Two Jeffs & a Raccoon

14 April 2016 – One Jeff (Blackburn) to paint the raccoon; the other Jeff (Phyllis’ husband) to wave a newspaper article at us that includes the raccoon in its street art photos; and, finally, the raccoon himself.

Whose teeth look like this.

detail, Blackburn raccoon, Spadina & Davenport

(That’s a tease. The rest of him comes later. Be patient.)

The Tuesday Walking Society decides there is no way to build a coherent walk route around all the photos, they are too jump-about for that — but we can at least pick a few as the starting point for our next outing.

Which is why we find ourselves walking up Bedford Rd. north from Bloor, heading for a trio of pieces roughly clustered in the Davenport/Dupont/Spadina area.

Aha, we’re not halfway up Bedford Rd. before we make an unscheduled stop in Taddle Creek Park. You really cannot simply walk past something like this.

public art, Taddle Creek Park

I can’t tell you why a pitcher is the chosen adornment, let alone who created it — no signage — but a bit of snooping seems to suggest there is a water outlet inside the pitcher. Maybe it trickles merrily away, all summer long? This demands a revisit!

Bedford is lined with old Victorian homes, most of them restored and/or renovated, and many of them (perhaps most?) still single family dwellings.

Bedford Rd., Victorian housing

Very pretty indeed, and it’s churlish to point out, as I am about to do, that the gas lamp now sports a light bulb. Humph!

The first of the “official” trio of art works we plan to visit (i.e. ones shown in that newspaper article) comes soon afterward, just north of Davenport & Dupont.

Synethesia RR underpass art, looking north from Dupont up Davenport

You with me? I’m showing you Synesthesia, the artwork Paul Aloisi created to cover the walls of this railway underpass, based on his sound recordings of trains passing overhead. And look, there’s even a stationary freight train on the tracks, to get you in the mood. (Do click on that link; you can then click on a video and hear the trains for yourself.)

I decide I like the way the rusty metalwork adds to the total effect.

Synesthesia west wall

We follow Davenport, closing in on that raccoon.

But first, the even bigger landmark that looms over his head: Casa Loma.

This is the Gothic Revival mansion that very-very-rich financier Sir Henry Pellatt decided to have built for his family, a whim that occupied 300 men from 1911 to 1914. And included gold-plated faucets in the adjacent horse stables …

Casa Loma, from Spadina s. of Davenport

Not surprisingly, the building is now a tourist attraction, run by the city.

Back to the raccoon.

He is one of a growing number of traffic signal boxes that are now huge fun, as well as functional, thanks to the attention of local artists. Jeff Blackburn has wonderfully loopy animals all over the city; this guy is just one of them.

Blackburn's raccoon traffici signal box below Casa Loma

Here he is, genus Procyon in all his urban — & artistically enhanced — glory.

Complete with ringed tail.

back view, same box

Also complete with an impatient pedestrian, who wishes the traffic signal box would just do its job, and give her a green light when she wants one.

On we go, still heading west on Davenport, our target now being the retaining wall just to the north on Bathurst.

Bathurst n. of Davenport, west side

It may all be by one hand, I’m not sure about this, but though the images vary widely the style seems consistent. Kind of 1950s cartoon-y. I think.

detail on the Bathurst wall

This suitably alert-looking owl is right next to the command “Despierta” (Wake Up) — you can see the “T” and “A” on the left.

I’m most amused, though, by an obvious interloper on the scene:

detail on the Bathurst wall

Then again, this may only be amusing if you are familiar with “Tout est possible” — a stencilled slogan that pops up around town.

After that, the walk goes downhill.

Literally, as we start south again, following the incline of the city itself toward the lake.

More wandering-around ensues, with the usual latte/americano stop along the way. Our route takes us past Matt Cohen Park at Bloor W. & Spadina, where we admire the stacks of domino sculptures.

in Matt Cohen Park

Perhaps this fine Canadian author (who died far too young) liked to play dominoes?

in Matt Cohen Park

Eventually Phyllis peels off, to catch her subway north. I keep walking — long enough to decide that, yessir, I will walk all the way home.

Finally home, and a peek at my pedometer, which says 14.5 km. That’s not wildly heroic, but I am pleased.


Stones & Street Art

16 March 2016 – I have a mid-afternoon appointment out St. Clair Av. West near Caledonia, & this sets our Tuesday walk direction. North from Yonge & Eglinton, we decide; pick up the Kay Gardiner Belt Line Park somewhere to the west, and keep exploring our way west until we reach Caledonia and can work our way south to St. Clair via Prospect Cemetery.

As it happens, we pretty well start the walk with a cemetery.

stones on a Roselawn Av. cemetery tomstone

Cemeteries, plural. Phyllis guides us to Roselawn Av., which we follow west past a number of Jewish cemeteries, each belonging to a particular congregation or association. I like the tradition of placing pebbles on a tombstone very much — the simplicity and collective beauty of the stones greatly appeal to me.

same tombstone, full length

Phyllis comments on some other cultures with the same tradition; I add the Inuit, remembering a visit to Jessie Oonark’s hilltop gravesite in Baker Lake (now Qamani’tuaq) in Nunavut, where each of us added another pebble as a token of respect.

We walk through a number of the cemeteries. All exude the same air of peace, perhaps due to (or so I personally feel) the lack of fussy adornment.

one of the cemeteries on Roselawn Av

Somewhere around Bathurst, we join the Kay Gardner Belt Line Park, a linear park tracing the route of the one-time railway line serving the city’s earliest suburbs. This photo does justice to the drizzly weather, but not to the Park! It is much more appealing than I make it look …

one access to Kay Gardner Belt Line Park

Big laugh as we cross over the Allen Road. See all the traffic? See those signs on the overpass in the distance? See the one on the right, white letters on a black background?

traffic on the Allen Road

It says, as every traffic-stalled motorist has time to find out: “If you can read this, you should have taken the TTC.” (That’s our public transit system, as you have undoubtedly guessed.)

Some noggin-scratching after that. My increasingly tattered map (Exploring Toronto’s Parks & Trails) shows where we have to swerve a little to stay with the Belt Line, but we can’t quite find the magic connection. Never mind, we console ourselves; we can for sure pick it up again at Dufferin St., where the trail uses an overpass.

And sure enough, we are slightly off-course, and also sure enough, it is easy to set ourselves right at Dufferin. The overpass is close by; its edges brilliantly painted.

Belt Line overpass at Dufferin St.

Up the steps we go, across the overpass we go, and on west.

And soon screech to a halt at Fairmont, where all this trail-side street art smacks us in the eye. Look at that great mad stuff all along the wall, culminating (right) in a huge green Jeff Blackburn tiger …

from Belt Line nr. Fairmont

and around the corner, an Elvis-ish dude with Hawaii in his eyes.

same Fairmont location

Farther west in this tangle of artists and murals, three great ANSER faces dominate a wall.

ANSER plus other art

They completely overshadow, until you come up close, a very amateur but totally charming little canary above the doorway on the left below. Definitely not an UBER canary, no name-brand cachet here, but I think he is wonderful just the same.

no-name canary, same wall

It gets fishy after that …

same Fairmont location

a theme continued with Mr.Happy Croc around the corner.

same location

OK, and also a POSER bunny, not fishy at all. Just goofy as usual, and happy to turn up anywhere.

We walk a whole bunch more, including through Prospect Cemetery as planned — such a contrast to the Jewish cemeteries, with its abundance of wreaths, ornaments & flower baskets.

By the time we hit St. Clair and turn east again, we feel quite virtuous. Finding just the right place for a noon-time snack adds another few kilometres to the walk, allowing for a very respectable total of just over 15 km.

Hurray for us!



    "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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