When I was a little kid, I was often curious about the white stone signage you’d see on the side of the Gardiner Expressway. I wondered who made those things? How did they do it? How did they access the side of the highway like that? And what was on the other side of that hill? Who were the people that lived there?
Flash forward, 30 some odd years, almost every morning, I walk down to King Street, and look over to the Gardiner, and see those white stone marquees peaking up at me from under the snow as I wait for the streetcar. It brings me so much joy, knowing those little white stones are there. I look down at the frustrated folks stuck in their cars commuting into downtown and feel gross satisfaction that I am where I am, overlooking that highway just above those pretty little rocks.
A few months ago I thought that it might be time to end my love affair with Toronto. Living in the city with two kids definitely has its challenges. And sometimes, those challenges are enough to make you throw up your hands and consider high tailing it out of here. There’s no space! There’s no time! It’s dirty, and it’s noisy and traffic is always a nightmare. I have no lawn, and my front yard is a receptacle for the neighbourhood garbage. My yard also acts as a toilet for some hard pressed folks.
People poop in my driveway, my friends. Poop.
Even at it’s grimiest, Toronto is expensive and everything is always busy. The transit overcrowding is unbearable. Furthermore, owning property is an unattainable pipe dream, with the most recent studies saying that the average (AVERAGE!) price of a detached home in Toronto is ONE MILLION DOLLARS.
It’s easy to wonder: “WHY WOULD ANYONE LIVE HERE????? I certainly started to wonder, and then I started to consider the alternative. I visited other places, I did some research, I talked to friends who live that alternative and I thought maybe we could make it work somewhere else. I had started to feel like living in Toronto wasn’t working anymore and that me, and my family, just didn’t fit in.
After all that I had my feelings resolved and the logistics worked out. I had started to plan our departure. Then I stepped outside and I heard a dinging streetcar. A pigeon shat on my hand as I pushed the double stroller down Queen street. I smiled at my fortune and a lady asked me for money. The same lady asks me a second time when I pass her again later. And now I see the people, the traffic, the aging retro storefront signs. I see a new Kizmet piece, or a KPS tag or manage to spot a new Lovebot. I smile and wave at my neighbours, I talk to the independent shop-keeps and I slink by the abandoned mattresses that abound on the streets of Parkdale. And though I’m a teensy bit sad about the sacrifices Marigold and Alice will have to make by growing up in the city, I’m excited for the life and electricity and culture they will experience by growing up here. And in it all I realize I can’t leave. Not now, and maybe not ever.
Nine years, this March , I’ve been here in this city and I still have no idea who looks after those little rock signs. I still get excited to see those white stone marquees lining the Gardiner Expressway, just as I did when I was a kid, Only now, when I look up, I know my home is there, just beyond the stones….Where I still belong.
Happy Anniversary, Toronto.
Laugh if you want to, but my favourite book is Anne of Green Gables. I’ve read the entire series a few times, and some particular installments in the series, more times that I can even remember. Lucy Maude is a great story teller. And if you’ll remember back to when you read Anne, or even if you didn’t read the story, you probably can probably recall bits of the tv movie that aired on the CBC or you took a class trip to some high school performance of the play. You might even remember Anne’ bosom chum, Diana. On January 1st, my bosom chum got on a plane. And just like that, Toronto got a little less sweeter.
It hasn’t been such a sweet place as of late–the political storms, the weather issues, and the transit follies. Surprisingly to me, I find myself sometimes wondering why we continue to live here. Though today, I drove through the city, and I’m happy to report that it was easy to find all my old loving feelings for the city.
I took the long way home and remembered that there are so many places around with so many great memories attached. Memories of me and my bosom chum–the things we did, and the places we met up, the places we took pictures. I’ll sure miss her while she’s gone.
I had already lost her earlier this year. A result of the time and space and the things happening in our lives that began to naturally separate us. An undesired side affect of desirable life changes, I suppose.
I met her in December 2005, at my kindred’s birthday party on Robert. She was wearing mauve, and I knew instantly I wanted to be friends with her. Later, I saw her kitchen and wondered even more about how we were going to become friends. And then, months later, after having moved to Toronto, I found myself meeting her at Spadina and Dundas on our way to see Final Fantasy at the Music Gallery. I’m sure you’ve heard this before.
After watching Owen Pallett perform incredible magic on his violin, we headed back to my apartment on Robert for leftovers of the food I had made earlier in the day. There was souvlaki, spanokopita, dolmades and tzaziki–probably the most elaborate Greek meal I had ever prepared. I played her all my favourites from the latest Belle and Sebastian album. We danced around my apartment, smoked a bit and I’m sure had some drinks all before exiting the back door to make our way to the Cloak. There was nothing unusual about the path we took on our way over to see the Gospel Sundays, but AJ’s keen eye noticed a weird lumpy case sitting on top of a postal box. After stopping and inspecting the case, we revealed the contents. A violin.
We found a fucking violin on the side of the road after having just attended a concert featuring the violin!
There was no one to be seen in the immediate proximity of the violin, and we left a note on the post box for the owner to contact us. We never found it’s rightful owner. AJ still has it today. I don’t think she brought it on the plane though, but one day, she’ll learn to play.
It’s a special and unique friendship story that I will carry in my heart forever….re-telling it at whatever chance I get. A cosmic beginning to the friendship I had been looking for all my life. I don’t know how else to describe it–our friendship that is. I have a lot of people I really truly love in my life that are special to me in a lot of different ways. Friends for greater than 30 years, some. Others I’ve known only for a short time, and others still, who I never see or talk to, yet they continue to reside deeply in my heart.
What developed with AJ is a cosmic friendship with a bosom chum. And I’m sure she feels the same way too.
I miss her, I do. But I already missed her. In a lot of ways I feel alone without her, and I have for the last while. I’ve shared some of the most incredible moments of my life with her. She has this ability to make any event, situation or circumstance magical. At times I wonder if she IS in fact some magical and mystical creature like Loch Ness or Big Foot. But she photographs well and I’ve seen her reflection in the mirror with my own eyes.
I have three biological sisters, and I am not close with any of them, and speak to them very little, if at all. There’s a myriad of reasons for this I suppose…distance, age gaps, lack of common ground. I haven’t thought about it enough to really understand why…but we’ve never been close, so I’ve never felt that that sister connection was missing in my life nor was I even aware that there even is such a thing as a sisterly connection.
As AJ and I grew closer over time, I grew to love her immensely and care about her in a way that was unfamiliar to me. The only way I can describe it is that I must love her the way that sister’s love each other. And it is a love that will never die.
The second time one of your very best friends moves away in a matter of months isn’t fun/ It is, in fact, exponentially lonelier. I don’t think I have fully accepted the fact that she is gone, and I’ll probably become drastically more aware, when she is not here when this little baby arrives. I know for certain, though, that her pursuits are noble and I’m excited for the chapters that will unfold for her after her short stint away at school in Northern Alberta.
So I wait for her return, and I think of her fondly. My magical, amazing and lovely bosom chum. Sweet, sweet Alana.
This isn’t the first time I’m leaving an apartment with a leak in the ceiling from the bathroom upstairs. 5 years ago exactly, I was packing up our tired and abnormally wet apartment on Robert Street, to move on down to what would be MY Parkdale house of dreams with Gord. It really was such a find, and places like that for the price we paid just don’t exist any more. Of course it was definitely on the wrong side of the tracks, and sketchy doesn’t even begin to describe the neighbourhood bars. But the apartment was beautiful, the kitchen was huge, and it was the home I dreamed about having for a very long time. The image of that place on Spencer will remain forever burned in my mind and I will always remember it fondly. The Spider Man Walkie Talkies to Meher’s house up the street, Don falling down the fire escape at our yacht rock party, and the birth of HKM. I get so sad that we had to leave there, but obviously it worked out. I wonder if we weren’t forced to move if I would be sitting next to Martin with a baby monitor in between us? Probably not right now, but I guess someday.
It took us a long time to find this place, the location was great, it was out of our price range, but the kitchen Floors. OH the Floors. Until we realized that they’re just peel and stick tiles and obviously one was dropped when they were being installed. I know this because it’s stuck to the floor on top of the other tiles. Crooked.
Whatever, they were red-checked, and perfect for me and all the red I like to keep in my kitchen. It’s lustre has long since worn off, and the apartment grunge has built up to the point of no return. The paint is peeling, our bedrooms are in the basement. It’s damp and cold and the basement floor is falling apart, And most people just about barf when they find out how much we pay (it’s not so bad now–it’s actually probably about market, but when we moved in it was quite expensive). It does have a beautiful backyard that makes it feel like you’re at a cottage in the heart of the city, but, we couldn’t enjoy it all this summer because there was a very dead, and very smelly animal stuck under our porch. There is laundry, but the laundry sink leaks. There’s a great storage crawl space under the stairs, but there is only one closet and it’s tiny with no doors. It’s a great party house, and as much as I’m happy to be leaving this behind, I still have some deeply rooted sad feelings because of the memories I have here.
Looking back to the places I’ve lived, I sometimes find myself thinking of the neighbours I have been surrounded by. On Robert I had McKenna and Delay right upstairs. On Spencer, I had Spicoli on the second floor and man did I have some great times with him. He liked hash, zombie movies and video games. He introduced me to Sailor Jerry Rum and he was always up for mixing cocktails, he had a great sense of humour and supported me through my one and only 24 non stop bender. He made me watch some crazy foreign slasher movie and his roommate was a bit of a dick, but he was a really good time. A great neighbour to have indeed.
When I lived on Thomas, I had Doreen across the hall, who really didn’t have much to say, except for maybe gossip about the property managers and we’ve had several different people living upstairs from us here on Grace with varying degrees of sanity. Most recently Kathleen, who I know is a kindred spirit and it just always 100% shining all the time.
But for 21 years of my life I had Mr. Brown. The king of neighbours. He had the barking dog, the perfect lawn, and a beautiful garden. He was a curmudgeony old man who really disliked my father, and hated the neighbourhood kids so much he’d literally chase them off his lawn and balls in his backyard were eternally lost. We all sortof feared him as we grew up, didn’t we? He had a lovely and sweet wife, who walked everywhere, wore delicious hats and it was no secret that her favourite colour was red. It was hard to believe that they were a match.
I can’t remember for sure if Mr. Brown had children of his own (I know there were kids, but I think they may have been Amy’s only). What I didn’t know at the time was that he spent those 21 odd years living next door watching me grow up.
He was really broken up when my dad died, which was quite surprising, since he seemed to really hate him, or at least that was the impression I had. But thinking back now, I don’t think Mr. Brown ever had friends over and they never really went anywhere, so it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise to me that he felt a friendly fondness for my dad, hidden beneath his gruff buzz cut exterior.
He saw me as just a young little baby, he was around when I started going to school. He saw me grow up into a teenager and the entire time we hardly said much to each other other than a few sentences here and there, and the odd conversation now and again.
The day before I was to move away from 12 Roxborough Court, I knew I had to say goodbye to the people of my neighbourhood, but I could never have fathomed how difficult it was going to be. Of course I was sad to leave the only house I had ever known. I had never moved before, and frankly never wanted to move again. But obviously I had to move, and that meant I had to say goodbye.
I went next door to Mr. Brown’s….very rarely had I knocked on his door, mostly for trick or treating or some other sortof of door to door canvassing, but this time I was just there to see him. And I don’t know if there are words to describe how I/we felt but when he answered we both just stood there and cried. I managed to muster the words “I’m here to say goodbye” and that was all I could say. He told me he was going to miss me. I think we both knew we’d never see each other again. He died a couple of years later, and I almost never think about him. But when I do, I sure get emotional. I think it’s incredible that such little contact with a seemingly insignificant neighbour can have such a profound affect. He never knew that 10 years later I’d be thinking about him, let alone telling others about him. I had lived there my entire life, and for a long time after, I couldn’t even drive near the place without bursting into tears. I’ve lived in a lot of places since then and while the places are never permanent, the people I’ve met and the impression they have left will last a lifetime.
My Childhood home on Roxborough in St. Catharines
Spencer, probably my most favourite of homes. This was taken at our (me and Gord) 2 year roommate-i-versary. It was a booze party.
And Grace street, the wee hours of the morning after Oscar and AJ’s wedding.