1 Cat, 2 Dogs & a Tangle of Lanes

22 April 2014 — Can you guess I’m back in Toronto? Hasn’t that title a Toronto sort of ring to it? Especially the “lanes” part of it…

I won’t try to orient you on all the Cabbagetown-area lanes I wandered on Saturday, you’d get dizzy and fall off your chair. But I will tell you some of the names, starting with the first one to draw me in, one I’d never noticed before.

Darling Ln, nr Parliament & Wellesley

Isn’t that terrific? How could I resist? Especially when it offered such a cheerful, bucolic mural – stark contrast with the rest of the lane-scape.

Welcome Cabbagetown mural in Darling Ln

The message you can half-glimpse on the side wall to the left says “Welcome to Cabbagetown.” The main mural face is signed “by Nettleship’s [Hardware] and Tokyo,” and in large letters urges us all to “Support Riverdale Farm.” Immediately under the lane signpost you see a horse & a donkey — that’s Rooster the Clydesdale & his companion donkey, and they enter this story again later on.

Right opposite the mural, a ultilitarian building for a good cause: the Warehouse Mission of the Salvation Army. It has beautifying touches along with the usual notices of classes & services — wall-mounted flower baskets and, high up, two trompe-l’oeil shuttered windows. Plus, ground-level, Man On Bench with Paper.

detail from Salvation Army Warehouse Mission

There’s even art on a residential brick wall at the south end of the land, at Prospect Street.  I’m not sure, but this Victorian-era building may be part of the City-owned stock of subsidized housing. If so, kudos for (1) not blatantly announcing that fact out front and (2) adding the artwork.

Darling Ln at Prospect St

I see another lane just opposite, Flos Williams Lane, and I take it. And — bang — I come to an intersection with a building I recognize, but have never seen from this angle. One remnant of Victoriana, isolated amidst all the subsequent redevelopment.

Flos Williams Ln & Lancaster Av

See what I mean? It’s surrounded by contemporary-utilitarian. The grey building to its left, on that same side of the street, is the back of the local Beer Store outlet on Parliament Street. Immediately opposite, with the blue recycling wheelie out front, a concrete-block community centre. It advertises both a nursery school and a boxing club — is one the training ground for the other?

I head out toward Parliament, passing the Beer Store parking lot as I go. It’s a mild, sunny Saturday, and the world is going about its chores. Getting in a stock of beer being one of them. One car has a passenger, patiently awaiting Beer Man’s return.

Beer Store parking lot, Parliament St

I take a short hike down a service alley just the other (east) side of Parliament, drawn in by what I think will be an interesting palimpsest of old brickwork and signage on a wall. It isn’t all that interesting after all, too bad, but I cheer up at the cat on the gate just opposite.

Looking a little scruffy, peeling off in fact, but somehow all the better for that. Raffish. Proper alley-cat.

Merryberry gate cat

I promised you names. I’ve just had Darling and Flos Williams lanes; now I’m headed for Iroquois, Jeffreys and O’Riordan, then Coltsfoot and Goatsbeard and Fresh Air.

Jeffreys Lane yields some garage art that I’ve already photographed, thanks to friend Kay who told me about it. But oh, how much more pleasant to photograph it now, than in freezing mid-winter! (Such a palaver of mitts and freezing finger-tips and for that matter freezing pens and tricky footwork on the ice.)

Now it’s easy to photograph, and — bonus — no parked car this time to block the near side.

garage in Jeffreys Lane

It’s signed “Oriah,” I notice for the first time, and I’m happy to give credit. Lots of neat details, including a fixation on red doors that I don’t understand but love anyway.

detail, Jeffreys Ln garage art

Out of Jeffreys Lane, across Sackville, into Coltsfoot and from there into O’Riordan Lane. Where I first see the picturesque ivy-on-collapsing-shed image, and only afterward notice the words. Hmm!

no parking? O'Riordan Ln

As names go, “O’Riordan” hasn’t the charm of Coltsfoot, say, or Goatsbeard, but later a website (see Click!!) gives me reason to admire it all the same. Mary O’Riordan — “Dr. Mary” as she was known — was born in Ireland in 1925, and became the country’s first licensed female veterinarian before immigrating here. Hurray for  Dr. Mary, and hurray for a lane in her honour.

Perhaps thanks to that message on the Darling Lane mural — “Support Riverdale Farm” — I decide to loop through Riverdale Park and its farm before heading home. This takes me past the Toronto Necropolis, where the grounds are still being tidied after the winter storms, but the 1872 buildings glow in the bright spring sunshine.

Toronto Necropolis porte-cochere 1872

Love the slate work, love the gingerbread, love it all. This is the porte-cochère, linking chapel (left) and lodge (right). The Necropolis, Toronto’s first non-sectarian burying ground, was opened  to replace the old Potter’s Field at Yonge & Bloor, and had its first internments in 1850. It’s a great place to walk, a lot of our history is memorialized here.

And then a dip through Riverdale Farm, dropping down behind the Francey Barn to see if any animals are out in the paddock. Yes! there is faithful donkey in one corner, and Rooster — Rooster the star, Rooster the diva — holding court by a hay trough.

Rooster & fans, Riverdale Farm

Adoring admirers call and plead and wave grass stalks, trying to get the great Clydesdale to lift his head. Nope. His muzzle is firmly in the hay, and there it stays. Doesn’t matter. They love him anyway.

And so do I, but I am not patient enough to wait for him finally to acknowledge our presence. I start for home.

I promised you two dogs, didn’t I?

Unlike the Beer Store charmer, this one is inanimate, and not even what first caught my attention. (Truth to tell, I know this dog and his companion,  a matched set that has guarded this Cabbagetown doorstep for many years.) No, what stops me is that I suddenly notice the sign in the window.

Cabbagetown window

I almost go looking for an ice cream cone somewhere — I seem to be having a highly suggestible day — but in the end decide not to. It’s not quite that warm.

 

CLICK!!

  • Cabbagetown lane names — thank you Cabbagetown Preservation Society, you have a webpage that lists the lanes and explains the names: http://www.cabagetownpa.ca/whats-lane-names . So many to check out: the ones named above, plus Rev. Boddy, Clara, Mickey, Neutral, Prohibition, Cat Mint, and lots more.

Bears & Beaches, in North Vancouver

19 April, 2014 — I firmly believe that every place has its own beauty. If you sulk at the Prairies for not having mountain grandeur, for example, you’ll miss their own grandeur — that great rolling sweep to the horizon, under an infinite sky.

Even so, even so, there is something really special about the beauty of the B.C. coast.

I’m thinking about this as I set out for a Saturday morning two-phase walk in North Vancouver. Late afternoon I’ll be at the joyous family wedding that brought me west in the first place, but there’s time this morning for a quick loop on Mount Seymour, just behind Sally & Owen’s place, and a visit to the neighbouring community of Deep Cove.

First stop, the nearest street corner, for a sign that seems so out of place among these placid, homey bungalows.

Indian Trail Cres & Indian Trail Rd

But then look around, recognize you are on the street immediately bordering a trail into Mount Seymour Provincial Park, which sweeps thick and deep on up the mountain behind you — and, yes, the sign makes perfect sense.

(I once emailed Sally a photo of a raccoon sleeping in my birdbath. She replied with a photo of a black bear pillaging their bird feeder.)

I step between two homes onto the trail, into the woods, and suburbia falls away.

near Mount Seymour Provincial Park

Sunlight angles through the trees, creates momentary drama, and moves on. It’s a whole son et lumière performance, I realize: the shifting light dances to a backbeat of thudding woodpeckers and scolding red squirrels.

You have to look down, as well as all around.

mushroom log, Mt Seymour

I step into the shadowed forest cover for  closer look. Daisies? No, says Man-with-Dog, who stops to see what has caught my attention. Not daisies: tiny white mushrooms. And so they are.

Fleecy moss trails from tree branches just ahead, shimmering in the sunlight.

on Mount Seymour

It’s only 8:30 or so in the morning, but by the time I reach Old Buck Trail Head, the parking lot is rapidly filling with eager hikers. I turn back, collect my own car, and head for Deep Cove.

It’s the easternmost community at the eastern edge of North Vancouver, bounded to the south by Burrard Inlet and to the east by Indian Arm, components of the complex waterways twisting in from the Pacific Ocean that make this coastline such a jigsaw puzzle… and so achingly beautiful.

I know I’ll eventually walk along Deep Cove itself — nature’s Deep Cove, that is, the town’s defining waterfront — but first I follow a tangle of residential side-streets out of sheer curiosity. I find myself at a wooden stairway down to Indian Arm, and drop into a mini-parkette, slivered between two rather grand  homes.

Dollar Rd Park, Deep Cove

Here’s what I mean by “grand”: this pier is not part of the park, it belongs to the adjacent private property. But a cat can look at a king, and I can look at a private pier. I can also rock-walk my way closer, and peer between its struts.

view southward in Indian Arm

And I can turn around, look northward down Indian Arm…

northward in Indian Arm, nr Deep Cove

… and, picking my way back to the wooden steps, I can admire shells and seaweed caught in nature’s own still life.

on Dollar Rd Park beach

The town’s main commercial street leads you to Deep Cove and to Deep Cove Park, tucked neatly all around the the cove’s crescent shoreline. The whole area is  alive with boats, kayaks, hikers, dog-walkers, giggling teens and peaceful onlookers, heavy-lidded in the morning warmth and sunlight.

Deep Cove

I’m by the water, hear some whooping, look around… and there they are. Not Maori, not a haka, but doing their white, middle-aged-lady best to stir our blood along with their own.

kayak ladies warm-ups, Deep Cove

Warm-ups before a kayaking expedition!

A trim, glossy-haired 20-Something is watching them too. She is transfixed, dog leash to her impatient pooch slack in her hand. We catch each other’s eye, she crinkles up her face at me in delight. We agree. We are sort of amused, but also really, really impressed.

Several kayak rental shops here, kayaks laid out in clusters along the shore.

waiting kayaks on Deep Cove shoreline

I buy a latte, return to the shoreline, see a lifeguard perch flaming red in the sunlight, want a photo. And that would have been fine: a strong, angular focal point for a shot of boats, drooping tree branches and glinting water.

All good. But… generic, yes?

Then it becomes specific, and delightful.

on Deep Cove Park beach

 

That’s what it needed! Some real-life, boyish delight, hurling itself at the challenge. I watch a moment as he wriggles successfully to the lower platform, squirms across it on his belly, twists to U-turn his way upward to the higher platform. By now his father is hovering, but not — and I admire this — interfering. He lets the kid test his skills, and have a triumph.

It’s time to go, I have things to do. One last look back at the cove.

Deep Cove, on a sunny April morning

Enchanting, but I leave, and I’m fine with that.

Because soon I’ll be at the wedding, where the sun shines and the bride glows and her dad almost loses it in his toast to his beloved daughter and we are all happy together. It’s why I’m here.

My Sally-day in Vancouver

16 April 2014 — When I posted “From Lake to Pond to Pavement,” I was nowhere near Toronto. I was 3,350 km to the west, in Vancouver — more specifically, in Sally & Owen’s home on the slopes of Mount Seymour, quite close to Deep Cove. I’m in B.C. for a family wedding, and so glad to spend time with dear friends as well, including these two.

I arrived Wednesday; Thursday is my Sally-day, full of Vancouver-style contrasts.

First up, a prowl through the community of Strathcona, just east of downtown Vancouver’s Chinatown. “You’ll like Strathcona,” promised Sal before we set off — and I do, right from our first moment on E. Georgia Street.

row houses, E. Georgia St., Strathcona

Why does this make me think of St. John’s, Newfoundland? Also a seaport, but ‘way back east on the Atlantic, some 7,314 km from Vancouver, and with a totally different history. Maybe it’s the bright colours? Whatever, I love it, and the walk starts — you’ll pardon the dreadful pun —  on a good footing. (Groan.)

Lots of signs tacked to hydro poles — some hand-made Go Slow signs, like this one…

Strathcona local signage

… and others advertising wonderful things. A Perogy Lunch & Yard Sale, for example, which would be totally tempting except it’s being held on Saturday, when I’ll be at the wedding. (So the perogy-fest promptly loses all appeal.)

We pass this tree stump with its living roof, advertising the Pollinator Corridor Project.

bee habitat in host garden, Strathcona

It’s so nifty. By placing habitat in host gardens, the Project aims to provide shelter & forage for the pollinators (Mason bees), add to local green space, and connect people with each other, their community, & nature.

Part of my joy is the jump on spring I gain just by being in Vancouver. It turns out that Toronto has a warm (mid-teens) & sunny few days as well, but back there nothing has yet sprouted, whereas here I am surrounded by green grass, blooming spring flowers & great bursts of flowering shrubs. Magnolias and more, here at E Georgia & Princess.

Strathcona homes, E. Georgia & Pincess

We’re at E. Georgia & Jackson when Sally squeaks with delight. “There it is!” she cries, pointing to a café with Finch’s Market painted on its big front window. Turns out she works near the original Finch’s, on West Pender downtown; here is the relatively new (& new for her) branch operation just on the border between Strathcona & Chinatown.

Finch’s Market, 501 E. Georgia

Of course we go in, have lunch. Pear/blue brie/roasted walnut sandwiches, exotic as all get-out, love it. I top this with a ginger-fresh lemonade drink that’s the real thing, the ginger just slightly sears the throat on the way down. (And that’s all the food review you get from me.) We eye some of the market produce, but don’t succumb, and just as well because we head next even closer to Chinatown…

bike in Strathcona, nr Gore Av

… where I stop to admire this bit of bike art, and then hustle to catch up with Sally. She has spotted a little shop advertising home-made pies.

We wheel right in through that door, and emerge carefully balancing a strawberry-rhubarb pie, so fresh from the oven we are cautioned to keep the top of the box a bit ajar while it continues to cool. We promise.

Next, we head for the one planned event of the day. It takes us into the heart of downtown, where all those roads twirl their way into the northern end of the Granville Street Bridge, near Pacific St. We’re here to visit a glossy, flossy, pull-out-all-the-stops architectural/urban development exhibit called Gesantkunstwerk.

Signage explains all that German means, more or less, “world through total design.” The exhibit shows what is planned for this bit of the waterfront: a 50-storey residential tower by Danish “starchitect” Bjarke Ingels and a surrounding complex of mixed-use low-rise, all of this driven by the development company, Westbank.

We work our way through the photos, maquettes, videos and wall boards. There’s a lot worth taking in; people are reading, watching and snapping photos of the displays like mad. Sal & I end up taking… not selfies, let’s call them “you-ies.” Each other. Here is Sally photographing me as I photograph her, through the glowing maquette of what is yet to come.

Sally, in the Gesantkunstwerk exhibit

Right outside, we look at a remnant of what used to be.

on lower Howe, next to Gesantkunstwerk

Along one flank, some graffiti; beyond that, the bridge. This will be some amazing transformation, a whole lot of new housing stock plus shops & services for all those new residents..

view from lower Howe toward Granville St. Bridge

And now for something completely different (says Monty Python). But no, not totally.

The theme is still redevelopment, housing & ancillary services …

wildlife tree, Lynn Canyon Park

It’s a Wildlife Tree, just like the sign says; a wonderful BC strategy I first admired on Vancouver Island last year. Don’t cut down all the old, dead trees — repurpose them! Leave them there to serve as shelter and, at least where woodpeckers are concerned, vertical snack bars.

We’ve left downtown by now, as you might have guessed; we’re back in North Vancouver in Lynn Canyon Park — 617 acres of park around Lynn Creek, with trails, ecology centre, café and yes! a suspension bridge over the creek. Less well-known & smaller than its west-end Capilano cousin, but great fun to cross. And free.

Bouncy, bouncy.

 

Lynn Canyon suspension bridge

The creek tumbles down a waterfall to one side of the bridge …

Lynn Creek, by the bridge

… while on the other side,  we walk the usual ridiculously gloriously stunning west-coast forest-scape, with Nurse Logs and all …

a Lynn Canyon trail

… as we make our way to 30-Foot Pool.

We watch in fascination as two young men start stripping down at Pool’s edge. Really? And the plan is…?

The plan is to get down to their skivvies, then with whoops and yelps run very quickly into the Pool and dive beneath the surface. Which they do.

the shock of 30 Foot Pool

And then scamper right out again, still yelping but now with a certain anguished overtone from the shock of the cold water.

Honestly, even rocks have more sense than that. This inukshuk, for example, stays put.

inukshuk on edge of 30 Foot Pool

But Sally & I don’t. We head back along the trail, across the bridge (bounce, bounce), and home.

To a warm dinner, and strawberry-rhubarb pie.

Lake to Pond to Pavement

12 April 2014 — Here we still are, in Humber Bay (see previous post), approaching the Humber River pedestrian bridge from the west. I’ve just finished my latte at a smart new café, and I’m up for more walking.

First stop, Sheldon Point, just west of the bridge. It’s marked by various bold stone pillars, plus this terrific ankle-high rock. It’s worth stooping to read the plaques, follow the arrows. Well, twice a year…

solstice rock at Sheldon Point, by Humber River bridge

See? Crouch down, squint along your chosen arrow, and wait patiently. Eventually it will be the appropriate solstice, and you will see the sun rise.

Or stand tall and look east along the shoreline. There, shining white in the afternoon sun, the historic (and still active) Sunnyside Bathing Pavilion. As art deco as the name suggests.

east from Sheldon Point, with white Sunnyside Bathing Pavilion

Finally I head for the bridge over the Humber. I step onto it, and realize I must never have walked it in blazing sunshine before — that, or I haven’t been paying proper attention. Just look at the patterns thrown by the gridwork above.

Humber River bridge

I keep heading east, debating where-next, and decide to keep the water & nature theme going by walking up through High Park to Bloor Street.

This means a brief return to frantic city life, in the form of weaving my way over Lakeshore Blvd., under the Gardiner Expressway, over The Queensway, and finally into the park. Phew! Thank goodness for traffic lights.

There’s a handy map near the southern entrance,  only slightly defaced by the lame question scrawled in large green letters below. Oh, please. So obvious.

High Park map

I start at the south entrance, work my way north, zig-zagging between the higher pathways and Grenadier Pond down below. (It’s that long blue crescent on the left side of the map.) The pond is very deep, very large, rich in wildlife and legend as well. The story goes that 100 grenadiers drowned in the pond, hence the name. (Or something like that.) Um. I wouldn’t count on it being true.

Last year’s rushes are still tall along the pond edge, Red-wing Blackbirds are swaying among them, claiming territory.

Grenadier Pond

Ducks circle in the water, getting on with their own new season.

Grenadier Pond

I head up one of the fairly steep paths, crossing tracks with a father coaching his young son in the art of riding a bike down.  “Keep braking,” he says in a calm, encouraging voice. “You can do it, just a bit at a time.”

At a bend in the path I see a young man taking smartphone pictures of his partner, who has climbed into the low shrubs above us, her own camera in hand & intent on…  Well, I don’t know. So I stop and watch. A shout of delighted laughter, and she scrambles back down again, brandishing her camera, showing me the photo as well. “I got him!” Him being a possum.

Sometimes slopeside paths are in the open, sometimes in woods laced with their own mini-waterways.

in High Park

I have fond memories of this one: it was part of our long walk through High Park as group training before the Iceland Trek. I lean on the railing a moment, think of Eric & Wendy (good friends I made during that trek) and other trip highlights, and then head on.

The last bit upward is at quite a gradient, and I watch one little guy work out his own side-step as a way to tackle it. “Mama, mama, look, I’m going sideways!” he cries, but mama isn’t particularly interested. He does’t seem to mind, and I at least am impressed.

Finally I’m up and out, out to Bloor Street, where I decide to keep walking on east for a bit. My industry is almost immediately rewarded.

Ganesh & the sunbather on Bloor West

I have a nasty feeling this photo needs to be explained, which I know means I should have junked it, not included it — but the scene is too much fun to ignore. See that pink patch? That’s the sunbather’s T-shirt, with a sneakered toe intruding from below and his pale jawline visible above. And above all that, what caught my eye in the first place: a statue of Ganesh on the balcony railing.

Well, why not? This is spring, and Ganesh (I have been told) is the god of propitious beginnings.

I finally hop a streetcar at the Dundas West loop, grabbing a seat by a south-facing window and cracking it open just a bit. I cradle my camera in my lap. I’m hoping the car will have to stop at Howard’s Park Av. for passengers. It does! I get my streetcar shot of an extraordinary building I love to circle when in this area.

Here it is, covered in wildly exuberant graphics, wrapped ’round by the street’s own busy life.

Dundas St W & Howard Park Av.

And then a frail, mild-faced, little old lady sits down next to me and proves that a very strong will can lurk behind a mild face. “You will please close that window,” she announces. “It is cold.”

I am cowed. I close the window.

Double-Digits in Humber Bay

8 April 2014 — Could it be better? Full sun, no clouds, & the thermometer finally pushing its way up into double-digits. So I, plus half the rest of the world it seems, head for Humber Bay in the west end. This is where the Humber River dumps into Lake Ontario, and waterfront parks and butterfly habitat dance with new condo towers immediately to the north.

Look … open water for the gliding swan.

swan off Huber Bay Shores

I come in through the Humber Bay Butterfly Habitat (HBBH), a wonderful array of meadows, grassland, rocks and paths designed to attract and support these glorious insects.  Some 20,000 recorded species in the world, I read on a signboard; 130 of them found in southern Ontario and only six likely to be spotted here.

“I like this one!” cries a little girl, planting a chubby finger on her favourite image among the six. “The Viceroy,” says her mum. “Gosh, it looks just like the Monarch…”

She’s right and, a little farther into the Wildflower Meadow, a compare/contrast image of the two insects explains why.

signboard, HBBH

Clever old Viceroy! The adult Monarch is poisonous to its predators, the Viceroy is not, but by mimicking the same coloration, the Viceroy is also shunned. (One tiny diference: that black band across each lower wing. Shushhh. Don’t tell the predators.)

Next, one of my favourite spots in the HBBH: the Home Garden. The main feature here is the artwork – apparently a big ornamental bird house, with an oval of metal ravens. And yes, that’s what they are, but with more meaning than that.

Spirit House & Guardians, in HBBH Home Garden

The bird house is a Spirit House (Feir Mill Designs), reflecting the legend that butterflies are the spirits of the departed; the flock of ravens are Guardians (artist Amy Switzer), symbolizing community and collaboration.

Collaboration, for sure — between sculpture birds and real ones. Each year those ravens are packed with straw and other handy litter, as real birds claim nest space inside.

See the little guy on the tail of this raven?

metal Guardian raven, real sparrow!

I head now for Humber Bay Park East — not to be confused with Humber Bay Park West, the other lobe of twinned park stretching into the lake. Enroute, speaking of birds, I spot a bird feeder. It looks entirely unofficial to me, but so charming, and I’m delighted it has not been removed.

tiny birdhouse, Humber Bay Shores

Once in the eastern park “lobe,” it’s a short walk to another of my favourite locations.

Very different mood from the Home Garden. It is the monument to Air India flight 182 and its 395 victims, who died when the terrorist bomb planted here in Canada blew the plane out of the sky just off the coast of Ireland back in 1985.

More poignant than ever right now, with Malaysian flight 370 still missing.

Air India flit 182 memorial, Humber Bay Park East

I’m standing quietly by the wall of names, thinking how people always pause, always show respect, thinking how I’ve never seen any vandalism, when a man steps up beside me, touches a name in the list, and says: “I knew him. We worked together.”

I look up, inviting further comment if he wishes to make any. He sighs. “He didn’t want to go home right then. All the sectarian violence, he wanted to stay away, but… family events, family pressure…”

There’s nothing to add, so we don’t, and after a moment we walk on, our separate ways.

Mine takes me first along the north edge of this park, looking back to the shore and the city beyond, the wonderful white parabola of the Humber River pedestrian bridge a stand-out, even from here.

Toronto from Huber Bay Park East, incl white Humber River bridge

Benches are dotted here and there, with the weather finally warm enough to make them seem inviting. Look at this couple, aren’t they wonderful? It was only later, looking at the photo, that I really appreciated their loving body language, each circled toward the other.

view to city, with CN Tower

The south shore of this park faces into the lake, and here the rocks are still ice-crusted. Never mind. The dogwood grows redder by the moment, about to burst into new life, and there, those dots all along the shoreline, people are positively cavorting. Cavorting, I tell you; Canadian restraint be damned, it finally feels a wee bit like spring, and we are giddy.

north shore, Humber Bay Park East

Where there are rocks, there will be piled-up rocks. Here, a carefully balanced display atop a handy chunk of log.

north shore, Humber Bay Park East

I head back out of the eastern park to the main shoreline, a different route this time, through the stormwater management facility. You see more and more of these along the lakefront, designed to slow, settle and cleanse stormwater before it hits the lake. I like them, both for what they do and for the graceful design. Public art, with civic purpose.

stormwater management, Humber Bay

Promising Humber Bay Park West a visit some other day, I turn east again, back though the HBBH and for a while along Marine Parade — the busy road dividing nature to the south from urban development to the north. More sculptures, giant bronze sunflowers that you see in various locations, here plonk in the roadway meridian.

sculpture in Marine Parade meridian

See what I mean about urban development? (That toppled signboard is inviting you to view yet another “release” — real-estate lingo, good grief — of brand new condo units.)

Oh, but look south, almost immediately opposite. A butterfly arch, to welcome us back into the gardens.

archway into Wildflower Meadow, HBBH

And in I go. And, after a while, out I come. Because I am about to take advantage of all that urban development, and have myself a latte in a streetcorner café.

Which I do. And then I walk on, ultimately taking myself up through High Park to Bloor Street before catching a streetcar back home.

Next post, I’ll take you there with me.

Into the Multicultural Garden

3 April 2014 — Better known as Danforth Avenue, and it’s not until the Tuesday Walking Society alights at the Victoria Park subway station that we read the message and learn the phrase.

But I get ahead of myself. Before I can join Phyllis on the Bloor subway line for our ride east, I have to walk up to Bloor St., don’t I? And on the way, I’ll explore alleys, won’t I?

The first bit of amusement is pre-alley, I’m still at Gerrard E. & Seaton. Big, bold mural art echoing the music studio inside. I’ve seen it often, still get a kick out of it, so here’s a look for you.

Last post, piano keys; this time, brass.

music studio, Gerrard & Seaton

I dive into Woodward Evans Lane, no alley art, but a deft touch on the otherwise-drab protective pole where this lane joins Central Hospital Lane:

Woodward Evans & Central Hospital lanes

I pass a generously tattooed young woman walking her dog. I know the extent of the tattooing because — brave young thing that she is, or perhaps just totally fed to the teeth with winter — she is in shorts, with an open jacket over a scoop-neck T-shirt. Dog poops, she scoops; you don’t have to be middle-aged & plain-vanilla to respect the environment. Yay her.

Lots of residential life, back here in Central Hospital Lane. As I take this next photo, a young man emerges from a neighbouring doorway, carefully adjusts his bike helmet, hops aboard & pedals away.

in Central Hospital Lane

This is a bit reminiscent of an alley intersection I showed you in my previous post. I’m getting into these unadorned, back-lane streetscapes. I like the textures, the angles, the colours smudged & battered by time.

Then a laugh. I’m used to rude Rob Ford stencil art around town, here’s some Stephen Harper (our prime minister) for you.

PM Stephen Harper stencil art

Yes indeed-y, those in power will have a quieter life if the rest of us are quiet too.

A final bit of back-alley streetscape (in a different alley) before I rejoin Sherbourne and enter the subway station at Bloor. Big contrast with the look & mood of those earlier alleys.

Out on Sherbourne, the boarded up front façades at least have bright product & performance posters all over them to give the appearance of life and cheer. Here, behind the scenes, the buildings are literally falling apart as they await demolition.

behind Sherbourne nr Bloor E

Then into the subway station, where by luck I position myself in exactly the right spot on the platform. A train pulls in, Phyllis jumps off, grabs my elbow and we — zip! — hop aboard again before the doors can close.

We dismount ‘way east at Victoria Park, where we’ll hit the street and start walking back west.

This station is where we meet the “multicultural garden.” These are the final words in a long message above the tiled artwork of a huge tree, its roots, trunk and branches filling one entire stairwell, bottom to top, side to side.

Toronto, a city where those with diverse roots can grow and intermingle into a complex and exciting multicultural garden.

I’m not totally wowed by the phrasing & syntax, but I love the message.

It reflects the circular tile artwork on platform walls, where the word “welcome” appears in more languages than I can count, let alone recognize, and again in the “roots” artwork just outside the station door by the bike racks.

multicultural tree, Vic Park subway station

And so we head west, into the multicultural garden. All the way back, street signs support the promise of that message. (I would not have been so acutely aware of the mix, but for the message.)

First up…

Danforth shop nr Vic Park

Heavily Bangladeshi here, but not uniquely. Soon, this…

carpet shop, with hookahs, Danforth

Such a rotten photo! Please enjoy the content and forgive the presentation. This is just one of a whole multitude of carpet stores along the Danforth, this one — for reasons best known to the shop-keeper — featuring hookah pipes as well.

We pass Gerry’s Newfoundland Corner, are disillusioned to see nothing particularly Newfie about the handwritten menu in the window, and I take no photo.

Then this plaque.

maple tree plaque, Danforth Av

It’s on the wall of a clothing/accessories store, where we’ve just admired some very handsome purses hand-stitched in India.

There’s no sign of a maple tree along the street. We peer down the narrow slice of alley between this building and its neighbour. Ummm…. there’s a big, raggedly pruned tree at the back, but deciduous, so no leaves to help us decide if this is the maple that the community managed to save, 15 years ago.

Some blocks on, we dive into a baking-accessories store, with all the types of pans you could imagine and every other tool and gadget. Phyllis is an amazing baker, she knows what she’s looking at and strokes some of the items very appreciatively indeed. I am charmed by the variety and quantity, and the dedication of the store-owner to this one specialized category of the cooking arts.

She’s a lively young Oriental woman, but there’s nothing particularly oriental about the store, except this, next to the cash register…

in a bakery accessory shop, Danforth Av

I take a moment to read the card on the cash register If you want to use a credit card, you have to spend at least $20. A debit card? Easy-peasy, anything north of 10 cents.

Farther west again, ick-yikes, all the creepy-crawlies that can attack you and your home. An exterminator has samples of their destruction (e.g. a wooden beam, post-termite) in his window, plus images of the critters themselves. For example…

an exterminator's window, Danforth Av

Enough of all that, one last shudder & we move on, back to the varied delights of the multicultural garden.

on Danforth Av

This reminds me of a TV documentary I saw about the yearly championships, held of course in Ireland, but featuring troupes from all over the world. I was intent on the music and dance, but learned a lot as well, on the way through.

I’m still telling Phyllis about the doc when we almost trip over this invitation…

on Danforth Av

… but we don’t succumb. We walk on, walk on, and finally reward ourselves with sensational coffee & treats at Leonidas, corner of Pape.

Then, warmed & treated, we head onward & home.

Speaking of Coffee

The F’Coffee photo last time, even with my arch reference to “final pronounced vowels,” managed to remain a mystery for some of my readers — all with as many brains as I have, but obviously with fewer rude words in their vocabularies. So. Delete the “ee” and pronounce what’s left. There.

 

In the Key of Saturday Afternoon

31 March 2014 — A Saturday walk through Regent Park, looping into Riverdale and back… I never thought piano keys would enter into it. But they sure did, top & tail.

Overture & finale, I should say.

Play Me piano in Regent Park Aquatic Centre

So terrific. It’s located right inside the doors of the Regent Park Aquatic Centre on Dundas St. East, a feature of the Regent Park transformation that I’ve been meaning to visit ever since it opened about a year ago… and somehow never did.

I stare through the glass walls at the amazing stretch and range of water facilities, and at all the people enjoying them. I’d show you what I saw, except that photography is forbidden without express prior authorization. (Quite right, too; there are lots of children about.)

So I’ll show you the “Play Me” piano instead.

in Regent Park Aquatic Centre, artist Jose Ortega

This is one of 41 pianos dotted about the city, the poster tells me, one for each of the 41 countries taking part in the 2015 Pan-American/Parapan-American Games, which Toronto will host. Later online research adds that our street piano installation makes us one of 26 cities around the world taking part in this very inventive, very charming art project. This particular piano is the work of Ecuadorian-born artist José Ortega, now both Toronto & NYC based.

Back outside, I talk briefly with a mother who can’t say enough good things about the Aquatic Centre. “It’s free, it’s wonderful, I bring my little boy at least once a week.” He is already swaying drunkenly ahead of her, that distinctive toddler walk, eager to get inside.

Regent Park Aquatic Centre, Dundas St. East

Isn’t that handsome? (Even better, once the grass is green again, and the adjacent recreational park/community plaza is completed.) The facility, the work of Toronto-based MacLennan Janukalns Miller Architects (MJMA), includes a lap pool, leisure pool, warm water pool, Tarzan Rope (!), diving board & water slide. There are classes and courses and open-swim periods and sensitivity to the surrounding population — the schedule, for example also includes a Ladies Only time slot.

Such a pleasure, to see this rolling transformation, section by section, of a once-pioneering, now-outmoded housing complex. A mural on one of the old sections tells some basics of its history and demographics:

mural on old section, Regent Park

The old Regent Park offered nothing beyond housing units; the new Regent Park includes sports and cultural facilities. Another change: the new complex is open to mixed income levels. The old ghetto image (& reality) is being erased.

Still heading east on Dundas St., I decide to walk south on River St. to Queen, and cross the Don River on that iconic bridge. I meet a pleasant woman with an opinionated dog, said dog glossy with good care and firmly leashed. Her name (dog…) is Shady Lady, and she is 18. I complement her on her beauty and continued vigour. Woof-arf, she says.

Start south on River, turn east again on the first street south to explore the maze of old-delapidated, old-restored, new-infill buildings that crowd the two cross-streets and several alleys between River St. and the drop to the river itself.

I show you tons of alley art. This is not art, but it sure is streetscape, and I like it a lot. Maybe because it is so untouched, either by gentrification or graffiti??

Mark St & Carfrae Lane

Down the lane & around a corner, a big old warehouse to one side now repurposed as storage units; on the other side, the sleek new Audi Downtown Toronto facility. Assorted film & multimedia offices tucked into odd buildings, social service offices… the usual mix, in mixed neighbourhoods.

Oh, and some glorious old buildings, resplendent again. At 19 River St., for example.

Queen City Vinegar Co. Limited

Now condos, what did you expect, “true lofts” says the online publicity, but I am not sneering not even slightly. I’m just so glad this 1907 warehouse lives again, with such panache.

A few more skips & jumps south, I turn left on Old Brewery Lane just north of the Humane Society (which patiently taught me so much about feral cats, when I so desperately needed to learn). Yes, there was a brewery right here, built in 1876. Yes, it is no longer a brewery, and yes, there are new infill residential units in the development… but also yes, the old Malt House remains. “Loft townhouses” is the sales description.

The Malt House, Old Brewery Lane

Enough! Time to walk around the Humane Society onto Queen St. East and cross the Don River. I stop on the bridge to look north and east, take in a bit of the river, the expressway on the right, bordered in turn by Davies St. running north to Matilda St. and my regular Saturday-morning café of choice: the Merchants of Green Coffee.

Merchants of Green Coffee

Excuse me, you say: “& jam factory”?

It’s another Victorian building, twice repurposed. Originally the Sherriff Jam Factory, then the Empire Furniture Warehouse, then bought by Merchants of Green Coffee in 1985 and transformed. They import green coffee beans (all Fair Trade); sell them both green & roasted, both retail & wholesale; run coffee-related workshops, a membership-based bean-buying program, and a very fine café. (Where Luna the Cat was a regular, until health inspectors got all shirty about it.)

Then, still on the bridge, I look up to admire yet again the 1995 art installation, “Time and a  Clock,” which has turned a purely functional 1911 bridge into a Riverside neighbourhood icon. Thank you Eldon Garnet, whose innovative public art works are to be found elsewhere in the city as well.

Queen St East & Don River, "Time and a Clock"

The full inscription, borrowed from Heraclitus, reads: “This river I step in is not the river I stand in.” If you’re wondering about that odd graphic of an eye, in a largely black & white design element just below the steel arch… no, it’s not part of the artwork. It’s publicity for something or other, wrapped around a passing streetcar.

I feel silly to confess that I had to pass this 641 Queen St. East café a couple of times before I got the joke. How thick can I be?

F’Coffee, 641 Queen St. East

Goodness, what a final pronounced vowel can do…

Up Broadview, quick peek into the service alley immediately north of Queen. I don’t know if this rooftop deck belongs to the bakery or someone else, but I like the artwork. And I like to think that soon — soon! — it will be warm enough for people to enjoy it.

alley n. of Queen & e. from Broadview

I almost drop into Merchants of Green Coffee for a second hit of the day, but decide to keep legging it, and instead take myself back up to Dundas St. and retrace my way west through Regent Park. At the corner of Regent Park Blvd., I am charmed by some bike art. And very spring-like it is, too.

bike at Dundas E. & Regent Park Blvd

It’s parked right at one corner of the Daniels Spectrum building, part of the reborn Regent Park complex, this whole building devoted to arts & culture. The emphasis is grass-roots, and community relevance. The tenant list includes COBA Collective of Black Artists, the Native Earth Performing Arts, the Regent Park School of Music, ArtHeart, the Regent Park Film Festival, the Centre for Social Innovation… you get the idea.

The building’s visual vocabulary continues the spectrum theme.

Daniels Spectrum, 585 Dundas East

In the foyer — are you expecting this? — there is another “Play Me” street piano, this one decorated by artist Sandra Brewster.

Two young children are exploring sound, making happy little cries of delight when they hit a note or combination that especially pleases them. Their patient, smiling mother gives me permission to photograph them. (I always ask, and never show faces.)

"Play Me" in Daniels Spectrum

I am not naïve enough, and neither are you, to believe that all the old social ills have been cured and Regent Park is now a beacon of perfect justice, love & harmony. But there is a lot that is a whole lot better. Including pianos.

An upbeat not on which to end.

CLICK!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring Fever

27 March — I almost set off in a spring jacket & hat, I linger on the doorstep trying to ignore my already-tingling ears & fingers, but finally yield to common sense. Back inside for my winter gear. Again. When I rendezvous with Phyllis centre-town at Yonge & King streets, she confesses she had done exactly the same doorway dance.

But neither of us, wise old birds that we are, made the mistake of letting wishful thinking overtake practicality.

Maybe because it’s Tuesday, not Thursday?

Make Mistake King W & George St

I see this at King West & George streets, enroute to Phyllis, and am properly bemused. Later online searching shows it is student-related (I’m in George Brown College territory), booze-related (there’s a surprise), and I almost didn’t include it here.

But I do love the idea that, on Thursday, it’s OK to make a mistake. So download the photo, tape it to the wall, & cut yourself some slack every Thursday.

The nifty thing about downtown Toronto, say the Tuesday  Walking Society partners to each other, is that it’s so magically close to waterfront, parks & nature. Here we are just a bit farther south on Yonge, almost at the tunnel under the Gardiner Expressway, concrete & cars & fumes & throbbing noise all around us, and there — see there, dead ahead, end of Yonge Street — is the hull of a boat.

lower Yonge St. looking to lake Ontario

In the water. In Lake Ontario. Five minutes from where we stand.

Five minutes later we’ve reached Queens Quay at water’s edge, headed west past the ferry terminal, ducked into Harbourfront Park, and started down the boardwalk.

Harbourfront board walk

What a change from my last visit! Ice & snow up to my knees then, thick ice solid in the harbour, everything frozen & still. And now… still not summer, not even looking much like spring, but definitely spring even so. Some remaining patches of ice, but — like tiresome guests who linger in the doorway — they are remnants, and on their way out.

Birds and waterfowl know this. They are busy.

Harbourfront water fowl

Practically a roll call of our hardiest overwintering waterfowl: Canada geese, Mute swans, Mallard ducks, and the Common Goldeneye (with the not-so-common blazing orange head). We spend a moment thinking about these guys, the temperatures they endure, the way those naked feet move from ice to water, winter to summer, all the same to them…

… and then we see two dead ducks on a floating patch of ice, apparently frozen in place.  So, yes. There are casualties.

Not only the birds are busy. First eager boaters are already down in their craft, inside the protective swaddling, doing Important Preparatory Things. We can’t see or hear anyone inside the Godspeed’s open doorway, tied up in York Quay, but someone is surely there.

York Quay slip

Beyond that, rack on rack of kayaks just waiting to be tipped back into the water, framing one bitty tugboat in the slip off Rees Street.

kayaks & tug, off Rees St.

And beyond that, the best discovery of the day. The best, because totally unexpected.

We’re approaching the Toronto Police Marine Unit from the west, the side with the glass-walled boat house for their fleet of vessels, which itself opens to the west. We note bubblers in the water, presumably to ensure it stays ice-free even in the depths of winter, and comment idly on the relative lack of waterfowl in the immediate area. (What, they fear a parking ticket?)

Then, just as idly, we press our faces to the glass side of the boat house, for a passing glance at whatever may lie inside. And see, lined up tidily with all the modern synthetic high-tech vessels…

MU 5, a 1939 Taylor-made mahogany boat, Toronto Police Marine Unit

… a wooden boat. Anachronistic as can be, and apparently in perfect working order.

I’ve spent just enough time in the Muskoka Lakes area of Ontario, with its glorious history of wooden boat building (Ditchburn, Greavette, Minett, Duke…), to appreciate the beauty of these craft and rejoice whenever I see one that is loved and cared for. But… here?

So of course we go into the Marine Unit building, and ask. The officer at the desk breaks into a delighted smile. He keeps one attentive ear cocked to the radio, as he gives us a short history, and a commemorative card.

This is the MU 5, the oldest vessel in the Marine Unit fleet, a 33-ft mahogany patrol and rescue boat purpose-built for the Toronto Harbour Police in 1939 by Taylor, right next door in the (then) Spadina boat yards. Still in use, absolutely — but for ceremonial occasions only.

Isn’t that terrific? Aren’t you glad we looked in that window?

On we go, past the one-time Spadina boat yards, subsequently a grotty little parking lot, now wonderfully repurposed as the tiny but effective Spadina Wetlands. We see, and hear, our first Red-winged blackbird of the season.

Then along the edge of the Toronto Music Garden, a delight in any season though curiously naked in winter, without the towering grasses of summer. But that will come again, and meanwhile, there is clean-up to be done.

spring clean-up in Toronto Music Garden

We head north at Bathurst, back to the urban world, with a passing salute to an earlier world as we go. Fort York, which once defended us from those pesky Yankees and their territorial ambitions, is now surrounded by a different sort of invasion — commecial/residential, not military.

(Every time I look at Fort York, I remember visiting decades ago with an irrepressible auntie of mine, who sighted carefully down a cannon barrel at the apparent target and asked, straight-faced, “Why shoot Loblaws?”)

Fort York, from Bathurst St. ramp entrance

A few steps farther north and we’re almost on the overpass spanning all those railway lines that feed Union Station, where I stop to enjoy what they’ve done with one of the disused spur lines. Maybe in old Hollywood melodramas they tied heroines to the tracks… around here, we prefer flower-filled canoes.

from the Bathurst St railway overpass

Oh, OK, full of dried bleached sticks at the moment. But there’ll be flowers come summer, you’ll see.

We turn east again at Front, suddenly remembering the one-block wonder of Draper St. — a remaining (and much restored) enclave of Victorian row housing between Front & Wellington streets, just a few blocks west of Spadina. There it is, still a delight, such contrast against all the warehouses and condos and redevelopment that surrounds it.

Draper St., between Bathurst & Spadina, north from  Front St.

As we enter, Phyllis reminisces about the big, friendly, stroke-hungry cat we met the last time around. “Wonder if we’ll see him again,” she muses. “Hardly,” I scoff. “Any cat with any brains is inside, keeping warm.”

Which shows what I know about cats Or, maybe, shows the state of cat brains. Whichever, an explosion of fluorescent orange fur hits Phyllis’ legs and — after suitable adoration from her – roars over to me. My turn.

the Draper St. Welcoming Committee

I am as soppy as Phyllis. So we weave our way up Draper St., all eight legs of us, four of those legs playing cat’s cradle with the other four, and four human hands taking turns stroking one feline back.

Lots more legs over at Wellington & John, but this time they stay put. We definitely have to go to them.

public art at Wellington & John

Please notice the mesh gate in that mat-line fence: it’s metal, part of the art installation, adorned with tiny fluttering birds at each corner. The matting not only hides the ugly chain link fence, it protects the privacy of children in the playground beyond.

One last observation on spring fever: it snowed today.

 

 

The Alley, the Exhibit, the Book

23 March 2014 — Oh, let’s start with me keeping my promise from the previous post. Let’s go all along…

The Alley

“Subway Alley,” that is, quote marks showing this is my nickname not an official name. (I forgot to check whether it has one or not.)  On Tuesday, Phyllis and I were close enough to satisfy my curiosity about this place that everyone — dahhhling, everyone — kept telling me to visit: a graffiti-filled stretch of back alley, visible from the Bloor subway line between Dundas West & Keele stations.

It’s also accessible on foot, to my joy, a busy service lane between the subway line and the backs of buildings on the north side of Bloor St. West. We find our way into it just west of the Dundas West station, and look around.

Subway Alley, nr Dundas West stn

Not the same intensity of art as in some downtown core locations, because not the same intensity of buildings — but still plenty to see. And it has its own texture & context, energy bouncing between art on the lane’s south side to chain-link fence on the north, bracketed by the rumble of cars on Bloor St. & of subway trains beyond the fence.

As always, lots of moods, lots of styles, lots of themes.

in Subway Alley

That’s for movie buffs, but maybe you’re in permanent leprechaun mode. Yup, we can do that too.

in Subway Alley, on lane curb

Buildings rarely march straight-line down the alley, or anyway, not for long. There are ells back here, creating space for parking and for different mural pile-ups, as you can see below.

I eventually notice the clock, ‘way up top at the back on the left, but that comes after I make out the RIP in the large mural on the wall beneath it. You see a lot of memorial artwork in the alleys; I never know anything about the person being honoured, but I always feel touched by the tribute, & glad that someone does know, does care, & shows it.

behind Peggy Nash constituency office

Even that wasn’t the first thing I noticed in this crowded space. First came the great graphic by EGR, the faerie-woman portrayed all across the back of Peggy Nash’s constituency office. (She — Peggy, that is, not EGR — is the New Democratic Party Member of Parliament for this riding.)

Sometimes there’s a sequence of images. Start with this guy on his cell, for example, in an almost-real world. Not real, but despite the cartoon elements somehow so close to real, maybe because of the angles, both physical & painted. It’s almost as if you could poke your head around the corner to the right, as well as to the left …

in Subway Alley

Now check the next panel, and ask yourself: that car… in the mural or in the alley?

in Subway Alley

Yes, of course it’s in the alley. But the dance is there, isn’t it.

A final sequence swoops us close to Keele Street. First UBER (I think with others, but don’t know them) bringing us “now with lazer vision…”

UBER & "lazer vision" in Subway Alley

… hurtling that vision across some grillwork into a canary coffee klatch…

UBER's canaries, with coffee

… and leaping yet again, all the way to another of those wise ELICSER faces.

ELICSER, Subway Alley nr Keele

Which is the end of Subway Alley so back out to Bloor St. we go.

I discover, as we continue west, that all that dance between art & reality is having an after-effect. Phyllis & I are walking along the northern boundary of High Park, at the end where we have in past explored some large sculptures set in the woods, and I stop to point admiringly at this one. “It’s new!” I say, “very striking, a great spear of rusted metal, overlooking Bloor.”

tree "sculpture" in High Park

Then I start to laugh. Art by Ice Storm, thank you, the remaining half-trunk of what was, pre-storm, a great big tree. (But… isn’t it handsome?)

Speaking of transformations brings me to…

The Exhibit

Courtesy of my AGO colleague, DJ, I had a comp ticket for the current show at Toronto’s Design Exchange. “This Is Not a Toy,” it’s called, and that’s right, even though the exhibit consists of toys — reimagined, reworked designer & art toys, the title playing on their new identity as well as echoing the René Magritte’s painting, Ceci N’est Pas Une Pipe.

The show is terrific, full of energy & play, go see it. Curated by Pharrell Williams, it is (to quote the brochure), “at the intersection of fine art, marketing, pop culture, product and graphic design.”

There are dazzling pieces, panorama tableaux, big goofy pieces, like this one at the entrance …

entrance to DX exhibition

… and window-ledge-size pieces as well.

"Companion (1999) by KAWS

I look first at the figures — Companion (1999), by KAWS — but then look past them, between & above their ears, across Bay St. into the Commerce Court courtyard & settle my gaze  on the sculptures over there emerging from the snow. You’d have to already know them in order to see them from here, but I do, so I do. (Still with me?)

After taking in the rest of the Exhibition, I cross the street and pay a return visit to Tembo, Mother of Elephants, three bronze figures by Toronto artist Derrick Stephan Hudson. Here they are up close, from the same angle as the mini-glimpse above …

Tembo, Mother of Elephants by Stephan Derrick Hudson

… waiting like the rest of us for snow mounds to disappear and water once more to dance in the fountain just beyond Tembo’s trunk.

Then I reverse directions and take a picture of the Design Exchange building. It was home to the Toronto Stock Exchange when it opened in 1937, and its sleek Art Deco lines suit its new life perfectly. I zero in on the massive doorway, and the frieze above it.

234 Bay St, now DX once TSE

One of the city’s great long-running jokes centres on that frieze. More specifically, on the 4th & 5th figures from the right. (I’m counting the group just before the 4th figure as a single entity.) You’ve found them? Okay. So. The 4th man wears a hat, he represents Businessman. The 5th man, the guy in front of him, does not wear a hat and represents Worker.

Now look at Businessman’s right hand, thrust forward so vigorously. Where is it? If you have a good imagination, or love a joke, or identify with Class Warfare, you will answer: “The Businessman’s hand is in the Worker’s pocket!”

Phew, what a lot of language to decode an image. (There must be a lesson in that observation.)

And now finally — and I can think of no clever link, so I won’t fake one — finally, we come to…

The Book

A couple of posts ago, I told you I’d just completed a new book (through Blurb), a book on Toronto street art called Walking the Streets & Lanes.

Blurb book by Penny Williams

I invite you to go have a look, riffle those pages, walk the streets & lanes with me: http://www.blurb.ca/b/5103381-walking-the-streets-lanes.

CLICK!!

High Contrast on Bloor

20 March 2014 — Bloor St. West is like that. It’s Up-, Down-, & All Around the Market. Makes for some great juxtapositions, and really interesting neighbourhoods and walks.

Take this bright-eyed, song-wreathed, totally winsome little charmer, for example.

doorway detail, Network Child Care Services, Ossington

Would you expect her to be linked with an 1890 police station? (Built to be fierce and still plenty fierce today, looming over Ossington Av. just north of Bloor.)

1890 police stn now child care

But there she is, because the old station is now one of 10 locations for Network Child Care Services, and Song Child is just one tiny part of the artwork covering the cheerful auxiliary building tucked away down the alley.

Network Child Care Services, Ossington

The Tuesday Walking Society pays delighted homage, and then heads west in the alley between that one and Bloor Street itself. Lots of alley art, you bet!

I’m charmed to see this bird image again, over at Concord. He pops up here & there, usually with a comment bubble next to his beak. No comment here, but I always think of this guy as Law Bird, because the first time I saw him he did have something to say: “I fought the law & won.”

"Law Bird," Bloor St alley at Concord

Speaking of birds… We meet this wonderful parrot farther west in that same alley, near Dovercourt….

Bloor alley nr Dovercourt

… painted by this artist…

the parrot's artist, Bloor alley nr Dovercourt

Just opposite, right on Dovercourt, a high-contrast sequence of shops: a bouncy churrasquería; a very stylish, very trending apothecary (which not only identifies itself as such, not as a drug store, but also offers workshops); & a distinctly old-style tattoo parlour.

By now we’re getting used to the Bloor West mix. A hand-lettered sign in one doorway advertising a theatre, a classy vegan restaurant, a coin laundry, Bike Pirates (run by volunteers, who’ll teach you how to fix your own bike), a run of Ethiopian cafés & convenience stores… Yes, we get it.

But it doesn’t mean we can’t be taken by surprise. We see this on Brock St. just north of Bloor, & practically fall over.

Brock St. just north of Bloor

No, no, not the alley art! The club to the right.

The Giant Runt Club. What?? We can’t see in the windows and the door is firmly signposted for members only. We’re good little Canadians, and we obey. But we do wonder. (I later learn online, where else, that Giant Runt is a breed of large show pigeons, and this is a club for urban pigeon fanciers.)

We pass a few pawn shops as we go, particularly like the name of this one…

Bloor West nr Lansdowne

Isn’t that optimistic? Don’t you feel this is where you’ll get the best price in town? Enough to buy a swell tattoo right next door.

We’re hovering around Landsdowne by now. More classy shops to admire. The Make Den, for example, offering sewing machines, irons, space and if desired advice and classes so you can whip up the project of your dreams. They advertise vintage patterns & pattern books, and yes, there is a retro sensibility apparent in the lengths of cloth hanging in the window:  one covered in bikini’ed pin-up girls and the other, the one I notice first, full of those icon guys from the 1978 hit single, YMCA.

But the grabbiest storefront name & presentation is just a little farther along the street.

1302 Bloor W nr Lansdowne

It’s great. It pops. We love it. We read all that neat explanatory lettering, & admire the concept even if we don’t exactly understand the role of temporarily unpopular ideas in the work done by these “ideas architects & designers.”

We do understand the final paragraph on the front door, though! “Dear potential thieves,” it begins. “You will find nothing of any re-saleable value on these premises. If you are looking for expensive things to steal we recommend looking elsewhere…”

Crossing Lansdowne brings us into the Junction triangle — Bloor St. on the north, Lansdowne on the east, & Dundas St. crossing Lansdowne farther south and then swooping north-west up to Bloor to form the third arm. It’s an old industrial and railway area, being — somewhat — transformed.

Some brave public art here, but disrespected. The murals lining this railway underpass, for example.

Bloor W, west of Lansdowne

Really handsome work, crumbling away.

Soon after we come to the West Toronto Railpath, an ambitious walking/biking trail created next to another rail line. We climb up the steps for its overpass, and head briefly south. Some mesh sculptures & signage here are also in pretty sorry shape.

Perhaps the artwork is just a little ahead of its time? Public attitude not yet right? I’m just musing, I don’t know, I realize that sometimes artwork is the catalyst needed to change attitude, but I suspect sometimes it can be — mysteriously — premature and not spark the hoped-for changes after all.

Well, it may yet. You’ll never catch me making an argument against public art.

Still, this bit of the Railpath is pretty scruffy. We wiggle through a break in the chain link fencing and emerge onto Perth St., then Sterling Rd. We’re surrounded by cleared lots, rubble, signs announcing planned demolition and/or construction, surviving buildings being put to assorted uses. For all the scruffiness (I’m repeating myself, but it seems exactly the right word), the area is also full of vitality.

on Sterling Rd s. of Bloor

We never do track down the theatre, but make other discoveries. One is this mural by Jarus on the north wall of a tall, abandoned hulk of a building heavily tagged on all sides.

Jarus mural, 158 Sterling Rd

Another post-walk discovery online: this 1920 structure at 158 Sterling Rd., the work of architect J.W. Schreiber, was by turns the Northern Aluminum Company Building and later the Tower Automotive Building. It may or may not survive the demolition and planned redevelopment all around it.

I hope its neighbour at 128 survives. I’m drawn first by signs of the building’s earlier life…

128 Sterlin Av,

No pickles now. The sign over the front door says it is the world headquarters of Scythes Inc. Later I learn this description is factual rather than pompous. Flying Colours International (rebranding of Scythes) is a Toronto-based manufacturer of flags, banners & other graphic elements for events all around the world. Lots of provincial & national flags here at home, you bet, but the client list includes the United Nations and the Olympics.

Phyllis & I double back to Bloor. Enroute, a Sterling Rd. building with a big welcoming logo: Just 4 Fun Sporting Club.

Next to the bright red door, a long list of the league & drop-in sports you can enjoy, everything from volleyball & basketball to futsal, dodgeball, ball hockey. Lots of choice but, hey, it doesn’t mean you can do whatever you like.

Just 4 Fun 213 Sterling Av

“Spoilsports!” cries Phyllis. We visualize a whole bunch of disappointed guys reading this & trudging away, heads & axes drooping sadly.

Coming soon…

But wait! There’s more! (My favourite TV infomercial slogan.) Or, there will be more. This walk began at Bloor & Christie, and finally ended at Bloor & the Old Mill. Between Dundas West and Keele, we walked the alley between Bloor & the subway line to the north — a stretch known for its graffiti art. That’s what I’ll show you in my next post.

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