It’s my long urban crawl along Yonge St., part 1.
Walking through the different neighbourhoods that border on the world’s longest street is my goal, but I also want to see how the affluent pockets of Toronto are faring during the city workers’ strike.
After parting company with my fiancée at Craft Burger, I jog across the street to the Toronto Reference Library, the starting landmark of my journey from Bloor St. to Davisville Ave.
Lindsey Buckingham gets me on my way, singing “Go Your Own Way” with the help of the rest of Fleetwood Mac. I happen to notice one man on a bench chatting to himself, complete with hand gestures.
It’s an unnaturally cool July but people are outdoors— chewing on doughnuts, dodging pigeons and yakking on cellphones. One lady, re-organizing her cart, looks to be swarmed by a moving tide of winged vermin.
The birds eye me suspiciously with beady little orbs as I venture forth, passing deadlocked traffic complaining in its honking tongue.
There’s not a spot of garbage in Yorkville despite the strike. Mind you, the gangs of pigeons have left their mark on the surrounding landscape.
Speaking of stains, I’m a little self-conscious, remembering a greasy situation at lunch where I speckled myself with beef juice and chipotle mayo.
Still, I’m not as concerned with my appearance as I am with some dude wearing white capris. I raise an eyebrow but continue my pace up Yonge while Mark McGrath of Sugar Ray sings “Every Morning”.
Everywhere I look it appears most folks are wearing white, reminding me of Edmonton Oilers’ fans and their rally tops during their team’s 2005-’06 run for the Stanley Cup.
Along my path, sale signs “Shout It Out Loud” like Kiss advertising that stores are offering customers deals.
By the time I reach Budd Sugarman Park, all the Yorkville stores are in my wake. Before me are lounging Torontonians, gaggles of giggling teen girls and gardens of wildflowers.
Outside Rosedale TTC station, a young lady escapes the sun reading a book under a shady tree.
It’s lunch hour and the sidewalks are awash with mothers pushing prams, cyclists and a mixed bag of elderly and young alike.
At Price St., I notice folks sitting on a patio, noshing on this and that under the watchful eyes of the Sleep Country Canada gargoyles.
Rosedale is as clean as fresh fallen snow. Apropos, considering the breezy weather.
Further up Yonge, Kim Mitchell kicks up the tempo with “Lager and Ale” outside the Summerhill LCBO. To my surprise, I run into former mayor Mel Lastman and wife Marilyn.
We share greetings and I’m back on my way, wading through the sea of people all the way up to St. Clair until the folks are so thick, it becomes more like “The Ocean” Led Zeppelin sings about.
Summerhill is empty of garbage save for a small spot outside a hair-care shop.
Past the busy intersection, the current is weaker. I notice a pooch chilling on the sidewalk outside a Shoppers Drug Mart, waiting for its master’s return.
Outside of Yorkminster Park, clutches of people sit on benches and lie in the grass.
What’s abundant is the excess of clover patches growing like Petri dish contagions. The wild flora is having a field day since the parks and rec folk are skipping out on lawn duty.
Outside of the weeds, Deer Park is pristine.
At Mount Pleasant Cemetery, flowers of different kinds are blazing in fierce colours. Portulaca, cosmos and other buds bloom. This stretch of Yonge feels empty as I stroll along the fenced-in grounds. A subway train rolls on the track in time with Genesis’ “Turn It On Again”.
Before I reach the Belt Line path, I spot four cop cars parked along the east side of Yonge. One is up on the curb. Four men in blue stand chatting, bespectacled in aviator-style shades. Humorously timed, Michael Jackson chimes in with “Smooth Criminal”.
I make my way up to Davisville station, getting there in good time: 40 minutes.
Next beat I’ll start here and hit Lawrence, picking out the highlights of the scenery and hopefully no garbage.