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.


My dad turned 80 last Friday. We were all set to head home for a week of celebration and relaxation, but the travel gods had other plans.

Thursday May 18

I drove to the office and back in the morning for a board meeting, so I was a teensy bit on the back foot from the get-go. Still, we were all set and packed and ready to get to the island airport with plenty of time. I checked the commute times, saw it was ~8 minutes longer than usual (no worries; we’d left ourselves plenty of buffer) and told Lindsay we should get a move on. We did, calling shortly after. Even by the time we got our bags onto the sidewalk, we realized something was up – our expected arrival time had gotten much later. Still, we were set to arrive 40 minutes ahead of our flight which, at the island airport, is enough time.

Things really went south once we started driving across Front. Our driver’s Waze instructions told him to take Esplanade – which you can’t do. By the time we diverted back up to Front, it was gridlocked. It seemed accidents or construction had blocked every westbound route in the downtown. What should have been a 15 minute commute ended up taking over an hour. By the time we arrived at the airport and waited through the two slow customers in front of us, our flight had boarded. For the first time ever, I missed a flight from the island.

We asked about other flights that night. There were none. We asked about seats the next day. Again: none to be had. Between the long weekend and the looming Westjet strike, all the flights were booked. We tried the Air Canada desk, but their island counter doesn’t book anything other than Ottawa and Montreal. We were despondent. In our haze, I neglected to ask about flights going into Moncton, which is also close to the farm. Outside, I checked the Porter site on my phone, and swear to god it said there was only one flight earlier in the day. We took a cab home to regroup.

Upon arriving home, while checking other flight options, Lindsay noticed there was another Porter flight into Moncton that night (via Ottawa) and if we left right that second we might make it. We rushed out the door, but once again were foiled by traffic, and arrived just as they were closing that flight. At least we hadn’t pre-bought those tickets. Dejected, we took Uber #4 home to lick our wounds, and re-book. The only tickets we were able to get were business class seats (yay!) on Air Canada Rouge (boo!) out of Pearson the next evening. We ordered some food, drank some wine, and called my mom with the bad news that we’d miss my dad’s birthday dinner.

Friday May 19

We went about our morning, making sure everything was prepped, and picking up an extra gift + card for my dad. Our flight was delayed about 50 minutes, which – between Pearson congestion and a just-avoided Westjet strike – wasn’t too bad.

Flying out of YYZ meant we left earlier, so I picked up my phone to call an Uber that would get us there 2 hours (!) ahead of time. As I did, I saw a message from my EA that one of the other executives at my company, with whom I’d interacted Wednesday night, had tested positive for COVID. Fuuuuuuuuuuccckkkkk. It was at this point that I had my second meltdown in <24 hours. I grabbed a test kit, jammed a swab up my nose, and waited. Negative. OK. That was a good, if inconclusive sign. But we’d also just gotten our boosters, so our immune systems were probably in tiptop shape. We decided to proceed, and called the Uber after all.

We got to Pearson and checked in 90 minutes before our flight, so still plenty of time. Our Nexus cards got us around a HUGE security line, such that we had time for a drink in the Air Canada Cafe before heading to our gate. Our flight was delayed by another 30 minutes or so, but we got on, and our seats were good, and our flight was fine. Except for one thing: see they have free wifi on the flight, so I was able to receive an email telling us our bags hadn’t made it on the flight? What the? We arrived 90 minutes prior, AND it was delayed!! Anyway, they’d be on the next flight, which arrived at midnight, but we weren’t sticking around for that. We checked in at the luggage services desk, confirmed our bags would be brought to us the next morning, and headed to the rental car counter. At least we’d made it – no more hiccups, right?

Wrong. The rental car smelled disgusting. It was like being inside a hockey bag. I was so tired I couldn’t even complain to the rental counter. We also had to drive it home through a windstorm, but by 9pm we’d arrived safely at the farm. At last.

Sat May 20

Finally, vacation: a lovely, warm, sunny day. Walks around the farm. Drop-in community celebrations for my dad where I saw a bunch of old familiar faces of family and friends. Lots of food. Naps. Games of crib and Uno. A quick drink back over at brother #2’s house. It was just what we needed.

Sun May 21

Brother #1, ever the ambitious one, was up to run a half-marathon in a windstorm. Good on him. We sat inside while the rain started, doing puzzles and playing cards, and eating leftovers. Brother #1 & fam left mid-afternoon; the rest of us continued relaxing and watching the Jays game while the sun emerged. We drove into Springhill to pick up Chinese food from childhood standby Jade Palace, one of my dad’s favourite indulgences. After downing that and playing a few games of crib (all wins for Linds and I!) we walked across the yard for one more drink at brother #2’s.

Mon May 22

We were really getting into the swing of things now: on a cool crisp morning, had coffee next door then read for a while before driving to Parrsboro for lunch at the Harbour View restaurant. Lindsay and I had a lobster roll; most others had flounder, now that it was in-season. After lunch we drove out to Two Islands to admire the view, then back through town and up Kirk Hill for more views, before driving home. There we found more card, more Chinese leftovers, and another walk around the home hill before settling in for one last drink at brother #2’s house.

Tue May 23

Our final day on the farm. We had a leisurely morning, though I did end up going through a bunch of farm paperwork.

We decided to take the shore road – almost getting smoked along the way by a dump truck who’d crossed the yellow line – to enjoy the weather and get some fried clams at Diane’s. Well, Lindsay had friend clams; I don’t like ‘em. But we sat outside in the warm sun with the cool breeze, and enjoyed every minute. On we travelled to the Masstown Market for supplies (pies, cheese, doughnuts), stopping briefly in Bedford on our way to Mahone Bay, where we’d decided to stay a couple of nights. We wanted to see and smell the ocean again, and settled in at a very beautiful AirBnB overlooking the harbour.

We turned on our heels, picked up some wine for later, and walked into Betty’s at The Kitch for dinner. We had such a delicious feast (wood-fired baked brie + haskap heat + rosemary; a “Davis” pizza; a bottle of Benjamin Bridge sparkling rosé; a warm cookie for dessert) that we resolved to come back the following evening. And with that, we went home for the night.

Wed May 24

We’d been hoping for a nice warm day to enjoy the deck and the cool ocean breezes. Alas; it was cold, windy, and foggy. Nonetheless, we persevered. We read our books most of the day, stopping to acquire some barbecue from Fireworks, and eventually heading into town to meet up with Lindsay’s brother #1, who lives about 20 minutes away. We had beers at Saltbox Brewing before walking down the street to Betty’s. There we sucked back dips (roasted red pepper, mushroom), lobster mac + cheese, a Broderick pizza, and a 2018 Lightfoot & Wolfville Chardonnay. They forgot to charge us for the bottle, but we made it right. Such a cool vibe in that place. He followed us back to the AirBnB since we’d forgotten to bring him some loot (in the form of cookies); we then bid him a good evening, and crashed. Ambitions for a soak in the hot tub were done in by too much pizza and sweets.

Thu May 25

The close of what ended up being a super-relaxing and celebratory week of vacation. We figured the morning would be one of getting ourselves together and driving to the airport, but the travel gods weren’t quite through with us yet. Lindsay’s mom called with some family health news that convinced us to change our flights. So as I write this, we sit here in Bedford for the next couple of days, hoping everything goes well.

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


More and more, lately, I’m struggling to feel at home in Toronto.

I’m certainly engaging with it less. I used to go to TIFF every year, and Hot Docs. I used to go to concerts and beer festivals and Raptors games, and try new restaurants, and go to St. Lawrence Market every weekend. Obviously COVID put a serious crimp in those plans, but I haven’t seemed to recover. Anyway, I was tailing way off on stuff like that before COVID. Even moving to this side of the Don River has made it feel tougher than when I lived a block from Yonge Street. It used to take 5-10 minutes to get downtown in an uber; now traffic and construction are so bad that it seems to take 25 minutes to get any-fucking-where. I know I can fix this particular sense of disconnection by just doing these sorts of things again, but it just feels like so much more effort now.

I used to feel more connected to the city by taking transit everywhere, but now I drive to the office. I haven’t been on the subway in nearly three years, and given the kind of random violence that seems to happen on the TTC every other day, I’m in no hurry to get back on it. Speaking of random, people getting stabbed to death by swarms of teenaged girls, or getting jabbed in the back with a needle by a stranger, or having their homes sold without their knowledge…Toronto’s always been a big city and it’s always suffered from violence, but this feels different. Maybe it happens every time a recession drives more people to desperation or conflict and I just don’t remember. But this is my third in this city, and it sure doesn’t feel familiar.

An overtly corrupt premier. A do-little mayor who thinks more police funding is the right answer. House prices and rents so high that seniors and nurses can’t live here.

Ten years ago I wouldn’t have thought this, but…if it wasn’t for our jobs, I’m not sure I’d still want to live here.

Cover photo from Mural by Elicser Elliot.

Riverside → Leslieville

A couple months ago I wrote about buying a house. It had a sixty day close, so the math says we’re moving this week.

The sale officially closed Monday, and I picked up the keys that night. People are coming tomorrow to pack our stuff, and the movers come Friday. At some point we’ll have to move Kramer. We’re dreading that.

The loft we’re in now was a perfect fit when I bought it back in 2017. I’d always wanted a hard loft, and it was in an exciting new (to me) part of the city. But now, in COVID times, with no return-to-the-office seeming imminent, the openness that once made the loft charming now makes it stifling, as does the lack of outdoor space. That said, I like the loft and the building so much I’ve decided to hold on to it and rent it out — a pain in the ass I do not need, but I was loathe to part with the place, especially in this market.

I remain very excited (if a little apprehensive) about the house. It has four bedrooms, which — after having only an open loft with no walls for 3.5 years, might have been an over-vector — and a beautiful back yard. It’s on a street which has always been one of my favourites in the city. It’s only ten minutes’ walk from where we live now (though if Google Maps is to be believed, once one crosses East under the train tracks, one lives in Leslieville) which means many of our neighbourhood favourites — I’m looking at you, Chez Nous and Boxcar Social — will remain.

Wish us luck over the next few days. Especially with Kramer.


Cover photo from Mural by Elicser Elliot.

The Lower Don

Three years after it re-opened (and us living practically next door to it) we finally walked part of the Lower Don River trail today. We Uber’d to the Brickworks, mistakenly thinking the trail was accessible from there, then walked the ~15 mins to the access point. What was meant to be a ~0:50 walk turned into ~1:20, but it was really nice. Even with the cars grinding down the DVP just out of sight, it felt nice to be surrounded by trees and water and scurrying wildlife.

We walked south under the Bayview exit, then under the Bloor viaduct, under Gerrard, and under Dundas, before climbing up the stairs to Queen Street. It immediately felt super-weird to be back in that kind of density.

It probably felt the least like Toronto of any place in Toronto I’ve been, but also made me feel more connected to the city than I have in months. I’m glad we snuck this in the week before we move to more than a stone’s throw from the Don.

lower don river trail
Image from BlogTO


Cover photo from the City of Toronto site

Cover photo by randy p, used under Creative Commons license

Civic duty

Back in December I got a summons. A summons for jury selection. Somehow, despite living in Toronto for almost 22 years, I’d never gotten one. But there it was, in the mail.

Weirdly, at least according to most people I knew who’d been summoned to jury selection, I was called on a Thursday. I wasn’t sure what to make of that, but I told my boss and booked off Thursday and Friday, thinking “Surely, it’ll be done in two days.” This past Thursday, at 9am, I reported for a jury selection panel at the courthouse on University Avenue.

As I took my seat on a hard, old bench that reminded me of the pews of my parents’ church before they added cushions, a bailiff (maybe? He referred to himself as more of a “greeter”) explained that the selection process could take five days. Eep. OK, so some rescheduling would be in order, but I’m in the lucky position of being able to manage that without being fired or neglecting a child, even if it would be a big pain in the ass.

The greeter then explained that Thursday panels are special panels, in that they’re intended to select 14 of the 280 prospective assembled jurors to serve in a much longer trial. Could be weeks, could be months. Panic gripped the room. Months? Seriously? Now I, too, was getting nervous. I have three trips booked in March, and work would get…well, completely away from me if I were stuck in a courtroom for months. Of course I want to do my civic duty, but holy smokes. Have (relative) mercy.

Eventually, the judge entered the room, thanked us for being there, and explained that the accused had plead guilty. We were free to go home, and excused from jury duty for three years. Shouts of joy, there were. A little inappropriate, given that courtrooms are meant to be somewhat more staid than that — and really, rooms away, someone had just committed to years in prison, so was our plight really so bad? — but I kind of understood. I felt relief too. But I do hope to serve on a jury one day. I know that sounds odd to most people, but as the judge that day pointed out it’s one of the few ways we as citizens are compelled (outside of paying taxes) to demonstrate our citizenship.

The next time I’m called I’ll try to remember that it’s not a burden, but rather a duty to be managed.


Cover photo by randy p, used under Creative Commons license

Third winter

While Toronto comes to grips with this crazy goddamn three-day rain/snow/ice storm I/we have been just trying to stay warm and fed.

On Friday I tried to meet someone at the new Walrus pub at Bay & Wellington at 5, which was a mistake, because it was a sea of suits. We opted instead for the chef’s table at Beerbistro, which were the last two seats they had, and any port in a storm and all that. Afterward I wanted some dinner while Lindsay made her way home on a train, and sandwiched between unsuccessful attempts to find a spot at a Keg and Ardo I ended up stopping in C’est What for a couple of drinks. Happily enough my buddy Jeff was working that night so we got to chat for a bit. I ended up just getting shawarma on my way home, which was delicious, even if it almost burned my face off.

Saturday morning I got up early, trying to get some errands done and supplies bought from St. Lawrence Market before the worst of the storm arrived. I did so, but later in the day we were both a bit hungry and decided to brave the ice pellets anyway, getting some lunch and beers at Eastbound.

After that it was all hatches being battened down as we huddled to watch the Raptors win game 1 of a series (finally!) and catch Lindsay up on Fargo and scarf pizza and Two Sisters cab franc.

Sunday was a whole lot of work and a little relaxation (including more Fargo) indoors as we tried to ignore the Hoth-like conditions outside our windows. We did have a delicious pasta and 2007 Nebbiolo to end the evening though.

“It’s a good job I’m in the Navy and you’re in the Army.”


This was supposed to have been a very productive weekend for our work. It…was not that, in the end.

Friday after work we managed to get a table at The Wren, one of our very favourite places in Toronto. Cool vibe, stellar food, top notch beer list. We split duck wings for a starter, then Lindsay got a burger and I had one of the best pulled pork sandwiches I’ve ever tasted. We started with the tap list (a Muddy York Haberdasher Hefeweizen and Bellwoods Jelly King for me) then we split bottles of the Bellwoods Weft & Warp 2017, the Bellwoods Dark Sour on Cherries, and a Boon Oude Geuze.




On Saturday the Bellwoods binge continued at La Carnita where we had a stellar brunch: chorizo verde, churro pancakes, and a couple of tacos to go with our bottles of Jutsu.


After brunch (and ice cream from Sweet Jesus) Lindsay went to find a quiet place to work; I went in search of a brand new brewery, Saulter Street, just around the corner. They appeared to just be opening for day #2; I took seat at the bar, sampled their Pilsner, and took home a howler (half-growler) for later. Nice little place.


After that Lindsay treated me to the deferred portion of my birthday gift: Dunkirk (imdb | rotten tomatoes) at the VIP theatre, followed by dinner at King Taps. I’d tried to get to King Taps before, after work once, but it was rammed. Like, lineup thirty deep out the door rammed. We figured it would be less busy on a Saturday night, but man…that place was like a pre-club hotspot. Weird crowd, most of whom seemed to be drinking cocktails or generic beer, not the absolutely outstanding rotating craft list or deep big-buy bottle list. We had a Duchesse de Bourgogne and a Bellwoods Jelly King and a Bench Simcoe Grove Dry Hopped Sour and a SBDL x Henderson Meyer Lemon Grisette and a Nickel Brook Redshift Cherry Sour and a very exciting bottle: a Cascade Brewing Noyaux sour. The 100 point rating on ratebeer was well-deserved — it was outstanding. Happy belated birthday to me! The beer, and the excellent food, made up for the douche-y vibe. Apparently craft taps are $5 on Sundays, so I think we have our game plan for next time.


We ended the night at Chez Nous, with plans for two glasses but only stamina for one. Boo.

Sunday we tried a place that’s pretty new at brunch: Eastbound. It was amazing. Lindsay had house-made sausage with eggs; I had an insane “sandwich” of maple bacon pancakes, eggs, and a piece of spicy fried chicken. Oh, and cheese biscuits with lobster butter. We rolled the fuck home.


In the afternoon we were very generously invited to the beautiful backyard of some of Lindsay’s colleagues; we brought over some Benjamin Bridge rosé and Grange cab franc, and drank a bunch of their wine and enjoyed the weather.


We got a little day-drunk, bought some frozen yogurt, ordered pizza, had a tiny nap, and ate pizza while we watched Game Of Thrones.

We’re trying to take it easy this holiday Monday. So far so good, but I have a lot of beer in the fridge right now, so I’m reserving judgment.