King Street West is a long stretch of condos, condos-in-progress, and amenities, and–like most business strips–has comparatively little in the way of visual beauty to recommend it. There’s lots of stuff that’s interesting and delightful. You look in the shop windows and it’s all shoes, dresses, delicious things to eat, art getting framed in frame stores, fast food, wine bars, frightfully expensive furniture, chocolate shops and one extraordinary Italian bakery, Forno Cultura. There’s also stuff you don’t like, like the franchises that set your teeth on edge (Starbucks, in my case, and Grand and Toy.) There are shifty-looking convenience stores, and a place with a well-intended charity fundraising poster whose message is People Are Horrible, Give Us Money.
I could do without seeing that one every day.
If you amble off into the residential branches connected to these commercial capillaries–for I am all of four blocks from Queen West, which is also food and boutique heaven–the attractiveness quotient rises. You get homes and yards and the occasional friendly cat. There are flower gardens and ponds–like the one my skunk friend found itself trapped in–and vines climbing the brick walls. Our neighbor Emil works very hard on his garden, and yesterday a cardinal sat out beside his greenery and sang its little lungs out for at least half an hour.
His place isn’t the only one. A lot of the old brick houses are pretty in their own right, and people spend a lot of time out grooming their wee front yards, at least right now in the summer, beaming with pride over their roses or feeding the sparrows.
Life in progress. Teeming, even. I saw an ancient-looking old dude feeding his newborn descendant on one of those porches today.
I haven’t yet developed a comfortable fondness for a park, the kind of drop by and say hello feeling I had at Trout Lake. High Park is beautiful, but we’re still on handshake terms:
The waterfront of Lake Ontario is no further from my current home than False Creek was from the condo on First and Woodland. I have a sense that it’s not quite as accessible or pretty–Vancouver is newer and more consciously shiny, especially the Olympic Village. But that’s less because it’s true and more because I haven’t explored it throroughly yet. It doesn’t fall on my regular migratory route as the seawall did.
Kelly and I went down there this past weekend, in search of a draft horse exhibition at the CNE we never made it to. (Caribana was, quite literally, in the way). We sat under a tree on a picnic table and ate a lovely roasted veggie sandwich from a cafe just up the road from our place. The trees were storybook trees, the kind you see in children’s storybooks–broad leafy maples, not a conifer in sight. Even though a kilometer away the Caribana crowd was absolutely thronging, we had a bubble of just us and the lake, a view of green grass, squirrels and peace with water on the left.
This city and I are still getting to know each other, in other words, and I’m not quite as settled and comfortable as I was. Which only makes sense, of course.