You Get The Picture

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While fairly small, Batavia, NY, which we recently visited, has been historically important. It is a relatively old city.  While Kitchener has a pioneer tower at the outskirts, celebrating the arrival of the first settlers in 1820, the oldest cornerstone I saw in Batavia was 1804, with many others in the 1860s, ‘70s, and ‘80s.

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Batavia is celebrating 100 years of being a city.  They have a new(ish) no-nonsense, get-the-job-done City Hall, so much nicer looking than Kitchener’s pretentious, architectural Frankenstein’s monster.

City Hall

Towers, and roof-top cupolas seemed common in Batavia.

SDC10905 Used to be a Farmers’ Insurance company, now a Charity’s headquarters

SDC10906 The back of the county courthouse, from about 1900.

SDC10894 Front/side view of cupola.  I believe the building’s style is ‘Federalist’, solid, trustworthy, about as exciting as mashed potatoes.  This is the first indication of the move forward from the uselessly ornate Victorian Era architecture.

SDC10896 1890 Police station.  The turrets and towers continue down the side street, until it merges with a utilitarian 1980s jail.

SDC10903 When the Cold War warmed up in the mid-’60s, the basement was designated a fallout shelter.

SDC10899 What was once a County Court judge’s magnificent home, half a block from the cop-shop, is now carved up into tiny apartments.  The shingles on the Russian Orthodox Church-style end tower need some uniform replacement.

SDC10900 The side shot shows a front chimney which disappears after it becomes a second-storey fireplace.

SDC10895 A side-street view of the original municipal Fire Department building.  The section on the left c/w alarm bell on the roof, was the Chief’s apartment/home.  Now it houses a crafts and memorabilia store.

SDC10904 The main-street angle shows the round tower on the left, which the firemen climbed to get to the dormitory, with a brass strippers’ fire pole down the center for fast response.  The square tower on the right end was for hanging hoses to dry so they didn’t rot.

SDC10901 There’s a lovely little downtown park, just up from the old firehall, along the edge of Tonawanda Creek, which ambles through town.  Perhaps they celebrate Disney princesses there, or maybe that’s where gay weddings are held.  The park is named Peace Park.  There are memorials to several pioneers and politicians, as well as veterans.  There was a display of about 20 little American flags around the Veterans’ stone.  The son commented that approximately 1 of every 10 houses also flew a flag.

SDC10898 A little wooden footbridge across the creek into a residential neighborhood.  A close look at the middle right shows a Federal Government authorized and registered sewage outflow.  Imagine how bad it might be if the Government didn’t have it under control.

SDC10897 An upstream view, back toward the park.

SDC10902 The old Sherriff’s office, just downstream from the park.  Ironically, it’s now used as a water-quality monitoring station.

SDC10893 A Catholic Church – every city’s got one (or more).  With the afternoon sun directly behind, the best shot was from the shadow of the tower, in the left-turn lane in the middle of an almost-deserted Sunday street.  The son didn’t trust me to warn him of impending traffic, instead, taking a higher-angle shot from the safety of the sidewalk.

SDC10912 From a candy store at the other end of the main street, a present for the warden wife, as thanks for allowing us an unescorted jail day-pass.  With a flurry of intellect and originality, Batavia calls their main street, Main Street.  My little British-styled home town called ours, High Street.

Quit Your Witchin We didn’t know that while we were gone, one of the daughter’s cats had broken her favorite glass, but we used some of grandson WillowThorn’s kind donation, to purchase her another.  The Wiccan Witch of the West loves it.

These were the photo chronicles of a lovely, sunny, warm, Sunday stroll through an historically interesting little village which grew up into a productive city, without losing too much of its heritage.  Next week I tell the tale of our welcome(?) return to Bureaucratopia Canada.

Sharp Saturday

 

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We had planned to go to a knife show in Toronto on a recent Saturday.  The son’s medical emergency on the Friday afternoon seemed to put that in jeopardy, but when he survived the Attack of the Killer Kidney Stone, we decided to proceed, with the grandson and fiancée, and him well medicated.

The regular Canadian Knifemakers Guild spring show has been suffering, so, this year, they decided to do something different.  They waited till mid-summer, moved it downtown, to an upscale hotel, and made it an invitational Art Knife Show.

This show had as many makers as the usual one, but instead of tables with 50 or 100 hunters, skinners, or steak knives, each maker displayed only 1 or 2, or a few, but worth what a whole table of those others were.  Prices started in the high hundreds of dollars.  The most expensive single knife I saw went for $14,500.

There were makers from Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Utah, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Texas, as well as France, Germany, Austria, Brazil and South Africa.  Most shipped their knives ahead, some using the Post Office, others by courier.  One guy packed his two knives with his socks and underwear, and checked his baggage with the airline.  TSA will X-ray it, but only worry if there are firearms or an explosive device.

Almost all of these knives were decorated with gold, silver, various jewels, ivory or titanium.  One maker also does his own beautiful scrimshaw.  I have read about the South African maker in my knife trade magazines for years.  Many of these makers can afford to make such expensive knives because they already have prestigious jobs.  They do it for the satisfaction, the creativity, and the bragging rights.

The top Canadian maker is a Nuclear Physicist, somewhat more than a Homer Simpson.  The fellow from South Africa displayed a folder with exquisitely carved hippo-tooth ivory.  It’s easy for him. He’s the country’s best dentist.  Another, with a price tag of $4500, was made of 4.5 Billion year-old meteorite-based steel.

Despite any decoration, or price, he insists that all of his creations are working knives.  A lady asked him if “the meteorite” was sharp.  He picked up a scrap of paper, and shaved a couple of strips off it.  The knives in the teaser photo at the top are his.  For those interested, return tomorrow when I will publish a mostly photo post, with shots I took at the show.

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After we had sated our eyeballs, it was time to think about our stomachs.  I was willing to try either of the hamburger/French fry wagons across the street.  We couldn’t afford to eat in this hotel. The grandson has a friend with Toronto relatives, who has treated him to downtown tours.  He insisted that we walk a couple of blocks over to the Eaton Center, and he treated us to a lunch at an upscale burger joint in the lower level.  We got to see the impressive old 1850 sandstone City Hall, framed against the new monstrosity, which looks like a flying saucer coming in for a landing in a bay of the Mother Ship.

UFO Old

UFO

Watching TV out of British Columbia recently, I saw an ad for Mucho Burrito Grill.  My regulars know my fascination for Tex/Mex food, 🌯 so I researched the chain online, and tried to find out where they were.  The “locate restaurants” button didn’t locate anything for me.  Instead, it asked me where I was, and offered to show nearby outlets.

I specified a 500 kilometer range, and asked about Vancouver.  The map showed several in Washington State, and a covey in B.C.  Similar queries showed a bunch, centered on Edmonton, Alberta, and also Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.  There were only two in Manitoba, both in Winnipeg.  I could find nothing in Ontario or further east.

Big Smoke Burgers’ burgers are served on actual plates, with metal cutlery, and their fountain drinks in glass glasses, a refreshing change from the usual food-court cardboard and Styrofoam.  As I sat, inhaling their gourmet creation, with mushroom gravy, and spicy cole-slaw dressings, I looked up across the huge eating area, and my eyes fell on a Mucho Burrito Grill.

Since it sat in the direction of the washrooms, when I was finished eating and wanted to wash up, I stopped over to investigate.  Mostly, it was as much of a disappointment as the Del Taco restaurant in Detroit.  I could get as good or better at Taco Bell….all except for a plate of nachos a customer carried away, that actually looked as good as the advertising picture – perhaps if we do this again next year.

Since it had begun raining outside, we decided to make our way back the few blocks to the subway through the warren of underground tunnels and shopping areas beneath the streets and buildings.  Fiancée works at Starbucks, and needed a coffee fix.  She used her employee discount card, and stopped at a Starbucks beneath one bank building.  We walked to the next building – and there was another Starbucks.  We turned, and walked under the street to the next building – and there, was another Starbucks.

Starbucks makes good coffee, and runs a nice corporation, but I regard them as pretentious.  These outlets were all in the financial district, beneath big banks and investment houses.  You decide.

All in all, a most enjoyable and educational day.  Pics, or it didn’t happen, so remember to come back tomorrow for photographic proof.

Street Meat

Trust me to know all about food.  There are a number of food trucks situated locally, fish and chips wagons, burger and fries trucks.  Most of them have been anchored in the same spots for so long that they’ve added shaded, or completely enclosed eating areas.  There’s even a tiny, original, brick, Dairy Queen store, that used to be on my route to work at my last job, which now serves up “Newfy Fries”.

This is a delicacy (?) brought up from Newfoundland, consisting of French fries, served with seasoned bread stuffing, and often cooked peas.  I never saw the point of adding carbs, to carbs, and just stuck to gravy on my fries.

Apparently there are a number of more upscale food-service vehicles, affectionately known as gut-trucks, which remain mobile, and move from place to place, as the opportunities present.  They’re not allowed at the Multi-Cultural Festival, or the Croatian Food Festival, or the Greek Festival, held in the parking lot of the Greek Orthodox Church.  One or more of them show up at places like the daughter’s Cherry Park Festival, the Non-Violence Festival, or Afro-Fest, and move on to The Word On The Street.

To all these worthy causes, the City has added another festival (?), a Battle Of The All-Stars, food-truck display at city hall.  No history, no heritage, no information handouts, this is strictly a commercial venture  The city hall is U-shaped, with wings that almost reach the sidewalk on the main street, but the main body of the building sits back.  The rear part of this open space is a paved area, sometimes used for concerts, behind a reflecting pool/fountain/winter skating area.

Recently, the city invited eight of these food vehicles to show up at city hall.  They closed off three blocks of the street, centered on city hall, put supports in the pool and covered them with a plywood floor.  They placed four of these trucks behind, and two on each side of the street, in front.

The trucks are gaily painted, with bright graphics.  Access http://www.schmucktruck.ca, or any of the others, for menu and prices, and a list of upcoming locations.  There is an Ontario Association of Food Trucks.  I saw a rep. wearing an association tee-shirt, photographing and videoing all of the trucks with his tablet.  Aside from merely the type of food each provides, most of them present some sort of theme.

One of them appears to be a big SWAT van, because they serve Sandwiches With A Twist, cold or grilled sandwiches with premium ingredients and side dishes.  There is a British Bakery truck, covered with Union Jacks and bunting, which serves English meat pies, steak and kidney, ham and Swiss, fish and finger, Melton Mobray and Cornish pasties, which are not worn by Cockney strippers.

There was one rather plain-Jane creepy crepes truck which offered “healthy food.”  I’ll eat healthy food at home, if the wife can catch me.  If I go to a food-truck, I want breaded and deep-fried cholesterol, with lots of salt, and a beer, not Evian.  I’m told that Mr. Schmucktruck, above, serves more than just hot-dogs, burgers and fries, but even they are Angus beef burgers and fries cooked in peanut oil.

They must have had a good day.  It was supposed to last from 11 AM, to 7 PM.  The son and I went down just before 6 PM, and they, and the Brits were out of stock, and closed.  Feisty Jack serves fish and chips, chicken tikka, and a masala box.  West of Seoul provides Korean and Asian street food, including a WOS Asian, Big Mac wannabe.

El Luchador is a Spanish name which means the warrior, or fighter.  It’s the name given to the soap-opera-style Mexican wrestlers.  The couple who run that highly-decorated food-cart, dress in tight black jeans and tee-shirts, and serve customers wearing the strange masks that the Mexican wrestlers wear.

My taste for Mexican food is what drew me downtown, and to the Luchador truck, where I was disappointed.  They don’t really serve Mexican food.  In fact, they don’t really serve anything I wanted.  It’s a yuppy fusion-food wagon.  See the menu.

Menu Board 1

The son and I walked several blocks to a well-reviewed, new, Mexican restaurant, but we, and all the densified, gentrified residents of all the new, downtown condos and lofts, found it, and every other decent downtown restaurant closed on Sunday.  There were several bars open, where you could get pub-grub, but for that, we could have gone to East Side Mario’s, three blocks from the house.

We trudged back to El Luchador, stood in line an outrageous amount of time, and settled for the chicken (?) burrito.  No mention of “cat” or “gila monster”, so it must have been chicken, Thai chicken, but chicken.  For dessert, Kool Jim’s Ice Cream Truck doled out chocolate dipped, frozen bananas, banana splits, sundaes, and soft ice cream.

Overall, I was disappointed with this spew of crass commercialism, masquerading as culture.  Sitting in the sun, on concrete, eating overpriced, pretentious grub, with hundreds of strangers doesn’t really appeal to me, but the paper says that thousands attended, and a survey says that most were thrilled.  Me??!  I’ve been there twice, the first time – and the last time!

Out-of-town blog visitors, don’t be intimidated by “The Regulars”.  I appreciate your visits, and all comments are gratefully welcomed and responded to.  Feel free to have your say and ask questions.

Archon