Category Archives: Hobbies


Yesterday (March 15th, 2018) was the first day of the Friends of Toronto Public Library Clearance Book Sale over at the Toronto Reference Library. All items, library discards and (here’s the important thing, the key) donated books, most of which are in good, gently used condition: $.10-$.50.

Cents to the dollar.


Best deal in town. Can’t be beat!

See the impetus? Sense the urgency?

The Plan:

  • Wake up early.
  • Dress.
  • Eat pre-breakfast (boiled eggs prepared from the night before).
  • Make sure phone fully charged (again, ensure this is done the night before).
  • Grab extra bags (for books).
  • Bring cash, bring pockets full with change (Correct change matters; correct change = ADVANTAGE).
  • Take out dog.
  • Leave home.
  • Arrive early: no later than 9:00AM, a half hour before the book sale (in recent years, word has gotten out and people, lots of them, come for the sale even before the doors to the library open at 9:00AM…these are serious people).

I am a serious person…when it comes to books and massive book sales (when it comes to this massive book sale). This is a serious book sale.

Things. Did. Not. Go. As. Planned.

Woke up on time, but hit snooze and spent way too much time in the bathroom, forgot to boil eggs, grabbed breakfast bars only after the absurd amount of time it took to remember we had them in the first place and the panic that ensued thinking I’d have to go into this, one of the biggest book sales of the year, hangry, took out the dog, bolted from home only to find transit delayed, trains so slow, so slow and lumbering, arrived at library just before 9:30AM and found myself forming part of a very long line that went through the building, out the door, and around the block.


Evidently, I am not the only serious person serious about this most serious sale.

Serpentine line, like at amusement parks, or celebrity wakes. Too many people, so many bodies blocking the doors it was a fire hazard. There was some confusion as people shuffled, and were shuffled, to and fro:

“Whomever believes the are at the end of the line, put your hand up,” said the burly library security guard. Many hands, scattered here and there, scattered all around, came up. Shot up into the air.

Libraries have burly security guards? This one does. Seriously.

The line was broken up; people waiting after a certain point (this was, roughly, underneath the stairwell inside the main foyer) were asked to line up outside, against the building and down the block. They politely obliged, so wiling they were to get into this sale that waiting in line was an accepted exchange, a hardship readily borne.

So serious.

People from all walks of life were there, but I could see clusters that mirrored each other: kids off from March break (serious ones, of course, who waited patiently for their turn at the books), retirees, university students (more than a few reading textbooks as the lined lurched forward at irregular intervals), obvious hoarders. Many brought backpacks and tote bags and suitcases, the kind with the wheels on the bottom and an extendable handle, for ease.

(Kind of wish I had thought of that, extra baggage in this case would have served as an extra advantage. For serious.)

I spent my time in the line chatting amiably with a woman named Fran,* who told her work she had an important “appointment” that morning which could not be rescheduled. Not a lie. Good on you Fran!

Fran has some very interesting theories regarding a library thief at her local branch (“Not the hoity toity library in the neighbourhood, the working-class library”): someone’s ripping recipes out of the new magazines that come on Fridays and Saturdays and Fran is on it. Together, we came up with some more interesting theories about who this person could be, and how to catch them.

Fran and I separated once we were finally ushered into the sale, way back towards the back of the big, reliable building by a volunteer who, one hour into the sale, at 10:30AM, was already losing her voice wrangling so many book-hungry people, poor woman.

“Bye, Fran! Good luck!”

Mayhem inside, but of a managed sort. Totally doable, and worth it for the books. Rows and rows and tables full of them, ten cent paperbacks, fifty cent hardcovers, although a lot of what was on offer seemed already picked over.


Some people grabbed boxes which had been emptied of books for the sale and filled them with the books from the sale. Some people went from table to table, methodically running their hands over spines and covers, picking up titles that intrigued them. Others grabbed at the books, regardless of title, condition or type, and threw them into bags and boxes.

Takes all kinds.

I spent two hours at the book sale, jostling about, snatching books were I could. For all that trouble, I good a good haul: 14 books for just over $4.50.

You can’t beat that, and hard to dismiss it.

The sale goes on until tomorrow (March 17th, 2018, 9:00AM-4:00PM). So many people, so many books: the volunteers, mostly older people wanting to do good by the books, are heroes.

One, overheard on my way out: “Once we started posting about on Facebook and places, the sale has become so popular. It’s like we can’t keep up. We just keep refilling the tables and they just keep buying.”

12:30PM. There was still a line that went through the building, out the door, and around the block. More people outside waiting to get at the books inside.


The best laid plans indeed.






* Not real name. I go you, Fran!









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Filed under Books, Hobbies, Ritual, Thrift

The Places You’ve Been (Before & After)

Sharon Temple is located in East Gwillimbury, not too far from King City, Ontario. I went there with Nate and Ally[1] recently on a mutual day off.


There was a school group before us. They left as we came in and staff were a bit surprised by our adult presence there on a weekday.

(This economy.)

According to their literature, Sharon Temple was “a community formed during the War of 1812, inspired by the Rebellion of 1837, and instrumental in the fight for true democracy in Canada.” Several members, indeed, took part in William Lyon Mackenzie’s 1837 uprising, which led to key political reforms for “responsible government” in what was then Upper Canada. Read more about Sharon Temple here. Suffice it to say, their stairway is an architectural feat, the Temple itself a marvel.


Admission: $5 Adults. Children (under 16) free.

We hit an antique market in Barrie shortly after visiting Sharon Temple. It was two-and-a-half floors of a very large building just brimming with stuff – all kinds of matter, seemingly all manner of Thing, although it seemed rather generous to call or deem some of it “antique.” Antique markets are strange places: they seem rather like high-end thrift stores, or immaculate refuse heaps. We had been told by our mutual friend that this particular place was great for quality (or at least hard-to-find) books.

The books up for sale were overpriced for my taste, but Nate and Al poured over them and found some hidden treasures pertaining to their specific interests.

These include (in no particular order): Ontario history; archeology in Western, Eastern and Southern Ontario; provincial archives/sketches; big books full of old maps; and descriptions of early slip-decorated pottery in Canada.

This list is by no means extensive. I have very interesting friends.

I found (in no particular order):


  1. An array of foam skulls, purportedly from the set of the 12 Monkeys TV show (which I don’t watch).[2]
  2. A stain glass poodle.
  3. Many wood duck decoys of varying craftsmanship, price and (in some cases) degrees of decay.
  4. A “vintage” mushroom lamp that cost several times more than my hydro bill.
  5. An ENTIRE EDWARDIAN SITTING ROOM (removed piece by piece, bit by bit, wood panel by wood panel and by wall by wall from an estate somewhere in England, with the fourth wall removed/left missing like a stage play or sitcom…a steal, really, at only $38,000).
  6. Metal coin banks in the shape of various animals.
  7. A statue of a Bull fighting a Bear (both male) affixed to a pure marble stand.
  8. Circus Butts.
  9. Old, used buckets of KFC – let me clarify: for sale.


I rejoined Nate and Ally. I left them once more to their books and wandered a bit before rejoining them again. I rejoined them again after walking back to the Edwardian Sitting Room, standing inside a place that was and was not there, before stopping at the array of foam 12 Monkeys skulls and picking one up as if it were, alas, poor Yorick.


And lo. And behold: flipping idly through Al’s very large pile of “To Buy” books, I came across an account of the Children of Peace, the people who built the Sharon Temple and their founder, one David Willson. There were pictures, some admittedly at weird angles, of the Temple’s magnificent structure and accounts of Willson as an outspoken, even outlandish leader.

Further reading revealed a former school teacher turned minister, disowned by the Quakers for “some peculiarities of belief or conduct,”[3] (including, apparently, his love of music, including, for example, his own particular brand of mysticism), Willson is described thusly in one account:

“David Willson seems about 65 years of age and is a middle-sized, square-built man, wearing his hair over this face and forehead, and squints considerably…He was dressed in a short brown cloth jacket, white linen trousers, with a straw hat, all perhaps home-made. Originally from the State of New York, he had resided thirty years in this county. The number of his followers is unknown, but all offering themselves in sincerity are accepted, as he dislikes sectarianism, and has no written creed. He seems to act on Quaker principles, assisting the flock in money and advice.”[4]

(Willson strikes me, after everything, as a man not just of his time but of the unforeseen circumstances, rather than the inevitabilities, surrounding it – a compelling figure for all that he was, and remains, a rather uncanny person.)

Still, it was the pictures that I found particularly striking: we had just been there an hour ago. The pictures seemed proof of something; they somehow added another layer to the veracity of the day, conspiring with us, egging us on.

Something like that.


In the end, I didn’t buy anything at the antique market, but it’s the thrill of the hunt, yes?


Because there’s something about it, isn’t there? Reading about a place you’ve been to before, feeling out how one experience compares (enhances? diminishes? challenges? complements?) to the other, afterward. Learning about someone you didn’t know existed a day before, or even that morning, their life leaving some kind of impression on yours.

And then there was the experience of having been in a sitting room that wasn’t, of having encountered a memento from a show I have never watched in, of all places, Barrie, Ontario.

Wasn’t that something?

Maybe I shouldn’t have passed by those foam 12 Monkeys skulls. Maybe I should have more seriously considered the Room.

But since I can’t place the value in either of those Things, since their purpose eludes me, I think it was the right decision not buy anything after all.

That day, at least, it was best.




[1] Not real names.

[2] I have seen the movie (years ago) if that counts for anything.

[3] Hughes, James L. (James Laughlin). (1920). Sketches of the Sharon Temple and of its Founder David Willson. York Pioneer and Historical Society: Toronto, 1. Available:

[4] Patrick Shirreff, quoted in Hughes, 11.





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Filed under Friends, Hobbies, People, Places, THE FUTURE, THE PAST, Travel

For The Birds

A family of robins moved into my yard. Two adults, two fat fledglings, one just a little fatter than the other.

The fledglings eat constantly, and it is a wonder how many worms the adults manage to find to feed them day after day after day.

I was thrilled at first. These delightful visitors, my guests, evidence of life happening!

And then the lawn furniture. The patio, the spot under the tree where I like to read.

Bombarded. Destroyed with the collective birdshit of two adults, two fledglings, one just a little fatter than the other.

That fat little bastard, who eats all the worms then perches over my spot, more than seems necessary.

Do you see me, little bird? Can you see me watching you? I know what you are doing. I see you.

Fat Bastard Bird

So it occurs to me that the robins have perhaps worn out their welcome. They have turned theory into practice and ruined it with consequence.

And of course, they haven’t done anything.

They are birds.

That is what I tell myself now, because I can.

Shit happens.


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Filed under Animals, Birds, Emotion, Hobbies

Duck Calling


Duck Ducklings

The questions were unexpected and extraordinary.

“Are you raising ducklings?”

“How are you going to keep a duck in the city??”

“Will that be good for the ducks, especially with the dog being there???”

No mention of the fact that the duckling – at turns named Donald and Daisy and Howard and Daffy; at turns referred to as “it” or “they” – has two heads, or upon closer inspection (but not that close, isn’t the wooden stand a dead giveaway?) are clearly not alive.

All of the sudden, a two-headed duckling living in the city, being raised in my apartment and with my dog around, was as plain as the beaks on their faces. The real issue, the one more vital than the simple, evident fact of their existence, was my terrible and selfish decision to take the duckling home with me.

It was touching, in a way, and also remarkable; this concern for something so small and innocent. People do have a way of getting past the obvious.

I cleared the air (Everyone! These are fake real ducklings. Please stop asking how I am going to raise a duck in the city!), and laughed and laughed.

Soon after, I put the duckling under glass to keep the dust off of them.

And now I sometimes catch myself looking at it, terrified they cannot breathe.

Ducks Under Glass


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Filed under Animals, Hobbies, Pets

No Buts But Butts About It (Except Of Course Butte)

… in the meantime, I often find myself having to find ways to amuse myself.

So, OK.

A silent “t” added to every “but” I say aloud! 

It is great fun and economical to boot (“But, he’s getting it done” v. “Butt, he’s getting it done!”), although of course saying that it is cost-free is another thing almost entirely.

There are hazards to a-skew-ing the language. Meaning and definition conflating, oral and auditory flung into wicked identity crisis. Brain farts. Diarrhea of the mouth. Tongues tied, hands wrung, etc.

“But” –> Butt

Butt= Good.

It falls apart at Butte, Montana.



That e doesn’t not make “but” butt but “Butte”.

So that when I say “Butte” I’ve got to know what I’m saying.

But good!

Butt nothing.


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Filed under Hobbies, Words

Apocalypse Later

So the apocalypse didn’t happen?

It seems, then, that I’ve now got a bit more time to continue on with my hobby: drafting my epitaph.

Going to be a really hard go at it, beating this.

Keep on Truckin’

It keeps me busy.  And it’s F-R-E-E!

Here, so far, are the contenders:

  1. “Enough Already.”
  2. “This is Absolutely Not Me at My Best.”
  3. “LOLZ!”
  4. “Excuse Me. For Living.”
  5. “Poopsicle = Poo Popsicle.”
  6. “Probably.”
  8. “I’m NOT a Feminist. But…”
  9. “Wait. Wait, wait, wait!”
  10. “Grateful to Have Lived in the Golden Age of Injectable Soft-Tissue Fillers.”
  11. “It’s Not You. It’s Me.”
  12. “Tiger Balm Cures (almost) Everything.”
  13. “I’m Hungry.”
  14. “Chemistry was the worst!! Have a nice summer!”
  15. “Kony 2012.”
  16. “And I Never Got to Ride That Pony.”
  17. “Wish You Were Here.”
  18. “iDied”

The final draft, though!


That will be the tricky bit.



Filed under Hobbies, Words