Toronto, Day 85

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:

High Park, Toronto

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:
All Imported-0

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.

Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto

Mount Pleasant CemeteryMount Pleasant CemeteryMount Pleasant CemeteryMount Pleasant CemeteryMount Pleasant CemeteryMount Pleasant Cemetery
Mount Pleasant CemeteryMount Pleasant CemeteryMount Pleasant CemeteryMount Pleasant CemeteryMount Pleasant CemeteryMount Pleasant Cemetery
Mount Pleasant CemeteryMount Pleasant CemeteryMount Pleasant CemeteryMount Pleasant CemeteryMount Pleasant CemeteryMount Pleasant Cemetery
Mount Pleasant CemeteryMount Pleasant CemeteryMount Pleasant CemeteryMount Pleasant CemeteryMount Pleasant CemeteryMount Pleasant Cemetery

My weekly routine is going to take me past the oldest cemetery in Toronto every Wednesday, and it connects in two directions to parks I want to explore. So you can expect to see more pictures of graves mixed in with the birds.

The epiphany that came yesterday, along with my first decent shots of bluejays and cardinals, is that I like to shoot gravestones because of the part of my writerbrain that is always looking for cool names.

There’s some morbid in there, I’m sure. But if you tap through you’ll also see something genuinely life-affirming: it’s a plot for a couple of married guys, and it made me laugh and then cry.

Toronto Transition, now with more skunk

It’s day fifty-nine of my residency here in Toronto, and the heat has come. Right this second the weather channel claims that it’s 31 degrees and feels like 38. If we had “feels like” in Vancouver, it’s news to me. I am too new at this to mind–I like heat, and since our house has AC I can get out of it whenever I like.

Today on my way home from the cafe I stopped to iPhotograph one of the neighbors, who appeared to be cooling off in a very whimsical garden pond on Tecumseth Street:
Stinky is trapped in the neighbour's fountain. Me and some construction dudes built him a bridge to safety.

It was all very idyllic and summery, despite the slight risk of getting stench-bombed. But by the time I’d taken a few pictures, I’d realized Stinky was actually trapped down there, and trying to reach the rocks so he could get out.

And, you know. OMG. Skunk! I thought: am I really going to do anything about this?

Apparently I am that much of an idiot. I mooched a board from the construction site across the street and risked being made a toxic waste dump to lay it out for the little dude. It was too short. But the construction guys were so nice! They brought me an enormous two-by-four, and watched me set it up for him, and didn’t once put out a “We’re waiting for the physical comedy punchline where you get sprayed” vibe.

After we’d made the improvised bridge, we gave the little guy some privacy. He didn’t seem all that bright, but I figured that at least he had a chance, now, to get out of the water. I sure hope he does, because if I walk past there tomorrow and see his wee floating body, I’ll start pondering whether I need to carry elbow-length leather weasel-wrangling gloves in my writing kit. And probably also cry.

In the meantime, hurrah–I didn’t get sprayed.

Watery Wanderings

The tall ship festival made for a fun morning. It would have been worth it just to finally make it to the shores of Lake Ontario, after five weeks in the city without a glimpse of water. The harbour is very pretty, and I could see Billy Bishop Airport and Toronto or maybe Ward island.

I shot my first Toronto cormorant, paddling in the fresh water:

My first #toronto cormorant. In fresh water and everything!

The ships were fun to tour. I didn’t pick up anything I hadn’t learned on my day sail with S.A.L.T.S., but I did learn about an organization called Sisters Under Sail, and am contemplating whether my next research sail might be with them. In the meantime, I’ve bought their T-shirt.

“The Sweet Spot” reprint and a shot of Grandma

My short story “The Sweet Spot,” which appeared in Lightspeed Magazine last year, Imaginarium 2013: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing

Though I have only just started to recover from the blast out to Edmonton, I am headed with Kelly to Montreal this weekend. The last trip wasn’t a pleasure cruise, obviously, but this is–we’re going to see friends. I haven’t been to Montreal since, I think, the 2001 World Fantasy Con. I am looking forward to being there again, with savvy local guides no less!

And, in the spirit of three things make a post – a lot of pictures of Grandma Joan are coming my way and then getting uploaded to the Pham album on my Flickr account. Here’s one by Paul McNie that I think is especially nice.
Joan Ryks-Huffman