Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Scintilla Day 6, on Day 7, skipping Days 4 and 5 because I'm badass like that

That's right. I'm knocking my Scintilla experience even further askew. 

2. Write about a chance meeting that has stayed with you ever since.

After I finished my Master's Degree but before I figured out what to do next, we moved to Toronto for Matt's first job. We didn't have a lot of money, and the place we found was great - the main floor of a house lovingly refinished by a really great contractor who we became friendly with - but in a sort of crappy part of town. Which was fine - we were youngish and had no kids and I never actually felt unsafe. We just said we lived in a full-service neighbourhood - you could get a gyro, a joint and a blowjob without having to walk more than a block in any direction.

We had a little truck that Matt used to go to work every day, so I took the subway or walked everywhere. Our front door was only two houses away from Dundas West, which I would walk down pretty much every day, to the No Frills for groceries, to the laundromat to wash clothes, or the used bookstore where I bought used stamps that I made art with. 


Is it proper to call them chance meetings when I was basically assured of at least one a week? Sometimes I felt like Alice in Wonderland, except the Cheshire Cat and Tweedledee probably didn't smell like curry, or urine. There was Isaac from Trinidad who I bought fiery-spiced Caribbean chicken from on Fridays until he disappeared, then one day I heard him yelling at me from the other side of the street telling me to come see him at his new location. I went in and his mother-in-law gave me a free coffee, which I don't drink, and while I choked it down to be polite we talked about religion and Leo Buscaglia all afternoon. Isaac said I had run across his head the other night, and when I raised my eyebrows and looked questioningly at his wife she said "he means he dreamed about you". Okay then. When Matt  husband got up for work the next morning I was still awake reading. He told me not to drink the coffee the next time.

There was the girl with the fabulous long curly hair I always ran into at the laundromat. She would turn the tv on to music videos and sing note-perfect Shania Twain songs with an admirable lack of self-consciousness.

There was the guy in biker boots and chains and leather leaning on the mailbox. "Excuse me, " I said. "Yes?" he smiled politely. "Oh - I meant literally excuse me, I just need to mail something." He moved aside and said "oh - I thought maybe we were going to have an adventure", which made me think "oh....wait....damn." It was probably just as well - I was mailing my wedding invitations.

There was the blind woman who was walking in front of me and suddenly stopped and asked no one in particular "didn't there used to be a restaurant around here? I can't smell it", and took my arm agreeably while I led her to the nearest restaurant I knew of and she ascertained whether they had the kind of soup she wanted before going in.

There were other, less agreeable encounters, and I don't really feel like talking about them now, so I won't.

I knew that I didn't really want to raise kids there - there were crackhouses within spitting distance and if there was nothing on tv you could usually watch a takedown out the back window. The guy in the house behind us put out a bunch of furniture he said he was going to sell, but he didn't cover it, and this is Canada - we get weather. Some guy wandered around for two hours one very early morning yelling out that someone had stolen his hat and sounding genuinely grieved about it. My husband and I grew up in the suburbs, and we just weren't hip enough to have kids on the rough edge of downtown Toronto. But I think of the hilarious interactions that could have occurred walking down that street with small Angus or Eve, the way they always greeted everyone with genuine interest and openness and how that could have led to some really exceptional moments. I think of that street fondly - it was a little vanilla danger in my safe, safe life. 


9 comments:

Lynn said...

I think, if I were to encounter a biker leaning on a mailbox who suggested that we might have an adventure, that I never would have mailed the wedding invites. SWOON.

Stereo said...

People like Isaac are what I miss about living smack bang in the middle of the city. Out here, there are new interactions but none that live up to the myriad of random run-ins I had with the most colourful of people. Thank you for reminding me.

StephLove said...

We lived in DC for 11 years before we moved out here, and while slightly less colorful than what you describe, the neighborhood was a little rough around the edges. We live there for the first year of Noah's life, but thought we should move before he started talking because he would have learned some interesting vocabulary from people yelling at each other in the alley behind our house in the middle of the night.

I do miss big city life sometimes, though. I get nostalgic whenever I go to the dentist, which is pretty near where we used to live.

Nicole said...

I'm really enjoying this peek into your life.

When we were first together we lived in a high rise apartment downtown. Sometimes when I'd walk to work at 8:00 am, I would have to step around people barfing in the gutter.

Sasha said...

I think everyone should live somewhere unsavoury at least some time in their lives, if only to have some inkling as to what's going on in that dive their kids rent out when they go away to University. Sounds like you got a really colourful spot - the best I managed was a 3-story walk-up in Peterborough where we had to call 911 twice on the downstairs neighbours. Fun times.

I don't know Toronto that well - but my first thought when you described it (the gyro, etc) was near the Bloor viaduct - am I close? I have a friend who lived near Queen & Broadview for many many years, I got to live vicariously through her :).

Oh, and thank you for confirming the plastic nature of the Scintilla rules - I'm getting the prompts, maybe now I'll get around to doing something with them :)

clara said...

Totally not chance encounters. Wonderful. I love love love the cities and love living in them but I also can't imagine having kids in the city. Just the thought of manouvering them around on a crowded city sidewalk. No, the city for me is my solitude place, where I walk as fast as I can and weave in and out of crowds and wear my secret smile and think solitary thoughts and ... family doesn't fit there. *wistful sigh*

Nan | Wrath Of Mom said...

Excellent post!

I don't miss the city life. We try to expose the boys to just a little so they know not everyone has the opportunities or lifestyle they enjoy. But I'm probably too much a townie to ever fully return to the life you describe here. Though it would be nice to walk the dog without packing bear spray.

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Sarah said...

I have similar memories of my grad. school years with my husband, then boyfriend. The laundry lady - the lady who ran the laundromat we did our laundry at - I won't forget her. She was old, proud, black, and sad. So sad.