Urban Landscapes

The city seems empty this Saturday. The streets look sleepy when I leave home in the morning and venture out to one of the new trendy neighbourhoods downtown. Not completely gentrified yet, with plenty of rough edges to mark that it’s still in the process of transition. The little art galleries seem to be closed – owners gone away for the long weekend. Clothing stores that carry French labels, remind me of stuff Isabelle Huppert might wear. I’m a Francophile at heart.

People hanging out in open restaurants, parents teaching kids how to ride a bike, old timers looking for a handout.

I walk to Dundas West and start walking towards downtown. I love the side green streets with names that evoke old Toronto – Beatrice, Roxton. Houses that are fixed up and full of life. Not like where I live. There you see beautifully maintained houses, but you rarely see their occupants. It’s extreme cocooning – from the house to the car, to the cottage. No street life.

Dundas West has plenty of street life. People shoot the breeze, slow down to talk to each other. A young couple walking ahead of me stops in front of a store with retro stuff. They admire a black and white photograph in the window, a man walking on Broadway circa 1940s. I notice how comfortable they are with each other, interested in each other’s stories. Beginnings.

I get closer to Kensington Market. Korean and Vietnamese signs everywhere, lost in translation world. Then I see a long, low building, all glass. It’s shaped like a canoe or a whale maybe. I get closer and finally recognize the AGO. I usually see it from a different vantage point and miss the shape that you see when you are further away, not entering the building, but approaching it. Frank Gehry understood the street vibe, how to insert the Canadian sensibility into the multicultural mosaic.

I finish my walk on Bloor Street. Among all the upscale bullshit, a one-man band – cymbals attached to his feet, harmonica, guitar. He is singing “Tennessee Waltz”. Looks like what Hank Williams might have looked if he made it to his sixties. Lean, lived-in face. The tourists stop and listen.

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