Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Little Trains Make Everything Better 

Lately, I've been trying to get out of the office to experience this new neighbourhood. It's strange to have moved from Liberty Village, a once neglected, now condo-blossoming neighbourhood near the Lake to Harbourfront/Queens Quay, a once neglected now recently polished neighbourhood actually on the Lake. The upside has been that there is a lot going on right here, right now. The Pan Am Games have given some verve and vitality to this glass and concrete city.

Usually, the best of Toronto in the summer is happening on a quiet, well-treed side street in a cosy and intimate neighbourhood but this summer is different. There are so many events happening on the waterfront and downtown. The Pan Am Games have filled the city with visitors and officials (a lot of official vehicles moving in and out of the Westin Harbour Castle hotel), and free concerts, food vendors and markets and arts events. It's hard to keep up or keep track. The waterfront itself has finally started to become the tourist and city dweller destination it should be and reminds me of the Embarcadero revitalization in San Francisco. People love being near water. Go figure. This part of Queens Quay is a little bit of the dismal end of the Martin Goodman trail (since re-christened the Pan Am Trail) but head a little Westward to the Harbourfront Centre or North to the CN Tower and you'll see a completely invigorated area that, only a few years ago, was the kind of parking lot where Tony Soprano buried his problems.

I rode through Roundhouse Park today and was surprised by just what's going on there. The park is really just the small area around the old rail roundhouse. Of course, to my mother, nothing smaller than Algonquin Park can truly be called a "park". Admittedly, Toronto will call any square of sod a park but nonetheless the Roundhouse has become a real destination. Years ago it was only the Steam Whistle Brewery but now includes the Toronto Rail Museum along with several engines and rail cars. It also includes, somewhat incongruously, a Leon's Furniture Store. The best thing by far, is the little scaled down train ride on real tracks pulled by a little train engine driven by an engineer who alerts pedestrians and clears the rails of misplaced stones and debris. How can you not smile when you see a little train? It even has its own tiny roundhouse.

The downside to being in this neighbourhood is really about its success. There are a huge number of tourists and people just hanging around looking a little dazed. If I may offer a couple of words of advice to parents of small children: 1) hold their little hands. I'm a little peeved though not surprised how many afraid and crying kids yelling, "Mommy!?" I've seen. Twice in as many days I've stopped and thought I should help some kid in distress only to have the parent saunter up and grab the poor little weeper saying, "I'm right here!" As a neglected child myself I can honestly say, at a certain age, it's more the parent's responsibility to watch the little one than it is for the little one to keep up. 2) Enough with the friggin' "time-outs". How many parents have I seen "take a knee" in front of their kids to quietly and sternly tell them to buck up and enjoy themselves and stop ruining this for everyone. For Christ's sake - whatever happened to "Shut up or I'm turning this car around!" I'm guessing parental units took their 4-8-year old out in the scorching heat expecting that short, under-weight individual to have the fortitude of a marathon runner and then get a little fed up when said kid starts complaining. I don't know what book parents are using these days but apparently there's a chapter in there about holding their shoulders, looking them square in the eye and talking to them with the intensity normally reserved for interrogating a Navy Seal. I have no kids so what the hell do I know what terror you've brought into this world and now lost control of? That's the plot of Jurassic World, right? Yet, my prescription is a quick "QUIET!" - then an ice cream and the cure for all ills, a ride on a little train. What could be better than that?

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