Wednesday, February 20, 2008

I am Toronto

Every once in a while something happens that reminds me that I've lived here a really long time. I mean, usually we live our separate lives, Toronto and me. I don't attend any of the fabulous cultural activities that are available here, or visit many of its sights or sites, or dine in any of the fine, unique restaurants.

But today my old apartment burned down.

I walked past it on the news on the TV near my desk a few times this morning -- 6 alarm blaze, Queen St. W. I thought nothing of it. A colleague pointed it out as some big fire, and said a famous, historic bike shop had burned down. I said I'd bought a bike there, and felt I'd been ripped off. (That was wrong, actually. I bought the bike farther down Queen W., and it was when I was still thinking the fire was on the north side. That was probably because the TV faced northwest in my office, which is a little snippet of insight into my bizarre geographical sense and nothing else.)

Someone else came in and said "Oh, that's old news, I heard about it on the radio on the way in," because the TV kept showing it (CablePulse24 is on 24/7 over my desk). I saw mention of Queen and Bathurst, and then the south side of Queen between Bathurst and Portland.

I pulled out my map book to remind myself of where Portland was... was that East or West of Bathurst? East, it turns out.

I went to www.thestar.com, where naturally it was a lead story.

Featured in the article, the proprietor/ess of the dollar store at 633 Queen St. W. had lost everything. Her ID was in the cash register. And I thought, wow. That's an address I'll never forget. I used to have a PO box of 633. I had an employee ID number of 633 when I lived at 633 Queen St. W. At the time, it was just a weird synchronicity, but it certainly meant I'd never forget the number. I always described it to people who knew the neighbourhood as "three doors from The Big Bop". I guess that would be gone now, too.

I lived there for about 18 months. Downstairs wasn't a dollar store then, it was an appliance store. I had the steepest stairs ever, the ugliest mustard-colored walls. I had a bedroom and a bathroom, and I shared a kitchen with three other people, and none of them lived there as long as me. There was a guy who smelled weird, and another guy who had no furniture. And there was this girl who worked at a clothing store and drank a lot of vermouth. Like, gallons of it. She asked me once, when she was preparing for her mother to visit, if there was anything wrong with her room, if she'd cleaned it up nice. I mentioned the 23 or so (I didn't actually count) vermouth bottles behind the TV. She was surprised I'd noticed them. I wonder what happened to her.

At the time, it was an amazing place to live. I could walk to work. I could walk home at midnight and feel reasonably safe, because there were always people on the street. I could always get a falafel when I needed one.

I didn't know it had been designated a historical block. I wonder if that had been so people wouldn't knock it over to make condos (Toronto might have enough condos). I hope it wasn't burned down by an accidental meth lab explosion.

Maybe someday soon I'll take a vacation day and go down to Romni Wools, and walk by my old block.

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