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Hamming it up in Toronto and Hamilton

The fun has been nonstop for me on this trip. On Sunday, after a rainy morning, the sun graciously appeared in time to allow my reading at “This Ain’t The Rosedale Library” to go forward, on the street-side patio as planned. I’m not going to rehash each appearance… let’s just say, clearly, that all my Canadian stops, and all the folks I’m meeting here, are just fantastic. Great crowds, really engaging dialogues during Q&A and afterwards, lots of local initiatives being brought to my attention, many confirming my general line of thinking… So here’s a couple of shots, taken by Yvonne again, from the Rosedale talk:

Being on the street led to a couple of moments, like when some folks were leaning on a local crank’s car and he came over bellowing about staying off it and I awkwardly paused in mid-sentence, only to enthusiastically support sanctity of his vehicle and private property in general, while pointing out that leaning on cars doesn’t do them any damage… he dropped it and went back to his drinking across the street. A bunch of geezers over there had the look of people who were going to start heckling, but they never did… Anyway, being outside made it easy for people to come and go, and lots did, so who knows how many got some or all of it? maybe 40 or so?…. Here I am with the father-and-son owners of the place, Charlie and Jess, both lovely guys:

Later that night there was a gathering of plotters to plan the upcoming Carfree Day festivities in Toronto (Sept. 21-ish)… It was fun to see a whole different gaggle of people enmeshed in their various factions and styles of discussion and meeting, and not have a personal stake in the outcome. But I have to say, the local scene in Toronto is SUPER impressive. A fantastic bunch of people firing on many cylinders across the range of initiatives, from cycling to reclaiming streets, Critical Mass, bike shops, great musicians, and more…

I also hung out with a group of local bike bloggers, who I wrote about in the previous entry, but here’s a photo Yvonne got of it that I didn’t have when I posted that last one:

Yesterday I was invited to head some miles down the lakeshore to the nearby city (500,000) of Hamilton, the once and future steelmaking capital of Canada. There’s still a huge steel mill on the shore there, now owned by the international behemoth Arcelor/Mittal, and they’re pumping up production to fulfill demand from local carmakers, a fact that left me scratching my head… really? Yet MORE cars? We don’t have too many already?… anyway, I was met by Dean Carriere, a lovely fellow who’s been working in the city for over 20 years, trying to help bring about something of a relocalized city life after years of suburban sprawl. A new arts community, made up largely of Toronto refugees, has settled along St. James street there, where they’re buying up beautiful old buildings and opening galleries and workspaces. It seemed pregnant with potential, but still some steps to go… The cycling and eco-activist scenes in Hamilton are small but passionate, and I had the pleasure of an afternoon bike tour of the reclaimed waterfront, now full of beautiful parkland… Here’s my hosts on the bike tour Sean and Jarah:

He’s working on opening a new used bike shop that will have a strong DIY component, right in that arts zone on St. James. She is a mom to two small kids and took some of her rare free time to help tour me around, filling me in on the sad story of Red Creek, which is now a huge freeway cutting through one of the last semi-pristine canyons in Hamilton (it straddles the Niagara escarpment, so a lower downtown and port area with a cliff lining the northwest of the town, above which is a sprawling residential area. As we meandered along we came upon this nice juxtaposition of a Heron along the restored shoreline, but in the distance across the inner bay sits the satanic steel mill (I actually suggested that they might be glad to have it as the world economy gets substantially relocalized over the next decades… they can retool it to be a recycling facility, reconfiguring the vast quantities of steel embedded in cars, machines, buildings, etc., that will have to be repurposed in a new world.)

That night I spoke at the Bread and Roses cafe, which is part of the Skydragon Community Development Corporation, a cleverly named effort to reclaim and open community space in downtown Hamilton. (The name pleases bankers and allows them to get financing, etc.) I was very impressed by the interesting and thoughtful people who gave me a lot good feedback, told me stories about their local scene and by the end of the night there was speculation about how I might be able to come back for an international arts festival in the spring… we’ll see!

Today I enjoy another flurry of events in Toronto and then tomorrow I’ll be on the train all day, from early in the morning until my 9:30 arrival in Penn Station in New York… on we go!

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One Response to “Hamming it up in Toronto and Hamilton”

  1. 1
    Daryl Bender:

    Sorry I missed your evening in Hamilton – otherwise known as “The Hammer”. I am the City staff person charged with improving cycling facilities. If you have any notes from your talk describing issues in Hamilton please forward them. I am in the process of writing an updated Cycling Master Plan for the City and your notes would be appreciated.
    Regards, Daryl Bender, City of Hamilton

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