Sunday, March 28, 2010

Legacy - Architecture as Inspiration

Some things really capture your imagination. For me, the "Mortar and Pestle Building" (shown left) is one of those things.

I'm not sure what the real name of the building is... if it has one. I call it the "Mortar and Pestle Building" because of the distinctive architectural detail on the top. The pestle is gone but the mortar remains, reminding us that this building was built for a pharmacy.

Burnt out and boarded up, it still exudes a certain tarnished elegance. I imagine what it would have been like in its heyday. With its pale limestone, intricate stone work, and arched windows it would have looked like a wedding cake.

Nostalgia doesn't grip me for long. This would also have been the time when women were struggling for the vote, infant mortality was high and World War I loomed.

Instead, I let my imagination go into the near future when someone with some money to invest and the insight to know that the downtown is about to be revitalized, restores the old facade and rebuilds the interior so that it meets the needs of the future and the aesthetics of a time gone by. In my fictional future, that person is Joe Garrett.

Retired cop turned private detective, Joe invests his insurance payoff in the building, going into partnership with the restaurant owner who occupies the ground floor. With his ex-wife working for the City, Joe knows that new development  is coming to the downtown core and their investment has a good chance of paying off. The rents from the offices take care of expenses when the P.I. business is slow.

So, if you're walking through downtown Guelph, check out the "Mortar and Pestle Building" (minus the pestle, mind you) and imagine the diner on the ground floor refurbished and the boarded windows above glowing in the twilight. The middle floors may be dark  but chances are there will be a light in the window of Garrett Investigations.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

March Break: Going Zooie

It's March Break, the kids are home, and for some reason my mind turns to the zoo.

For a couple of years, the Toronto Zoo was our destination of choice for outings during school breaks. I bought a family membership and the trip from Guelph to the opposite end of Toronto seemed worthwhile when each visit meant getting greater value from my investment.

Then came the year that we were coming home from the zoo the same day the aircraft crashed at Pearson International. It took us six hours to get home -- I've driven to Ottawa in less time. The next year we decided to do something different.

Now I'm not sure I could coordinate an outing to the zoo. There are so many schedules to juggle -- not to mention the expense in belt-tightening times. Then the ravening horde, known as my son and his friends, stomp through the house and I think again.

Did you know that Hippopotamuses have killed more people in Africa than all the lions, elephants, and water buffalo combined, usually by trampling? You should see what three or four boys can do to a living room.

Still, I think I prefer the stampede over the whine: "I'm bored."

"Go outside and play."

"No one's there."

"Play a game. Read a book. Watch a movie."

"I don't want to."

"Clean your room."


You always know you're in trouble when they eek another syllable out of "Mom."

With my kids it works both ways. When I call out "Sa-am! Kay-ate!" they know there about to be asked to do something they don't really want to do... like go to bed.

My kids think that March Break should include a break from bed times. Sure, I let my thirteen-year-old daughter try to stay up all night "chatting" with her best friend -- once. But I know what my son is like if he doesn't get enough sleep and I'm not going there.

Speaking of which, I "Otter" go to bed now myself.