A few days after moving into our Scarborough digs a year ago, a neighbour dropped by to welcome us to the neighbourhood, share tomatoes from her garden, and offer a few pointers for us newly-minted locals. One of the things she mentioned by way of guide to the area was a short-cut to the closest grocery store, a Food Basics. I thought it was a great tip.
In 12 months I have never had occasion to go to the store. It is generally a lot more convenient for my car-less self to hitch a ride with family or friends as they run their errands, or to pick up groceries along the subway line on my way home. (Woodbine Station is excellent as there is a Valu-Mart steps from the metro so I can hop on, hop off and get my shopping done).
On a recent Sunday afternoon, however, I decided to go get groceries and it occurred to me to try out this famous short cut to Food Basics.
It was extremely foggy around 6p.m. when I set off. As I headed north to Lawrence Avenue via Crockford Boulevard—an industrial street with barely any sidewalks, barely any cars, no people and two guard dogs—I was quite a bit creeped out. It also felt like I was walking forever (‘short cut’ certainly seemed a misnomer). The fog didn’t help with either of these perceptions.
In order to quell my slightly nervous state, perhaps, I started daydreaming about what Crockford could look like in a somewhat alternate universe. With a new direction, new zoning bylaws, and a lot of investment — if it were to become a pedestrian-friendly precinct.
I envisioned how different the place would be if some of the vacant or underutilized buildings became loft-style apartments; if the warehouses were revamped and converted to offices, funky restaurants and party venues; if a renewed Crockford became Toronto’s latest Distillery District or Liberty Village northeast.
It was a pretty big stretch but a fun place for the mind to wander. Who knows what the future holds, in any case?
When I got the keys to our new place a week ago, it marked the beginning of a lot of things: the start of life as a home owner, for one. Among the other firsts is a biggie: by the end of the month, I will no longer call Little Italy home. Home will be the Far East. Home will be Scarborough.
To put this in perspective, I have never in 20-going-on-30-odd years of Toronto dwelling, resided east of Yonge Street. Born more or less at the intersection of Yonge and Bloor, I am a serious downtowner/Westender (admittedly, not quite as hardcore as my mother, who believes the boundaries of Toronto are Dufferin, Eglinton, Greektown and the lake). A story I often tell is how wonderful it was as a kid going to an elementary school that had an atypical catchment area consisting of the whole city of Toronto. My classmates and friends were bussed in from High Park, Regent Park, Cabbagetown, Rosedale, the Danforth, the Beaches, or Dufferin Grove. Yet as broad a sense of the city as this might have impressed upon me, these were nevertheless pre-Mega City years and Scarborough was not really on my radar.
Enter my now fiancé, who was born in Calgary, raised in Scarborough and more recently lived in Pickering. In the time we’ve known each other I’ve been on more GO Train rides than I care to count, and have a clearer picture of what it looks like east of Victoria Park. So it was a little less of a mental shift when this past summer we began our house hunt, and decided to focus our search on the east end, knowing that this was a more affordable area than the downtown and that many of our friends and family have settled in the area.
Moving—or rather, truly settling in after a move—can be a lengthy process. At the end of August, I returned to Toronto from Montreal, after six years away. Soon after arriving back in the city for good, I moved to a new apartment. Fast forward five weeks and things are unpacked, but still strewn around rather messily. In the absence of proper storage, in the absence of a proper budget, it has taken this long for me to obtain among the most basic of furniture items: a desk. Without a desk, I didn’t feel I had the right physical (and therefore mental) space to get this blog underway.
It’s my first time living in Little Italy, and I’m not far from West Queen West. Walking around, going about running errands and getting back into touch with old friends (involving coffees, lunch dates and such), I’m constantly noticing the amazing spots Toronto has to offer. Being away for half a decade and touching down in a new part of town has made me excited about the city and eager to share my thoughts on the places I’m discovering for the first time or seeing with new eyes.
A lot of this observation and excitement went on in the first weeks back in the city. In the next couple of posts, I’ll look back on some of the places that caught my attention. I intend for this to then take shape as a running log of activities and locales—restaurants, shops, concert venues, and elsewhere—worthy of note.
I hope this blog will serve as a resource for visitors to Toronto and to people new in town, and as something of a diary of settling back into my hometown.