I’m in search of a landmark to punctuate the opulence of Rosedale.
To quote Mike Myers’ character Wayne Campbell: “What I’d really like to do is something extraordinary. Something big. Something mega. Something copious. Something capacious. Something cajunga!”
So on this excursion, I’ve brought my fiancée, Jen, to stare — our mouths agape — at the decadence sprawling across Chestnut Park Rd.
And really, Chestnut Park should be legendary on its own account, with large three-tiered mansions adorned with Casa Loma-esque accents and viral ivy limbs that hold fast to century-old brick.
“Spring starts when a heartbeat’s pounding, when the birds can be heard above,” Gord Downie chirps through my earphones.
And while the Tragically Hip’s front man wails about poets and robins woo mates, I keep an ear free so Jen can call to attention certain facets of the enduring manors.
First, she points to the sidewalks beneath my feet. They transform from colourless concrete to brilliant red brick. Up from the path, on fescue-carpeted lots, squirrels frantically rediscover their nuts.
The behemoth homes on rodent duty are like stone fortifications with long English manor driveways. In some cases, ornate wrought iron fences hide hedged backyards.
A child’s calls for daddy break my concentration and I notice Jen sauntering far ahead, kicking a twig. I smile.
Chipping sparrows dart between barren maple limbs. Police sirens swell from the background to challenge my ears’ attention to Eric Clapton’s singing of “After Midnight”.
Turning my attention back to the houses, I spy more squirrels, bobbing and weaving through pre-bloom tulips like they were sparring partners.
It’s dangerous to get lost in one’s thoughts on this street. My MP3 player picks up on that, offering up “Dreamer” by Supertramp.
Though Roger Hodgson’s lyrics are critical, Journey’s Steve Perry provides a dose of optimism with his words in “Don’t Stop Believin'”
I’m still dreaming of owning such a galactic home when Jen tiptoes toward me. Her finger to her lips, she leads me with her eyes to the two squirrels she’s sneaking up on.
Suddenly, one charges at the other and they speed across the street, surging through front yards.
Along the boulevards, ancient trees stretch skyward and Victorian streetlamps mingle amongst elder maples and oaks. I notice one tree’s bark is rippled in a zebra-stripe pattern.
I continue walking with Jen, who twirls around in front, looking at the cracked walk with moss and grass encroaching from the sides.
“You know, with such a rich neighbourhood, you’d think they’d fix the sidewalks,” she says.
And the fire hydrants, too, I notice. One emits a watery hiss from underneath a yellow cover reading “out of service”.
A cardinal rattles off his late afternoon sermon. Jen and I continue along the red brick road, spotting snowdrops and crocuses revealing their white and purple blooms.
Between each bundle of flowers, mothballs are strewn about: likely a deterrent given the numbers of squirrels pilfering lawns.
Jen and I merge back onto Roxborough while Brooks and Dunn sing to me about the “Boot Scootin’ Boogie”. Out on Yonge St., it’s buzzing with families and people coming home from work.
Kix Brooks twangs, “I see outlaws, in-laws, crooks and straights all out makin’ it shake”.
I smile to myself as Jen and I make our way to Ramsden Park.
I’m still in search of that benchmark to hang this beat on. And much to my surprise, modestly placed at the foot of an old maple tree in the park is a small circular monument no bigger than an old 45 record.
“Helen Johnston, Toronto City Council 1963-69,” it reads. “Fought diligently for the preservation of our Parklands.”
I find my marker.
Jen tugs me away to head north to Caffe Doria. Sloan chimes in to encourage the jaunt, as does my stomach.
“If it feels good do it,” vocalist Chris Murphy persuades, “Even if you shouldn’t.”