On a cold day in the Hollow, the flurries fall like globs of flour and they form a doughy texture on Mill St. just outside the Miller Tavern.
Julian Casablancas drunkenly yowls to me through my headphones, saying he doesn’t write better when he’s stuck in the ground, so off I go exploring a land that is high on Hogg and low in elevation.
The pub sits nestled in the crook of a geographical divot. To my right, tennis courts are vacant and an overpass, built in 1964, covers the original spot occupied by Birrell’s Bridge in 1913.
The water flowing underneath is a torrent, moving too fast to even be a fleeting memory.
Neil Young tells me to keep on rockin’ in the free world, and I spy some old stone chimneys in the distance, pluming with smoky tufts and spilling the smell of burning wood into the air.
I approach an older home that houses the Toronto Sportsmen’s Association. Around it are city signs sprayed with tags and a centennial monument guarded by cedar sentries.
Upon investigating the concrete design, I discover it was created by Elizabeth Wyn Wood and dedicated to the residents of York Mills.
I leave the tribute and walk along a sidewalk-less road. The smell of cedar, the sights of Victorian architecture and picket fences offer me a cosy, sleepy-town feel.
All I can say is it’s quaint and not in the sarcastic sense.
Raine Maida hums to me about life, and these homes on Brookfield Rd. definitely have some of it breathed into them.
There’s what seems to be sewer construction in the ditches: orange plastic fencing surrounds large cylinders. Above, a white pine’s bough hangs like a wishbone on power lines. There are more branches down, remnants of a recent windstorm.
I hear chainsaws off in the distance and wonder if someone is chopping up a felled tree.
As I round the bend onto Plymbridge Cres., Supertramp chimes in with “The Logical Song”. While Roger Hodgson hums, I notice the road is pitted and pocked. The potholes are as common as the falling snowflakes.
I also notice a jarring trend in this nook of the city: almost every city owned sign or power box is tagged with graffiti.
I frown to myself, as Lynyrd Skynyrd asks: “What’s your name, little girl? What’s your name?”
Obviously somebody is making their name known with graffiti but I don’t think it’s one of Ronnie Van Zant’s groupies.
Still I continue along the road, coming to a fork. I hang a right, noticing a new house being built and another abode with gas lamps at its entrance. I feel almost trapped in time here.
A bridge constructed in 1955 crosses the Don on Plymbridge Rd. A bronze plaque says the bridge is the third on the spot — the infamous Hurricane Hazel having destroyed the one before.
As I fast approach another three-way intersection, I realize the Hollow has more forks than a Tucker’s Marketplace buffet. This time, though, where the road connects with Domino Ave. and Donwoods Dr., there’s an old millstone set up to recall the grist and sawdust shed in the mill days.
A billboard and bench with more emblazoned graffiti sit close by. No names this time, just phrases I cannot repeat in print, save for some peculiar advice: “The Devil don’t take checks”.
Poor English aside, I turn up Donwoods climbing a steep hill. Postal boxes are tagged with more urban art. To my right on Ivor Rd., workers nail cedar shingles to a roof.
I hike farther, noticing homes as high as the clouds and driveways curving uphill into the trees. Finally, I make it back to a busy Yonge St.
It’s getting colder. Three Dog Night speaks of drinking “some mighty fine wine”, but I have another spirit in mind. Perhaps some whiskey will warm me up. Maybe I’ll check with the Miller.