Category Archives: Unpacking Toronto

The Nuptial Nostalgia Tour ► Throwback Thursday

In August I announced my Road Trip to Canada, which took me to Hamilton and Toronto, cities I’ve written about previously. It was transformed into a magical road trip, filled with Deja Vu and synchronicity; a trip when finished felt preordained. It was truly throwback in ways I could have never imagined and I’m still trying to process it all.

Wedding photography outside The Werx The Spice Factory

The first strong echo of the past was the wedding venue. The Spice Factory is in a building that was once called The Werx, but that was several owners ago. After the building sat idle for a while, the new owner renovated it to be a bar/special event venue. However, The Werx was the place in Hamilton where we all used to hang and put on our own events more than a decade ago. Now we were back in the building experiencing extreme Deja Vu.

In fact, The Werx was the location of the ghost hunt I conducted with the Girly Ghostbusters, first described in Hamilton Magazine.

It was great being in that building again. It was also pretty special being back with that group of people again. These are people I dearly love, but only get to have computer contact with. At one point we were all standing out in front of the building — in our tuxedos and fancy dresses — and realized, “How many times have we done this?” We laughed and laughed and laughed, just like we used to.

And yet, as comfortable as this all was, there was also a sense of dislocation. While some things were the same, other things were very different. And, the same is also true for all the other experiences I will relate below.

That’s my old apartment on the top floor, left

After the Hamilton wedding I went to Toronto, the city I truly consider home.

One of the best apartments I ever had in Toronto (and I’ve had several great ones) is in a building I never thought I’d be in again after moving out some 17 years ago and leaving behind a pull-out couch that was too heavy to carry.

Yet, recently my daughter was looking for a new apartment and found one in the very same building. I spent 2 nights with her and it was so weird and wonderful being in the same building again.

While in the old neighbourhood I spent a couple of days looking for my old supers, who had moved to an apartment above a store on Queen Street West, above one of the antique stores. I had absolutely no luck. If anyone knows where to find Shane and Margaret, I’d be most interested in hearing all about it. They were two people I had really hoped to find while in Toronto.

While in Toronto I used Kensington Market as my home base because it was convenient to everything and everybody.

It was wonderful being in Kensington Market again. I lived in the Market 40 years ago, when the Island Records Canada offices were on the ground floor of a house on Nassau, at Augusta. That’s why I’m considered a Marketeer and why this was a long-delayed homecoming.

There are few places on earth quite like Kensington Market. The WikiWackyWoo says:

Kensington Market is a distinctive multicultural neighbourhood in Downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Market is an older neighbourhood and one of the city’s most well-known. In November 2006, it was designated a National Historic Site of Canada.[1][2] Robert Fulford
wrote in 1999 that “Kensington today is as much a legend as a district.
The (partly) outdoor market has probably been photographed more often
than any other site in Toronto.”[3] 

Kensington Market: A small
place with a very big heart.

However, there’s no way the Googlizer can convey the sense of family one finds in The Market. It only runs a few blocks in any direction and feels like a small village. Everyone looks out for everyone. While I was there I saw store owners bring out food to give to the Punks that congregate near the alley. There’s an amazing energy in The Market, with the sidewalks crowded from early morning to late at night.

I could easily see myself living in The Market because it felt like home. Everyone welcomed me with open arms and seemed truly sorry that I had to leave.

For the most part The Market is The Market. On the surface it appears to have not changed at all. The cheese shop is still there. The fishmonger has the same smells. The green grocer next to my old house is as busy as it ever was. Yet on closer examination one notices new businesses tucked between the same stores as before: New Age stores, fancy coffee shops and restaurants, and funky vintage clothing stores.

You can take the boy out of the Market, but you can’t take the Market out of the boy. That’s my
old house behind me. Island Records was on the ground floor and I lived above on the third floor.
When I  walked into Lola, I ran into Brad, who I worked with at
Citytv for over decade. Now that he’s retired, this is his hangout.

It was terrific being in the Market again!

And, I want to extend a special THANK YOU to Gwen and Huong Bang, the two sisters who own Lola in Kensington Market.

I had this crazy idea to throw myself a party while in Toronto. It was borne out of practicality. I couldn’t possibly visit everybody I wanted to see and who wanted to see me in the 4 days I was there. But, what if they all came to me?

I approached a woman I knew slightly 40 years ago, when she became friends with my first wife after we had split. They went to George Brown college together. Barbette Kensington and I reconnected a few years back on the facebookery. I knew she was an event organizer so I asked her where she would hold a party for me. She found Lola (because it’s one of her hangouts) and, somehow, ‘convinced’ Gwen and Haung to allow all of my crazy friends to descend on their place. [I’m told they were happy to do so.]

Barbette Kensington making sure all goes well at my party.
That’s the infamous Richard Flohill in the foreground.

In fact, Barbette took that ball and ran with it. My party went off flawlessly and I had such a wonderful time that I wished it would have never ended.

In some respects it hasn’t.

I’ve had a smile on my face since my trip to Toronto and my spirit has been changed in ways I can barely describe, despite my facility with words.

All I can say for now is that my life has been transformed and there are new roads and adventures in my future.