Colombo’s latest goes to press

It’s fun collaborating on covers for John Robert Colombo’s books, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Easy, of course, would be to use tried-and-true design conventions that we know will work. But no, John likes to try new things and that’s what makes his assignments interesting and challenging.


Late in the Day is the last volume in a series that JRC has been publishing at this time of the year for 10 years. Each book contains poems and what John calls “effects”. Continue reading

Not a prison, beautification planned

The intersection at Lakeshore Boulevard and Leslie Street has been a mess for a long time, as the new streetcar maintenance facility takes shape.

The big ugly wall will be painted a colour, then trees will be planted to hide it and in a decade or two, it will be hidden, except for the 6 leafless months. And besides, TTC says on Twitter, the Ministry of the Environment made us put it up, so it will look nice and it’s not our fault.
Congestion of automobile traffic along the major arterial route that is Lakeshore Boulevard will apparently not be a problem. As you can see in the artist’s conception, the cars have disappeared. Good thing, too, because getting 30 metre streetcars across the intersection might have impeded cars on the Lakeshore. Here’s a crossing timetable I found in a TTC PDF.

85 outbound trips, between 5:00 and 7:00 a.m.
30 inbound trips between 9:00 and 10:00 a.m.
30 outbound trips between 2:00 and 3:00 p.m.
45 inbound trips between 7:00 and 9:00 p.m.
40 inbound trips between 1:00 and 2:00 a.m.

As the artist’s rendering shows, drivers of the future will not be using Lakeshore Boulevard. Pedestrians, joggers and cyclists will begin to enjoy the intersection. Each day, 6.9 kilometres of streetcar will be passing through the park-like setting.
For comparison, the entire parade route of the Toronto Santa Claus Parade is one kilometre shorter and it’s once a year, not every day.

The other ETNA

etnaSure, when you think of ETNA, it’s the volcano that comes to mind, but that’s the old ETNA. The new one is the East Toronto Neighbourhood Association, inspired by the successes of Beach Hill. The ETNA website even itemizes some of the things the BHNA got done, just by organizing a bit.

One of my first impressions of Toronto, when I came here in the 70s, was that it is a city of neighbourhoods (with nondescript patches in between). Looks like it’s truer than ever, but the nondescript parts are shrinking.

Screwing a new condo into place

I have been puzzled for weeks by a forest of pipes sticking out of a construction site on Gerrard Street, between Coxwell and Greenwood. What are the pipes for? Today, the sign on a workman’s pickup door led me to this explanation:

So now I know. A foundation-building method I’ve never seen before. The pipes will root the concrete foundation into sandy soil. that Otherwise it would not be stable enough to support a multi-storey building. Hope it works!

Still life with drums

still-life-with-drumsMy sister’s living room in Salmo, B.C., with many drums, large and small.

Joni takes after her mother Helen, and her grandparents before that, in her appreciation of indigenous arts and culture. Helen responded in her own expressive way, but Joni is more immersed.

Joni plays and sings in drum circles, on drums of her own making. A couple of months ago, she passed a guy who was dressing a deer and asked what he was going to do with the hide. Odd, isn’t it? When you dress a deer, you take its coat off. Anyway, he gave her the hide, she prepared it and made the wooden cylinder from spruce.

drum+stickShe sent one small drum to us as a gift. It came with a fur-covered drumstick and there’s some nice beadwork on the handle.

Depending on where and how you strike it, different sounds are possible.

Sounds a bit bigger than it is


The “Up” part of the Upland Forest must come from the fact that it is on a mound that was bulldozed into position when developers created the park. The “forest” consists of a slope planted with trees and vegetation native to the region.

The sign may be a little ambitious in its name, not to say pretentious, but the idea is a good one. Native plants pretty much take care of themselves, without requiring fertilizers, pesticides and watering. By showing city slickers how attractive these species are, more may want them in their own yards.


The view today from the Upland Forest, overlooking the artificial but pleasantly reeded Swan Pond.

Lakeshore Loblaws mimics Maple Leaf Gardens

Many design touches have been picked up from the flagship store now occupying Toronto’s former hockey shrine, including the orange floors, tile surfaces and even the two-storey cheese case. The old “big-box” look still applies to the outside of the Lakeshore Loblaws, but the inside does look better.
The corner of Leslie and Lakeshore needs all the help it can get. Physically close to the waterfront and parklands, it looks like neither. Newly installed streetcar barns have sealed the fate of the intersection. Car and transit dominated, the shopping mall zone looks suburban, not like part of the city and certainly not an inviting area to walk.