...and as much as the city gives me fits of panic and claustrophobia, it fascinates me. I could never live there (after a few hours of wall-to-wall people I'm ready to get the hell out,) but a visit every three months or so is fun. My favourite part of Toronto is Queen Street. It's all these old buildings stacked up beside each other, in various states of decay/ restoration/ reconstruction and reconstruction. Unique little shops below, funky apartments above. Stuff in windows I never see anywhere else. Old and new, dusty and shiny. It's everything I love about mass groupings of humans- art, creativity, excitement- right beside everything I hate- crowds, filth, noise. It's a jolt of something different and it makes me appreciate the highway drive home through the fields even more.
This morning, as I write this, a whole block of Queen is on fire.
Jethro's on the highway right now on his way into the city for a mixing gig. He hasn't been in the downtown for over a month and this is not a good day for it.
I am relieved to hear that all the residents of those apartments got out alive. That was my worst fear as I listened to the radio this morning. Jethro combed his hair and we listed off all the landmarks on that stretch of street. "Orange Records is down there. Steve's Music. Cameron House."
We were just at Cameron House a few weeks ago for a singer's CD launch. It's amazingly funky- repaired and painted and spackled and dusty velvet curtains stapled over mirrors on the walls. The bathrooms, at the back of the building, have a ceiling height of about 5' 4" and mint green tiles on the walls. I loved it.
I wondered how I'd get out if there was a fire. Jethro doesn't fit through windows as easily as I do. I once watched my dad's garage burn down while firefighters squirted water at it. You don't easily forget something like that. There was a lot more open space between buildings on the farm than there is between city buildings. One pumper truck hosed down our old wood-frame house to keep it from igniting. Our material losses were high that day and could have been a lot worse.
I'm thinking about my favourite store right now. Peach Berserk is not in the same block as the devastating fire, but it's nearby. I love that shop. It's run by an amazing woman, Kingi Carpenter, who started the whole thing by herself twenty years ago. She lives above the shop, which is between Bathurst and Spadina. She made my Johnny hoodie, and the pink tie dyed dress that I wore to the Junos last year and which I plan to wear again in a few weeks. She told me last year while fitting my dress that she loves the friendliness in her little patch of city.
Every time I'm down there, I'm craning my neck to find that little storefront and see what kind of craziness has ended up in the window. Selfishly, I want it to still be there next time I end up there.
So many of these businesses are run by interesting people who live where they work!
**Three buildings on that block have collapsed and the streetscape will be permanently altered by this fire. Now go check your smoke detectors and fire extinguishers.