Snap-Happy on Queen

23 April 2017 – I’m still swooning around Toronto, noticing things with a keener eye now that I shall not be living here & therefore can no longer take them for granted.

During this walk along Queen St. West, for example — nothing capital-S Significant, but all quietly significant to me.

Garage art down Cayley Lane just south of Grange Park, for example …

the garage door bright & probably fairly recently painted, but just one component in a total “urban installation” that also includes a scrawled-upon fence, some older low-level brick attached homes, & a soaring new glass condo tower as well.

Back onto Queen, over to Peter St., and yes! that funny frieze of street art still decorates one top edge of the corner brick building that, at street level, has long housed the Peter Pan Bistro.

Another bit of familiar street art in this neighbourhood, over by Soho: the dead tree stump that Elicser turned into street-sculpture years ago, and still refreshes from time to time.

I always look for the latest version — and this time literally clap my hands in delight.  Construction is underway right next to the sidewalk, and each city tree is carefully boxed, to prevent damage.

So is Elicser’s “tree”!

I love it, I love it.

Eyes up, more high-level artwork, this one new to me.

Low-level now, and why do I show it to you?

It’s vandalized, dirty, & the relic of another technological time.

Well I don’t know, but it snags my attention even so, there’s something about a phone-shape sculpture to encase a phone, even if only the smallest fragments of the physical phone still exist.

Exuberance & jollity a bit farther west, over by Spadina. Not new, but always delightful.

It’s another mad exercise in geometry & spatial relationships, courtesy of Birdo.

I veer left (south, that is) into Rush Lane, aka Graffiti Alley; also aka Rant Alley, since this is where CBC-TV’s Rick Mercer famously films his rants. (South of Queen, parallel to Queen, roughly between Portland & Spadina, if you want to visit it yourself.)

Year over year, the artwork morphs & evolves, coming & going, some images untouched, others repainted, yet others palimpsest. I’ve been here lots, it is slightly different every time. And … or … what I happen to notice is slightly different every time.

I’ve seen this doorway Poser bunny before, of course, but today I take near-curatorial delight in its “installation”: neatly tucked into its own niche, framed all around by other murals, with a final visual/spatial punch from the indigo wheelies.

Queen St. again, and sidewalk signs. This one is out of date, but it startles me into hiccupping giggles, even so.

One more sign.

Not for a café, as you will immediately appreciate. It’s for a denim shop — what’s more, for the best denim shop in the city. Says the website. (Their Vancouver website makes the same claim.)

First, I pick up on the pun.

Then I pick up on the skinny jeans [sic] walking into frame, right on cue.

Magic, Reality, & the Meaning of Life

30 January 2017 – There it is, the meaning of life, aero-sprayed on an alley doorway.

But that comes last, an editorial gloss on my discoveries in this dogleg alley, just south-west of College & Spadina, wandering my way into Kensington Market territory.

I’m in the alley by whim (as I so often am), a momentary detour as I walk home from a Hot Docs presentation of Gabo, an extraordinarily moving & informative documentary about the life & impact of Gabriel García Márquez.

Given the evocative brew of magic & reality in which I have just been immersed, I am perfectly happy to be welcomed into the alley by a pair of very large bunny-rabbits.

Poser bunnies, alley between Oxford & Nassau, S/W of College & Spadina

Poser‘s work, of course.

I notice, too, the neat message (by another hand, I think) in the upper left corner: “Tante Terri, stay strong!” The bunnies are magic, the message is a sliver of someone’s reality.

I barely have time to think about this; I become aware of the growing decibel level of a background voice, clearly drawing closer. I also become aware of a … well … a sound. Hard to define.

Until I look over my shoulder, to see that it is a tire-turned-hoop, rolling merrily in my direction as man-behind-the-hoop yips with delight.

same alley

I yip, too. How could you not?

‘Round the bend in the dogleg, into the public parking segment, & I muse at Lovebot & ANSER, up there with the parking rules & regs.

Muse at the remnants of the artists’ work, perhaps? A very partial little Lovebot, up high, and just the one element of the famous ANSER face below. Did he, or someone else, reduce it to eyes? I think of eyes framed by a veil, with a bindi in-between.

Lovebot & Anser, same alley

Or maybe I’m making far too much of it all. Still, that’s art at its best, right? Art that sets you musing, interacting.

Enough musing; time to laugh.

And what better stimulus than a shocking-pink Poser bunny.

Power-cum-Chagall, same alley

There he is, floating over the city. I think of Marc Chagall’s Over Vitebsk — only a 21-st-c. street artist version, armed with spray-can not knapsack — & I start to giggle.

All this, packed into such a small space!

Everything so unexpected, so engaging, that this final image, as I leave the alley, offers the perfect philosophic framework for it all.

same alley

Meanwhile, Mr. Man With Hoop is still rolling his hoop. We cross paths again as I head out to Spadina. A final shared laugh, a final thumb’s-up, and I’m gone.



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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