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Distinctive style identifies sculptor

I realized at once that the artist was the same one who has done the many renderings of little fat businessmen (LFBs, he called them in an interview I read years ago). His name was unknown to me until I sought it out to caption my photo.


Untitled by William McElcheran. 1973 Originally fibreglass, simulating bronze, now real bronze, standing in front of U of T’s John M. Kelly library on St Joseph Street.

What the figures are doing is up to you, but you can read Reverend Edward A. Synan’s interpretation here, if you like. Where I just saw a bearded, long-haired man staring out of the struggling crowd, the Reverend saw Christ. Maybe. Or nonconformist hippie? The only face with indivduality? You’ll have your own ideas. That’s the beauty of a title like Untitled.


The flip side offers identifiable images of such figures as Gandhi and Einstein, worked in among anonymous images. I’ll go with Reverend Synan on them … maybe people whose writings are found in the John M. Kelly library? That would make sense.

Anyway, when you spot a Little Fat Businessman in Toronto, or other Canadian cities for that matter, remember William McElcheran, 1927–1999. You find examples in the downtown business districts and on subway walls.

Shoppers and Shoppers

Our first shoppers are Kathy and Danica, posing with a nifty Mini convertible Kathy spotted in Bloor West Village when we met for lunch today. We left the car behind and went to our annual get-together in remembrance of Paul Royko, Kathy’s husband and my business partner. Paul died at the tender age of 52, seventeen years ago already.


Our second Shoppers is Shoppers Drug Mart, although it looks like the old Runnymede Theatre in the golden age of neighbourhood movie houses.


To it’s credit and advantage, Shoppers has restored and preserved the glamorous plaster work adorning the old dream palace. The sloping aisles are still there, as is the ticket booth. Remember the way the lobby floor used to slope up as you entered? It still does.

The store is perfectly functional as a modern pharmacy, but what an added touch of nostalgic atmosphere when you look up! Even the curtain-framed screen remains in play, displaying projected slides of old neighbourhood photos and contemporary product promotions. Well done, Shoppers.

Understated rebellion in “Little India”

Shhhh! The yellow letters and the grey background are so similar in value, the signmaker must have wanted to keep the rebellion quiet. This nice-looking store front appeared on East Gerrard a while ago. Closed Mondays, so I just took a grab shot through the window. There seemed to be some classes going on inside.


Our so-called “Little India” has an official name: Gerrard India Bazaar. In truth, it should have been the India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan Bazaar but even the shorter, handier “Little India” doesn’t keep up with the changes along this strip. The restaurants, sari shops and cookware stores survive, but new businesses have arrived, replacing more than a few of the East Asian places.

We seem to be growing a bit of an art colony in the first blocks west of Coxwell. Reasonable rents are usually lures for small galleries and indie coffee houses, but until recently, landlords showed little interest in renting to interested entrepreneurs. That has changed.

Rebellion Gallery joins Gerrard Art Space (GAS) and the Flying Pony Gallery/Café on the south side of the street. On the north side, LensWork keeps the studio theme going, offering lessons in painting and photography.

The strip also reflects a growing trend toward specialty food supplies. Victoria Whole Foods just opened a smart store, offering organic veggies, European sausages, cheeses and bulk foods. Down the street The Pantry is proving popular for cheeses and preserves.

All this economic renewal is being driven by the arrival of young families who are buying houses and renovating like mad, up and down the side streets. There is stroller congestion. There must also be many freshly-painted walls in need of art, and parents concerned about healthy eating.

It turns out that living in the city, close to work (within public transit or bicycle range for many) can be every bit as satisfying for family life as the old suburban dream was supposed to be.

Remember when the big fear was that cities would be hollowed out, left to crime and poverty, while young families fled to the ‘burbs? That prediction was about as accurate as the one about how people would cope with all of the leisure time modern living would impose.

Local news

Now that I’ve stopped ranting about politicians (for a while), you are in a haven from commerce and Big Bad Media Hype. This is where you find out that it has suddenly gotten quite warm in Toronto, but our trees are leafy enough to afford us shade.


The foot of our hill on Eastwood. Norway Cemetery is on the right. Talk about peaceful!

I like this colourful outcropping on Upper Gerrard. It is the studio of painter Gwynne Giles. His work appeals to me, and not just because he began to paint seriously in his 60s.


Giles has developed a distinctive style and solid technique. Not one for starving in a garret, he paints in the glassed-in porch of his studio/home. He exhibits his work regularly in juried shows and sells his bright, witty pieces for good prices.


Just a closer look. Gwynne wasn’t painting when I passed by, but he often is.


Last bit of local news … a contraflow bike lane has just opened up on one-way Dixon Avenue. Cyclists used to have to break the rules for a block, when their cycle path ended at Kingston Road and Dundas. There was no legal way to reach side streets needed to get down to the lake and the Martin Goodman Trail.

Our councillor estimates the cost of “installation” between Kingston Road and Woodbine at $10 a metre. Worth it? I have no opinion.

A camera full of birdshot

Danica got the only sharpish photo of a red-winged blackbird after both of us made shots wildly into the reeds, unable to see a thing in our Sony camera’s viewing screen. Our old camera had a viewfinder. The new camera is better in almost every respect, except that the viewing screen is useless in bright sunlight.


I had much better luck photographing a red-winged bike bird. We had the bicycles out for the first time today … and the temperatures climbed to record highs.

Connecting dots

When I spotted the name Robert Amos on Open Culture’s item about readings of Finnegans Wake, I wondered … Robert Amos, art critic for the Times Colonist newspaper in Victoria? The same Robert Amos who did such a prescient write up on my mother, artist Helen Andersen, when she died in 1995?


Yes, that Robert Amos; a painter himself and maker of a delightful watercolour, now in the collection of Thorne Won, found in Helen’s effects.


The artists probably exchanged a couple of pieces. Before Helen’s time ran out, Robert Amos was helping select works for an Andersen retrospective exhibition that never happened. Perhaps some day.

Robert Amos is a hard-working, productive man with a very wide range of interests and many personal gifts. I have never met him personally but have been in email correspondence about editions of Helen’s lithographs. One day, I would like to shake his hand.

New and old


While I was down at Front and Church today, I noticed this view of the LTower, still with its crane, but nearing completion. The juxtaposition with the Gooderham flatiron building was irresistible.

ltowerIf you are wondering about the name LTower, the picture will explain. There is no space between the L and the T because that would be ordinary and this is a very up-market piece of architecture. Penthouses in such towers are not put up for sale. Oh no. They are “released”. Oh, yes.

Daniel Libeskind designed the LTower. He also did “that iceberg crashing into that museum” (Leonard Cohen’s description of the ROM Crystal). See live webcam shot below.

The tower soars over the O’KeefeHummingbird … Sony Centre, cutting a distinctive figure on the skyline. The silhouette even looks like a knife.

This webcam has been issuing pictures of the ROM “iceberg” from the top of the Hyatt Hotel on Bloor for at least 7 years … an eternity in internet time.

Lunch at the St. Lawrence Market

Lunch was just a sesame seed bagel with cream cheese from the Future Bakery counter, but it was the FRESHEST bagel I have ever eaten. Delicious. The coffee was good, too. I even got a café table, which was great because the place was bustling.

I have included shots to show the exterior of the main market and the big, “temporary” tent that will soon hold the farmer’s market and Sunday antiques market. By June 1st, the North market will be closed and the tent south of the big building will take over. It’s at Lower Jarvis and The Esplanade.

What will happen to the old North Market building? Wrecking ball. It’s being replaced with a new, 4 storey building. When complete, the markets will move back in on the ground floor. Plans for the upper floors are still sketchy but no condo residences. Community activity spaces are favoured and perhaps innovative startups.

Something we try not to notice

The driver didn’t know why the streetcars were backed up and couldn’t say how long we’d be stuck, so I tried to peek by shooting out the window. Turns out it was a minor fender-bender, but look what my blind zoom shot (badly aimed) showed me about the corner of Queen and Coxwell.