Jane’s Walk: Number One


A Culinary Tour of East Danforth with tour guide Phil Pothen and co-leader Elise Aymer (both of whom did a very good job). Ably assisted by volunteers Janet Masching and Danning Liao.

Danica and I have walked and shopped this stretch of the Danforth often and for many years, so we were pleasantly surprised to learn things we’d missed. We started at the deservedly famous Royal Beef artisanal butcher, just west of Woodbine and walked, zigzagging back and forth across the Danforth, up to Victoria Park. The 2.5 hour tour was, to be honest, too long for my tastes, but there is so much to talk about along there, it’s hard to edit.

Biggest surprises? Cornish pasties in a variety of flavours, haggis, and completely new, an Icelandic bakery. Hey, that’s my people! The baker closed his shop in Gimli, Manitoba (Canada’s oldest Icelandic community) and opened on the Danforth. We might have the only Icelandic bakery in the country. Today was a talking day, not a shopping day, so I’ll be back.

Less surprising but gratifying nevertheless is the supply of global foodstuffs available. China, Philippines, India, Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Caribbean, Poland and yes, Scotland with its haggis and England with venerable Duckworth’s fish and chips.

The whole strip has been repaved, given new sidewalks and tree wells with tiny saplings that need time. The diesel busses between Main and Vic Park are dirty, smelly and loud, though. That needs fixing.

Big picture: Medical marijuana

Medical marijuana dispensary, shot today in Kensington Market.

First, let’s get the humour out of the way. Sorry I forget the comedian’s name, but I loved how he explained to a cop why he needed medical marijuana. “I’m taking it to help me get off illegal marijuana”.

cops-and-baggiesSeriously, now. Danica has seen the enormous benefits of cannabis oil that was prescribed for someone dear to us. It reduced nausea that came with cancer and its treatment, allowed our friend to eat again and gain much-needed nourishment. It seems to give her ease in a very difficult time. For far too long, societal taboos have kept this medicine away from patients who need it. Thank goodness we are wising up.

A personal view: The recreational use of marijuana doesn’t seem disastrous, either. I don’t indulge, but it doesn’t seem to harm my friends; certainly not the way our legal drug alcohol can. I bet you know what any cop would say, given a choice between dealing with a spaced-out pothead or a pissed-off drunk.

When I read Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, I wondered when the government-issued Soma would arrive, and what it would be. It’s finally here and we know what it is called. Huxley’s little book continues to be one of my favourites.

A view you won’t see for long …


It’s the back of the iconic Gothic Revival house at One Spadina Crescent, being prepped to receive a new addition. The property is being transformed into the School of Architecture and it will be one of those “old collides with new” constructions. I like the idea, BTW. It preserves the past but allows city life to grow and expand. Much better, I think, than “fake past” and certainly better than destruction of our best old buildings.


Here’s an idea of the look to come. One Spadina Crescent belongs to the U of T and has had past lives as a theological college, a military hospital and a medical research lab. Amelia Earhart once worked inside as a nurses aide.

Who knows what the bobcats will dig up. There are mysteries. The 2001 murder of a professor remains unsolved. A young lady on a first date plunged to her death from the third floor roof in 2009.

Don’t think too much

This image was used to illustrate an article about  how “The power of disclosure can reduce prejudice, shift attitudes, and change minds forever”.

I thought, “What is the likely outcome here?” The enlighted bulb sure isn’t going to light up the dullards.

Hostile art in the park


Did ISIS get to the central gardener?

Does it look like a descendant of Diego Rivera got a commission to mural the recently restored underpass on Woodfield Avenue? I think so, but rather than doing a visual rant against the capitalistic machine, our Diego has created fierce, angry looking gardeners. Huh?

Well, the entrance is beside a local community garden, so that explains the gardeners, but why do they look so unpleasant? You knew it, dear reader. I am going to hazard a guess.

You can’t tame graffiti art. It is, at heart, a rebellious form of vandalism. It is hostile to property and to government and the law. It is outsider art, loud in colour, brash in jagged angularities and cartoonish exaggerations. Really, it is supposed to be done on the sly, not by hired hands.


Look what has happened to the butterfly. 🙂 Head chopped off like that of the unlucky gardener above.

Here’s the part I find amusing. Graffiti artists themselves seem confused. Do they want to be recognized? Of course, but by committees? Do they want to be paid and folded into the world of commerce? Some do, and others seem unsure. Do they leave the mercenary’s art up, unadorned with tag-overs? Do they give the commissioned artist his due, in the form of respected “street cred”?

I have been waiting for the answer and it is finally arriving. Authorized, well-meaning murals are being overpainted in the dark of night. The naive notion that graffiti artists will not deface another artist’s work has been dashed; as it had to be. Danica and I passed a local school mural project by the liquor store today. Completely obliterated. Too bad the new stuff wasn’t much better than the school stuff it defaced, but it was more spirited.

Personally, I don’t like most graffiti and tags seem to me to be the teenage equivalent of dogs leaving their scent. There are very few Banksys out there. But I think I understand why the figures on the tunnel reflect a certain rage. The artist is in an impossible bind, being paid by people who like butterfly images and ricky-ticky flowers. He (could be she, but likely he) has skill, is related to a hunted caste of outlaws and is performing for the enemy. That’s going to show in your work, don’t you think?

Update: The muralist is a he, Jabari Elliot, who goes by the nom d’art Elicser. His website is down at this time.

Where the views hide in Toronto

When I came to Toronto from Vancouver, my impression of the landscape here was dismal. Compared with spectacular views of mountains and sea, the flat, dull geography around here was pretty lame. Now, it’s never going to be as photogenic as B.C. but after a while I discovered that many of Toronto’s nicer places were below the horizon, in ravines.


Soon, this nearby example will be dense. lush green but it’s good to see it now because the co ntours of the ground are visible. Walks through here in the summertime require a liberal slathering of insect repellant. Mosquitoes!


It is Toronto’s great good fortune that these ravines can’t easily be built up into real estate and sold. Some have been channeled into pipes for exactly that reason, but many bigger streams are left as pockets of nature, right through densely urbanized neighbourhoods. From the bottom of this ravine, I can look south and see streetcars on Gerrard. Look north and GO Trains are whisking commuters from the suburbs to the skyscapers downtown. In between, a relatively peaceful sanctuary for walkers, raccoons, foxes, skunks, birds … and bugs.

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!