Into the Multicultural Garden

3 April 2014 — Better known as Danforth Avenue, and it’s not until the Tuesday Walking Society alights at the Victoria Park subway station that we read the message and learn the phrase.

But I get ahead of myself. Before I can join Phyllis on the Bloor subway line for our ride east, I have to walk up to Bloor St., don’t I? And on the way, I’ll explore alleys, won’t I?

The first bit of amusement is pre-alley, I’m still at Gerrard E. & Seaton. Big, bold mural art echoing the music studio inside. I’ve seen it often, still get a kick out of it, so here’s a look for you.

Last post, piano keys; this time, brass.

music studio, Gerrard & Seaton

I dive into Woodward Evans Lane, no alley art, but a deft touch on the otherwise-drab protective pole where this lane joins Central Hospital Lane:

Woodward Evans & Central Hospital lanes

I pass a generously tattooed young woman walking her dog. I know the extent of the tattooing because — brave young thing that she is, or perhaps just totally fed to the teeth with winter — she is in shorts, with an open jacket over a scoop-neck T-shirt. Dog poops, she scoops; you don’t have to be middle-aged & plain-vanilla to respect the environment. Yay her.

Lots of residential life, back here in Central Hospital Lane. As I take this next photo, a young man emerges from a neighbouring doorway, carefully adjusts his bike helmet, hops aboard & pedals away.

in Central Hospital Lane

This is a bit reminiscent of an alley intersection I showed you in my previous post. I’m getting into these unadorned, back-lane streetscapes. I like the textures, the angles, the colours smudged & battered by time.

Then a laugh. I’m used to rude Rob Ford stencil art around town, here’s some Stephen Harper (our prime minister) for you.

PM Stephen Harper stencil art

Yes indeed-y, those in power will have a quieter life if the rest of us are quiet too.

A final bit of back-alley streetscape (in a different alley) before I rejoin Sherbourne and enter the subway station at Bloor. Big contrast with the look & mood of those earlier alleys.

Out on Sherbourne, the boarded up front façades at least have bright product & performance posters all over them to give the appearance of life and cheer. Here, behind the scenes, the buildings are literally falling apart as they await demolition.

behind Sherbourne nr Bloor E

Then into the subway station, where by luck I position myself in exactly the right spot on the platform. A train pulls in, Phyllis jumps off, grabs my elbow and we — zip! — hop aboard again before the doors can close.

We dismount ‘way east at Victoria Park, where we’ll hit the street and start walking back west.

This station is where we meet the “multicultural garden.” These are the final words in a long message above the tiled artwork of a huge tree, its roots, trunk and branches filling one entire stairwell, bottom to top, side to side.

Toronto, a city where those with diverse roots can grow and intermingle into a complex and exciting multicultural garden.

I’m not totally wowed by the phrasing & syntax, but I love the message.

It reflects the circular tile artwork on platform walls, where the word “welcome” appears in more languages than I can count, let alone recognize, and again in the “roots” artwork just outside the station door by the bike racks.

multicultural tree, Vic Park subway station

And so we head west, into the multicultural garden. All the way back, street signs support the promise of that message. (I would not have been so acutely aware of the mix, but for the message.)

First up…

Danforth shop nr Vic Park

Heavily Bangladeshi here, but not uniquely. Soon, this…

carpet shop, with hookahs, Danforth

Such a rotten photo! Please enjoy the content and forgive the presentation. This is just one of a whole multitude of carpet stores along the Danforth, this one — for reasons best known to the shop-keeper — featuring hookah pipes as well.

We pass Gerry’s Newfoundland Corner, are disillusioned to see nothing particularly Newfie about the handwritten menu in the window, and I take no photo.

Then this plaque.

maple tree plaque, Danforth Av

It’s on the wall of a clothing/accessories store, where we’ve just admired some very handsome purses hand-stitched in India.

There’s no sign of a maple tree along the street. We peer down the narrow slice of alley between this building and its neighbour. Ummm…. there’s a big, raggedly pruned tree at the back, but deciduous, so no leaves to help us decide if this is the maple that the community managed to save, 15 years ago.

Some blocks on, we dive into a baking-accessories store, with all the types of pans you could imagine and every other tool and gadget. Phyllis is an amazing baker, she knows what she’s looking at and strokes some of the items very appreciatively indeed. I am charmed by the variety and quantity, and the dedication of the store-owner to this one specialized category of the cooking arts.

She’s a lively young Oriental woman, but there’s nothing particularly oriental about the store, except this, next to the cash register…

in a bakery accessory shop, Danforth Av

I take a moment to read the card on the cash register If you want to use a credit card, you have to spend at least $20. A debit card? Easy-peasy, anything north of 10 cents.

Farther west again, ick-yikes, all the creepy-crawlies that can attack you and your home. An exterminator has samples of their destruction (e.g. a wooden beam, post-termite) in his window, plus images of the critters themselves. For example…

an exterminator's window, Danforth Av

Enough of all that, one last shudder & we move on, back to the varied delights of the multicultural garden.

on Danforth Av

This reminds me of a TV documentary I saw about the yearly championships, held of course in Ireland, but featuring troupes from all over the world. I was intent on the music and dance, but learned a lot as well, on the way through.

I’m still telling Phyllis about the doc when we almost trip over this invitation…

on Danforth Av

… but we don’t succumb. We walk on, walk on, and finally reward ourselves with sensational coffee & treats at Leonidas, corner of Pape.

Then, warmed & treated, we head onward & home.

Speaking of Coffee

The F’Coffee photo last time, even with my arch reference to “final pronounced vowels,” managed to remain a mystery for some of my readers — all with as many brains as I have, but obviously with fewer rude words in their vocabularies. So. Delete the “ee” and pronounce what’s left. There.


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  1. I always look forward to your ‘diary’ about your walks in Toronto with photos and words.
    Do you ever wonder whether a mass clean up of neglected shops etc. would solve some habitation problems?

    • Thank you, your interest is a real delight to me. And yes, of course I wish there were some way to transform disused facilities for the benefit of those who need them. I suspect a lot of obstacles (not all of them silly politicking) stand in the way of massive transformations, so I take great joy in the projects that seem to work quite well. The redevelopment of nearby Regent Park is one example.


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    "Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking" -- Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

    "The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes" -- Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

    "A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities" -- Rebecca Solnit, "Wanderlust: A History of Walking"

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