Please Keep Off the Bloomin' Trees!

It's a selfie frenzy. It's botanical madness. It's cherry blossom time in Toronto!

Even her dog is like, "What's the big deal here?"

Even her dog is like, "What's the big deal here?"

Have I ever bothered to care? Nope, not really. Not because I don't like plants (I like plants very much) but rather because I've never been particularly obsessed with Japan or selfies. It's just so far... and all that way just to see some trees in bloom? Seems excessive. There are beautiful trees and shrubs popping everywhere right now, and many of them even more amazing than cherry trees. I can see one from my back window and it's more glorious.

But this year, I was in the area shooting the West End Food Co-Op for a blog article and decided it was perfect weather to talk a walk. (Or, hop in an Uber morelike because it's only April and I'm not quite ready for an hour walk in 22 degree weather.) So I arrived in High Park near Grenadier Pond with only about an hour to spare before I had to be on the subway heading towards another appointment. I'm not sure what I expected... but it wasn't quite what I saw.

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I expected a lot of people. I'd heard about the crowds. Okay, seems legit. I expected a bunch of trees in bloom. There was also that. But there were more people than I expected and 90% had cameras in their faces trying for the perfect selfie or Instagram post. Very few people appeared to be there simply to enjoy the beauty. I guess it's sort of difficult to do when everyone else is bumping into you and crawling over every inch of the grass.

There's no point in really talking about the history or ecology of the cherry trees in the park as their website does that well already. Check it out here! And the trees have their own website here.

As I mentioned on the photo gallery page, there were two boys that stood out as they appeared to really care about the trees themselves -- something it appears too many people take for granted. (Which sort of fits with the tourist M.O. of showing up, snapping Instagram pics, and trampling all over nature with no respect. But that's a rant about Toronto for another day...) Luckily I didn't see any of the notorious bad behaviour that has become associated with cherry blossom time in High Park. There were no children (or young adults...) climbing the trees. There wasn't a single person molesting a branch to shake the delicate petals off for the perfect Facebook profile pic. Yet we know it happens. The signs are everywhere politely and humorously asking people to not do that bad thing, as per the Canadian way.

"Please Keep Off The Bloomin' Trees!"

So quirky and unthreatening.

Petal Princess: A model and a photographer go over the shots he just took. She attracted quite the crowd of onlookers.

Petal Princess: A model and a photographer go over the shots he just took. She attracted quite the crowd of onlookers.

I have heard rumblings that the trees in High Park aren't doing well and aren't expected to make it through the next 5 years. This is partly due to climate but primarily due to abuse by visitors to the sites. In order to mitigate the damage being done to the trees, the City has decided to relieve the pressure on High Park sakuras by planting a new grove in Woodbine Park. They're building a tunnel! A cherry tree tunnel in the Beaches! (Yes, Beaches. Don't even get me started.) It's expected to reduce the number of people who flood High Park annually with blossom fever.

I remember exam days at U of T and the sakura tunnel beside Robarts. I was always too distracted by severe end of year anxiety to even appreciate what we had right there on campus. So if you're in the neighbourhood of Harbord and Huron, help out the High Park trees and take your selfies there instead. Trinity-Bellwoods is also an alternative. But if you're like me and have never done the cherry blossom thing, you'll probably be drawn to High Park not sorely for the blooms but for the sheer spectacle.

The cops had actually blocked off roads into the park from Bloor so the only way in was on foot... which is fine since most visitors were coming by TTC anyway.

The cops had actually blocked off roads into the park from Bloor so the only way in was on foot... which is fine since most visitors were coming by TTC anyway.

So, please, if you want to enjoy the cherry vistas, take care and respect the trees. They're non-native (and non-invasive) and fragile. Yes, they make wonderful backdrops for the perfect springtime portrait but they're not like our hardy oaks and pines, or even our crab apple trees (which are also fantastic in the spring bloom, as most fruit trees are, jsyk!).

Check out my photo page for a complete gallery of snapshots I took during peak bloom this year.

1977 Punk Rock Blitz-O-Rama 8 @ The Linsmore Tavern

The Linsmore Tavern at Greenwood and Danforth has always been somewhat of an "avoid" place for me. Having grown up nearby, I can't say there was ever a temptation to venture there. I considered it akin to the Eton or really any number "old man bars" along the east Danforth. Then the other day, my mother gave me a flyer for all the live music coming up. The Blondie tribute caught my eye... And that's how, on the 14th of April 2017, I ended up sitting with friends, surrounded by old punks in what turned out to be a pretty cool venue for local rock music.

It's also how I came to realise I actually really like The Jam? (I can't claim any punk authenticity. Having not even been even close to born in 1977 I considered myself into punk... in the 90s, with the likes of Pennywise, Social Distortion, Rancid, Bad Religion, and The Offspring.) For some reason, I just assumed The Jam was literally a jam band and I've never been particularly into that genre, save the typical late-teenage Phish obsession. Like, do not even talk to me about Dave Matthews Band or I may have to punch you.

Up first were The Jammed consisting of Richard McCarthy ("Filthy Rich") with vocals and guitar, Cleave Anderson (formerly of Blue Rodeo) on drums and Lucas Stagg (of the Lucas Stagg band) on bass and vocals. As expected, it was one The Jam cover after another and people were going wild already.

Soon after, the band was joined by Blondee lead singer, Sarah Dishart to cover a few of Blondie's tunes.

Sarah Dishart in Blondee takes the stage (Nikon D7200, 35mm, 1/200 f1.8, 3200 ISO). One of these days I'll work on lower ISOs and less noise. Any sort of post-processing just seems to exaggerate it.

Sarah Dishart in Blondee takes the stage (Nikon D7200, 35mm, 1/200 f1.8, 3200 ISO). One of these days I'll work on lower ISOs and less noise. Any sort of post-processing just seems to exaggerate it.

After a few tunes, out came The Blanks (Lucas Stagg on guitar/vocals & Drew Cowsill on bass/vocals) to cover some CBGB's classics. Again, I'm not old enough to really know a lot of this stuff but I did know about CBGB's... mostly because a character on The O.C. (Oh, Alex Kelly) wore a CBGB's t-shirt once and I wanted to know what it all meant. After educating myself on the venue and its history just in time for it to close down. Figures. And I gotta say not only did the crowd go wild for "Let's Shake" but I did too -- as it is the only Teenage Head song I actually know. (Thanks, Goldirocks! Those were some fun days being an extra.)

Then came a surprise... They hadn't been listed on the flyer but the B Girls took the stage in their current form (two of the original members). Lucasta Ross on vocals and Cynthia Ross on bass were complemented by Sam Ferrera on guitar and of course, Cleave Anderson on drums. Again, I had no idea who they were so I googled it today. (You can too!) Turns out they were actually a pretty big deal back in Toronto's punk first wave days. And, there's just something about (old) punk that requires black and white photos, even though I didn't shoot in monochrome.

The interesting thing is that all the bands that played shared at least one member. (Cleave Anderson joined each one.) It actually made the night seem like it was one big rock jam with members popping in and out as needed.

So, for my first actual trip to the Linsmore, it wasn't bad. Yeah, it's still sort of a dive. Yeah, there are still a lot of old dudes. But the drinks are reasonable and everyone is friendly. Plus, the music was kinda of sick. By the time I left, a younger bunch of punks was finding the place.

I suspect I'll be back again. And again.

Cynthia Ross on bass, B-Girls @ The Linsmore Tavern, Toronto. (Nikon D7200, 20mm, 1/160 f.2.8, 6400 ISO)

Cynthia Ross on bass, B-Girls @ The Linsmore Tavern, Toronto. (Nikon D7200, 20mm, 1/160 f.2.8, 6400 ISO)