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.
Every once in a while, all things align to make for a great day. A really special day. The best day even.
A day where plans are loose, some freedom is in sight, and your best pal is in town.
People on the streets are happy and the air is light. No where to be, no one’s schedule to follow and the day just unfolds itself for you with almost no effort.
And at the end of the day you just can’t seem to fire your way into the number one spot for all time galactic hero, but it doesn’t matter because there’s still the walk home. It’s quiet and oddly bright and it feels like you have the night all to yourself. Just you and your Parkdale.
There are few things in life (aside from my children and husband) that make me happier than making mixed cds, wandering the streets of Toronto or cooking brunch for friends. I seem to easily forget that this holy trinity is the simplest way to get me out of any sort of funk, and remind me that there is so much in life to love–no matter how much this child screams in my face.
I was reminded of these things a few weekends ago when I managed to pull off said trifecta. I went for long stroll, heading west along Queen, from Bathurst to Beaconsfield, while wearing, and sometimes nursing my baby. Martin and MG were at the soccer game so I had the afternoon alone with Alice. It had been quite a long week, with a lot of face screaming and pacing and gripe water. Baby Alice is quite different from Marigold, who slept constantly and barely cried. However, Alice sleeps at night, and is usually only fussy in the evenings so I will try my best not to complain. Anyways, a long walk was much needed therapy for my tired soul.
The next day, my old pal AQP came over for a delicious brunch (sadly, no pictures!) and I was reminded of the magic that is a home cooked Sunday brunch. I used to pull off amazing brunch feats back in the day, almost every weekend, when I wasn’t too hungover or craving a traditional from Sneak’s. Still high from the brunch success, later that night I busted out the old laptop that hosts all of my music. I haven’t yet transferred my iTunes library to my new machine, so I sadly spend most of my time listening to internet radio these days. Every time I get out that old machine, open up iTunes and hit play, it’s like I’ve taken drugs. Really awesome drugs.
I was reminded while out on my Saturday stroll, that a friend’s birthday was just around the corner. This chum really appreciates my handmade efforts–I usually go above and beyond to ensure her gifts, for whatever occasion, are out of this world. I also know that she really appreciates a good mixed cd and making a mix makes me insanely happy! It’s the only opportunity I have to play DJ in this life-piling the songs into the playlist, to curate and organize once I’ve made my way through the entire library. Sometimes the cd’s have a theme or constraint, making it tricky to deliver, but this time, all I needed were songs I liked.
For this project, it was tough to narrow it down to 80 minutes of music, but I managed to cram some ska, reggae, soul, grunge and 50’s/60’s oldies into the mix. I think there’s even some 90’s alternative on there. I typically arrange the cd like sets and I listen to the beginnings and endings of songs over and over to make sure it all jives. And then, once I’m satisfied, I give it a full listen from beginning to end, to make sure it’s perfect.
The songs on that cd entitled “Songs I like, Cuz I Like You” include some of my all time favourites that still hold up today. The recipient, I’m sure, won’t love it all, but I know for certain that she will love hearing the opening beats of the Wanderer, by Dion. Everyone loves hearing it. If you know someone who doesn’t love it, I would like to hear about it–because I find that hard to believe.
I am sure that I first heard Dion when sleeping over at my friends house as a kid. We’ve been friends since the day I was born and we’re still friends today! She lived with her mom and older sister, and her step dad. I remember the sisters rolling their eyes to me when I would sleep over about how their step dad would probably come home later that night, a few sheets to the wind, and start playing his records really loud. He had been known to do that, and while I’m sure it annoyed the fuck out of them, whenever I slept over I secretly hoped he would come home, wasted, and blast his records. It was the mid 80’s but he was listening to that classic pop music from the 50’s and early 60’s and I thought it was awesome. My parents were really into 8 tracks and country, and I was more into records and rock and roll. I’m pretty sure we were awakened by him playing Dion on many occasions, though typically he was more fond of “I Wonder Why” and “Runaround Sue”.
Several years ago, I was going through a 50’s/60’s music phase right along side my burgeoning interest in Jackie Kennedy. I listened to a lot of 1050 CHUM in those days, and my iTunes library started to fill up with the Chiffons, Ricky Nelson and Sam Cooke. And of course Dion. And the song the Wanderer became one of many theme songs in my life.
The song itself is about a transient guy with lots of lady friends and he travels all around never looking to settle down. While my life at the time wasn’t quite that exciting–there was a lot of dudes around, I liked to party a lot and I did roam the streets ALL THE TIME. I would wake up (late) on the weekends, pack my bag with some smokes, some cash, maybe my flask, do a little paper work and head out the door for the day, sometimes not returning until late in the evening. I wouldn’t have a destination planned, or a rendezvous arranged, I would just wander for hours. And sometimes I would meet up with my sweet chum in the park to watch the dogs, who was also spending her Saturday, just walking around.
I had my own lyrics–replacing the girls names in the song with the dudes that we all knew. I’d sing it in the streets, I’d dance to it at bars, and sweet djs would dedicate the song to me because they knew of my love for the song. And it is the only way I can tolerate the saxophone. I hate the saxophone, but the sax solo at about 1:45 gives me goosebumps every time.
These days, my solo walks along Queen are few and far between, and I’ve traded my cigarettes and flask for a baby sling, but I’m still wandering. And I still listen to the Wanderer by Dion. Over and over again.
I definitely don’t want to forget any of this. Just a bride and a groom and some rings and everyone we know and love.
Where do I even start? A DIY wedding is a blogger’s fantasy, and I did almost all of it myself, so I should have lots and lots to share. Through the exhaustion of the last two weeks, I’ve been trying to find the clarity and the words, trying to find anything to write about, and I’m still unsure about what to say…
I thought I would be much more emotional throughout the ceremony. Like falling over sobbing, with a mascara raccoon nightmare face, but it wasn’t really that bad. I thought I would get to the part where Gord handed me over to Martin and I would completely lose my shit. But I didn’t–I had welled to tears enough many times in the weeks prior to the wedding about Gord giving me away. I cry because I’m happy. How could I not be? Everything makes sense, right? Marrying Martin for starters, and Gord giving me away, and everything leading up to that point. My life has made 100% sense, and I’m full of so much joy.
|The maid’s homemade bouquet|
|The Brides homeemade bouquet|
My room was at the Gladdy was red, and there was just enough time to doll myself up to the fashion by which I chose to get married. My red room, my red dress, and a perfect Parkdale view of the Gladstone Cafe (ha!) and the rug factory in the distance. I hung my dress in the window for all of Parkdale to see. I prepped and primped and listened to old reggae and my escorts arrived on cue, and I got to show off my crinoline for the very first time. And no, that’s not a euphemism.
|Outside the Gladstone|
We drank champagne and put feathers in our hair and descended down a beautiful three flights of stairs to the Gladstone lobby. I guess whenever I imagined my wedding the two things that were always consistent–I was always coming downstairs and there was always music. As a child, I used to stand at the top of our stairs and have my mother call “Andrea Peattie, come on down”, as though I was headed to contestants row on the Price is Right. No contestants row on May 11, though, just a groom and some rings and everyone we know and love. and the last time I’ll ever descend anything as an unmarried lady. Just Andrea Peattie, for the very last time.
|$12.99, just slightly more than my pack of cigarettes|
|Back of a taxi, heading away from the sunset|
|My Handsome Groom awaits|
I never want to forget, sitting in the judge’s office, singing with my dudes, and my best gal. It was one of the most special moments of my life. The sweet harmonies, Vigoda’s soft strums and some super slow tempoed soul. This all sung volumes to me about the man I was going to marry. They love me, and they love Martin. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
They led me, and serenaded us into our marriage. And while I really wish my dad and Luigi could’ve been there, it didn’t really matter, because I knew they would be so happy, and they would love Martin too. Samson-esque locks and all!.
The words of the ceremony didn’t even occur to me at the time—and I really don’t even know what the JP said. He asked about vows and readings just prior to the ceremony and I told him to say whatever he wanted, just don’t say anything about God. What I do know is that I meant what I said to Martin and I know Martin meant what he said to me and we’re never going to stop meaning it.
……..I will. So will he. The end and also the beginning. Presenting Mr. and Mrs. McWaters.
There are about 1000 things that I wanted to say to Martin the night we got married, and by the time that I got to him, I didn’t have to say anything. Everything just makes sense for us. And we are head over heels in love to boot.
When I first started dating Martin, he had stayed over on a Saturday night, and we went for brunch at Mezzrows, then walked along King back to my former PD house of dreams. We lollygagged up the stairs, sat down on the futon and played Tony Hawk on the PS2. We were having some snacks (naturally) and I turned and looked at him and said…”Does this feel normal to you?” He said “yep” and we went back to playing our video game.
Here we are now, tonight, on the couch, and he’s playing a video game while I write. The snacks will be out soon, I’m sure. Guess what? This is absolutely-one-hundred-fucking–percent-no-doubt-in-my-mind “normal”. And so my first reflection (yes there are more to come), upon being wed, is this: I got married and I don’t feel any different. Not even in the slightest. And as you can see on my face, I am thrilled.
I just looked it up. It was actually March 5th. Turns out that’s actually my pal’s Parks’ birthday…funny coincidence. I didn’t even know there was a Park’s when I moved to Toronto.
|West Queen West upon entering Parkdale “You’ve Changed”|
Coming to the decision to move away from my friends, my family, my love, was actually easier than I thought it was at the time. I had been to visit my dear Kindred on several occasions, and cried whenever I left. So I moved, and my life changed. Of course I miss my friends, and it was challenging to make new ones, so that part wasn’t easy. But the rest really was pretty simple. It didn’t matter that I was surrounded by tons of really rad people who I really really really love a whole lot, I always felt lonely in the Cath. I knew that if I stayed in Niagara I would live a sad lonely life. I needed things to change. I needed to be alone to end the loneliness.
There I was yesterday. Here I am now and where I’ll be tomorrow–ever so much to celebrate! I know March 5th, 2013 has come and gone, but each year I try, at the very least, to remember the time with celebratory thoughts. I try to remember how I felt then, and how it feels more right every day.
The Dakota, Lakeview, The Gypsy, The Park, 909 and my dress, the dog bowl, Squirrelys, The Paper Place, Preloved, Queen and Dovercourt, The Cock and Tail, The Gladstone. The Dufferin jog, the now bricked up stairway under the GO overpass. Streetcars, Lamport, the amphitheatre, the Caddy, Salvador, the Rhino, Meher’s deck, Capital, Not my dog, The Village of Parkdale mural, Thrift Town. Mezzrows and Tibetan protests. The CN Tower. Going Steady. The Golden Dogs, White Cowbell Oklahoma, and the Wednesday night residency at the Cameron. Bikes. The people. The people on bikes. The transit. The vibe. The sounds. The weather. The fresh flowers on the street corners. I look around me at the city and I am in love. In love with the people and the places. I have never in my life felt more at home.
On the sunny Sunday afternoon that Cindy and Juliee drove me into town, this song by Bjork came on. Just as it was supposed to–this song played and I laid eyes on the city that had become my new home just at the moment where Bjork says “this is where I’m staying. this is my home.” In March 2006 I came home for the first time. Happy anniversary, Toronto.
|Roommates Ruling Supreme|
Every spring I used to plan a party with Gord to celebrate another year of us ruling supreme as roommates. This spring, I’m planning a different kindof party. A party that I’ll surely celebrate for the rest of my life. I look forward to the traditions that will follow.
1) The Workroom–I really really really want to learn to sew. And to sew well enough to make my own clothes and house things. I have a sewing machine and I know how it works, I even have a gift certificate to the Workroom to take a sewing class. I just don’t have the time. But I will do it. I swear I will.
|Image Credit http://www.makesomething.ca|
Regardless of the sewing skills I may or may not have, I still love going into the Workroom. It has such beautiful fabric. The most beautiful fabric I’ve ever seen, in fact! They also have books and patterns and accessories and sundries, and a row of sewing machines where you can sew by the hour! Lots of projects also lying around to appeal to anyone’s crafty side! The offer a ton of classes, but the browsing is an amazing experience on its own–especially for a such a small shop. I love the Workroom. And I think you probably would too.
2) Meher Steinberg and Parkdale Live–My good pal and chum, Meher, lives right up the street from me. I go past his place at least twice a day, and when I think of him inside, it makes me smile. I know that if there ever was some sort of coffee apocalypse, me and my little family could take refuge at his and find a sweet cup of stove top coffee waiting for us upon our arrival. He’d surely also have some new music to show me, some new mix for me to listen to or some cut of a live video recording he’d recently done. He might even have a few drops of the sweet gold jimi stowed up and away on a high shelf for just such an occasion.
|The Parkdale Vigoda Himself|
Aside from just being awesome, he hosts and produces this great show in his space featuring live musical acts that he records and mixes and later posts the videos online. The best part is that the live recordings are actually really awesome–and I say this as someone who typically hates live recordings. Check it out–it’s pretty great and if you’re interested in knowing more–drop me a comment below. I can put you in touch the old Vigoda himself. Who doesn’t loves them some Steins, right?
You can check out this video of the band Heavy Generator performing on the show.
3) The Oatmeal Pancakes at
Mitzi’s the Sister–De. Lic. Ious. Seriously the very best pancake I’ve ever had in my entire life. It’s crunchy and buttery and drenched in light maple syrup. It’s got a caramelized crust in all the right places. I’m not super crazy about the entire brunch, since a standard bacon/sausage and egg isn’t on the menu, but the “Huevos” is great, and the frigging pancake is just too god damn much. I dream of it and it’s little side of whipped cream all the time and I can almost taste it in my mouth RIGHT NOW!
4) The 501 Street Car–Anyone that takes the Queen Street Car complains about it. It really is the worst. But it’s also the absolute BEST! It’s a double streetcar and you can board through any doors provided you have a pass or some other proof of payment. If you’re lucky enough to get a window seat, or even a seat at all because it’s packed all the time, the scenery between Ronces and downtown are just stunning. The people are total dicks, but its fine because at least they’re aware of their total dick status. For the most part they move out of the way, scrunch themselves up in a corner until it’s their time to get off and they manage to still look pretty great while doing it. It’s a fashionable and stylish brood that ride the Queen car, and I really do love being around good looking people.
|TTC 501 Queen Late Night Drive By|
It doesn’t stop at style–there’s eccentrics, and there’s drunks, there’s hipsters and just all walks of people and you never know what’s going to happen. I think I’ve seen more chick fights than anything, but I haven’t actually been keeping an exact tally. Meow.
I can hear the 501 when I lie in bed at night, I can hear it as I wake up in the morning, and I do believe I can hear it just now. The 501 Queen feels like a semi-reliable old friend, you know? Sometimes it flakes out on you, and it doesn’t come around often enough, but when it does you sure do have a good time and you get to where you need to go. For the most part.
5) Crown Flora Studio-This little shop opened up in January and I’d been meaning to go in the first time I had the chance. I go by it every day and just hadn’t been by at a time where the doors were open and the lights were on.
|Image credit to crownflorastudio.blogspot.ca/|
Finally last week, the shop must’ve been open late, and the timing worked out and I was able to pop in for a quick look around. I started chatting with shop owner, Adam, and found in him a fellow Parkdale enthusiast.
The little shop sells handmade things by Adam and his partner, terrariums and handbags to be more specifc. While it sounds like an unlikely combo, their wares are beautiful, the space is lovely and the spirit is kind. It’s great to have friendlies in the neighbourhood and it’s great to know your neighbours.
My little chat with Adam really brightened up an otherwise bummer day. It’s always great to see people who do what they love. It’s really what I aspire to.
And that, my friends, is a list of the things I can think of right now that I love about Parkdale. Don’t worry. There will be more.
|Late night Sparkle looking East on Queen|
|Queen Street looking west at the old parkdale hydro station?|
|Just another Saturday at King and Dufferin|
Your turn: Top five favourite things about your neighbourhood that you can think of right now…..add your comment below!
Our place is really starting to come together, and well, fall apart at every turn. I’m not even sure how Marigold manages to undo every effort to keep the house tidy in a matter of seconds. It’s possible that this is the way it is for anyone who has birthed and thus housed a toddler. But whatever, even this pukey peach colour in our bedroom is starting to grow on me.
It’s been a while since I had a nice bedroom. It’s also been a while since I had a winter coat. You’ll have to wait for pictures of that. It needs to be broken in a bit. But it is spectacular! AND it will be ridiculously warm for this winter.
Yesterday, I bought some stuff. And got some stuff as a present for my birthday. On the left is a casserole/butter dish, pyrex in the butterprint pattern which I collect. In the middle is another pyrex dish, that is pink, of which I have no matching pieces or anything in my kitchen that even goes with it.
Somehow, I managed to get evicted. Again. I have never been behind in rent, never damaged an apartment, and never, well mostly never, have I ever been loud to the point of disrupting the neighbours. And that one time the neighbours were really pissed doesn’t actually count since they were a bunch dicks anyways.
At the end of the day, none of the good tenant qualities matter in a situation where your domicile is the preferred unit of residence by the owner of the property, or one of their immediate family members. You may recall, the same thing happened when I lived with Gord on Spencer, but the landlord, who turned out to be this incredible artist, wasn’t such a jerk about it. He gave us a discount on our rent, and he was, in fact moving in to our place. He fixed it up real nice and is still happily living at 104.
This last experience we were not as fortunate, but it just wasn’t a good fit for us all around in the first place. The apartment was too small, it had bad energy, zero privacy, and I really wasn’t all that crazy about the neighbourhood. We had moved there to save money, as the place was a real steal, but it just really wasn’t going to work out for us in the long term. And thus, getting kicked out was a blessing in disguise. A huge blessing.
I’m back in Parkdale We’re all in Parkdale. Living in my Parkdale House of Dreams. And while, frankly my life isn’t even remotely as romantic as that sounds, it really doesn’t matter because I am home. I knew one day I’d find my way back here. And it is a beautiful apartment. I could live here for the rest of my life.
I haven’t been writing mostly because I don’t have time, but I really don’t even feel inspired to write anything. And such is the course of my life, there are big gaps in my diaries for years that I went without writing, and then something would just eat at me until I had to write about it.
I used to write about boys. I used to write about how disappointed I was in my appearance, and how I wanted to be cooler. I used to write about what I was watching on television and what my friends were doing. I used to write about my relationships, and their challenges. The regretful choices and decisions I had made.
I later turned to writing in celebration of the choices I had made, the relationships I maintained, and the joy that permiated through every waking and semi waking, moment of my life. Those times were a very happy time for everyone, to be sure.
A few weeks ago, someone said to me “you really have a hard time accepting where you’re at in life”. It may have been more of a question than a statement, I guess, but not exactly the comforting words you were expecting to hear from your friend and confidant, who obviously didn’t quite grasp the weight those words could carry.
There’s always this constant struggle where my lazy, complacent side manages somehow to win the war of sitting on the couch versus doing something to make things better. The just-get-by-at-work-because-I-don’t-have-the-energy attitude is fighting a battle against my once overwhelming desire to be the employee of the minute every gd minute of the gd day.
Yes, I am sad from time to time because I’ve gained 70+ pounds that cannot be construed as “baby weight” (the poundage came along long before Marigold did). I am sad because it’s hard to kick ass at my new-ish job, because I am not a subject matter expert, and of course the job is still new-ish. I am frustrated about relationships that used to be easy and fluid, which now, are basically non existent or strained because circumstances have changed and/or the common ground has dissipated.
Trust me, I’m not about to wake up tomorrow, start a fucking smoothie diet, quit smoking and have that first day of the rest of my life moment or anything, but I still want to keep trying to choose the better, the good, the more. I want to feel the sadness and the pain too, of the things that I struggle with and know that even though I may not have the time to accomplish the good the better the more, that it’s ok to miss it.
The distractions, and I use that term most affectionately, are temporary, but the rewards are invaluable. The external demands on my life have a profound impact on who I am and how I spend my time. And it will change me and strengthen me in ways I can’t even imagine. So, those words were heavy. Heavy enough to stop me in my tracks. Heavy enough to keep me replaying the conversation in my head over and over. But, only in such a way that brings me to the conclusion that, no, it’s not that I have a hard time accepting where I’m at in life, I just want more.
I greatly admire those women who have incredibly successful careers running interesting businesses, doing what they’re passionate about, having all their shit together, children on top of it all, and seemingly still time to spare. And I hope that one day, driven by my desire to live an extraordinary life, I’ll be able to accomplish a fraction of what I want to do in my heart of hearts and modestly fulfill the better portion of my purpose here on earth.