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.
I’ve been trying to remember how old I was when I got my first keyboard for Christmas. Between 7-9 I guess. It was the 21 key Casio PT100. And it was awesome. I also got 4 how-to books that taught you how to play. The music in the books had the notes on the staff and there were stickers so you could mark the keys on your keyboard. And that, my friends, is how I learned to play the piano. I commited to memory the notes of the treble clef, and eventually the stickers all rubbed off the keys and it all stuck in my brain. I also had this pretty great ability to figure out how to play a song just by listening, so when I had worn my way through those four beginner books, I just sortof figured out the songs I wanted to play. I was only about 9 after all, so my selections weren’t really that complicated, but I could really nail Somewhere Over the Rainbow, and mash out all the favourite hymns I knew from church.
Before the PT100, there was the old decrepit organ in the basement. You had to hit the switch a few times to get it to turn on, sometimes augmenting the switch flip with a hard shake of the whole instrument. It took a few minutes for it warm up, and it always had a loud and distinct hum that you would have to ignore if you wanted to be in the same room for any length of time. I mostly managed to tune it out while playing. I loved to goof around on it, with it’s push button chords and two dusty keyboards. I think my sisters may have had to practise on it for their piano lessons, and needless to say, they gave up, as would most respectable humans because the sound was actually atrocious.
When I was around 11, the church I attended got new hymn books, and were “selling” the old ones for a $4 donation, and unfortunately the Sunday this was all going down, I was sick with the chickenpox, so I missed out on the hymn book sale. Devastated, I was, since I wanted to at least see if I was playing the right notes to the hymns, and learn others that I just couldn’t figure out on my own. A lady at my church, Joanne, knew that I really wanted one, so that Sunday, she dropped it by. I get all misty-eyed just thinking about it. To her, it was likely a very small gesture, but it was significantly influential to me.
I played the shit out of “Great Hymns of Faith”, making up the chords based on the way things sounded in church. I didn’t know how to read the bass clef–my instructional books failed to cover that. I also refused to play anything with more than 2 flats or 3 sharps, so instead I would transpose the music in my head. How I learned about key signatures is beyond me–I just kinda knew.
I would alternate playing through that hymn book on the organ and on my little PT100, pretending to be Mrs. Speer (piano) or Mrs. Toews (organ)–the ladies who accompanied the congregation in their singing. My dream was to one day become the church pianist. But clearly I couldn’t do it without piano lessons or a real piano.
I’m not sure why my parents never indulged my desire for lessons–most parents force that shit on their kids, but I guess they just didn’t take it seriously. Or maybe they just thought I didn’t need them. So instead, later that year for Christmas, I got upgraded to the Casio MT 520.
This model had more keys, though they were much smaller and it had a pretty sweet drum pad. You could really rock out, I guess, but I just wanted to play church hymns like a weirdo. And hymns I played until I started busting the keys. I first lost the F sharp just below middle C, and next to go was the B flat in the same direction. The keys were broken, but you could still hit them so they would press the little button underneath to make the sound. Until that button came off and the notes stopped working entirely. I think at the end I had about 7 or 8 broken keys on that thing, but I just wouldn’t give up.
Whenever I was in a place that had a piano, I would play it. People’s houses, the school music room, church, AWANA, wherever. And if I couldn’t play it for whatever reason, my stomach would almost hurt because I wanted to so bad. I wished all the time that my parents would just buy me a frigging piano. It couldn’t be that hard, right? So many birthdays I would secretly hope for the best birthday surprise of all, where I would come home and find a piano delivery truck in our driveway. Unfortunately, no such surprise ever materialized.
About halfway through grade 9, at 14 years old, I finally got the chance to take lessons. They were offered at my school, and I could duck out of geography once a week for a 30 minute, $9 lesson with Mrs. Giesbrecht. I told her of my dreams to become a church pianist, and she wanted to help me with that, but she knew I needed to learn some proper technique first–which I absolutely hated. She pointed out to me that I didn’t play with my thumbs. She thought it was the strangest thing she’d seen, until I explained that I couldn’t really use my thumbs to play properly on the MT-520. The keys were just too small for my hand span. Understanding my technique was hampered by the tiny keys, she mostly overlooked my awkward fingering and encouraged me to continue. She was a really nice lady.
The summer after grade 9, my dad died. And when Mrs. Giesbrecht called to see if I would be continuing lessons in the fall and to inform us of a price increase, I told her I wasn’t sure that we would still be able to afford it, with my dad no longer around. She offered to keep the lessons at the original price and I was able to continue to take lessons for the next 2 years or so.
When someone dies there’s a ton of shit that happens, unexpected costs arise and life gets a bit crazy. Not only does it suck that you’ve just lost your loved one, but you basically get screwed in a lot of different ways when you’re trying to wade your way through the grief. Months after my dad died, his friends held a memorial golf tournament in his honour. The proceeds from that tournament were donated to our family. I’m not sure why my mom agreed to use a portion to buy me a piano, but she did, and I was super jazzed. Pretty much the only bright spot after months of shitty despair.
We scoured the newspapers, and piano stores as there wasn’t the internet in those days. We came across an old painted upright that was for sale for $400. It didn’t have a bench and it was painted, but the price was right, so we went to check it out. It was a nice piano, the keys were quite yellow, but the paint job wasn’t bad and the sound was really nice. It was the one. The thing I had wanted for my entire life. My very own piano.
The day the piano was delivered was probably one of the most exciting days of my life. I played it from when I got home until well past my bedtime. I remember sitting in the dark living room playing because the sun had set and I didn’t want to get up to turn the lights on. It looked nice in our living room, and the yellow keys never bothered me. My very thoughtful and talented friend, Amber, managed to make me a matching bench in her grade 11 shop class. I don’t think I ever really thanked her for that–it really is a beautiful piece, and especially so, since she was only like 16.
Not long after I got the piano, I did my Grade 8 Piano exam, and passed with flying colours. I went on to be a church pianist and eventually a worship director. I played at almost every service (sometimes 3 a week–it was a fundamental baptist church after all!) for probably 4 years or more. It was a dream come true–the lessons, playing in church, and the piano.
When my mom sold the house several years later, I moved into a one bedroom apartment with no room for a piano, and such has been the case since then. There’s never room for the piano. My Auntie housed my piano at her place for years hoping that one day I might be able to find room for it, until she moved, and could look after it no longer.
My super friend, Rock N Roll Jen offered to take it for me and it stayed with her up until now. I could visit it when I wanted, and it being at Jen’s made for some loud and drunken piano sessions. The time has come that Jen can no longer keep it for me, and I can’t move it here. I’ve come to realize that I will never, while living here in Toronto, be able to host a piano of it’s size. We might be able to fit it into our home now, but we’d never be able to get it up the two flights of stairs. We couldn’t even fit a regular couch in, so I doubt a hundred year old upright would fit.
So it’s time to let it go. I’ll try to give it away–we haven’t had luck so far, but maybe soon someone will take it. And if not, I’ve got a back up plan–my friend Mike and his company Just Junk will know what to do with it–sad as that outcome may be.
The last tune I tickled on it’s ivories was a shaky rendition of Lovesong by the Cure. Pretty fitting, I’d say.
I’m no longer a church pianist nor am I a worship director. I don’t even really play at all anymore. I guess it’s all behind me now but I wanted to tell you about my piano. It’s just an instrument, I know, but it was so much more than that to me and I thought you should know.
I wish I’d taken more time to painstakenly savour each moment. Instead it felt as though the entire night was racing past us. All day and night I couldn’t wait to get to the party. The biggest party we’ve ever thrown with cheese, and booze, and music, and donuts and special lights and everyone we know and love. At the very core of my being is a hostess, and it brings me so much joy. It makes me so happy to have people in my home. This hostessness allows me to share and aid in the merry-making of my dearest friends and it is a pleasure unmatched for me on this earth. At the most base level, I really fucking love to party. And you know who else loves to party? My husband.
I’ve always thought having a surprise house party wedding would be really cool, but pulling off a surprise wedding is a lot harder than it sounds. We decided in February that we were to be married in May. May 11th to be exact. Less than 3 months is surprise enough, no?
Years ago, before I’d even met Martin, I was driving along in the good old battle Saturn with my cronies, Gord and AJ, talking about boys, of course (I really was quite boy crazy, remember?). I turned to them and said, I’m going to get married on May 11, 2013. I passed AJ my Samsung flip phone and had her look up the date. Sure enough it was a Saturday. I didn’t have a boyfriend, or really have my sights set on a particular fella, but I knew my wedding date. And somehow, I managed to meet, fall in love and marry my dearest, all in the nick of time. I’d like to say it was clarvoyance, but it’s probably better categorized as a self fulfilling prophecy.
Bottom line? The date was special.
I had spent weeks and months preparing for the celebration, only for the night itself to quickly fade away as I tossed my bouquet to a small clan of ladies on my porch. I stole off into the night with my lover, my husband. I spent every spare second I had in the weeks leading up to the wedding cutting and pasting and planning and scheming and downloading and curating and thinking it all through over and over and over again. And in all that time I never anticipated that the party would go by so quickly. I got to spend 5 short hours buzzing from room to room basking in the glow of the best people on the planet, save a few, doing what we all love best: Partying. And I wish I could do it all over again. Despite how fast the night passed me by, I enjoyed every minute–I had a really really great time.
|Me and my new husband, flashing his gold ring.|
For me, it all came down to crafts, a 4+ disc mixed CD set, an 8 1/2 pound cheese order, and 5 dozen donuts. Not necessarily traditional, but a Peattie-McWaters wedding it was.
|8 1/2 pounds of pure dairy gold|
|Pennant made from antique sheet music|
|A small fraction of the 60 glory hole donuts|
|Hand crafted Sacs Aux Surprise!|
All of those really awesome things aside, there was love. So much love, our apartment was bursting at the seams. My love for Martin, his love for me, and our love for little Marigold was multiplied exponentially by the love of those surrounding us that night. I felt like was floating. On a sweet cloud of love all night logn. And I’m totally serious.
I was welcomed as a McWaters with a resounding “Yay” and narry a “Nay”, and the feelings are more than reciprocal.
So we danced and we drank, and we smoked, and I untraditionally swore through my speech. We floated through our home around the people that have come to mean so much to us. An outstanding amount of love surrounds our lives and it will shine through us, from this day on.
I met Christine Delay in 2005 at a housewarming party for her and some other people I didn’t know at the time (Gord). In time, I came to know her and her “delayservision” well at 106 and beyond. And though she’d likely deny it, she has grown to become one of the most influential people in my life. There isn’t enough space on the entirety of internet to describe it all, but I can tell you, she was by my side as I explored the new world around me. She was there as I began to discover who I really and truly was during a pretty siginficant era. Christine Delay has helped me to reflect on where I’ve come from, enabled me to live and enjoy life freely, supported me in my dreams, and has created ridiculous amounts of laughter in my life. We are musically and cosmically connected, and when I’m with her, I feel like I’m on fucking steroids. She was, and is, the Lungsy, to my Ballsy.
A few nights ago I asked Delay this:
“I write this blog, not sure if you’ve read it. Thought you might be interested in doing a guest post about something I would want to remember. It would be subject to me as an editor and likely writing a preface….
The purpose of my blog is so that I don’t forget any of it, and I would love one day to remember a piece of my life through your eyes.”
Endings — by Christine Delay
I seem to be swimming in them lately. Years ago, our beginning was born from an epic one at that. You ask me what I remember of that time, those places, these people we still know who have grown their limbs in subtle ways. I can tell you that I am still sitting by that window in that grungy apartment on Robert Street, having dinner for the first time speaking in excited spurts, like comic book bubbles bursting with idealistic hope. I can tell you that my hope was spotty at best but my idealism big and true, strong like a submarine. I remember my surprise when weeks later we were neighbours and together we muddled through, in the prime of our lives, and anxious to see what was up ahead just beyond the scope of our reach. I remember mistakes, but they are not so important unless we see them for the bricks they really were. I remember loud, reckless weekends followed by sullen Sundays spent aimlessly roaming the streets in packs, just happy to have each other. And then Mondays.
Chain smoking. We did a lot of that. Fires, and love, dishes done together, children and then adults, near misses, long shots… and now babies and jobs. I don’t remember crossing that bridge.
Mostly I don’t know what I remember from those days. As I sit and rummage through the snippets of fractured memory made blurry by time’s passage, I hear the buzz of many conversations, and feel the anticipation of the night’s beginning. Yet it is done and I am done with it, for there is not enough room in the past for me. But let me say this. I remember you, and I miss you. I remember you, and I do… I miss you.
That time, just like a river. It is a beast, this creature that breathes and pulses full of currents of blood. Like the hair in the mane, mostly unaware that it is a part of something larger.
I remember that it happened and I hope that it mattered. Mostly I remember that we were children then adults, near misses, long shots…. fires, love, and dishes done – together.
|The Night We Met , totally money.|
|We didn’t have a clue what was in store for us.|
|…he even fakes a toss|
I had been thinking for a while now, about how I want to remember everything, the whole reason I write this blog. And how, so very often a song comes on and it immediately transports me to another time and place. A time and place that I truly lived. I can honestly say that music, in whatever form, has been a driving force in my life. I know most people could probably say that, but if you know me…like really really know me, you know this is true. Truer for me than for most, you’d probably say.
But this song, Re: Stacks by Bon Iver, and the moment I first heard it will stay with me until the day that I die.
I was probably just slightly overdue with Marigold at the time, and was living the ultimate wait and see routine–a classic life theme I’ve adopted from my favourite book, The Cider House Rules by John Irving. I was just finishing up some housework and the upstairs of our then apartment was at it’s brightest point of the day. You know how sometimes rooms have a time of the day where the outside light is just perfect and it makes you love your space in no way that furniture or design could ever do? I have been fortunate to have this in almost all of my apartments in the city and I sincerely promise to never take that for granted.
|the light at 195|
It was that time of the day for 195 Grace Street. It was that day where I thought I was truly ready for this life changing event that was about to occur. I had been walking tons, drinking red raspberry leaf tea, and having what seemed like copious amounts of sex for a huge pregnant person (looking back it was probably just once or twice, it just seemed like a lot because I was massive AND exhausted) hoping to induce labour. I was ready. And then I heard this song.
It came on the radio. I stopped, walked into the beautifully lit living space. I sat down and I started to cry. If I close my eyes and listen right now, I am overcome by the same feeling I had that day. I can hear myself singing a little harmony on the chorus, as I’m want to do even when I’ve never heard the song before. Somehow, in short six minutes, Justin Vernon of Bon Iver has me questioning everything I’ve ever done in my life, and my ability to do anything in the future. And suddenly I know that things are never going to be the same. Suddenly, Peattie herself is never going to be the same. And it’s like suddenly I’m not ready, not ready for any of this. And then suddenly it doesn’t matter. This new addition to my life is going to share something with me that no other two people on earth are going to have, or ever even going to understand.
I’m not really sure what the song is about, and I might be disappointed one day to find out. And it doesn’t really matter because I love the words, the story, the strumming pattern, the melody, the chord progression, I love his voice. But what I love the absolute most is the last line. It is a promise, no, it is our promise.
I know there will be plenty of times in my life where I hear this song and it will have other powerful impressions to leave on my heart. And as time goes on, Stacks will always be about reminding me of where I was, acknowledging where I am now, and dreaming about wherever I’ll be in the future. But mostly how in all of this, I never want her to forget that her love will always be safe with me.
I am becoming increasingly benign to the colour on the walls. We moved the bed and I moved curtains. Still some odds and ends to do…especially in our bedroom. But, tonight, this made me very happy:
We haven’t been up to much lately…
I went to the Magpie on Wednesday. I was having a shitty day and I ran into Marilee on the street car and she invited me to celebrate her birthday with the cool kids.
^^ The cool kids
More cool kids She is lovely, and these pictures are really very dark. But I think it is obvious that this is the best time Ari has ever had in all of his life. We laughed so hard. Like the hardest I have laughed in a really long time.
Oh! My apartment when Marigold is sleeping and the sun is seeping in the through the trees. It looks quite nice, doesn’t it? I know that portrait looks a bit weird over there, but I will surround it by other shining things that I bring back to my nest. Maybe even this….
Cat with fish purse…on the list of current projects.
And, thanksgiving Sunday?
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.