Condotoronto: Honest Ed’s R.I.P.

Honest Ed's Department Store
Honest Ed’s Department Store

Guess I can’t complain too much since I don’t remember the last time I actually bought something there. But I doubt that whatever use the land is put to next, it will have the same impact on local character as the Honest Ed’s the store and Honest Ed (Mirvish) the man. The last time I saw him he had just turned 90, and was having a birthday bash on the patio of the restaurant across Markham from the store. A mounted police officer rode his horse up against the patio fence to wish Ed a happy birthday. The next day, as R. and I were getting on the subway, the PA system came to life: “Mr. Mirvish, it’s an honour to have you on board.” He had an impact on people, as in the video below “Ed Mirvish’s Bench” put out this summer by Spacing magazine: Canadian urbanism uncovered.

But there’s more to it than just nostalgia, as John Semley recently argued in NOW magazine,

Oldness, and history, makes us feel connected with the past. They make us feel like we’re living as part of some grander, more meaningful, continuity of existence – let’s call it “civilization” – and not just puttering around glass towers in carefully laid-out micro-communities in our complicated shoes, hauling around our yappy small dogs, until we die, interred to the earth in a brushed mahogany condo-coffin.

Take that, Condotoronto!

Cool Video: Mars Flyover

From, an article and embedded video from Mars Express — of the European Space Agency– of an awesome flyover of Mars’ surface. 3D feel! Reminds me of the IMAX film of the Grand Canyon from back in the 80s. Except it… is… freaking… Mars…

Thanks to Ted Chew for the head’s up.

Where Bear?

In over thirty years of camping and otherwise spending time out of doors, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen an animal in the wild bigger than, say, the raccoons and porcupines which infest Frontenac Provincial Park.


Index Finger: And this one’s set at a garbage dump, which stretches “in the wild” past credibility really. But I’m desperate. Dad and his girlfriend had rented a cottage for the summer near Huntsville, Ontario. One night we followed local tradition and drove out to the dump to watch the local black bears. Ten or so cars lined up, headlights reflecting on a small mountain of black and green plastic garbage bags while a trio of black bears made a mountain out of a molehill. One dude, a tourist, likely, same as us, had to get out of his car for a closer photo. One of the bears sped straight at him ’til the man locked himself back in his car. The bear, point made, returned immediately to eating. Clearly, this had not been an emotional event for him.

Middle Finger: Once, on an early spring hiking trip in Frontenac, my buddy Tom and I came into a meadow where a fawn was drinking water from a puddle. The fawn, surprised, bolted in one direction. And from an explosion in the undergrowth nearby, whatever had been stalking that fawn – a wolf, perhaps – took off in the other, leaving Tom and I to wonder at just what goes on in nature when no-one’s looking.

Ring Finger: One morning on a canoeing trip in Algonquin Provincial Park, Derek and I followed a great blue heron as it kept one bend ahead of us along a river that snaked its way through mile after mile of tall grass. We came around a bend to discover a moose cow standing ankle deep in the water. She watched us warily as she continued to eat, and our awe turned to consternation as we realized that she had no intention of moving for us, which meant we would have to paddle our suddenly vulnerable-seeming canoe within range of her hoofs on this narrow river. Of course, we made it safely past.

Pinkie: Again not exactly a wildlife story, but once again with Derek, while still hallucinating from the jet lag of a flight from Seoul, Korea to San Francisco, we through our sleeping bags down next to the car in a national forest and tried to sleep as cowbells circled our impromptu camp in the dark, mist-filled forest.

Thumb: This summer, heck just last week, while driving on the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park, my wife Rumi and I spotted first, a herd of elk eating along a distant treeline, and second,  a mother black bear and cub before they disappeared into the roadside bush.

There have been near-misses, such as the LP-sized pawprint of a higuma Hokkaido brown bear (a kind of grizzly), still crumbling from freshness, on a trail through head-high bamboo grass in a remote, mist-shrouded wetland in Hokkaido’s Daisetsuzan National Park…

And oh yeah: a chamois on a grassy meadow in Murren, Switzerland, apparently startled that anyone would venture outside in a snowfall. in July.

But you get the idea. Despite years of camping, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, and otherwise spending time out of doors, I have had very few large game encounters.

All of which is a lead-up to this video, shot by remote camera in Alberta, which shows what I’ve been missing:

Good Vids: The Hobbit trailer

Gandalf: You’ll have a tale or two to tell when you come back.

Bilbo: Can you promise that I will come back?

Gandalf: No. And if you do, you will not be the same.

What’s this? Why is there a post about Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey on a blog ostensibly about (soft) adventure and world travel?

Because for me, the hero of these blog posts, it all started here. Even before sailing school, even before army cadets, there were books: Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons; The Hardy Boys; Narnia; The Once and Future King; and, most important of all, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Tolkein’s fantasy stories opened up a world of possibilities for me: the world of imagination, of course, but also of history and of other cultures (the elves, the dwarves, ents, even orcs and goblins would be worth an ethnographic study if, like, they were real).

If I had to credit — or blame — any one source of inspiration for my peripatetic life, this would be it. I have spent most of my life looking for Middle Earth.

One difference between now and then: when I was young, I most wanted to be like Bilbo, and Frodo after him; the hero of the story. Now I’m older, it’s the wisdom and power of Gandalf I increasingly aspire to. In fact, my bike is named Shadowfax…

So here it is, the announcement trailer for The Hobbit, due out December 2012.