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01/21/2005: "Crowning Toronto in free and easy negative twenty"

Tonight six of us started at Coxwell Station. All's well that's Coxwell. There is a little pedestrian passage that you can take from the subway exit down to the Danforth. It runs along this little greasy spoon that plays Chet Baker and has posters of films like Double Indemnity. Laurel and I went in because I saw an espresso machine so I asked the waitress for an Americano to go and she said "what's that" and I explained it was like a rather long espresso and she said she'd give it a shot and she did (cautioning me that they use Guatemalan beans while also turning to some of the guys sitting at the bar asking if they’d ever heard of it – one guy nodded then gave me a dirty look) and it was pretty good and only $1 so I gave her $2 because even with this tip it was still cheaper than Starbucks type places and, well, just as good. It made me feel foolish, but over in the West End where I am mostly, it's hard to see these sorts of places through all the Second-Letteri-Bucks on every corner.

So, we went south on Coxwell under the GO Train tracks (by the running track where Laurel was chased by East End Teens one night while jogging), through some ravines and some back yards and some school yards. We found a stream that sort of started in the side of the hill, flowed for a 100 meters or so, then disappeared into a hole that was surrounded by chain link fence. The neat thing about being outside in -20C temperatures is the feeling of isolation, and insulation from everybody else. It's like all of a sudden there is this liberty to travel where you want, because nobody will be out stopping you. Though I had a thick parka on, I felt freer walking tonight than I do in the summer.

We zigzagged down to Coxwell and Queen and further south past Eastern Avenue and walked over the open ground of the sewage treatment plant. It stunk a bit, and out there in the open the wind was quite painful and our skin was hurting, but we wanted to walk up to the Crown. It looks like it's floating on water, and the lower half is a reflection. I think the Mayor should live in there though. It would be perfect.

TorontoCrown (47k image)

I ran up to it. It looked warm. It wasn't, but up close it is just as impressive as when viewed from a distance. It seems impenetrable. It reminds me of this round church in Malta. I took this picture in December of 2003 while driving around in my dad's Toyota Corolla. I drove his car a lot, exploring, listening to his tapes. Usually Aretha Franklin, playing her "Do right woman, do right man" over and over - especially the first afternoon I took out his car alone, driving on the left hand side for the first time, in a tshirt, in the late afternoon warm December sun setting in the southwest over Algeria or Morocco. Most Maltese churches are the traditional limestone ornate Catholic deals - but there are a few modern ones, including this one. Not at all oppressive looking (except for whatever Catholic baggage you want to attach to it), it sits alone on top of a hill, surrounded by little cactus plants, designed by Maltese architect Richard England who has built a bunch of modern stuctures on the island using traditional materials like limestone. Unlike the Toronto Crown or England's structure, the round Maltese church looms like a Third World megaproject from the 1960s. I believe this one was built around then, when the Maltese Labour Government was in power (who led the somewhat anti-western struggle for an independent Malta much more than the pro-British, more conservative Nationalist party), and at a time when big projects were so much a part the colonial de-colonization experience around the world. Though the church was certainly not a government project, it's something about the building materials that makes me think Aswan High Dam or some such civil engineering beast. Why Canada's shaking off of the colonial shackles didn't produce the same sort of architecture, I don't know. Maybe I'm just fond of our brutalism because it reminds me of Trudeau. I wish we had more of these hot little crowns lying around Toronto.

Replies: 2 Comments

on Friday, January 21st, Pascal said

It was a very nice walk. Very cold, but not enough to stop anything, if you really wanted to do something. It brought back memories of when I was about 10 or so, and my mom would take us to Ste. Ambroise (which is a very small town in the Saguenay Lac Saint-Jean area). We would spend all our holidays from school there, and my brother and I would leave real early in the morning to go out and explore the woods and river that ran near my uncle and aunt's potato farm. It was like minus 30 or even 40 sometimes. But we would dress for it, and be out there until lunch time.

We would spend up to three months there during the summer break. We'd work on the farm in the morning, and after we'd go swim in the river, or build skateboard or BMX jumps that we'd play with for days. I'm pretty sure I had a mullet then. It was a wonderful place to be at--far away from my Ottawa home, but called it home too. We were there every year. My uncle was the region's head potato and forest conservation dude. He has a greaser / 50's look. My aunt has this perma-dyed golden hair. A total sweetheart. They are celebrating some significant wedding anniversary this summer. We should all go. It's well worth the (many many) hour drive. I could translate. -P

on Saturday, January 22nd, Laura said

I really like that photo of the brutal crown, Shawn.

I've been liking Robarts Library lately. It probably helps that I don't have to go there so often any more. Its just so monolithic it demands attention, and then I guess once it has my attention I start thinking of all those late late nights, or days looking for books on the 11th floor and feeling faint and dizzy in the stacks. Both very heavy, blah feelings that match the building. But it also glows very nicely at times.

All that can be found anywhere can be found in Toronto.
-Victor Hugo, with some liberty and paraphrase.

headshot (14k image)

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