On the Beat

Heating up on Yonge

Depending on how you look at it, this could be a prequel.

It’s part two of my trilogy along the world’s longest street and this time the weather is hot, humid and there’s a hint of leftover garbage odour clinging to the air.

Chris Cornell starts me on my journey singing “Spoonman” and right away, the utensil would come in handy eating up all the colours jumping from marketplace baskets as fresh fruits and veggies greet me.

It is truly a beautiful day. The sun bounces off two-storey brick storefronts. Women are out in summer dresses walking canine companions, all the while the Cult riffs on guitars, musing “She Sells Sanctuary”.

A blonde walks along the sidewalk with her black lab, passing a gentleman on a ladder working on a store marquee. At street level, a young boy holds the base steady. I can only assume he’s the man’s son. They both turn their heads to gaze at the woman passing by.

I smile to myself, thinking, like father, like son.

More raspberries, peppers and peaches crash onto the sidewalk as another fruit market flags me down.

And as I pass a third fruit market, a man arms himself with a squeegee. While cleaning windows, his dreads spill out behind his head like tentacles on a Portuguese man-of-war.

Farther along, I spot the Art Shoppe. Its window dressing is quite captivating. One window is particularly intriguing: a bed has a yellow median line dashed through the middle of it, “Your Side. My side” written on the wall above. On the bed’s pillows, the male sign and female sign are evident.

Again, the curls of a smile form on my lips as it strikes close to home with the fiancée and I.

While my mind wanders, I fail to realize the shadows walking along the street. The buildings must have good genetics because they’ve outgrown the two storeys and have shot up to 20-some-odd floors.

Canadian Tire and the Heart and Stroke rise on the west side, while Minto Midtown is just a few yards away on the east.

But before I reach Minto, a copper statue puzzles me. While the Killers plead, “You know you gotta me help me out”, I try to figure out what exactly the abstract art is telling me.

No such luck, on my account. Sometimes I’m just too pragmatic to see beyond warped metal.

But a real test of mettle is the busy Yonge-Eglinton intersection where Starbucks’s dot the landscape like chicken pox on kids during back-to-school season.

The midtown crossroads is bristling with construction. Lanes are split down to one each way as the east side gets repaved and receives a new sidewalk treatment.

There’s a congregation of pylons on the northeast corner looking like tiger-striped penguins.

Welcome to my neighbourhood, I think, as Michael Stipe chimes in with a timely “Stand in the place where you live”.

Pedestrians walk along fresh concrete paths, dodging charities asking for donations. Greenpeace shares the walk with two teens holding duotangs.

After passing a fourth and fifth fruit market, the roadwork continues. The tang of molten asphalt assaults my nasal cavities. I stop to document the work.

“Are you taking my picture?” a worker asks. “Five bucks.”

He chuckles all the while pointing to an observing police officer who sheepishly grins.

“He’ll take it,” the worker smiles. “We’ve got good connections.”

It’s a never-ending barrage of construction, even up to Blythwood Rd. where I ventured on a previous On the Beat.

North I go, and the farther up I get, the more apartment buildings with Edwardian themes. At Glengrove Ave., an old stone building catches my eye. A copper plaque notes “Toronto Hydro Electric System”.

As I advance, the history comes alive as Alexander Muir Memorial Gardens tries to steer me away from Yonge. Thick with vegetation, I sweep to survey the grounds, overgrown with foliage. Of course there are a few maple trees around, even on the wrought iron gate out front.

I save a trip through there for another day.

Finally, nearing Lawrence, I notice the silhouette of Toyota blemishes grey siding on a vacant building.

“Under the Bridge” plays on my MP3 player, but Anthony Kiedis is drowned out by Neil Young. A young man in a Volkswagen Golf blasts his music waiting for the light at Lawrence to change.

In the lull between songs, the Odds pop on with their tune “Someone Who Is Cool”. I take it as a sign, slip out of the brilliance of the sun and slide underground into the air-conditioned TTC.

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