21 May — First the Indonesian, then the Canadiana.
Jalan2 is headline-speak for jalan-jalan, which literally means “streets” but as a colloquial expression (at least when I lived on Lombok) means “out and about… out exploring…”
2-4 Weekend is Canadian trendy-speak for the May 24 holiday weekend, in honour of what is still officially called Victoria Day, which in turn honours the 1819 birth date of that particular British (and Empire!) monarch.
And if you didn’t need any help to decode this post title, then bravo! You are such a global citizen.
All that to say: here I am in the fresh morning sunshine on our 2-4 Weekend, all set to jalan-jalan and see what’s happening. Plan is to weave my way down through the east-end Distillery District — the 19th-c. Gooderham and Worts distillery complex repurposed into shops and entertainment — and then west along the lake front.
I am ambushed enroute. Of course! First by this minx down an alley just S/W of Parliament & Dundas …
… and then by this rather heroic-looking dog, same building different angle.
“This is the story of a famous dog,” says the legend neatly painted into the mural. I wonder if the dog is famous for protecting people who sling sneakers over wires, or for protecting the rest of us from sneaker-slingers — but alas, no explanation on the wall, and no-one to ask.
I suppose I am some sort of frenemy of the Distillery District. I love the 13 acres of Victorian industrial architecture, love that it has been saved and repurposed, love the additional vitality it brings to a lakefront part of town that was far too shabby for far too long. I don’t particularly love how relentlessly upmarket it all is and how, somehow, the architecture and its artefacts are more exploited as decor elements than respected for their intrinsic value.
And then I smack myself upside the head and get on with enjoying what’s to hand. For there is lots to enjoy, including sleek new design elements — such as the zigzac metal railing that incorporates succulents — that complement the heritage buildings very nicely indeed.
You can see a glimpse of old brick building to the right, and to the left some of the tents for today’s arts and crafts fair, with lovely items, hand-made and largely regional. (Also “fully priced,” to use the investment euphemism.)
Having snarled about the way heritage artefacts are treated, I should in fairness salute the ones that are well displayed and well explained. Like this fragment of an old molasses storage tank, still in its original location — Building 9 — which is nowadays the Arta Gallery, home to contemporary Canadian and international art.
I particularly like the scratch high up, framed by the corner. I like to imagine it’s a freeform bird, an artistic graffito by some worker’s clever hand. But no, it’s just a scratch.
Out of the Distillery District, south again on Parliament Street and almost immediately I veer into the back lot shared by a car-detailing / rust protection centre and an Autoshare franchise. Utilitarian concrete walls all around, but also fully painted all around. Definitely wall art. And here’s my favourite bit — mostly because of the bonus glimpse of an ANSER face, peeping over the edge on the south side.
I wobble around for a while, cut across to Sherbourne and drop down to The Esplanade, where I investigate this Stonehenge of photography on the S/E corner. I’m drawn by curiosity and also by the big red A — which I have also photographed, and most recently used in my May 5 post.
This display is on one edge of the mixed-income St. Lawrence complex of buildings, very innovative when it opened a few decades ago, with its emphasis on good housing stock for people with limited means, but with enough sliding-scale accomodation to avoid creating a ghetto. The art project, Reflections of the Esplanade, is the result of 2 months of workshops with 5 “budding photographers” who live in the area and were sent out to photograph it.
On down Sherbourne, into Sherbourne Common. It’s a futuristic looking park cum public art gallery cum water treatment facility that stretches from Lakeshore Blvd E. to the lakefront, hopping Queen’s Quay E. as it goes.
Layer upon layer, looking north with a backdrop of the elevated Gardiner Expressway and the city beyond. Then one of the three towers through which storm and lake water (first treated underground) is aerated, splashing back down the mesh curtain into a channel — on the right — that carries it safely to the lake.
Interspersed with the towers are plantings and playthings — one of them the whirly disc, where you can see a father spinning his child who is squealing his little head off, one hopes with joy.
And here’s the channel, in its last curves southward to the lake, with the Toronto islands beyond and happy boats, literated from winter, dancing in between.
Sugar Beach, just to the west near the Redpath Sugar Refinery that gives it its name, is also in full swing, you betcha.
For us, the May 24 weekend is the start of summer, who cares about the June 21 solstice. This is the traditional weekend to re-open your seasonal cottage, for example, and to start planting annuals in your garden. If you plant them sooner and there’s another frost and they die, it’s Your Fault. If you plant them now and there’s another frost, any resulting deaths are Not Your Fault.
On west to Harbourfront, and more photography on display, this time an exhibition presented by the Toronto Port Authority called Uncharted Waters: Toronto’s Enigmatic Waterfront. It really is terrific. It comes down end of June, after a year’s run. Go see it now.
Still heading west, with the lake on my left and now a pond on the right that, in winter, is a skating rink. No skates these days!
And beyond that, another bunch of tents, very like the ones back in the Distillery District, but this time with a decided emphasis on kid-friendly activities.
For example: a chance for children to try basic acrobatic manoeuvres, guided by members of the Circus Academy.
I pause, delighted with the delight of the proud kiddies and even prouder parents, but also enjoying an extra layer of memory. One day, exploring Gerrard St. East with Phyllis (she of the Tuesday Walking Society), we stumbled into the rehearsal space for the combined Academy, Centre of Gravity, and Zero Gravity Circus.
When I finally walk on, it is to stop again, as enchanted as everyone else by the mime work of this Zero Gravity troupe member, who rules us all with gestures punctuated by imperious flicks of her fan.
Here she has singled out a man in the crowd with a cup of fresh fruit and — silently — demanded that he feed her a morsel. She swoops as delicately as a ballerina and waits, mouth open for the tribute.
Somewhat stunned, he does as commanded. It gives me an idea: I go get myself a cup of fresh cherries – after first indulging in a Beaver Tail pastry, dusted with the traditional sugar & cinnamon coating. Yum!
But it doesn’t take circus members, or a special fair, to create opportunities for play.
Wave decks will do very nicely. There are three in this section of the waterfront; today I stop at the Simcoe Wave Deck, at the foot of the eponymous street. (Don’t you just love a chance to use that adjective?)
Yellow glulam cedar and ipe wood shape the undulations; assorted anti-slip features (and a lake-side railing) are there to keep you safe. But hey, that band along each contour edge is just made for sliding.
Adults and some kids do it decorously, feet-first. This exuberant little guy (half-hidden by his watching mother) has just hurtled down head-first.
Enough! I finally turn back east toward home. It’s been a fine start to the Canadian version of the summer season. And I rack up 12.5 km, very respectable, to boot.
- Distillery Historic District – www.thedistillerydistrict.com/history.php
- Arta Gallery – www.artagallery.ca
- Reflections of the Esplanade exhibit – www.jamiiesplanade.org
- Uncharted Waters: Toronto’s Enigmatic Waterfront exhibit – www.harbourfrontcentre.com/unchartedwaters
- The Circus Academy – www.TheCircusAcademy.ca which takes you to http://centreofgravity.ca
- Zero Gravity Circus – www.zerogravitycircus.com
- Toronto waterfront information – www.waterfrontoronto.ca then on the Explore Projects menu click Central Waterfront for the wave decks, or East Bayfront for Sugar Beach and Sherbourne Common