getting out as much. So, for one night, it was nice to put on decent clothes, to head downtown (traffic notwithstanding), to take in art, and to talk and laugh with people again.

By the way, if you’re in Toronto and you can make it, the exhibition of the five finalists’ work is at 401 Richmond until October 1st.


I’ve never really been a guy who grills. I was the youngest kid growing up, so I was way back in line to man the barbeque. Later, when I was married and we had a place that could support a bbq, my ex-wife liked to grill (and was really good at it) so I always deferred. After the divorce I moved to a loft with no outside space.

Then, when we bought the house a couple years ago, the previous owners left their old grill. But it was old. Like, old old. I didn’t feel great about using it, and the igniter was broken anyway, so a little while ago we finally got around to replacing it.

We fired up our new Weber E-325S last night to grill some sausages and corn on the cob. It was delicious, and I’m annoyed at myself for waiting so long to buy this thing.