Up, Down, & Straight Ahead

19 September 2014 — Once the whole city is your art installation, then any direction you look adds more to the exhibit.

Under that Queen St. West scaffolding, I first look up, & catch the joke of construction worker boots striding across Heel Boy! (last post). Then I look straight ahead, and take in this Elicser mural on the community centre wall.

Elicser mural, Queen West near Gore Vale

I’ve seen it before, & noted the haunted quality of the faces, typical of Elicser’s work. Now, framed by scaffolding, they take on a caged look as well. It makes me somehow, just a little, uneasy. (A friend and I later discuss how much influence context can have on the way we interpret an image.)

The uneasiness disappears as soon as I look across the street and up. ‘Way up, to that level where jagged rooftops allow artists to play peek-a-boo with their street-level audience.

She looks delightfully free & happy, don’t you think?

Queen West nr Euclid

The next up-image is almost at Bathurst St., where my eyes rise above both streetcar & Tim Hortons signage (how iconic can we be), and snag upon … Law Bird.

Queen W at Bathurst

Well, that’s my nickname for this recognizable bird. (Alas, I don’t yet know the artist — somebody please tell me.) The bird is pretty well the same each time, but his message varies. First time I saw him, he said: “I fought the law, and won!” Hence the nickname. Here, with “a criminal mind,” I suppose you could say he is still on a legal theme.

Next, straight ahead, on my side of Queen St., a bird of a different feather.

In fact, not a bird at all. It’s a cat.

Um, a dog?

cat-dpg "animal project, Queen West

What do you think? Your choice may or may not say something profound about your personality, but the creators of this doorway don’t care — they just want you to consider the question. They also announce this is part of some “animal project” that they don’t further define. Not that I can see, anyway. Looking for more information causes me to look down, read their sidewalk billboard — and notice a bowl of water. Passing dogs will surely notice it as well.

I cross Bathurst, keep heading east on Queen, look up and see this trio of rooftops. It’s always worth looking above the Plastic Line — i.e. the base level of modern store-fronts, the urban equivalent of a ship’s waterline — to see what heritage architecture may still linger, and whisper a story from the past.

I find this story … poignant.

Queen West at Portland St.

How lovely these buildings once were! The lines so graceful, the slatework so nicely defined, the ornamental ironwork a delicate final touch. Now, remnants only.

But it’s all right. I honour the glimpse, take a moment to hope that someone buys the trio in time to restore them, but recognize they may fall and other things arise. Some of which I’ll like, some not, and it’s all part of the necessary energy of change.

And that is only is a moment’s reflection, because then I look straight ahead, literally straight ahead of me on the sidewalk, and see this young couple striding along. The first thing I notice is the tracery of her tattoo, how it curves perfectly up her neck.

on Queen West nr Augusta

Only after do I take in the whole picture, and find it all so pleasing. I like the simplicity, the fresh energy, and the harmony. These young people are — literally! — in step with each other, and their day.

Soon I’m at Queen West & John Street, and look down — both metaphorically (down = south) & literally (below eye level).

I don’t know, until I read the poster, that I’ve come upon the John St. Pedestrian Initiative. I just think I’ve stumbled on three really swell Muskoka chairs, all slicked up for some happy cause.

John St. Pedestrian Initiative, at Queen W

Aren’t they fun? Wouldn’t you like to drop your bottom into one of them, and snuggle in for a while?

This is exactly the point of the Initiative, I discover — claiming some of the road to provide space for pedestrians to relax and enjoy their surroundings. Which, when I look straight ahead along the line, is exactly what people are doing.

John St. between Queen & Richmond

I cock my head at all that, and think, “Well, that’s it for today.” I know a suitable Final Image when I see it …

… and, for many blocks after, my camera sits in my pocket. My fingers don’t even itch.

Then, up on Dundas St. by now, near Sherbourne, I look straight ahead, and dig into my pocket one more time.

Dundas St. East, nr Sherbourne

Daddy is bringing his little boy home from school. It would be an endearing sight anyway, but what really touches me is that shiny new backpack. New school year, new supplies, new hopes & plans.

I hope this child has a wonderful school year, full of discoveries & delight.

Previous Post
Leave a comment


  1. Ah, yes, context can be eye opening! Ha! I personally love the picture of all the people sitting in Muskoka chairs in the middle of the city. And I completely agree about the young woman’s tattoo! Lovely walk!

    • It was mid-TIF & I think a lot of them were resting between movies, checking movie skeds, sucking coffee to stay awake for the full cine-marathon etc.

  2. Another great walk through your eyes – enjoying your city as art installation theme. Liking your people shots and glad you took your camera out for that final delightful vignette!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


    "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"

  • Recent Posts

  • Walk, Talk, Rock… B.C.-style

  • Post Categories

  • Archives

  • Blog Stats

    • 89,292 hits
  • Since 14 August 2014

    Flag Counter
  • Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,645 other followers

%d bloggers like this: