TORONTO has long been a city of novelists, poets, playwrights, old bookstores, writer’s fests, poetry slams and devoted readers. One of my favourite literary corners is the Glen Road wooden footbridge – its parkette and birdhouse dedicated to MORLEY CALLAGHAN (1903-1990), our country’s ‘Chekhov’. He authored 18 novels and 100 short stories about Canadians – most of them set in the city – and often appeared on radio and television.
MORLEY CALLAGHAN moved to Rosedale’s Dale Avenue in 1951, after living in Paris and New York City, and mixing with the literati of the day. Almost daily, he and his wife (Loretto Dee) and faithful dog (Nikki) crossed the wooden bridge; then he crossed with just the dog; then alone until his death in 1990. The Footbridge (B & W PHOTO – as it was in 1880-90) spans Rosedale Valley Drive, a branch of TORONTO’s ravine system. It links posh Rosedale with not-quite-so-posh St. Jamestown.
The large-scale photographic mural BELOW is by Scott McFarland – Corner of the Courageous, Repatriation Ceremony for Sergeant Martin Goudreault, Grenville St., Toronto, Ontario, June 9th, 2010. McFarland creates a portrait of a repatriation ceremony for a fallen Canadian soldier returning home to Canada after being killed while on active duty in Afghanistan. A composite digital technique enables the artist to document a complete view of the scene.
“I.T.”, a 40 foot tall sculpture made from 10,000 pounds of steel, sits astride one of the entrances to the Distillery District. It was shipped here in 2009 after an appearance at the Burning Man Festival in Black Rock City, Nevada. At Burning Man, up to a dozen people at a time were allowed inside its head, which rotated, shooting a bright spotlight from its red oscillating eye. Michael Christian: “Having people in it I thought would take on a different feeling. So it wasn’t just meant to be a giant insect, it was meant to show that people were driving the machine, they were the brains of it. It changes the dynamic once you remove the people.”In the Distillery District, surrounded as it is by condominiums, the eye-beam has been disconnected, and the head is off limits, but this is the “Frozen North” not Black Rock City. BELOW – another Distillery District sculpture, “Still Dancing”, by Dennis Oppenheim, 2009.
SPADINA is a schizo street if ever there was one.Once the centre of Jewish life in TORONTO, home of the (fast disappearing) Garment District, delis, tailors, bookstores, cinemas, Chinese markets and restaurants, the University of Toronto, upscale art galleries, excellent restaurants, old brick warehouses, Cinecycle, tattoo parlours, hat shops, Grossman’s Tavern, the El Mocambo, Kensington Market, the Underground Cinema, a backpacker’s hotel, outlet stores, fur stores, Rush Lane, bridal shops, a streetcar line, and booze cans – old SPADINA pretty well has it all.