Image, to Question, to Story

2 September 2014 — I think this is a post about relationships, about dynamics. About how images can trigger questions, and then stories to explore those questions. Different questions for each viewer, and so different stories.

On Sunday, we went to the magnificent Alex Colville retrospective at the Art Gallery of Ontario here in Toronto (until Jan 4). Colville painted hyper-realistic scenes that are absolutely specific to their time & place, yet they arouse in viewers questions that swirl throughout time & space. What led to this moment? What is just out of sight? What next?

Colville said he was always addressing the question, “What is life like?” and he pulls viewers into that mystery.

It has inspired me to do a different sort of post. (You understand I do not compare myself with Colville.)

Usually I weave words & images to tell you the story of my day. I’m delighted when you run with it in your own minds & imaginations, making it yours through your response to it — but still, I have started with my images, for which I supply my story.

Today, i am not telling a story. I riffled my bank of images with a different eye. I wanted images that stand alone, that provoke questions, invite stories. Here are a few …

basketball court, David Crombie Park Toronto

Down on The Esplanade this summer in David Crombie Park, my eye was first drawn by the glorious mural on the backboards, but then by the young woman.

I remember watching for a while. She was entirely focused on her coach and his instruction, her intensity creating a force-field around the court. Who is she? What is her dream? What is she not doing, in her life, in order to do this?

Mexico City, now, a hot day in one of the city’s main zócalos (plazas).

plaza in Mexico City

At the time, I was fascinated by the great blocks of ice, glistening & sweating in the sun. Only later, I wondered about the young man, also glistening & sweating. I hope he is not spending his life subservient to blocks of ice.

Also Latin America, now Habana Vieja in Cuba. I sat on shady steps opposite the Convent of San Francisco de Asís, watching Cubans respond to the statue commemorating a legendary street-person, El Caballero de París.

This little girl would have no memory of him, why did she run to give him a hug?

statue to Caballero de Paris, Habana Vieja

I returned later, to see flowers tucked into the Caballero’s hand. It must have just happened, the blooms were still fresh despite the heat.

floral tribute, Caballero de Paris, Habana Vieja

Friends had told me that people often left flowers, but … who paid tribute this time?  Why?

Story-moments are everywhere.

I know I have already shown you this woman blissfully reading her book in Riverdale Park East, but that was in the context of my story about my walk up to Taste of the Danforth.

Now let’s think about her.

in Riverdale Park East, Toronto

What do you suppose she is reading? Why here?

Or, let’s think about this classy pooch, in a classy red convertible.

dog at Parliament St beer store

He was in a beer store parking lot. Will his owner be just as classy? Will said owner have purchased the classy product of a micro-brewery?

Enough with dogs. Time for a cat.

in Danforth Av. shop

The little statue is in complete contrast, not just to the sleek 21st-c. cash register, but to the coolly elegant & very modern Danforth shop as a whole.  Whose idea was the cat? Is there an older owner behind the smart young assistant greeting the public? What does the cat mean to each of them?

You know my fascination with decorated bicycles, “bike art” I call it.

I liked the whole look of this bike on Dundas St. East — painted vehicle plus fresh new colour-coordinated flowers plus matching helmet.

bike on Dundas St. E.

Look closely, the word “love” is all over the helmet. This cyclist loves her bike (I am guessing gender); she has or seeks love in the world. I hope she is happy.

Queen St. East now, in the forecourt of Metropolitan United Church (at the corner of Church St., where else).

I wasn’t there for the line-up of chess boards and their followers; I was tracking preparations for this year’s Nuit Blanche, and a spectacular installation was in the process of being erected farther back on the property.

chess at Metropolitan United Church

Nuit Blanche, who cares. These guys were playing chess.

Yet my focus wasn’t on the two players, it was on the kibitzer behind them. Why has he lost interest? Are these guys so evenly matched that nothing is happening? Or so mismatched that the game has no tension? Or has something astounding just happened, one board over?

One last thought: if you find you like working your mind from image to possible story, check out Terry Barca’s posts on araneus1. This Aussie (east side of Melbourne, he tells us) is a master at finding a strong image, then weaving a compelling story around it.

 

 

Town & Country

26 August 2014 — Country comes first. On Saturday my partner Nigel & I drive a couple of hours N/E of Toronto to a farm outside the community of Millbrook. More specifically, to the 4th Line Theatre, which since 1992 has developed & presented Canadian historical dramas in open-air productions on that site each summer.

Show starts at 6, we arrive in good time to collect & enjoy our picnic-basket dinners & still have time for a walk on the property.

trail on 4th Line Theatre property

Howling wolf points the way, and we not only get to see & sniff nature’s late-season splendour, we have our first glimpse, albeit it sideways, of the barn-cum-stage.

4th Line Theatre, from field

Friends have given good reports of both the theatre set-up and its productions, we’re eager for both. Tonight’s show, Wounded Soldiers, is the second of the two plays being offered this season —  a vignette set in England in 1915, when increasing numbers of asylums (“lunatic asylums,” in the language of the day) were being converted for military use as war wounded began to overwhelm the country’s other facilities.

main stage, 4th Line Theatre

No photography during the performance, so here’s the audience arriving. Perhaps half — including us — find seats in the covered seating section, the rest take their weather chances along with the cast. (If a performance absolutely must be cancelled, it is at the last minute, and only those present can claim a seat for a future performance. No refunds, and no make-good seats for those who looked at the sky & decided not to show up.)

One big advantage to staging a World War I drama in a rural, open-air setting: your trenches set is seriously authentic! Real turf, real soil, and — in this season of frequent showers — plenty of real mud.

trenches side stage, 4th Line Theatre

Good show, good logistics, comfy chairs (with added cushions), good experience.  Followed by, a pleasant drive home as dusk turns to night.

And now for … Something Completely Different

Say good-bye to the country, say hello to town.

Say hello to Bikini Blonde!

bikini'ed onlooker, Victoria St.

It’s now Sunday, I’m walking over to Yonge St. for Buskerfest, my mind is already on theatrics & performance artists, and for a moment I think BB must be one of them. Except I’m not yet at Yonge — though close — and she’s not, well, she’s not exactly projecting theatrical performance, is she? So I don’t know why she’s here, but here she is.

And it does prepare me for theatrics to come.

One more image to snag my attention before I quite make it to Yonge Street — I look down O’Keefe Lane just east of Yonge, and see this cheerful whack of street art.

O'Keefe Lane, south of Dundas E.

Like Bikini Blonde, it’s a bit confusing. Is it painted on an overpass of some kind? Is that a black cloth draped over the top half? Why?

Then I decide, who knows, so what, it’s all fun. And I finally make it to Yonge St.

Which is chock-a-block with tents and banners and food traffic — that “fooD traffic,” my friends, is a genuine typo. I meant to type “foot traffic” but decide to leave the typo, because it too is accurate. As on Danforth during Taste of Danforth, there is a whole lot of food on offer, in many of those tents, and a lot of the foot (that’s with a “t”) traffic is scarfing back various kinds of exotic food.

All this activity organized by, and in aid of, Epilepsy Toronto — a fundraiser that has grown bigger and better-attended every year since its founding in 1999.

Oh, I forgot to mention buskers, didn’t I. There are buskers.

Buskerfest performer

Wind-Up Lady, for one, whose jerky poses perfectly mimic the wind-up dancers to be found on old-fashioned music boxes.

Also, chance of pace, pouty mermaids.

Buskerfest performers

My favourite is Ghost Lady, though my delight is not so much for her (despite her skill) as it is for her mesmerized little fan.

Ghost Lady & fan

The child tries to copy her moves, and stops between each hop to check again her idol’s latest pose. What did she just do??? Can I do that??? Finally, her laughing mother scoops her up, and proud daddy takes a picture of mother, daughter and Ghost Lady in a tight trio of mutual admiration.

There’s music, too. I follow my ears down a stub of street just west of Yonge, and spend a moment listening to this ensemble jammin’ away like crazy.

Buskefest musi in a café

I think of settling in at a table for a glass of something myself… but no, I walk on.

And am rewarded with some fine solo-performance blues, just east of Yonge this time.

Buskerfest performer

Soon I’ve  walked the Buskerfest stretch, from Dundas Square north to College Street.

I have no particular plan at this point. Eastward? Westward? Northward ho?

Then my ears pick up … Something Completely Different

Boom-boom! Clash-rattle! It’s a marching band, somewhere, all brass & drums.

Then I see it, and can hardly believe it: the start of what seems to be an enormous long parade, marching down the west side of Queen’s Park Crescent, curving around Queen’s Park legislative buildings (the provincial parliament), and making a whole glorious ka-boom of noise as it goes.

Falun Dafa parade, in  Queen's Park Cres.

I cross into Queen’s Park to watch, and am handed a Falun Dafa (Falun Gong) pamphlet as I settle myself curb-side. A lot of people are watching, accepting pamphlets and often the small flowers that are also on offer.

Falun Dafa parade, in Queen's Park Cres

The marching band segments are intercut with groups of women, flowing rather than marching, but equally focused on the event’s political, social & spiritual messages.

This is indeed one enormous parade. I can see that the tail end is still opposite me, on the far side of Queen’s Park, waiting to come around the curve, while the front end has already turned west on College St.

south from Queen's Park to S/W College & University

Multiple layers of imagery, as I look south from Queen’s Park to the west side of the intersection of University Av. & College. First, the peaceful man on his bench in the shade; then the parade on College St.; then the great mirrored façade of Ontario Power, reflecting  the Queen’s Park legislative building on one face (on the right) and the MaRS Discovery District (public/private sector innovation hub) in the curved face to the left.

Later, at home, I tell Nigel about the contrasting events, busker theatrics followed by spiritual/political messaging. In return, he tells me that he and our visiting flautist friend Grėgoire spent the afternoon in Little India — where yet another street fair was underway.

Toronto in the summer. So swell.

 

On & Off Yonge St. (To Reykjavík.)

21 August 2014 — Cinematographically speaking. A recommended movie, set in Iceland, caused me to walk the Dundas-Eglinton stretch of Yonge St. that took me to the theatre.

Yonge St logo n. of Dundas

I cover 8 kilometres or so, not bad, though the merest nothing compared to the 1,896 km. of this road’s total length from Lake Ontario to Rainy River — and an even tinier nothing compared to the 4,205 km. between Toronto & Reykjavík. (And that’s just flying distance. Wait ’til I tell you the walking distance!)

Yonge is an an important N/S artery & the city’s accepted centre-line, but still a curious mix of low- and high-rise. The latter shoots up around major E/W intersections, while the former stretches out in between, housing endless little shops in older, largely 2-storey buildings.

Yonge St. nr Charles St.

I’m north of Dundas, south of Bloor at this point, and frankly, it’s pretty tatty around here. Full of life and commerce and activity, but tatty. Lady Red Dress is the classiest element by far, and she’s just passing through.  At speed! (How can she walk that fast, in heels that high?)

Cross Bloor and I’m on the edge of Yorkville, heading toward Rosedale, moving up-the-market I am. Past the handsome Toronto Reference Library, into Frank Stollery Parkette, a tiny but effective wedge of greenery & benches on the west side of Yonge at Davenport. I revisit the Bell boxes for their murals, and read again the inscription beginning, “Ancient wisdom of the land …”

Frank Stollery Park, Yonge & Davenport

And look, kitty corner across Yonge, one of the painted traffic signal boxes that are now popping up — copying the Bell initiative, I think, and what a good idea. I cross to check it out, discover it’s by visual artist Elicser, and am slightly embarrassed I hadn’t guessed that for myself. Still … a shirt-&-tie-guy by Elicser?

Yonge & Davenport traffic signal box, artist Elicser

Soon Ramsden Park on my left, Rosedale subway station on my right, all known territory, and then I stop short, because I’ve never noticed this entrance before. It could be in Europe, a quiet, cool iron gate with understated shrubbery behind and near-anonymous, discreet signage. Somehow, the rust on the gate simply adds to the aura of faded, stylish mystery.

1920s building, n. of Ramsden Park

The mood is broken by two delivery men wrestling large plastic mats through the gate. Whatever offices this building now contains, the inhabitants choose to protect their floors from twirling computer chairs.

By now the older, low-rise sections on Yonge are beautifully restored — not still deteriorating, as they tend to be, farther south — and they house suitably elegant boutiques and spas. I leave Yonge for a bit, walk north up a parallel lane just behind the shops. Not so elegant here! Still, I love the remaining hay lofts.

haylofts in Paul Hahn Ln, n of Ramsden Pk & w. of Yonge

Drab looking, but sweet smelling. Someone near-by is cutting grass, and the scent of new-mown grass fills the air.

I laugh when I rejoin Yonge at Roxborough. A block farther south, I’d admired the vivid blossom a passing woman has tucked into her black fanny-pack, and wondered idly where she’d found it. “Bet she pinched it,” I’d thought, perfectly happy for her to have done so.

Hah! Here’s the source: a café patio, its screening a mass of blooms.

resto patio, Yonge & Roxborough W

They’ll never miss the one that disappeared onto a fanny-pack.

Soon I’m nearing St. Clair, with another cluster of towers rearing into the sky. I duck into a lane between two smaller, older structures as I approach, for a moment at the gate to St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Cemetery. It is surrounded now by buildings, but still imposing its own peace, its own sense of enternity, within its grounds.

St. Michael’s R.C. Cemetery

I enjoy the break from busy sidewalks, but the man next to me is using the relative quiet to hold an intense cell-phone conversation about his overseas real-estate investments.

Back to Yonge, and Book City. I always stop at a Book City, there are always bargain bins on the sidewalk to tempt your eyes, fingers & wallets.

Book City s. of St. Clair

No purchase this time, but I often tuck something into my pack after one of these stops.

And now I’m north of St. Clair, into a stretch with no shops at all, just open-cut subway tracks on my left and, across Yonge, the western edge of sprawling Mount Pleasant Cemetery. I think of entering it and walking its curving paths for a while, but decide to stick to Yonge as planned. (Very loosely planned.)

Just south of Davisville, I walk beneath the overpass for Kay Gardiner Belt Line Park. Phyllis & I often walk over it, linking our way from the Belt Line Park into the cemetery and on south.

beneath the overpass for Kay Gardiner Belt Line Park, Yonge St.

And then it’s just a few more blocks to Eglinton, to the movie theatre complex … to Reykjavík.

The movie is called Land Ho! It’s rightly described as a “small” and “gently amusing” film about two 60-something former brothers in law, American and Australian, who head for Iceland in search of their lost youth but in the course of events come to terms with their age instead.

I am gently amused, and I lap up the travelogue background, of course I do, it’s what drew me to the film in the first place. Memories flash back of my own time in that country.

memorial in Reykjavik

Not a shot from the movie — one of my own photos, the lovely little sculpture on (I think) Túngata dedicated by the people of Latvia to the people of Iceland, in thanks for their recognition of Latvian independence. “We are a small nation,” reads the inscription (in English as well as Icelandic); “We shall be as great as is our will.”

I do not walk back home. By now it’s quite late in the day, I hop the subway south and jump out again at Dundas, to walk from there.

And there he is, Living Sculpture guy, a street corner regular who was mysteriously absent earlier in the day. Now he’s in full stop-&-go action, revolving from pose to pose on his stand.

Living Sculpture performer, Yonge & Dundas

I line up with others to take his picture, and then head home.

Walking Distance, Toronto to Reykjavík

As promised.

When I googled the distance online, I found myself on a site offering a lot of travel-related factoids between the two cities. They were presented in a drop-down menu that included — to my fascination — the heading “walking distance” as well as “flying distance.”

Who could resist? So I clicked. And it said:

“Really Far.”

Well, I asked for that one, didn’t I?

 

Canoeing Down Garrison Creek

16 August 2014 — I am being fanciful. You cannot canoe down Garrison Creek. It has long since been “sewered” — channelled into a subterranean sewer system for its entire length, from just north of St. Clair Av. West all the way south to Lake Ontario.

“Sewered.” Such an ugly, bureaucratic word for something they extolled, back in the 1880s, as a victory for public health & sanitation. (Also a tidy victory for the people who acquired real estate on the resulting dry land, in transactions rife with conflicts of interest.)

Never mind, Garrison Creek — “Toronto’s most legendary lost river” — lives on: underground in physical fact, and above ground in memory, plaques, historical accounts, and walking tours.

Garrison Creek sidewalk medallion

And canoes.

Phyllis & I start the Garrison Creek Discovery Walk at Christie Pits Park (Bloor St. West), as suggested in the somewhat sketchy route map. We plan to swerve our way south with the lost creek, tracing it from one park to the next — all of them lying within the ravines created by the creek.

As you know (previous post), we walk through our first park, Bickford, mesmerized by garage art instead of the park itself (or the creek, for that matter).

Then we cross Harbord St. into Art Eggleton Park (called Harbord Park on the maps, but given the former mayor’s name in signage). We see this canoe, next to the slowly refilling kiddy splash pad and just south of some cheerful playground equipment.

Homegrown National Park canoe in Harbord Park

A little sign above the canoe proclaims it part of the Homegrown National Park Project of the David Suzuki Foundation. Later online research explains it “aims to establish a green corridor through the heart of the City of Toronto, along the former route of Garrison Creek.”

Of course! My mind flips back to earlier walks; I remember seeing a “Homegrown National Park” shield chalked onto a paved path through Stanley Park near King St West, and also two wildflower-filled canoes farther south on the Creek’s meandering route, one at Fort York and the other in Little Norway Park, right at Lake Ontario.

Oh, good. So nice to connect the dots.

On we walk, Phyllis & I, connecting park-dots as we go — Bickford to Harbord to Fred Hamilton, then a little residential street hop-skip and into Trinity Bellwoods Park at Dundas West & Crawford.

Where, right on the corner, I see a different type of dot connection.

bike & elbow art, at Trinity Bellwoods Park

It’s not particularly impressive tattoo work, is it? But it fascinates me, & I sneak a photo while Mr. Elbow Art describes his map-findings to his patient girl-friend.

Soon I’m fascinated by something a tad more important — or at least, more relevant to my topic of the day, namely Garrison Creek.

Phyllis & I stop to read a plaque, as we always do, and discover we are more on less standing on the Crawford St. Bridge. I say “more or less” because we can’t be sure, because we can’t see the bridge. Like Garrison Creek, it is buried underground.

Stomp-stomp, we go, dancing our boots up & down. Imagine, a whole bridge, under the grass.

from Crawford St. Bridge plaque

First the authorities shoved the creek itself underground; then they filled in this part of the ravine that had been carved by the creek — and, with it, the bridge.

On down through Trinity Bellwoods, full of activity on a breezy but glorious summer’s day. Kiddy day camp, dog walkers, skateboarders, bike riders (tattoo’d or otherwise), tennis players, strollers … And a howling wolf, to keep us all company.

in Trinity Bellwoods Park

We skirt another splash pad. Like its neighbour in Art Eggleton (aka Harbord) Park to the north, the pad is near playground equipment, its base decorated with cheerful aquatic designs. The more northerly pad is probably now as full as this one — staffers tell us, when we ask, that they empty the pads each evening, and refill them in the morning.

splash pad, Trinity Bellwoods Park

We admire the gardens, the shrub, the trees, and wish we could identify this particular birch, with its quite spectacular bark. We cock our heads & mutter inconclusively about what kind of birch it is. White (Paper) birch? Nah, I say, that bark comes off in big sheets.

white birch? yellow birch?

Now that I look again, I’m inclined to think White Birch.

Onto streets for a while, including Strachan Av. with its mostly un-gentrified Victorian homes. I am not opposed to gentrification as such: that would be reverse snobbery (as obnoxious as snobbery tout court) and anyway, there are much worse fates for decaying old neighbourhoods than gentrification.

Still, there is something fresh & delightful about this streetscape, and I particularly like the green house. (I know it’s not an authentic heritage colour! Stop fussing!)

house on Strachan Av., s. of Queen West

Phyllis & I imagine sitting on that porch, tucked away behind those geranium baskets, watching the world go by …

On & on again, into Stanley Park where we watch dogs cavort while owners chew the breeze, then out again to wheel east on Wellington, where we decide: Enough Garrison Creek.

So we head north on Bathurst, with our minds on — and tummies ready for — lunch in the Market 707 food stalls at Bathurst & Dundas West.

With a hit of street art north of King, to cheer us on our way…

Bathurst St. mural by SPUD

Not what I recognize as typical work by graffiti artist Spud, but I later realize the limitation is in my knowledge, not in his artistic range.

And that could be that but, having (almost) started with a canoe, let’s end with one.

This photo is only a semi-cheat — and surely no cheat at all, since I am admitting to it. I did not take the photo on this walk, but I did take it on one of my walks — just over a year ago, in September 2013, in Little Norway Park.

Homegrown National Park canoe, Little Norway Park

So there we are. A Garrison Creek canoe, all the way south along the creek to the very shores of Lake Ontario.

Thank you, David Suzuki Foundation, and every other organization & person determined to keep this creek a tangible part of our city today.

 

 

 

J’Adore the Doors

13 August 2014 — Tuesday’s walk is not supposed to be about doors.

It is supposed to be about following the Garrison Creek Discovery Walk — truly a discovery every time, since the creek has been channelled underground since the late 19th c., and trail signage & route maps are both a bit catch-as-catch-can. But as Tuesday Walking Society partner Phyllis observes, “We’re out for a walk. Who cares if we get lost?”

The route, theoretically, leads us south from Bloor St. just west of Bathurst, practically to the lakefront. It weaves through a succession of parks, starting with Bickford Park on the south side of Bloor, and we are cheered to find a route marker almost immediately.

Garrison Creek Discovery Walk sign in Bickford Park

Then things get very, very unexpected.

We look to the right, where the park is bordered by the garages behind Montrose Av. homes — and good grief, virtually every door is covered in street art. I don’t mean stupid scrawls and tagging, I mean ART.

South far as the eye can see, the garages prettily set off by tree that adds nature’s own chiaroscuro.

line of garages behind Montrose Av., facing Bickford Park

We walk down the line. As usual, I only recognize a few artists, but see one of those almost immediately. Once you’ve seen an ELICSER (Jabari Elliott) face, you always know them.

ELICSER mural

Then a very dapper Mr. Yellow Face (with equally dapper facial adornments) …

garage facing Bickford Park

… and another face, very different mood and style.

The elements to the right of the face put me very slightly in mind of Haida (West Coast) visual vocabulary, but I’m certainly not suggesting it was the artist’s intent. It’s just what jumps up in my own mind.

garage facing Bickford Park

The only untreated wooden door in the line-up, but boasting as fully-developed a work of art as any of the others …

garage facing Bickford Park

… and then the only door obscured by a car.

I heave a great sigh of annoyance but, come to think of it, it, it’s kind of a neat effect — sea monster about to swallow car.

garage facing Bickford Park

From fish to cat, and what a cat, the work of Chilean-Canadian visual artist Shalak.

garage door facing Bickford Park, by Shalak

 

Back to sea-monster fish, and a pretty scary human-monster face to go with it.

garage door facing Bickford Park

And then, and I am so delighted it is still here, the original example of garage art in the whole group.

It is dated 2009, but I first noticed and photographed it in early 2012, when I was training for the Iceland trek. It was easy to notice, since it was the only garage decorated with anything but tags.

the original painted door, dated  2009

I wonder if it was the inspiration for the rest? It sure looks as if the Montrose Av. home-owners issued a collective invitation for artists to create works on their garage doors — but who knows whether they did so out of real love for the art form, or in pragmatic recognition that murals were their best defence against ugly scrawls.

(One home-owner apparently didn’t buy in. His garage is heavily tagged, and also bears, in large black block letters, the word BONEHEAD.)

Now we find ourselves at the end of the garage gallery, and also at Harbord St., the south end of Bickford Park. For a while Phyllis and I are on a quiet residential street, not expecting any visual jolts at all.

Wrong-o. We blink, then roar with laughter.

Speaking of street art … !

2 separate stickers!

This takes some serious decoding. We thought we’d heard every accusation possible against Toronto’s mayor, but … eating animals? That’s a new one.

Then we realize we are in fact looking at two — no, make that three — admonitions.

  1.  STOP (says the Traffic Act)
  2.  STOP Rob Ford! (says visual artist YYZILLA, his signature running neatly up the exclamation mark)
  3. STOP Eating Animals (says Planet Vegan, with a sticker that I suspect was in place before YYZILLA came along to play his own little joke)

After all this, the walk settles down, and we get on with nature and parks and canoes full of flowers and a lost-but-remembered underground creek. Not to mention a a bridge across that creek, now deep underground as well. And yes, there is a final flourish of street art, by a Name Brand artist, followed by a Trinidad/Toronto kind of lunch.

You’ll see. In my next post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walk. Look. Taste. (Repeat)

10 August 2014 — There’s always a reason to point a walk in a particular direction, even if other distractions pile on as you go & sometimes take over.

Saturday’s plan is to explore Taste of the Danforth — a yearly weekend fiesta that has a western chunk of the artery closed to traffic and filled instead with food & other kiosks, many bands,  and lots & lots of people to sample everything going. Plus wander the shops, almost all of which are running special sales.

As it turns out, I do more walking & looking than tasting. Unless we want to call it, tasting with my eyes. (And why not?)

detail, JAH's "We see right thru you"

An eye to launch me, therefore — a detail from JAH’s huge mural on the alley-side wall of Face Furniture Optical on Parliament Street.

A great day, too, warm verging on hot, but not oppressive. Nature is in full stride everywhere I look, park or garden.

Goat's Beard (I think!) in Cabbagetown

I pay attention, I love it, I notice it, because soon the cycle will turn, we will shift gears from fat summer opulence into the fall transition to winter’s minimalism.

But not yet. I walk through Cabbagetown into Riverdale Park West, looking down the ravine slope and across expressways and the Don River to Riverdale Park East — and the towering Bridgepoint Health facility — on the far side. See? Toboggans fill these slopes in winter, but for now, flower boxes & baseball rule.

looking east from Riverdale Park West

Over the connecting pedestrian bridge, up the ravine slope on the east side, more memories of snow and toboggans — today’s reality of books & sun-block (and the promise of soccer, below).

slope of Riverdale Park East

This brings me to Broadview Avenue, the western edge of Taste of the Danforth. I draw breath … and plunge in. One kiosk after another with pennants to mark their place,  tourism information & yogurt & a public-sector union & a particular branch of Christianity & more kinds of food than I thought even Danforth — a famed restaurant location — could dream up. Vegan? Halal? Organic? Beer-wine? Greasy-fatty-salty? Take your pick, and line up.

Taste of the Danforth, nr Broadview Av.

I don’t line up, I hate lining up (even though my nose twitches with temptation), instead I think about all those pennants, and idly wonder what that grey tower-looking-thing is, farther down the line, just this side of a (I think) church tower.

It is a grey tower.

climbing tower, Taste of the Danforth

I’d like to say this climbing wall is being run by some sports-minded non-profit organization like Mountain Equipment Co-op, or Outward Bound Canada … but it’s not. It’s a promo for some upcoming action movie.

Ah well, the moppets are getting some exercise. All good.

And my nose still twitches with temptation but I am still line-up averse, so instead I duck into Carrot Common. One more line-up to avoid, this  time for shiatsu massage …

shiatsu massage in Carrot Common, Danforth Av

… and I head into the defining store of the complex, The Big Carrot Natural Food Market. I buy a can of chilled coconut water, and suck it down as I rejoin the street party.

Kids & clowns & music & dogs & skateboards & food/drink line-ups & sales in the street-side shops. (Though when the 60% off price for a T-shirt is still $59, I back out the door again, right quick.)  By now I’ve had about enough of crowds and the shuffle-step needed to navigate them. I stop looking around quite as avidly, start thinking about escape.

Then I see a combination of possibilities to stop me flat. Roman Catholic church? Sure. Henna tattoos? Sure. Henna tattoo tent on the steps of Holy Name Roman Catholic Church? Oh come on, you’re joking.

kiosk on church steps, Taste of the Danforth

No, you’re not joking. Goodness, I think to myself. Glad I didn’t bail before I got to see that!

But now my mind is made up. At the next intersection, just past the mini-amusement park, I’ll escape to the south.

Danforth nr Jones Av, Taste of the Danforth

Inching toward freedom, but still enough in the spirit of things to enjoy the fact that modest amusement rides — by today’s mega-standards — can still delight an urban audience. Bouncy castle, small ferris wheel, and adults as happy as the kids.

Then I discover that this is the end of the closed-street stretch anyway! Giggling, I head south, starting my S/W zig-zag back toward home. It takes me first through some quiet residential Riverdale streets.

I see a notice pinned to a utility pole up ahead. I don’t need to be close enough to read it to know what it will say, because I know the look. Some variation of “Missing cat” is what it will say. These signs always make me so sad, you think about the frantic owners, the frantic (if not dead) cat …

But no, look!

happy ending in Riverdale

Isn’t that the best? I’m delighted to know the end of the story, and I admire the owners, who took time to say thank you to those who helped, and reassure the rest of us. As I walk on, I see more notices about Max — they’d papered the neighbourhood — each with its thank-you stapled on top.

Another sign, this one very summer-in-the city.

Dusk Dances poster, Riverdale

I’d never heard of a week of Dusk Dances in near-by Withrow Park, and I think it’s terrific. As I walk through the Park, I try to guess where the dancing will take place, but the park is too large and varied, so I give up on the challenge and instead just enjoy everything that’s happening right now — kiddy play area, landscaped garden areas, facilities building, trails, space for the weekly farmers’ market and all.

Still dropping south and hoofing on west, soon back to Broadview Avenue bordering Riverdale Park and the Don River. Down the eastern slope, onto the pedestrian bridge, and yes, the baseball diamonds are still busy. (Though with different teams, or so I conclude from the different colours of jerseys.)

baseball in Riverdale Park West, from pedestrian bridge

This time I don’t take the stairs on the western slope, I instead walk the trail up through the woods into Riverdale Farm. It takes me past the ponds, and a notice about the restoration project underway.

pond in Riverdale Farm

Now I’m cutting back though Cabbagetown and closely eyeing the gardens, always something to learn. And look, twined among the shrubbery, between sidewalk iron railing and the home behind …

prayer flags in Cabbagetown

Prayer flags. I’ve never seen them in Cabbagetown before.  I’m mildly surprised. They seem more likely in Parkdale, say, or Riverdale — but not out of place, even so.

One final vignette, this one not surprising at all. It’s very typically Cabbagetown.

a Cabbagetown moment

Iron rail fence, bicycle, attractive wooden box to camouflage the plastic wheelie bins, with a tiny, perfect green roof on top.

 

And now for a bit of

Shameless Self-Promotion

The catalyst is a comment on my previous post from the author of woman’s eye view (I’m a follower, check it out). Do I publish my walks? she asks.

Yes, as a matter of fact! Not as a straight compilation of my posts, but focused in themes. Two books, so far.

First came, Walking the Waterfront.

"Walking the Waterfront" by Penny Williams, Blurb

And then, Walking the Streets & Lanes.

"Walking the Streets & lanes," by Penny Williams, Blurb

Please click, and riffle the pages. See what you think.

Different River, Same Lake, Yet More Streets

7 August 2014 — You got it: a shameless play on the title of my previous post. This time the Tuesday Walking Society follows the east-end Don River to Lake Ontario, but spends even more time on city streets.

Or, quite often, under them.

lane opp. 1 Sumach at Eastern Av ramps

 

Our first target is the wonderfully — and accurately — named Underpass Park, which has transformed the grubby wasteland you’d expect to find under a tangle of overpass ramps. (In this case the convergence of Richmond St., Adelaide St., and Eastern Avenue.)

But we meander as we go, stopping to contemplate some of the startling results when 20th-21st c. transportation arteries come crashing through old Victorian neighbourhoods. I stand under part of an access ramp to get that shot of homes that are practically under it themselves, near Sumach & Eastern.

One block east, at Sackville, stands a former primary school now reborn as Inglenook Community School. I drag Phyllis onto its grounds, not for the school itself but for the historical plaque I remember standing in one corner.

Yes, I’m right: a plaque to Thornton & Lucie Blackburn, whose home once stood on the site, and who are remembered for (among other things), founding Toronto’s first cab company in the 1830s. Well, humph, you’re thinking, the “other things” had better be more impressive than that, to merit an historical plaque.

Yes, they are.

Blackburn plaque, Eatern & Sumach

Isn’t that a wonderful story? Hats off to the people both sides of the border who defended the couple — and even more so to the Blackburns themselves.

Phyllis & I are now focused on getting ourselves to Underpass Park. We last saw it in snow & ice, just months after its opening, so we expect it to be better developed by now, not to mention a lot warmer. We’re on Lower River St., we hear a kind of rumble in the sky — not the usual jet or helicopter noise, different, heavier & deeper-throated — and we look up.

“It’s the Lancaster!” breathes Phyllis. “She’s on her way!” (I did NOT get the following shot. Thank you, CBC., for this stock shot of Canada’s Avro Lancaster MK. X.) Avro Lancaster, Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum

A goosebump-y moment. In the whole wide world, only two Lancaster Bombers are still air-worthy: one in England and one here, housed in the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton, ON.

We’d both heard on the news that she was to fly out today, on the first leg of her 3-day trip to England, where she’ll be part of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Tour right through late September. What luck to have seen her.

And then we tumble ourselves down into Underpass Park.

Underpass Park, under ramps of Adelaide, Richmond & Eastern Av.

Well-named, right? Now that the site is cleaned up and reinvented, those curving ramps provide attractive frames for the park’s resources Imagine how claustrophobic, how glowering, those ramps would be, if the ground below were still wasteland.

We poke around, Phyllis swings on the swings, then we climb an access stairway back toward the upper level. Which frames a view for us of the skateboard facility at the Park’s eastern end.

skateboard class, Underpass Park

We linger, but nobody puts on a show, and only that one child on the right even has a skateboard, though all are helmeted. We conclude it’s a walk-through, part of the instruction being laid on for some organization’s summer day camp kiddies.

Next stop, the equally new West Don Lands Park, which stretches south from Eastern Ave. toward Lake Ontario, between the Don River to the east and the curving final stretch of Bayview Avenue to the west. All this is part of a general reinvention of the grubby old Dock Lands and environs, one catalyst being next summer’s Pan-American Games, which Toronto will host here at the waterfront. New buildings and facilities going in, one large chunk of them initially for the Games, though later to revert to legacy owners and city use.

River to one side of the park, towers and construction to the west, railway tracks and expressway (and ultimately the lake) to the south. Much of the time, the park is framed by the city’s tight embrace.

West Don Lands Park looking west

But sometimes, you look around and all you can see is nature — ponds, trails, naturalized green space.

West Don Lands Park

Then you crest another hill, look south, and there’s the city again. Right here, a whole nest of GO Trains, the urban/suburban network of public transit.

West Don Lands Park, looking south

The young woman ignores them. They are out there on the horizon, she is here, closely enclosed by green space, her own mental space, and the rhythm of her exercise routine.

We circle into Corktown Common, the facility-rich hub of the Park. To one side, a glorious slide, where a small child is firmly stomping her way up, up, UP …

slde in West Don Lands Park

… in order to slide triumphantly down, down, DOWN.

the slide, West Don Lands Park

 

While yet more kids — that skateboard class, it tuns out — are jumping on & off  the swings. Their counsellors keep patient, friendly (but watchful) eyes on the activity, and also run logistics for washroom visits.

 

Corktown Common, West Don Lands Park

Phyllis and I head south again, along the Don, here tightly channelled and criss-crossed with bridges.

Don River near Gardiner Expressway

We decide to walk right to the mouth of the Don before looping west & north again. This takes us along more bike trail and past great shaggy stands of shrubbery, some of it peeking over hoardings where further redevelopment work is being done.

One of the hoardings sports a poster with a lot of small print under the huge word: WONSCOTANACH. This — the small print tells us — was the name the native Anishnaabe people gave this river, a fact either unknown to or ignored by Governor Simcoe, who bestowed the current name some time in the 1790s.

And on we go, out of the woods, onto Cherry St., crossing first Lakeshore Blvd. and then the Keating Channel, this last crossing thanks to one of the street’s two bascule bridges. (Drawbridge. Moveable bridge with a counterweight. Like the Tower Bridge in London. OK, considerably less imposing, but same principle.)

“Mouth of the Don,” says Phyllis. We stare west into Lake Ontario.

Lake Ontario from Cherry St. bascule bridge at the Keating Channel

And it’s maybe that awareness of the lake that makes me stop, as we’re walking beside Lakeshore Blvd. again, with the Gardiner Expresway booming overhead, as we look for the nearest safe place to cross and head north.

I think how all this used to be water, part of the lake, until Toronto went on its infill spree and turned it into land instead. That’s why Front St. was accurately named at the time, though now many blocks from the water, and why so many old warehouses are also now stranded far from water.

The Gooderham & Worts Distillery (now reborn as the Distillery District complex) was on the water, of course it was.

Stone Distillery, part of Gooderham & Worts Distillery, from Lakeshore Blvd East

So I block traffic sounds, erase streets & tracks & structures, and imagine I am aboard ship, perhaps bringing supplies, perhaps set to carry away crates of liquor instead. And look, I’m getting close.

There’s the central stone distillery building (built 1859-60), to guide me in.

 

River, Lake & Lots of Streets

31 July 2014 — Phyllis’ route guaranteed great diversity for the Tuesday Walking Society this week. Bloor-line subway to Old Mill Station; trail south along the Humber River to Lake Ontario; lakeside paths eastward back into the city; and then streets & streets until our legs wear out or we reach home.

“It’ll be longish,” mused Phyllis, with the usual Maritime flair for understatement.

Humber River trail south, from  Old Mill subway station at Bloor

So here we are, ready for “longish,” dismissing subway & ritzy condos overhead as we set boots to trail on Route 15 South  along the Humber River.

It’s the final stage of a watershed — largest in the Toronto region, first inhabited 12,000 years ago — that rises in the Niagara Escarpment and Oak Ridges Moraine and covers 903 sq. km. as it  tumbles south to the lake. No wonder it has been designated a Canadian Heritage River.

Squirrels, birds, one private boat club, lots of walkers/cyclists/dogs, wildflowers as we go. And a mesmerized child, watching her own private sail-past of  Canada Geese.

Canada geese on the Humber River

It’s not the usual majestic glide, these guys are paddling like crazy against the current. The river is higher and stronger than usual, aftermath of a rainstorm — not flash flood level, but powerful enough that one prudent dog owner decided to keep his pooch well away.

For a while (and unlike, say, Taylor Creek), there are no reminders of the city all around. Not until we approach the major E/W arteries near the lake, first the Queensway and then the Gardiner Expressway.

The trail passes under them both, and of course the bridgework is graffiti’d. Given that (I think) there’s a squatter population around here, one inscription under the Queensway seems more poignant than jaunty — even now, in the warmth of summer.

under the Queensway bridge across the Humber River

We continue under the Gardiner Expressway, look back upriver through its arches. City grit right here; river-nature-bullrushes just there.

view up the Humber R., from under the Gardiner Expressway

We think that particular stand of bullrushes is the riverside edge of the Lower Humber Wetland Complex Restoration project now underway. Signs around its fenced-off perimeter explain that, among other things, the project will see the installation of a fishway and a water level control structure. Purpose: to create a healthy ecosystem that allows free passage to native fish, while restricting invasive species like the common carp.

South of the Gardiner, one of my favourite bridges comes into sight — the Humber River pedestrian bridge right at lake edge.

Humber R. pedestrian bridge at lake Ontario

We poke around for a while to the west of that bridge, but finally take it, heading east toward the city.

We pause long enough to watch three canoes go by, ones we couldn’t quite figure out while they were still at a distance. They feature all the whooping and noise of dragon boat teams, but very little of the skill.

Aha.

Day camp kiddies, whooping and being whooped at by their instructors, digging in paddles with more energy than precision.

day-camp canoers at mouth of Humber River

We shout encouragement at this canoe-load. “We’re last!” one voice wails back. “Who cares!” we cry. Then we giggle at the love-locks — Phyllis notes that canny bridge-side merchants in Paris actually sell locks for the purpose — and walk on along Lake Ontario.

It’s quite a broad pathway. Also quite a broad swatch of parkland between path and Lakeshore Blvd. West but, even so, traffic is constant, heavy and noisy. Quite extraordinary how you can tune it out. Look right, not left; focus on greenery and lake and sand. There.

lakeside park & path, east of Humber River

We pass assorted signs as we go, including one near the Boulevard Club marking the spot where Marilyn Bell came ashore on September 9, 1954. I had remembered that the 16-year-old was the first person to swim across Lake Ontario, I’d forgotten the backstory.

The Canadian National Exhibition, as a publicity stunt, offered $10,000 to American long-distance swimmer Florence Chadwick to cross the lake; Bell felt the offer snubbed Canadian swimmers and, with encouragement from the Toronto Star newspaper, took up the challenge herself, even though the prize was only on offer to the American.

Chadwick and one other independent swimmer both dropped out partway. Bell made it — and the CNE gave her the money. (What else could they do?)

Soon another sign, to mark another crossing from the American side to our own. Not with the same friendly intent, and rather earlier in time.

plaque near Boulevard Club, on Lake Ontario

Oh those dastardly Americans, landing here on April 27, 1813, occupying York for 3-4 days and burning down our parliament building before they leave town. (British troops burning down the White House? Retaliation.) Ancient history now; the sign looks out on recreational boats at anchor, and cyclists taking a mid-day break.

Then another vignette of maritime history — a tall ship. Well, a replica tall ship, but a stirring sight for all that.

tall ship on Lake Ontario

One more ship, this one in Coronation Park, my favourite ship of all.

An “exploded” hull, in fact: homage to Canadian participation in World War II (1 in 12 of our total population was on active service), and especially to the Royal Canadian Navy. One section of the hull is a map of the North Atlantic, pinpointing where each RCN vessel was lost in those dreadful years.

memorial to the RCN in Coronation Park

We finally abandon the lake near Bathurst St., head north across train tracks and zig east briefly on Front St. so we can again enjoy the one-block Victoriana of Draper St. between Front and Wellington. Profusions of summer blooms in the tiny front yards, potted plants up and down front-door steps.

And a cat.

summer on Draper St.!

Phyllis and I part ways at Queen and Spadina. She’s going to grab TTC for home (she lives considerably farther north than I do); I decide to keep walking. For a while. No promises about all the way home.

So on I go, and as usual the streetscape is diverting and the walking itself is hypnotic. Such visual & aural jumble on Spadina! At first I’m affronted, still tuned to the peace of river- and lakeside; then  I yield to it, dive into it. A great boiling stretch of white water, I tell myself, clinging to maritime imagery.

anime house, Spadina nr Elm St.

Fierce eyes advertise a Japanese anime house near Elm St., where I again turn east, more magnetic than the all-sorts shop next door.

A short pause for a mixed-berry/yogurt smoothie on McCaul St. (very good), and I’m restored enough to walk just a little farther.

More eyes, but not anime-fierce this time. Instead, pensive for Marilyn Monroe, crinkled with warmth for Mother Teresa.

Ryerson Image Centre

These giant heads are part of the portrait façade that graces the Ryerson [University] Image Centre on Gould St., dedicated to photography and the related arts. Frankly though, I don’t stop for them, graphic as they are. I am bemused by the people on chairs and on the boulder, expanding so luxuriously into the summer sun.

In winter, this pond is a skating rink.

And then, to my own amazement, I do indeed walk all the way home. Phyllis later emails to report she did the string-on-map trick (we are without pedometers at the moment), and determined we’d walked 15 km. from the Old Mill Station to Queen & Spadina. I add in the rest of my walk home, and decide to claim boasting rights for 20 km.

As a Maritimer would say … “Longish.”

Slantwise through Taylor Creek Park

27 July 2014 — Slantwise by necessity, since the park itself runs at a slant through a good chunk of east-central Toronto, a sheath around Taylor Creek as it flows westward to the Don River, which then carries its waters on south to Lake Ontario.

Dense city on both sides, but here in the park… nature.

bullrush in Taylor Creek Park

My first shot of the day, though, isn’t in the park. It’s in an alley. (You are not surprised.) I’m not looking for alley art, just taking a shortcut north from Danforth & Dawes Road up to the park entrance. Not much going on in the alley, either, just some boring tags, plus one mediocre mural.

Someone — perhaps another artist — thinks “mediocre” is far too kind a description. He is moved to comment. I photograph his comment.

on an alley mural n. of Main St. subway stn, Danforth Av.

Um, well, I’m still not convinced this is the world’s worst graff[ito] … but I’m pretty sure this critic is one os the world’s worste [sic] spellers.

Giggle giggle, and 5 minutes later I’ve dropped down into the park. For all its modest scale, this creek is a major tributary of the Don River, and the surrounding 182-acre park is one of central Toronto’s largest natural areas, an important part of the wildlife migration corridor through the city.

Taylor Creek, near park entrance off Dawes Rd.

I’m still on a dirt trail by the creek but look across the paved main path on my left, which carries the stroller/rollerblade/bicycle traffic. I can see tall grasses, wildflowers and what looks like another faint dirt trail disappearing into the undergrowth.

Taylor Creek Park

So I cross, and yes there is a bit of path, and on I go.

path in Taylor Creek Park

It winds close to a big spread of bullrushes …

pondside bullrushes, Taylor Creek Park

… which in turn pulls me to a hidden pond.

pond within Taylor Creek Park

Reverse gears, I double back to the paved path and across it to creek-side once more. Because this narrow park slices its way through such dense urbanization, there are many access routes on both sides of the creek back up to city streets. There are also quite a few pedestrian bridges across the creek itself.

a pedestrian bridge across Taylor Creek

“Pedestrian” being loosely interpreted to include dogs, strollers, & bicycles as well as human feet. Two of these bridges are currently being replaced, the old ones having been damaged beyond repair in the 2012 floods.

I keep striding along, enjoying the exuberance, the sheer energy, of the vegetation. It was a tough winter for some plant life, but this is a great summer for everything that thrives on frequent gentle rain and moderate heat.

I see some oddities, too.

The world’s scaliest tree bark, for example. Where are the identifying plaques when you really need one?

tree, Taylor Creek Park

Later I peer down into a tangle of raspberry canes, and look! First berries.

wild raspberries, Taylor Creek Park

Dawes Road is the only place where the park itself is at street level. Otherwise, we glide through untouched, with soaring bridges — like this one at O’Connor Dr. — to carry cross-route traffic overhead. Down here, traffic is on two wheels, following Route 22 in the Taylor Creek Regional Trail. And obeying the posted speed limit: 20 km/hr.

the O'Connor Dr. bridge over Taylor Creek Park

The geometry of the bridge struts is softened by mid-summer wildflowers and grasses.

O'Connor Dr.bridge over Taylor Creek Park

Soon afterwards, I find myself at a landmark, a sculptural landmark both within the park system and for motorists whizzing past on the Don Valley Parkway.

I’ve reached The Molars!

Elevated Wetland Sculptures (aka The Molars)

Of course that’s not the real name, the real name is: Elevated Wetland Sculptures.

These guys are very dramatic, very large, and also very functional. The series of molar-shaped planters is designed to showcase the importance of wetlands in the ecosystem. A solar-powered pump lifts water from the Don River into the planters, where the native trees & shrubs remove pollutants as the water cascades from one container to the next, finally dropping into a natural wetland and ultimately back into the Don.

The Molars also mark the western end of Taylor Creek Park, the place where it — and the creek itself — merge into the Lower Don Parklands. Phyllis and I have made various Tuesday Walking Society outings in those parklands, but today I head north instead. Still in green space, headed through Charles Sauriol Conservation Area toward E.T Seaton Park, and beyond that Sunnybrook Park, and then Edwards Gardens, and then Toronto Botanical Garden …

But I’m not going that far, I’m going to climb up to street level at Eglinton Avenue and catch a bus for home. If I chant all those park names at you, it is only to celebrate this glorious concentration of creeks and river and green space in the heart of the city.

I pass some trail signs warning that the speed limit in this stretch has been lowered to 15 km/hr, and then another sign — on an adjacent trail — warning that that path is for horses & riders only. I blink, and then remember the big stables up in Sunnybrook Park.

Then I pass an unofficial sign on a bit of railing, the only graffito I see in the entire parkland walk.

someone's urgent message, E.T. Seaton Park

I take care to skirt the Disc Golf course as I walk through E.T. Seaton Park. Though my camera is still in my hand, my mind is already up on Eglinton looking for a bus.

Then off to one side in the distance, half-hidden by trees & shrubs, I see some bright repetitive shapes that I cannot decipher.

Bee hives in a mini-apiary? Seems unlikely. Posts for some construction project? Seems more likely. Still … how odd. So I swerve to the right, duck behind this grove of trees and around that line of tall grasses, and realize the shapes are very securely enclosed by a high wire-mesh fence.

public archery range, E.T. Seaton Park

Which is a prudent thing to do, when you lay out a public archery range in a city park. Another safety precaution: no crossbows allowed.

I knew about all the other stuff — horses & disc golf & bikes/kids/dogs — but the archery is a whole new discovery.

What a nice way to end the walk.

I cling to that happy discovery, once I’m up on Eglinton Av. East. I am determined to remain mature & cheerful as I stomp around in noise & traffic, trying to find where they’ve hidden the temporary bus stop amid all the construction chaos. Two buses go by while I search. (They have no choice, since deep roadwork chasms yawn between us.)

I will be mature. I will be cheerful.

Grrrr.

 

Wall Art / Walmart … & Maqueque

25 July 2014 — Two quick moments from my week, very different from each other — and both very, very Toronto.

First up, another I-am-curious walk down an alley, this time just west of Bathurst St. from College down to Dundas West.

Take a consonant, add a consonant, & what have you got?

Wall Art / Walmart

Just an alley, at first, with some strong alley-scape images.

lane w. of Bathurst

Then, east side of the alley, a window with a point of view.

a bafk doorway in proposed Walmart site

It’s in the back of a long building that fronts onto Bathurst St., numbers 410-446 I later learn, until recently home to Kromer Radio.

back of proposed Walmart site on Bathurst St

More street art along the building …

back of proposed Walmart site on Bathurst

… and soon after, on the west side of the alley, a garage that brings us back on topic.

garage in alley west of proposed Walmart site

Dancing condoms?

Well … Imagery perhaps ambiguous, but no ambiguity at all about the message. That old Kromer Radio site is now the proposed site of a new Walmart. Real estate developer RioCan has one point of view; Friends of Kensington Market have another.

You already know how the alley artists line up.

side of same garage in alley behind proposed Walmart site

And that’s my hit of activist art for the week.

Yesterday evening, totally different. Nature, music, shared delight.

Maqueque

I’m back in the Toronto Botanical Garden with my Habanera-now-Canadian friend Mabel. We’re there for the latest in the TBG Gardens of Song free Thursday evening concerts.

Far cry from that west-end alley!

Trees, shrubs, luxuriant mid-summer growth, soft late-afternoon light, and people beginning to fill the chairs laid out on the flagstone patio in adjacent Edwards Gardens.

Edwards Gardens, site of Maqueque performance for TBG

We’re jazz enthusiasts, or Jane Bunnett enthusiasts, or Cuban music enthusiasts — or all three.  Jane Bunnett is a multiple Juno award winner & Grammy nominee, known for her skill with the soprano sax & flute and also for her decades-long championship of Cuban musicians & musical ties between our two countries.

So the fact she’s introducing another Cuban ensemble to Canada has people packing into the chairs, and unfolding their own portable chairs at the perimeter.

crowd shot, Gardens of Song Maqueque performance

Most of us have never heard of Maqueque. Doesn’t matter. We’re up for the experience.

Maqueque, we learn, is a word from old Afro-Cuban dialect, that very roughly translates as “spirit of a young girl’s energy.” Totally appropriate, since all the musicians are young women.

Maqueque performing, TBG Gardens of Song

(Jane, you will guess, is the blonde….)

It’s such a great evening. The setting, the pleasant warmth, the lingering light, the enveloping music, all that young energy.

I look around, and remember something an Afro-Canadian matriarch of jazz once said of a Calgary audience that, despite remaining politely in its seats, still showed great enthusasism for the music. She grinned and observed,  “They feet be still —  but they butts be groovin’.”

I’m shifting & swaying just like everyone else. Sometimes to the beat, and sometimes to adjust for the tall woman in front of me.

Jane Bunnet, L; vocalist Dayme Arceno, R

Afterwards, like half the audience, I line up to buy the CD.

  • WALKING… & SEEING

    "Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking" -- Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

    "The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes" -- Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

    "Walkers are 'practitioners of the city,' for the city is made to be walked. A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities" -- Rebecca Solnit, "Wanderlust: A History of Walking"

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