broadsideblog

Riding the Red Rocket

In culture on August 24, 2009 at 6:18 pm
Toronto streetcar

Image by r h via Flickr

That’s the fond nickname Torontonians (some mouthful, that) have for their transit system. Riding the Queen Street West streetcar — which takes all of 17 non-rush-hour minutes from its western terminus into downtown — takes me past some of my history. There’s the street where I met and gave my heart away, hastily and foolishly, in my final year of college to the ski bum living in Austria most of the year. We met at a party where my best friend met his best friend who broke her heart too. There’s now an empty space where the Army Navy store sat for decades, where I bought a leather bullwhip and gave it — natch — to the head of security for Queen Elizabeth’s Royal Tour. (He used to walk backward trying to pacify the press pack when she did walkabouts and I suggested he needed, like a liontamer, a whip and a chair.) The bookstore with a rack for books by or about “iconoclasts and activists” right by the door, Pages, a Queen Street indie institution for 30 years closes in seven days.

Sat at the Black Bull — founded 1833 — and savored a cold beer, watching the world go by. Dropped into Roots and chatted with two terrific girls, Kristi and Jamie, best friends from first grade in Sudbury who both work there, and we traded horror stories about retail life.

Tonight — yay! — Dad and I will head to The Ex, an ancient annual summer Toronto (pronounced Tronna by natives) tradition of rides and farm animals and butter sculptures and cotton candy and overpriced rigged carnie games. Can’t wait.

  1. I rode the Red Rocket, on and off, for week back in the summer of ’95. Why did our cities ever give up street cars? It was great.

  2. I’m actually rding the rocket now. Good ol’ 501 west. Mind you I come from the Beaches so it’s a bit of a trek but it’s some nice alone time. I guess we are in a bit of an opposite situation. When you work full time in retail you value what alone time you get. Ha…interesting. Never realized that before now. ;)

    It was great chattin with ya in Roots! It’s so fun when we meet fun and interesting ppl! Helps the day go by. :) Thanks for that and in advance for that fabulous book you are working on.

    Jamie

  3. In 1997, my grandmother, at the time in her mid-80s, was badly upset after catching the second half of a CBC radio news report about the Albanian Ponzi scheme of 1997, and the ensuing riots. How could such a thing be happening, she asked, in peaceful Ontario?

    We had to explain that the reporter had filed from Tirana, and not Tronna. The way my grandmother (and to a lesser extent, the rest of us) pronounce the name of the city, it’s hard to tell the difference.

  4. I love the streetcar, even when — in summer — I get sand in my sandals from sitting at the front. Have you ever noticed that fine white sand piled up inside the cars? I asked a driver and he said they use it in winter to help them brake.

    One friend of mine said she once got grilled, hard, by a customs officer when she was coming back to Toronto and he said “Where do you live?” and she answered Toronto, pronouncing all the t’s. He didn’t believe her, because — like Balmer for Baltimore — if you really live there, you never say it “correctly.”

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