Gun Violence

I stumbled on a police scene one night while out taking pictures. There were lots of police cars with lights flashing. A policeman standing by the yellow tape told me it’ll probably be in the news. I walked by a couple with a child. The man told me a person was shot. Several blocks of the street were cordoned off. There were some police inside walking around. I saw more police cars on the other side of the cordon several blocks down.

Once I got to the other side, I saw a couple of people from the local media filming. Some people milled about walking slowly. There were more cops inside the yellow tape area just walking around. But there wasn’t really much to see. I felt bad for hoping to see something.

There have been 432 gunshot incidents resulting in 38 deaths and 166 injuries in Toronto so far this year.* Most of these doesn’t make the news unless someone dies or gets hurt. I sometimes tell people this is life in a big city. Unless there are many more deaths, people just get numbed by the numbers. A couple of weeks ago, a 12 year old boy died from gunshot wounds. He was just an innocent bystander.

This is just senseless. My Thesaurus doesn’t have any other words to describe it. Life in a big city or anywhere else shouldn’t be like this. I don’t know what else to say.

* as of November 16, 2020 (

Sleepless Poem

They come at night

a relentless onslaught

of thoughts.

Worries, memories and ideas

race through my mind

putting my sleep in a bind.

The flashes of inspiration are lighting fast

The what ifs, should haves and could haves crawl by

leaving a trail of bitterness.

Spells from musicians and writers are cast,

brews of warm milk are downed,

the trees, the water and the rain chant their songs.

But they all fail.

The old wizard is summoned.

His arms start to move

tracing a circle.

A ferocious wind howls,

white hot lighting sear the sky,

explosions of thunder pound my chest,

rain, screaming like banshees, pierce everything that was exposed.

They chased everything away.

Peace is restored.

The wizard walked towards me and whispered

“A zopliclone cyclone.”

I nodded and soon fell asleep.

Streetcar Stories

It was a bright and warm fall day.  I let the sun’s rays embrace me while waiting for my streetcar. The wind softened the street noise by rustling the dried leaves. My streetcar slowly pulled up. I stepped off the sidewalk, always mindful of cars that don’t stop behind the streetcar.

In Toronto, some of the streetcar tracks are in the middle of the road while the stops are on the sidewalk. When it arrives at a streetcar stop, you step off the sidewalk and on to the traffic lane to board the street car.  Some streetcar lines now have stops and platforms in the middle of the road.  But the line I use doesn’t.  As a rule, when the streetcar is at a streetcar stop, cars must stop behind the streetcar. Sure enough, as soon as I step off the curb, a car drives by in front of me. I raised my hand at the driver in frustration but he doesn’t even notice.

I waited by a door for the passengers to step off and helped someone with a walker go in. I was about to step on when a woman cut right in front of me, said something in Chinese, and pointed to the man behind me.  He was pushing a cart of groceries. I bent down, grabbed the bottom of the cart, and helped lifted it on to the streetcar.  He said “thank you” as he walked past me. I replied in Cantonese that it wasn’t necessary.  He looked back at me with surprise. “Oh you speak our language!” he said in Cantonese.  I smiled and answered back in Cantonese “Yes, just a bit.”

I squeezed my way to the back where I saw a space to stand.  At the next stop, a woman with grey, disheveled hair, well worn clothing, got on and walked towards the front of the car.  Her mask barely covered her nose.  I’ve seen her pan handling in the area.

Then I heard a loud, raspy voice from the front.  I knew it was her. I couldn’t make out what was being said. It continued for awhile. Then the coughing started. It got louder and deeper. It sounded like she was going to vomit.  People moved away  What ever she was saying now sounded closer to a screech  I wondered if she had Tourette’s Syndrome.  Eventually people just gave her a lot of space. As the streetcar made its way to another stop, the conductor got out. I thought he was going to deal with the woman but instead he got out of the streetcar.  But he had to lower the wheelchair ramp to let a passenger on a wheelchair aboard.  A large, scruffy man in an electric wheelchair zipped up the ramp into the spot for wheelchair.  He looked like he had a rough life. Unfortunately for him, the spot for the wheelchair was right across from the woman.

She started to talk again.  After a minute, he shouted back “Will you shut the f*** up!”  The next 5 to 10 minutes was just the 2 of them yelling at each other at regular intervals.  The man kept threatening to beat her but she kept on talking.  When she finally stood up to leave they had another exchange of swearing.

A man entering the streetcar saw some of this. As he walked past the wheelchair guy, he must have said something. This triggered more obscenities from the wheelchair guy.  And he added a “and f*** everyone else!”. Fortunately there was a bit of quiet after that.  A couple of stops later, the wheelchair guy moved to the door.  The streetcar rolls to a stop. There was a slight pause, the conductor came out and asked the guy in the wheelchair if he wanted to get off.  The wheelchair guy looked at the conductor and yelled  “You had one job to do and you f*** it up. What’s wrong with you?”  But the conductor kept his cool, got off the streetcar and lowered the ramp for him.

I got off a few stops later and did my shopping. On the way back, I hoped that the ride would be better. But that was not the case. A woman hopped on walked the aisle asking for money. She approached a woman with earbuds.  The woman looked at the outstretched hands and  “I have my ear buds on and can’t hear you.”  Another woman that was approached opened her purse.  After a minute of rustling in her purse, all she came up was a small perfume sampler which she gave to the panhandler. I gave the woman some money when she walked past me. Another person also gave out money.  She left shortly with probably just over $2 of change.

A few stops later, a short man with dirty blond hair, a ragged beard and an angry face got on. He ripped off the yellow tape covering some seats and sat down. The tape is to provide some distance for passengers.  He didn’t have a mask. Fortunately he didn’t stay long.

When I got home, I got annoyed and irritated. But after awhile, I remembered that there are people that need help, are lost and are hurting.

It’s Only Money

I had to call a plumber a couple of weeks ago to fix my toilet. I used the same company that does the plumbing for our condo. The company told me there was a 2 hr minimum charge excluding parts. They would email me the bill and I could pay electronically.

The plumber had to replace the contraption that fills the tank with water and the flapper. He also had to repair the connection that goes into the tank because it was corroded. Before he left, I asked him how much it the bill was. He said he doesn’t look after the invoicing but asked for my email address so it could be mailed to me.

I got the bill today and it was just over $350. I wish I had some knowledge of plumbing, electrical and mechanics. Man, this one stings. So today after I pooped, I spent some time to appreciate how everything flushed properly. Even on bad days, you gotta stop and smell the roses (not the toilet).

What a Waste

I wrote this entry pre Covid.

My sister and I were running a bit late after grocery shopping.  By the time we got to the Chinese restaurant, it was already packed.  It’s a small place but the food is decent and the kitchen is fast. We squeezed through the line up to get a number. The waitress said it will be a while and asked us if we wanted to sit at a communal table.  We were hungry so we said yes.  At some Chinese restaurants, there is a large table or where small parties can share the table so they don’t have to wait. This helps restaurant maximize their revenue.  There were 2 couples already sitting there.  The one on our right were finishing their meal.  An elderly couple sat across from us.  They were sharing a large bowl of congee and some fried dough.  Sometimes she would lean over and whisper to him. He would give a gentle nod in return.  He was focused on his congee but always knew when to ladle more congee to her bowl. The woman’s plate was covered with a generous splash of chili oil.  Every so often, she would rub a piece fried dough on the plate until it was shiny with the chili oil and coated with chili flakes.

The other couple finished and said their goodbyes to the waitress.  The man helped the woman put on her jacket and both chatted with the waitress for a bit before leaving.  Then 2 guys, probably in their early 20s, came in and sat down on my left. They scanned through the menu and chatted with the waitress about their order.  After she left, they both got turned their attention to their phone.  I can never figure this out.  Why go to dinner with someone and focus on your phone?

They must have been hungry.  The waitress brought out 2 main dishes and a large bowl of seafood congee for them.  One of the guys picked up some food with his chopsticks and placed it on the other guy’s bowl.  I wondered if they were brothers or just good friends. 

I continued with my dinner and chatting with my sister. I was reaching for more food when I heard one of the guys beside me asked for their bill.  I glanced over and they didn’t put a dent on their food.  The waitress came over, gave them their bill and asked if they wanted to take their leftovers home.  They declined, gave the waitress some money and left.  The waitress looked frustrated and annoyed when she cleared the table.  I’m sure the food was still hot.  She placed all the food in those grey “bus boy” bins along with their dishes.  Another waitress stopped by, looked at all the food and shook her head. 

All I could think of was my parents telling us never to waste food. Their stories about going hungry during the war always made an impression on me.  Even now, I would cringe when something goes bad in my fridge or when I wasted something.  Even though this incident happened last year, it still haunted me.  Maybe they had a legitimate reason to leave after just a few bites and couldn’t take their leftovers with them. Maybe they come from a very rich and privilege background. Wasting food is not something they would fret about.

So next time you’re in a restaurant and leaving a ton of food behind.  Be careful.  I’m going to blog about you. Also, in case you’re wondering, I don’t spend that much time people watching when I’m in a restaurant.  It’s just a quick, discreet glance or I might notice something in my peripheral vision.  In this instance, it was a lot easier when they are sitting at the same table.  Speaking of food, here’s a couple of dishes I did recently.

  1. Chicken chow mein. I added some Chinese broccoli, carrots and mushrooms plus some garlic and ginger too. Nothing was wasted here.
chicken chow mein, strips of chicken with slices of Chinese broccoli, strips of shitake mushrooms, thinly sliced carrorts over fried yellow egg noodles  covered with sauce.

2. This next dish was an experiment. I had some Thai curry paste and light coconut milk. It worked well with chicken. I figured I would try it on seafood. I was already defrosting some frozen fish filet (basa) and I picked up some shrimps. I added some ginger, grape tomatoes and green peas. I sort of had a laksa in mind but didn’t know how to make it. But this dish turned out nicely. None went to waste.

shrimp and chunks of fish (basa) floating in a yellow curry sauce with grape tomatoes and green peas.

For my Canadian readers – have a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving.

Keep Blogging

This entry has been in draft mode for a very long time.  Some entries just take a lot of time to germinate.  There are many reasons for this.  Procrastination  Every writer knows that good things take time. 

This TED talk is one of the best talks about the positive side of social media I’ve heard in awhile.  I relate a lot to what Jonny Sun talks about here. Jonny is the author of “Everyone’s a Aliebn When You’re a Aliebn Too”.

I met him at a book signing at the University of Toronto a couple of years ago. It was hot, summer evening and the lecture hall was packed. He talked about his background as an Engineering student, working on Skule Night (an annual musical show put on by Engineering students) and of course the book. He was so patient at the book signing and answered every question, posed for pictures and looked genuinely happy despite the long line up. He is now a screenwriter (Bojack Horseman), wrote another book and I think is working on another TV show or movie. I don’t know if he is still working on his PhD.

In the TED talk, he draws from his experience on Twitter where he has over 500K followers. The feeling of community and sharing is something that resonated with me a lot. I think it’s very similar to what most of us ex Xangans had. I love that we are still trying to continue it here on WordPress. All of you are scattered around the world but we still reach out to each other to share. And you make me feel less alone too.

Keep blogging, thank you. 🙂


This is a picture of the Gooderham building.  It is a triangular shaped brick building of 4 stories.  The picture is taken of the front, narrow end.  That has a tower and an extra floor.  The building has a green copper roof and is draped with black fire escape stairs on both sides.
Gooderham Building (Toronto)
  1. Gooderham Building – completed in 1892 and now designated as a historical building. This used the office of Gooderham and Worts Distillery.
Toronto sign at Nathan Phillips Square

2. The new 3D Toronto sign at Nathan Phillips Square in front of the City Hall was installed last week. The original sign was built for the Pan American / Parapan American Games in 2015. It was suppose to be a temporary installation but it proved to be very popular so the city kept it up. The Medicine Wheel was added in 2018 in honour of Indigenous Peoples. The maple leaf at the end was added in 2017 to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday. The vinyl wrap represents the community here of African descent. The sign can be lit up in different colours to honor special events.

A red fire truck with lights flashing is coming towards the camera.  The fire truck is going east bound on a west bound lane to pass a TTC streetcar.  In the foreground there is a taxi in teal and orange and a cyclist both stopped at the intersection to allow the firetruck to go through.
Fire Truck

3. I heard sirens and saw this fire truck going east bound on the west bound lane. It had to get around the streetcar who always stop when they hear sirens. It was a fairly routine but for a moment, I pretended I was a photojournalist.

Urban wall art on the side of a brick wall.  The art covers part of the windows in a variety of clours.  There are small yellow birds smiling, a donut with eye glasses holding a wrench and a blue bubble driving a blue jeep.  The mural is in a variety of colours with the intent of making the viewer smile.
Urban art

4. Pretty colours and lots of smiles in this wall mural.

Big neon red cross sign with the words superfly on it.  It's the name of the restaurant.

5. This was just off a main street and sits in front of a restaurant. The sign is from the previous restaurant which was a bbq joint. The red cross always catches my attention when I’m walking in that area.

Many tents on the grounds of a park.
Homeless in tents

6. The tents began to show up at local parks shortly after the pandemic started. I see them in a lot of parks in my area and also in any green space. The homeless shelters aren’t safe for them and there aren’t enough room in the shelters. It’s become a crisis.

View of the Skyline restaurant sidewalk / patio tables.  The tables are on the inner lane of the street with wooden fences.  They are decorated with lights and the sidewalk also has plants.

7. This is typical now in Toronto. The city has allowed and promoted the use of sidewalk patios. A lot of them are actually on the inner lane of the street. There are usually cement barricades and signs at the end to prevent alert drivers. These have helped the restaurants but of course it’s not the same. I don’t think a lot of restaurants and bars will survive the pandemic.

My Teens

A friend wanted to know what my teenage years was like. This actually took a few days to write because I wasn’t quite sure what it should look like.

My first full school year in Canada was in Grade 8. I was 13 years old. One of my classmates lived near me so we walked to school together most of the time. As we got closer to the end of the school year, the focus was on high school. There was only one Catholic high school in our neighbourhood. My sister was already studying there. One of my classmates mentioned that boys had to shower after gym and the showers were all open.

I was nervous and didn’t know how to deal with this. When I got there, I found out the showers were indeed all open. But it wasn’t mandatory for us to shower after gym. Most of the kids didn’t since there were only 10 minutes between classes.

In my first year of high school, the gym teacher strongly encouraged us to try out for school teams. The only sport I had some knowledge of was basketball. I don’t know why but I decided to give it a shot. At the tryout, I found out a lot of kids could dribble better than I could. Most of them were bigger and stronger than I was. They didn’t have to look down at the ball when they dribbled like I did. Some members of the senior basketball team helped with the drills. One guy kept trying to teach me how to shoot foul shots. I just remember him as being very patient. At one of the jumping drills, a lot of students could touch the bottom of the net. One guy almost touched the rim. I just kept flailing my arms in the air. Even at the basket where the net was broken and hanging low, I still couldn’t touch it.

During a mock game, an incredibly handsome boy with black, wavy hair ran all over the place and kept scoring. He wasn’t tall like some of the other kids. But he dribbled, shot and passed very well. One of the reasons he scored so much was because I was tasked with the job of guarding him. Whenever I blinked, he disappeared to another part of the court and scored. He made the team. He also sat behind me in one of my classes and was a quiet student.

Academics wise, I was ok. I didn’t get great marks. I think I had high 70s average and scored 80s in some subjects. As a shy, introvert kid, I didn’t have a lot of friends. I sucked at gym. One year I learned how to throw a football. A cousin of mine who was studying in the US came up for a couple of weeks during his summer vacation. He got my brother and I a football and taught us how to throw and catch it. I think I threw one touchdown pass that year at gym. But no one ever mistook me for a jock.

I made some friends slowly. They weren’t close friends but the kind of friends you can hang around with during lunch. This was probably when I was 16 or 17. I played euchre with them and mostly listened on how different their lives were from mine. One of them taught me how to cheat when we partnered together. I think he probably cheated with everyone he partnered with. During my last year at high school, I attended a retreat and got to know more people. It was a phase where I was started to get a bit religious. It was also a way to meet other students. In addition to the usual talks, singing and activities, there was also a lot of hugging. It was my first time hugging guys.

I had crushes on several boys but never dared made friends with them. I did have a friend who I thought might be gay. He also attended the retreats I did. We were in the same English class. One of our projects was to act out a scene from Waiting for Godot. One time we rehearsed in an apartment swimming pool where he was working as a lifeguard. There wasn’t anyone around. He wore a tshirt and red swimming trunks (maybe it was Speedos). The scene required us to hug. It was fun until some other lifeguards showed up. Nothing really happened and he joked with them about our school assignment. We both had the book on our hands anyways. He visited my house once and met my parents. I think he was dropping off something. He rolled up in a motorbike with his newly permed hair. Mom thought he looked so cute and even giggled a bit when he left. I’ve always wondered what happened to him.

From grade 11 onward, my dad had to pay for our tuition. One day, the vice principal came to our class and called me and another student out to the hallway. He gave us each a cheque that had been stamped and a letter. I saw my dad’s name on the cheque and a NSF stamped over it. I remember feeling embarrassed and also helpless. Everyone stared at us when we walked back into the classroom. The other student was on the football team. I felt a bit better knowing that I wasn’t alone.

It wouldn’t be the first time in high school that dad lost his job. He was already 50 when he came to Canada. He had to take jobs in different fields and at a salary far below what he would have earned back home. I remember how financially vulnerable we were. I made it a point to make sure that I won’t be in the same position and to help out my parents.

During my teens I was never in a relationship (unlike some of my peers back then). I always wondered why I was gay. I was always nervous about my future.

I recognized some of the issues I face today, like self acceptance, have deep roots going back to my teens. Maybe I’ll write about that another time. I like to say I’m more mature and wiser than my teens. That’s open for debate though.

America first, is it? — christao408

This week saw the nineteenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the United States. A friend re-posted a meme that caught my attention: “The best way to honor 9-11 is to be who we were on 9-12.” The implication being that on September 12, 2001, people rallied together as Americans. Lamar Alexander said it […]

America first, is it? — christao408

I rarely reblog or share other people’s entries. My friend Chris wrote a very thoughtful entry on the current divisive climate in the US. I have friends and relatives in the US. I know that somehow you will all find a way to unite.

Cityscape and Sounds

Walking around and taking pictures is a lot easier than writing. I usually walk around after dinner to avoid the sun and the heat.

A small framed middle age man with a pink cap, dark green shirt with sweat is sitting on a leather case.  He is facing a large fish eye mirror looking at himself and the reflection.  I captured him from his back, you can see his face in the reflection of the mirror.  In the background are diners on the outdoor patio and people on the sidewalk.  No one seems to be paying any attention to him.

Sometimes I take shots of people. But I’m so self conscious so I do a quick hit and run. If people notice me, I try to look a bit behind them or to their side so they think I’m taking a picture of something else. I think he’s a local artist doing a sketch. No one seems to be paying attention to him except me. If you look carefully, you can see me in the mirror.

A view of downtown Toronto from the Fort York pedestrian bridge.  There are several railroad tracks that goes from the bottom of the picture to the middle.  The CN tower is roughly 1/3 from the right.  It is flanked by mostly condo buildings.  There is some grass on the right side of the picture.  The sky is a clear and blue with some clouds in the far background.

This is a view of downtown Toronto. The railroad tracks all lead into Union Station which is just by CN Tower. Most of the buildings you see here are condos.

A black and white photo of a door with the sign "Covid 19 Assessment Centre" on top.  There are light poles on the left and right side of the photo which I've used to frame the doorway.  There is also a construction sign, roadside pylons and partial view of a car in the foreground.  I did not include any people in this shot.

The Covid-19 testing centre by Toronto Western Hospital. I turned it into a b/w photo to make it a bit raw and gritty.

Two women wrapping dumplings.  They are wearing white aprons, hair nets and masks.  There are several large bowls of meats and dumpling wrappers.

The 2 women were wrapping dumplings in the front window of a dumpling restaurant in Chinatown.

King St streetcar going from left of the photo to the right.  The background is slightly blurred from the camera panning.  The streetcar is primarily in red with white trim.  The view of the street car is from the front.

A streetcar rumbling along quite slowly.

Excuse the shakiness. I rarely take videos from my camera. But I heard music and it was a drumming lesson. They held it outdoors in the lot of a garage. The instructor is on the left side. I should have moved to get another angle. This is straight from the camera, no editing.

I’m still trying to figure out this new editor. Hope you folks enjoyed the pics.