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.
It’s pretty though:
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.
Kelly and I went to a book launch for Ryan North’s Choose Your Own Adventure Hamlet graphic novel, To Be or Not To Be on Monday. It was a massive event–the signing was happening outside a pub, and across the street, people were getting their pictures taken in quasi-Elizabethan dress. At some point a three-man theater troupe did a fifteen-minute version of Hamlet which was pretty hilarious.
(It was odd, too, because the other play we’ve been to since arriving here was also a literary adaptation where a couple people played all the roles, this time of Pride and Prejudice.)
The last week or so has held a pleasing mix of delights: I am poking away on two short stories at once. I am not sure where either of them is going, but that’s part of the fun. I am back at the mentoring gig as of yesterday and am so glad to have resumed that part of my life and routine. My current Creating Universes students are chatty and engaged, passionate about SF books, and a thoroughgoing delight. I had lunch with Peter Watts yesterday, have hung out with my sister a couple times, and am looking forward to the next ChiZine reading at Augusta House.
There has been lots of yoga, and there will be more tonight.
The coming weekend is a long weekend, just as it is in B.C., and we’re going to check out the Simcoe Day festivities at Fort York, for no better reason than that it’s a ten minute walk from our place.
Happy August, everyone!
Happy news: the construction workers from the other day watched my skunk friend successfully use our improvised bridge to climb out of the fountain. They also told me Animal Control had showed up a short time later, ready to ride to the rescue. I was very pleased to hear it, and was also rather delighted that the bricklaying dudes cared enough to keep an eye on the little guy and update me.
We had a full-on thunderstorm last night, for hours, and it was spectacular. I expected it to be more amazing than watching the heat lightning over the Sierra Nevadas, and it was. I hadn’t expected it to compete with prairie thunderstorms for sheer noise, drama and staying power. But, in fact, it was flashing and booming most dramatically for hours on end.
I couldn’t quite get ’round to looking up how to do a long lightning-catching exposure on my camera–though I will, at some point–but this was one of the many amazing cloud formations we glimpsed while watching it all unfold:
Thunderstorms were one of the things I missed about Alberta, all those years ago when we left. It is extremely nice to have them back.
Our view of the sky is bounded by the courtyard of our building, which gives us a very Rear Window perspective on the nearest neighbors. Last night as we were staring out at the thunder we could see several folks out on their decks, doing the same thing. We can also see straight into the building’s party room, so we were able to watch people setting up for a birthday celebration. It was quite the operation, since they had to ferry stuff in and out of the building in the downpour.
There’s excellent sky and people-watching here, in other words.
When we moved to Toronto I got more diligent about checking in using Yelp, using the app to track the various cafes and restaurants Kelly and I have been trying out. It’s less true now than it was, but in our first few weeks here I was often sitting in a perfectly nice joint with no real clue as to where I was.
photo by Kelly Robson
And then, when I would get the I wanna go back to that place, where was that place? itch, I didn’t have to try to remember its address–which would be impossible. Or even its name–honestly, that’d be pretty unlikely. The incomparable Sense Appeal was, until I looked it up, “that place with the black and white bags that I posted on Instagram.” But I didn’t have to know! I just scrolled through my check-ins until the answer turned up, in red and white, complete with map. Turns out it was less than a kilometer from the house.
I am apparently the only Yelper currently active in the West Queen West area, though. Eight weeks of trying to track my own movements has netted me a handful of Dukedoms, on just about every place I’ve been more than twice. True, I’d been auditioning a lot of coffee houses, looking for the all important remote work site, but still!
Speaking of apps, the one that counts the number of days I’ve been here would also like you all to know it’s 160 days until December 25th.
Toronto seems to have more work-at-cafe culture than Vancouver. A lot of places are jammed with computer-using busy people by as early as ten, and there’s a very serious air about it.
Also, they seem to think you should be tall. One of the reason for all the auditioning was I kept finding perfectly nice places whose tabletops were too high for me to either write long hand or safely type.
Seriously! In the end, I had to go to MEC and buy an inflatable camping pillow. Which I now carry in my portable office along with all my other carp! How crazed is that?
We get our first good look at Andrew, Jonathan and Warren on “Life Serial” this week on the Buffy Rewatch. I call it “World’s Silliest Jobs, Slayer Edition.”
An excerpt: Even the Trio has noticed, by now, that our Slayer’s a bit unfocused.
That doesn’t stop Jonathan from taking up his magic bone and tossing Buffy into a service industry version of the film Groundhog Day. Warren and Andrew are delighted because this gives them a chance to talk about Star Trek: TNG and the X-Files episodes that also riffed on this idea of, as they call it, looping.
On a personal note, yesterday marked my 52nd day in the Toronto version of Chez Dua and the first day when Canada Post actually sent someone to our building with mail. That’s right, folks–I no longer have a two hour round trip to Leslieville each week just to see if RONA has sent me snail spam.
Irrelevant bonus question: can anyone think of a reason why I shouldn’t freeze ricotta for later use?