Honorary Tuesday (Still)

7 March 2018 – Oh, the magic of the Present Historical Tense. Or, the Willing Suspension of Disbelief. Or whatever you want to call the fact that we are happily pretending we are still in the middle of the walk I began describing in my previous post.

So. We have lunch. Then — once again as so often before — we begin a zigzaggy sort of walk north/west-ish, heading toward our respective homes.

We hit Dundas St. East. And the intersection of Craven Road.

Yes! We must revisit Craven Road!  The question that sends our legs north: Is any art still left on the Longest Wooden Fence in Toronto?


I blogged about Craven Rd. while living in Toronto — most recently in March 2015 — celebrating its superlatively tiny homes & its superlatively long wooden fence in the stretch between Dundas & Gerrard.

Very short & inadequate fence explanation (see that March 2015 post for more): in 1910 or so, the City hived off the back portion of a north-south road; threw up a wooden fence along one side; and hey-presto, the humble little houses that once crouched in the back yards of that other street now had a street of their very own. Craven Road.

The fence is still there. So is the line-up of homes opposite.

When we first began visiting the street in 2013, a great long stretch of the fence was covered in wonderful art work, much of it by Toronto artist Christine Kowal. The pieces were already showing signs of wear, and  grew more and more tattered with the snow and rain of each passing year.

Which made me love them more and more, for their resilience. (I know. Hopelessly anthropomorphic.)

Now, in 2018, we pounce on survivors with delight. Look! there’s that black & white cat …

and that ginger cat …

and those very silly sheep.

We’ve come to the end of the old survivors.

And that’s when we see there is new artwork on the fence. Very different style & mix, but in the same spirit. The Craven Road Art Fence lives on.

We see this perhaps explanatory plaque, tucked just below a leaping golden fish.

I’d missed that, in the hurly-burly of my own 2016 … How wonderful to catch up with it now.

The closer you get, the more detail there is to enjoy.

For example, not just a teapot next to a child’s story book. Not just a child’s story book with a drawing of a pussy-cat. Not just the drawing of a pussy-cat with a cut-out where the head should be … but …

all that, plus a stuffed mouse head, to complete the cat.

Well, of course.

And look, there’s one of those plastic humanoid knife-rests. Devoid of knives, but equipped with footwear.

Also equipped with a guiding philosophy: “Don’t let yesterday use up too much of today.”

Respectful nod at the philosophy; big laugh when we turn to look again at the homes opposite. Many are still the modest ones of early days, but some — like this one — are in full gentrified splendour.

Endearing thing is, this home (unlike some of its nouveaux neighbours) joins in the larky art-spirit of the street, with its very own blackboard.

Spring? I don’t think so, my friend.

Just a couple of degrees above freezing that day and, as I write this in real-today time, still just a couple of degrees with the promise of more snow.

Meanwhile, in Vancouver …  No. Let’s not think about that.







Tattered Cats & Glorious Weeds

12 March 2015 – With a big splash in between: Cats – SPLASH – weeds. Like that.

Except it begins with a musical fence.

lane s. of RR tracks leading to Craven Rd.

The Tuesday  Walking Society is out in full force once again, that’s two bodies & four (count ’em) healthy knees. Hurray! Welcome back, Phyllis.

So we are celebrating, both good health & above-zero weather with sun. The vague plan is to walk south on Coxwell all the way from the Danforth subway station to the lake, & see what happens next. We are soon diverted. Just south of the RR tracks, we suddenly remember that if we deke up those tiny steps, & follow that tiny lane at train-track edge, we’ll come to Tiny Town.

The musical fence is on the lane along the train tracks; Tiny Town is around the corner, under its official name of Craven Rd. It consists of tiny homes (under 46 sq metres) on one side and the city’s longest wooden fence on the other. See?

Craven Rd., looking south from immediately south of the RR tracks

Start of the 20th c., people on Ashdale Av. to the west began taking advantage of their extra-deep lots by allowing very small homes to be built at the eastern end. Land squabbles soon followed, are you surprised? In 1910 the City severed the land, built a wooden fence along the now-truncated Ashdale properties and beyond that a narrow road — Craven Rd. — for those back-yard houses that finally had a street of their very own.

We start down the street, eyeing the fence. We are indifferent to its much-quoted status as “the city’s longest wooden fence” (alas, no numbers are ever attached to the claim). Our interest is artistic.

Will it still be the city’s longest wooden fence outdoor art gallery?

We first discovered the art in November 2013 and I blogged about it then — some works signed, some anonymous, and nothing to explain how the tradition arose. Now we are hoping that the tradition continues.

It does!

Craven Rd fence art, north of Queen

More trees follow …

Craven Rd fence art

… and then a painting I admired hugely in 2013: Very Tattered Cat. Tattered even then, but indomitable. Even more tattered now, even more (in my besotted eyes) wonderful.

on the Craven Rd fence

Another cat nearby, one we don’t remember from 2013, not as tattered but equally full of attitude.

on Craven Rd fence

So that’s good, we’ve had our Craven Rd. fix, and from Queen St. East we walk on south to the lake. We hear sirens a few times en route, don’t think much of it — big city, sirens, there you go. Then, in Ashbridge’s Bay, we see they have all congregated right here in the parking lot: fire, police, ambulance, the works.

Meanwhile, nothing but wintery peace along Lake Ontario. Semi-exposed boardwalk, snow fences & snow, ice, open water beyond the ice, and one woman striding by on her cross-country skis, oblivious to the excitement.

XC skiing along Lake Ontario, nr Ashbridge's Bay

Phyllis & I are not oblivious, our eyes are huge & our ears flapping for information. By now the event causing the excitement — the big SPLASH — is over and the hero, the passerby who called 911 & first tried to help, is being interviewed by local news teams.

Somebody had been silly enough to walk his dog out onto the now-rotting ice on the lake. They both fell through. A passing policeman tells us they will be fine, but we care only about the dog. Shame on that stupid man, endangering his dog like that.

I query Phyllis about her knee; she replies it is behaving itself. We walk east along Queen, eventually stop in a pretty shop called Bobette & Belle that promises “artisanal pastries,” and — after suitable taste tests — agree their wares are very good indeed. There’s even a free recipe on the wall.

Bobette & Belle, 1121 Queen St. East

Phyllis eventually puts her knee aboard a passing streetcar. I hoof on, pausing briefly for a cherub on a door whose surroundings do not suggest a likely home for cherubim.

Wicked Club, coming to Queen S. E.

Nor is it. The grand-opening notice advertises a “sophisticated hedonistic” private club. It’s their description & you must take it on faith — not being a member, I can’t access any part of the website that might irrefutably support the claim.

Don’t care. I’m off to see a Golden Girl. A sophisticated, hedonistic golden girl, I dare add.

Like Tattered Cat on Craven Rd., she too has adorned her wall (this one just N/W of Sherbourne & Queen) for quite a while, and I’m as fond of her as I am of the cat.

laneway wall behind 332 Queen E.

Let’s pretend she is pointing to weeds. In another month or two, she undoubtedly will be; at the moment, this calls for an electronic leap of the imagination.

Glorious Weeds

Thanks to my dear friend DJ for the link, whose recommendations are always worth following. She is not just DJ, she’s Dr. DJ, as in Doctor-of-Ethnobotany DJ, so she knows her plants and she knows her weeds.

She also knows art, and when the two collide, she spreads the news.

Chapeau to San Francisco artist Mona Caron!



    "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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