Here’s a mostly-visual essay. When do we officially declare working-class habitat endangered, anyhow? (Not until it’s utterly extinct?) These were all caught on the fly on my lovely long city walks with Nada.
Gentrification is one of those things that can sometimes be tricky to define – it’s not so much a checklist or formula, as an “I know-it when I see-it” sort of phenomenon, but I think the first photo (same title as the piece) does convey it more simply than anything I’ve managed to put in a frame so far.
A gig’s a gig
How do you get rid of all your stock when you’re already a rock-bottom bargain discount place? Sentiment, if this Bogey-backed business is any indication – this independent shop supplied super-cheap streetwear to the Parkdale set for decades, and sure enough, week on week the locals showed up to help clear them out! Of course, this also means poor Bogey has to hustle another gig.
But at least his fate is less ignoble than that of this plaque, once central to the life of the house now being renovated just behind this dumpster, no doubt for the enjoyment of moneyed hipsters, pioneering the extension of “Liberty” into Parkdale. Curiously, hipsters might very well truly enjoy that plaque, and even it’s specific originality, once they recontextualized it for themselves as vintage kitsch! More poets into construction right away, please! Must close these loops!
San Francesco’s in the eighties
Queen and Bathurst is a weird and wonderful corner – centre of all kinds of action – seedy and sublime. San Francesco’s made legendary sandwiches (and have finally reopened down the block). The Paddock is the bar that gave Oscar Peterson his start – and he returned to play a gig every year for decades afterward as a thank-you, even when the place had turned into a dangerous seedy dive. Also noteworthy – I worked at the next bench to the tech who used to repair some of Oscar Peterson’s electronic keyboards – well built high quality instruments, too. Peterson’s arthritic pain grew great, late in life – but he played right through it – so forcefully that he frequently distorted the metal frames of these keyboards, twisting them to the point where the the keys would bunch-up and stick like tangled typewriter keys!
No – believe me, nobody else we saw in decades of repairs, ever did that to a keyboard by just playing it!
What powers talent at that stratospheric level? SERIOUS willpower.
Same corner now
Ouch! – franchise franchise – ugly ugly. Not so scuzzy I will grant, but no charm at all for whole stretches, thanks to deep-pocket glam purification, which is totally out of place in this funkiest and artsiest of areas (increasingly by ‘lifestyle branding’ of course – since many of the working artists who gave it it’s cool rep were already driven-out by skyrocketing rents, a couple of decades ago).
Bar 682 – 1895
Here’s an example of very gentle gentrification way out on Queen East. Cool businesses that appeal to young customers with enough money to keep the doors open – but the building itself remains intact, and entirely preservable. (After 120 years plus of stalwart endurance, it deserves a shot at remaining it’s essential self, don’t you think?)
I used this phrase some time ago to describe this hollowing-out, false-face pocket-tower insertion process, which is currently happening to some of the niftiest buildings and blocks in the city, and ever since then I have been unable to dislodge it. The results do so often seem essentially undead, too – don’t they? (Is it Zombie-architecture, that’s really got us all into it, subliminally?)
This, I don’t think I need to say, is a sad sight. The Lithuanians (whose hall it long was) in retreat, up past Eglinton – they are still much missed downtown.
Much much more (I fear) to come – inescapably, and soon!