Fun with Highways: 401 and 427, Toronto

Another listless Sunday evening, another highway interchange.

This is the bizarrely complex interchange of highways 401 and 427 near Toronto and Mississauga, not far from Toronto Pearson International Airport.  They are known colloquially as “the 401” and “the 427”, similar to way highways are referenced in southern California.

It looks like there might have been a plan to build another freeway extending due east from interchange, which could explain it’s strange configuration. It could also just be due to the fact that 401 is a huge highway. South of the interchange towards Mississauga it widens into 18 lanes divided into four sections (one collector and one express) in each direction. To the north it thins out but becomes as 16 lane collector/express system again as it approaches Toronto. This would make it one of the largest in the world, certainly larger than the New Jersey Turnpike at its widest, or I-5 south of Los Angeles.  It is also one of the “busiest highways in North America” (see this reference.)

Here is a view of the interchange looking east along the 401:

[Photo from Floydian on Wikimedia Commons.]

The 401 extends all the way to the western end of province to Windsor, just across the U.S.-Canadian border from Detroit. I have thought about a musical “401 tour” a few times, that would start in Detroit (and leave time for photography) and extend to Toronto. As such, leads on experimental musicians and performance venues along this route would be welcome.

Fun with Highways: Saint Catharines

Facebook provides a number of interesting statistics about fans, one of which is the cities (or metropolitan areas) in which they reside. The top cities for CatSynth are not surprising: New York City is #1, with San Francisco and other Bay Area communities high on the list. But one has consistently stuck out among the top cities: Saint Catharines, Ontario, Canada. Today we pay tribute to this rather surprising enclave of CatSynth Facebook fans in our own unique way: a “Fun with Highways” article.

Saint Catharines is located in the Niagara region of Ontario, on the southwest edge of Lake Ontario, not far from Niagara Falls. It’s official nickname is the “Garden City” and is unofficially nicknamed “St Kitts” by people in the area (thanks to regular reader Sue St. Clair for providing this insight).

The city is served by two major highways (known as 400-series highways in Ontario): highway 406 and the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW), which connects Buffalo, NY and Niagara Falls to Toronto. The QEW has an interesting history, not only for its name but also its distinction as one of the oldest divided highways in Canada. Below one can see the Garden City Skyway portion of the QEW spanning the city’s other historic transportation feature, the Welland Canal.

[Public domain image via Wikipedia]

One of the first long road trips with my family growing up went through Niagara Falls and Toronto, and I’m sure I passed through Saint Catharines on the QEW with little notice, despite my penchant for staring out the window and observing road signs. One tragic story of the QEW in Saint Catharines involves the death of hockey star Tim Horton in an automobile accident – I mostly know about him not from hockey but as the eponymous late owner of the chain where my friends in Canada go to get their daily coffee.

Interestingly for a highway article, Saint Catharines is also home to the headquarters of the provincial Ministry of Transportation – or rather a headquarters of the Ministry of Transportation, as there seem to be several. Of course, the city is also home to many parks and gardens as the name would imply. One more iconic is Montebello Park.

[Public domain image via Wikipedia.]

The pavilion in the photo above overall has a very classic appearance that one would see in many town parks from this era. But that one structure on the left also evokes a more modernist aesthetic with its unadorned smooth curves. There is something very 1960s about it. Additionally, Montebello Park has a significant connection to Central Park in New York City which I leave as an exercise to the reader.

RIP Oscar Peterson (1925-2007)

Well, we have one more influential musician to remember before the year ends. The great jazz pianist Oscar Peterson passed away on December 23:

Called the “Maharajah of the keyboard” by Duke Ellington, Oscar Peterson is considered to have been one of the greatest piano players in the history of jazz. He played to audiences worldwide in a career lasting more than 60 years.

While Stockhausen (whom we remembered on his death two weeks ago) was an inspiration for his composition, electronic innovations, and ideas about music, Peterson was all about performance and technique, and joy of playing jazz at a high level. As a young jazz pianist, I used Oscar Peterson's piano solos as practice. In particular, I remember playing the minor bluesy Roundalay, which was my successful audition piece for All State Jazz in New York. Certainly, I could never even attempt to match the actual solos at full speed.

You can get a sense of the real thing from this video:

We close with these comments from the CBC:

Renowned for his speed and virtuosity as a pianist, Peterson ? who was born in Montreal and later made Toronto his home ? made hundreds of recordings in his career, even after a stroke in 1993 disabled his left hand…

…”The world has lost the world's greatest jazz player,” Hazel McCallion, mayor of Mississauga and Peterson's friend, told CBC News on Monday afternoon.

UPDATE: You can read his obituary from Mississauga.

Cat is out of the bag on Saint John Airport security

With apologies to Harry Shearer, we present this “tale of airport security” from the CBC News:

Mary Martell discovered Ginger, the family pet, in her luggage after a two-hour plane ride to Toronto and an hour's drive to Niagara-on-the-Lake. The cat apparently snuck into a bag while Martell was packing.

Martell said her bag was scanned at the airport, but she was not stopped.

“They had asked me, when they put ? the luggage through the X-ray, whether I had a turkey,” Martell said…
…The bag was sent on and loaded into the cargo bay of the airplane. Ginger, 3, was discovered when Martell opened her suitcase in her hotel room.

Fortunately, Ginger is doing well after her adventure. But don't you think that airport security could have detected a live animal in a suitcase? From a follow-up article:

When the cat went through screening, the X-ray machine would have shown just a faint image of some bones,” [Canadian Air Transport Security Authority spokesperson said,] “That, in itself is not a threat object to civil aviation. That would have passed through, no problem.”

But of course my toothpaste is a threat to civil aviation, and my musical instruments (including the acoustic folk instruments) get passed through the X-ray machine several times before being allowed to pass. And a bottle of water (purchased outside the terminal) cannot be carried, but an animal that is 75% water is OK…

Well, since it appears to be OK security-wise to carry live animals in suitcases, can people check in their crying babies, please?