There are many things about The Big Smoke that I intensely miss. One of those, which my current hometown of Calgary sadly lacks, is the idea of “neighbourhood”. Trust me, it’s more than simply a cute name and uniform, salmon coloured stucco.
The Kensington Market district, in the shallow west end (Dundas north to College, Spadina west to Bathurst) is one of those. And while I didn’t grow up in the midst of Little Italy (well, actually that’s a little but west, on the other side of Bathurst), I did spend my childhood in amongst these kinds of places.
This is the heart of market culture in Toronto. It was put together in the early 1900s and was first known as the Jewish Market. Italians and Portuguese dominated in my time, and now it borders Chinatown just to the east. It’s the kind of cultural mosaic that seems normal to me.
One of the highlights here is the eclectic (to put it mildly) used clothes store Courage My Love. Back in the day, my high school class came down here to find graduation gowns. Well, the girls anyway.
Another is GlobalAware Independent Media, from where this photo of subverrsive buttons came. When I walked in to the shop, the Internationale (the first, Soviet version) was playing, and a real subversive type was behind the till, trying to sign me up.
You really need to zoom in on the large version to appreciate just how subversive they are.
These are the kinds of places I grew up in. As a hopper, cruising Church and Isabella (now the rainbow district) down to the Islands, and later, the Danforth and Beaches. For those who haven’t experienced that kind of cultural immersion (as in, for most between Toronto and Vancouver) it’s virtually impossible to understand what that Trudeaupian vision of multiculturalism is all about. Unfortunately, that’s now gone to extremes. But that, as they say, is another story for another time.
It’s also impossible to convince my western neighbours of what makes (or, perhaps, made) Toronto so special.