Archive for May, 2014


Well, today is the first day of Doors Open Toronto put on by Great Gulf. So since old man winter has finally shuffled off, I decided to make the most of the long-awaited warmth. I’ve never been to the Distillery District before today. I always planned to go but somehow I could never get there. The 30 minute tour was informative and the guide was friendly. Not much information is given on the actual distillery and the stories about the hauntings are pretty much reported information, but then again, it’s half an hour and it’s free – not too bad.

The atmosphere was festive and apart from the occasional chilly breeze, it was quite hot. It’s a great place for friends and families to visit. I was pleased with the fact that there were a few places where one could sit down and have lunch or just kick back with a beverage.

In case you are wondering, yes – I did go by myself. I don’t know many people who would like to spend the day promenading through narrow brick streets, trying to capture just a sliver of architectural history on a digital camera. But then again, I don’t know many people. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a loner. I enjoy company as much as the next person. I’m just very intolerant of anyone who tries to make me feel inferior and for some reason, I tend to attract such people. I have acquaintances who have their own lives and that’s fine by me.

 

Strange looking thing

As you enter the Distillery District on Gristmill Lane, this is the first thing that catches your eye. A War of the Worlds sort of alien creature. I would have loved to have seen this at night – in the dark – for the first time.

Distillery - from below

Naturally, my favourite features of this place were the buildings. There is nothing more profound than looking at the past through mirrors in the present. The Distillery District was first a flour mill before it became a brewery. Of course, at that time clean water was scarce and alcohol ranked higher than food.

Distillery building - close shot Distillery Building - From below Distillery Building - long shot DSCF0461 DSCF0464 DSCF0465 DSCF0463 DSCF0474 DSCF0475

I imagine this place must have been quite a hive of activity and more than likely, a place of employment for many. It still is.  Below are two whiskey barrels. The one on the left is charred on the inside and the one on the right is just smoked. I had the pleasure of speaking to a young cooper (barrel maker) who explained that a barrel this size could take up to seven hours to make. These barrels were then charred or smoked on the inside. When the whiskey is poured into them, it’s usually a clear liquid, it’s the burnt insides of the barrels that give the colour to it. Hmm, really did not know that. Quite the conversation starter I would say. By the way, they were charring these barrels on site, hence my curiousity and the young fella did not mind me taking pictures of his barrels.

 

Whiskey barrel - charred on the inside Whiskey barrel - smoked on the inside

I couldn’t resist. I’ve never seen an anvil before. This was placed next to a bed in the Hastens bed showroom. I say this is one hell of a side table. All it needs now is a lamp and alarm clock.

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This creepy looking black and white photo was hung over the bed (the one which had the anvil next to it). I was really hoping to catch the ghost’s reflection in it. You know how they do in the movies? I assume all these people worked at the distillery at one time or the other and perhaps they’re still there – we just don’t see them much.

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Some kind of drill

This sign goes with the above picture. It’s a drill press. I don’t know what it was used for. I’ll hazard a guess that it was used to drill a press or press a drill or both…who knows. I was distracted – too busy looking for the chocolate factory. Sorry.

Drill press

And here are more relics of the past.

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By then I was hungry and I still hadn’t found the chocolate factory.

A chicken pesto panini and a double shot macchiato distracted me for a little while. It was a nice place. Very clean with good service.

 

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FINALLY! The chocolate factory.

More goodies There is no place like chocolate Chocolate goodies Chocolate heaven

To be honest, I’ve seen bigger selections elsewhere. But they were nice to allow me to take pictures in there. Once I had purchased a few of these beauties, I armed myself with a lemon gelato and headed out to face the heat. It was hotter by then. I could feel the sun’s heat boring a hole into the crown of my head.

Now walking and eating was never a skill that I developed. I’m a more ‘sit down and munch’ type of person. Somehow, my feet and my mouth just can’t seem to coordinate. Seriously, when it comes to food, my brain is good for nothing else. I cannot be distracted by anything else. DSCF0478Funny looking art.  Wacky looking artFunny looking art from a different angle.

And here is the big clock that everyone seemed to want to take a picture of, including me.

 

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Oh and let’s not forget the ghost chandelier. Apparently the employees of this cafe witnessed it swinging from side to side. Must have been a playful ghost. I would have given anything to see that chandelier start swinging.

Chandelier

That was it. At long last, I’ve seen and experienced the Distillery District. Not bad. I was glad I did it. There is something liberating about travelling or exploring on one’s own and I intend to do more of this. However, next time I’ll wear a hat. A smacking migraine is a small price to pay for adventure, but it’s annoying as hell.

Sincerely,

WordCupid.

(See my selfie? You can actually see the reflection of my hands holding the camera on my bug glasses. Should have taken off the glasses.)

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Under The Mango Tree

 

The sun was at his happiest that day, for he smiled down upon the earth and the intensity of his happiness gave off a warmth that was near scorching. I was on my two months vacation from school. No school for students meant there was no school for teachers either. It was the beginning of a new week, a Monday, and the day had already begun its slow drag and the heat made it seem even slower. Somehow Mondays always affected me that way. I called it the Monday blues. It was too hot to stay inside so I came outside and sought refuge beneath the shady protection of a huge Rose Mango tree in our yard. It grew neither at the back nor the front of the house, but along the side of it. Its green leafy canopy spread wide over the house and the yard making it cooler in that area, only in that sizeable portion of the yard.

 

I had in my hand a long yellow writing pad, and a pen which came free with a tube of Boro Plus antiseptic cream. Those were the only writing tools I required for me to squeeze out a writing career from a mundane existence. I had seated myself upon an old stump cut out from another mango tree that once grew in another part of the yard. That stump was cut and fitted carefully between the protruding roots of the mango tree under which I sat and it served the purpose of all the r’s I could think of; reading, writing or just relaxing in the cool shade while one reminisced of days and events gone by.

 

I was mulling around in my mind for something I could use as a potential story either fictional or autobiographical, and I found nothing. My mind was blank, nothing inspired me. I closed my eyes and leaned against the huge, gnarled trunk of the tree and just let the cool breeze blow around me. I could distinctly hear the tree in motion, as if it came alive. The branches, leaves and almost dried twigs above me bumped into each other making little snapping noises, the trunk creaked with the force of the movement coming from the top.

 

I always felt that trees were somehow magical, regardless which part of the world they grew. They lived longer than many of us and I was sure possessed many secrets that if we were to listen carefully they were sure to tell. My reverie was disturbed when there was a louder snapping sound and then ‘dock’, upon my head. I jerked upright in my seat and looked around rubbing the assaulted area near the crown of my head. I saw a small twig-like branch lying at my feet and attached to it was a young mango. It was very small yet but with lots of potential to become a nice golden rose colored, ripe, juicy mango, or pepper and seasoning soaked mango chow. But as small as it was, the height from which it fell gave it another potential use, a stinging, head thumping, bump making missile.

 

That bump on the head came to me as a sign from above, literally. An idea for a story or stories had actually fallen upon my head and I was no fool to ignore that. This is what I wrote:

 

I remember my early school days at the Spring Village Hindu School. It was debatable at the time and probably still is as to where the school is actually situated. Some argued that the school was rightfully named because it faced its namesake, Spring Village, which was located across the Churchill Roosevelt Highway. Others however had a different opinion and argued that the school was situated in Curepe proper, and should be renamed something more appropriate. A few who thought location was of no importance and was the reason why there were so many debates thought that the best thing would be for the school to be named after some founder or other important person in society who was a major stakeholder in the school; and so it went on for many years and the school kept its name.

 

Spring Village Hindu was one primary school that really impressed me. Sure it was dilapidated in some areas, but what I noticed and really remarked upon even as a young pupil there, was the presence of so many trees on the school compounds and the vast well kept playing grounds that was available for pupils’ recreational pursuits, namely; running, jumping, skating (on grass), tripping, falling or just sitting around and watching everyone else. For the least sportive there were some old but usable desks that were arranged outside under a galvanized shed in classroom formation if a pupil or pupils wished to read or just sit and chat with classmates.

 

Even though it looked small from the outside, it was spacious on the inside, with enough space for comfortable movement. Overhead fans dispelled the typical afternoon heat of a tropical climate and on cold rainy days they were turned off. The school’s environment was definitely conducive to study. Needless to say, even with such accommodations, teachers preferred to take their classes outside under the various trees on the compound where disciplines such as reading, spelling, timetables, quizzes, reading and comprehension and essay preparations required the serenity and silence of the outside. That way, when it came to quizzes, we could argue or cheer without disturbing neighbouring classes, or in the case of spelling, or reading of written compositions, the teacher and other students could hear without the disturbance from the whole school.

 

I remember all too well how my classmates and I hated to learn timetables as part of our weekly routine. Our teacher, Mr. Anand Balroop had taken it upon himself to make these colourful charts, the size of small placards; red, pink, green, blue, white and yellow, and upon them in bright contrasting marker pen ink, the timetables were written. He even managed to get some of us to help him make these charts, and not knowing that these would later become articles of torture for our own selves, readily and gladly offered our help, thinking ourselves scholarly and important. After all Mr. Balroop was the smartest man we knew and for him to request our help must have meant something.

 

So it began. Twice a week, Mondays and Wednesdays, after the school bell rang for students to return to classes, we would look with dread as the charts came out of the big wooden cupboard in the corner of the classroom and Mr. Balroop, already having sent a boy to reconnoitre the compounds to find a tree and claim it, would say with relish as he looked at our woebegone faces, “Under the mango tree”.   Another boy would pick up his chair, and like lambs to the slaughter we would follow him, charts in hand to the mango tree that was chosen.

 

There were two trees, one was located on the car park near the Standard five C classroom and the other was on the extreme end of the savannah.   Most often it would be the tree near the classroom and we all dreaded that one, because should Mr. Balroop happen to scold us for being lazy, the two school vendors would be there to hear, pupils and teachers passing by would hear and we would be too embarrassed to even think straight. So we tried our best to sound loud and energetic. We would be asked to hold our cards properly in front of us and when he said, “Begin”, we would start off,

One two is two, two into two one

Two twos are four, two into four two

Three twos are six, two into six three

And so on….

at first like a cheering chant, which deteriorated after about five minutes into something like a low drone.

 

After carrying on like that for what seemed like hours, he would pick us up, calling upon us randomly to recite the timetables, in both formats, multiplication and division. After which, still in that random selection he would call, “one two”, and wait for the answer. Then he would ask someone else at random, “two into ten?” and expect a prompt answer. Meantime while the chosen pupil would be on the spot, the rest of us would have our brains working like clockwork, speeding through the timetables in our minds, our lips moving silently, not a word coming out from them, all of us looking as if we were in a trance and mumbling some strange incantation in the hope that should that pupil fail to come up with the answer, whoever was called upon next would be ready.

 

At the end of that session, whoever had risen to the challenge and gotten all the questions correct were either admired by some or scorned by others for not falling below the teacher’s expectations. It was in this manner that we were taught how to learn our timetables. Even though at the time I thought it tedious, it no doubt helped me in overcoming the greater challenges of handling multiplication and division sums in Mathematics.

 

Even as a teacher myself in my own time, I know that the doctors in education would frown upon Mr. Balroop’s method of teaching the multiplication tables by rote and repetition, but honestly I don’t think they can come up with a better way.

 

Apart from the tedium of tables and reading lessons, there were some pleasurable activities too. On a cool relaxing afternoon, after we had the afternoon break, we would go out and read our compositions for the class to hear. I looked forward to this every week. Some of the compositions were funny, others were commonplace, and some didn’t make any sense at all, but were funny nevertheless.   I mostly liked it because this was my forte, my ‘territory’ as Mr. Balroop called it.

 

When it came my turn to read, the class became hushed, all were attentive, and as the cool breeze blew and the branches swayed and rustled in response, my childish voice would modulate according to my expressions in the composition. Very often, Mr. Danny Boy, (we never knew his real name) would come especially for this session and listen and at the end he would play fortune teller and go around the class foretelling who was going to be what. I was delighted to know that both Mr. Balroop and Mr. Danny Boy thought I had a number of prospects; teacher, professor, journalist, or writer. Everyone would be looking at me and I would force myself to look modest and unconcerned, but really, inside I was overwhelmed with pride and gratification, for I often thought no one saw how hard I tried to be my best.

 

Classes were not the only activities that took place under the mango trees; it was a favourite play area, especially on a hot afternoon during lunch break and recess. During the time of Pitra Paksh (a period during which Hindus pay respects to the ancestors), we believed that spirits lived in and under all trees. This belief did not deter us from playing under them, in fact, that was the thrill, the adventure. We took the risk, but not unprepared. We wrapped ourselves in a protective cloak made possible by the presence of garlic. Whether it was a whole bulb or just a clove, or even a small piece of it, we believed the pungent smell of garlic would keep the spirits away from us and we would still be able to play in peace without the fear of being ‘taken over’ by them.

 

During this time we would try to discourage Mr. Balroop from taking us under the tree, because even though we were heavily protected, he was not and we feared for him. So we would make up all sorts of excuses to avoid going outside under the trees. The other students and their teachers were ignorant of the danger they were in, because they continued to go under the trees. We would all look for signs that they had been ‘taken over’. Such signs would be ranting and raving, red eyes, staring blankly at nothing, rolling of the eyes, uncontrollable spitting, excessive eating, chasing people all over the place, anything that we considered not normal were symptoms of spirit possession.

 

We tried to find ways of protecting our teacher. Many of us devised ways of sneaking a piece of garlic onto his person by casually dropping it into his shirt pocket while we having our work corrected, sticking it in his hair or shirt collar as we passed behind him on our way back to our seats after having our work corrected, but no one was brave enough to actually do it. We had given up, and the period of Pitra Paksh and spirits were over and everything went back to normal. At least we went back to our normal daily duties of playing and studying. For the record, no one was ever ‘taken over’ by spirits.

 

There was also a rather embarrassing and painful situation I had found myself in under that same big mango tree in the playground. The teachers were having a staff meeting and school was dismissed at 1:30, but I chose to stay in school till the normal three o’clock because I didn’t see the point in going home so early. As usual, those of us who chose to stay back went under the mango tree to play catch and rescue. After about an hour’s play we grew tired and just sat around on pieces of brick, or made a small see-saw upon which two pupils played. I was just about to leave to go home when this older boy from the higher school came and proceeded to climb the mango tree. He had already been home and had changed into home clothes and was back to pick mangoes. We all crowded around the base of the tree to watch him climb.

 

We could tell that he was accustomed to climbing trees by the skillful ease it was done. I was sure he was also skilled in stealing mangoes and that he was watching this mango tree for a while because he knew exactly where in the tree were the biggest ones. Now this tree bore really huge mangoes of the type that didn’t grow in my yard and I had never seen before. It took both hands of a child to hold it properly and an adult couldn’t hold it for long in one hand.

 

I had not been ready for what had happened to me on that day, but I thought it was punishment for not going home immediately when school was dismissed.   The boy was dropping the mangoes that he had picked for an older boy to catch. Somehow the catcher missed or the picker miscalculated his drop and my face ended up breaking the mango’s fall. All I knew was that I was looking up and the catcher was standing with his arm outstretched ready to catch when the mango came at me with incredible force.

 

The pain was murderous. I was convinced my teeth were shattered and my lips felt as if they were vibrating. To say that I cried out in pain and agony would be an understatement. I bawled, and that was no exaggeration. My fellow conspirators surrounded to get me to be quiet for there would be hell to pay if we were found still on the school compound with no excuse other than ‘we just didn’t want to go home yet and we were watching some students pick mangoes.’ The picker and the catcher were also concerned for themselves and offered to give me as many mangoes I wanted just so that I would stop bawling fit to wake the dead. But nothing could make me stop. I wanted to go home at that moment, but they would not let me, not while I was still bawling in that manner.

 

Eventually the pain dulled. Only then did the bawls stop and became sobs, and the sobs became sniffles. I checked to see if my teeth were okay. They were surprisingly still intact and very strong, not one was shaking. My upper lip however, had begun to swell and there was a nasty looking blue black bruise on the inside where the mango had made the most impact. I knew that my parents would notice and the first thing they would think was that someone hit me and then they would want to investigate and they would come into the school demanding to know who was responsible for my misfortune and then the embarrassing truth would have to come out.

 

As I walked home with a few of my classmates who decided to keep me company, I decided the best thing to do was to tell them what happened but make it sound casual and unimportant and so let the matter rest. It was a good thing that nothing worse came out of that incident except a swollen, bruised lip, an equally bruised ego and an important lesson.

 

I could have remained sitting under that Rose mango tree for many more hours recounting the numerous incidents that happened under those trees, but to do so would require much more paper and time and I was getting tired of writing. Besides I had written about the more poignant memories of a place that many would not have considered an important factor in the early stages of a child’s life.

 

Even now as an adult, I still find solace and serenity in the company of trees, any tree. But to be absolutely honest, I prefer sitting under the mango tree.

I remember the first time I got my computer and was finally connected to the internet. It was my last semester of my final year at university. I spent two and a half years of my university life pounding out course essays, tutorials and seminar materials on a typewriter before I joined the rest of the progressive world on cyber-space.

I had my computer built according to my specifications – or rather what I was advised they should be as I was still getting ROM and RAM mixed up to the amusement of the IT guys who were building the computer for me. I wanted an excellent surround sound system for movies. Take note – The Lord of the Rings cannot be watched without the right system to hear the breath of every Orc, the clash of swords, the screams of the dying, the musicality of Elvish, the demoniac nuances of Black Speech and the heart lifting music scored by Howard Shore for Rivendell, Hobbiton and Dwarrowdelf. (You see how easy it is for me to get sidetracked?)

The first day my computer was brought to me, there were so many boxes. I had no idea that there were going to be so many pieces to assemble before it would look complete. A desk was varnished and ready. With bright eyes and a brighter smile I followed the tech guys inside. One would think that I was welcoming a new baby into the family. I suppose it was like that – in a way. I always relished the new and unfamiliar.

They made short work of setting up and all the while I stood there, arms folded, my eyes following their every move. Then there it was – my very own computer which I still had to pay for in instalments. But it was mine.

The keys on the keyboard were soft and made very little noise when I typed on the Mavis Beacon program. My family and I hovered around it and cooed like proud parents. The tips of our fingers would gently brush over the printer, the monitor, the speakers and the keyboard. I still had to get internet – that would be a worry for the next day.

I couldn’t sleep that night. The computer was still on and the bright display on the monitor glowed in that dark – a herald into this new universe. Mesmerised by the aquarium screen saver, I marvelled at how far my family and I had come. It was a small victory and we were far behind others, but it was our victory nevertheless.

Once I got the internet up and running, I sent my first email to the IT guys informing them that everything was right as rain and got a reply within an hour. I sent emails to myself and emails to my sisters and my mother even though we were all living in the same house. A new world opened up and my old world disappeared forever.

I’ve found that it is so much easier to say something to someone when you don’t have to look at them and say it. That’s what was happening. That room in which the computer sat became our world. It was a source of information easily accessible from all across the globe. I was more efficient in my studies and so were my sisters. It was the source of contention amongst us and a place of escape. It often brought us together and often tore us apart.

Over time, like everything else that was once new, the computer and the whole notion of being linked to a world outside of our own experience lost its lustre and became commonplace. However, I don’t think I can go for very long without going online. It’s almost like a necessity of life. I wonder how did I manage for twenty of my early cognitive years without it – back then when life was simpler? Could I go back? I don’t believe so. There isn’t enough room to turn around and go back as the world has become so much smaller. It’s either that – or I’ve changed too much.

I’m being followed!

 

Normally this realisation would lead to cold sweats, hearts that race like thoroughbreds and mouths that feel drier than the Sahara. In this case I’m not talking about being followed by the guy (or girl) you won’t go out with; or the beggar at the side of the road to whom you gave a few dollars and he/she believes that if he/she follows you then there is a good chance that you will increase the amount; or the creep who refuses to understand that his crude and sexist comments will certainly NOT be rewarded with a smile or the layabout who believes deep in his heart that just because you say “Good morning” to him, you’re dying to be his bride or….Ok, so you get the picture.

I’m actually referring to my ‘followers’ who took the time to check out my blog. So I dedicate this one as a salute to all my present and future followers.

I don’t know how many of you would remember, but if you were born in the late 70’s and early 80’s then perhaps the title of this blog will spark a memory. It’s a song on Sesame Street sung by three young turtles. I dare you to Google this. It involves following someone to the redwood tree. I thought the first line of the song would be perfect for this blog.

Anyway, I’m a bit encouraged and even emboldened by the fact that this blog is not a disaster as the last one. I believe I’m the only person who visited it. No wonder it died such a lonely, unsung death.

What does it mean to have people follow one’s blog? Is that a guarantee that people are reading and even thinking about what has been written? The blogosphere is a big place and getting bigger as more and more people are discovering the writer in themselves. Well not necessarily just writing, there are blogs for many purposes. What I want to say is that it gives individuals a forum to speak out, find their inner voices and share them with the world.

I can’t tell you how many times I fought against the idea of starting a blog. My favourite excuse is that I don’t have the time – which is true. However, I’ve found that dedicating twenty minutes a day to compose a thought that may or may not be read and may or may not be enjoyed by people I’ve never met and probably never will, is quite do-able. Of course that means twenty minutes taken from playing Spider Solitaire, but who cares? I’m not really good at the game anyway. I always lose.

So now that it’s after midnight and I have to get up to go to work tomorrow, I’d just like to say to my followers present and future – Merci, Gracias, Danke, Dhanyavaad, Thank you. Best wishes on your blogs as well –and for goodness sake, write a comment……please.

 

Sincerely,

WordCupid.  DSCF0244

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