Two weeks ago I went out on another volunteer vegetable delivery bike ride. The beauty of it is that Monday night I am given a list of five places to go and then must plot out a route from my pickup point to each one and then onward to home. It means sometimes I end up going places completely new to me, and other times, it means I can go visit some old favourite streets.
Seven years ago we lived on the west end – it was one of the more interesting places we lived in that it was very close to Chinatown, Kensington Market, and a 10 minute walk from the subway. There was a decent bike lane right outside our door, and not only that, there were so many laneways.
In many cities, laneways (often called “Alleys” in the US), often have a reputation for being dark, dirty places that are dangerous to walk in. In the area we used to live in I never felt that was the case. Instead, they were often really quiet alternatives to busy streets, perfect for running or cycling.
My first delivery took me down a laneway that I hadn’t been on since I first started running back in 2014. Much of the artwork had degraded and there wasn’t a great deal of new to see there. There was, however, one really appropriate bit of stencil work on one garage door:
I did see a real sign of the times while I was out:
Just outside the hospital is a COVID-19 Assessment Centre. The lineup wasn’t too bad – maybe 20-30 people. As I biked by, I was surprised that even from the road I could smell the alcohol being sprayed for disinfection.
I’m hopeful that the number of people in line was in part due to our testing strategy. We’re not just testing symptomatic people, we’re also doing contact tracing and if someone is found to be in contact with someone who’s positive they’re asked to go get tested as well. A colleague of mine’s husband was one of those people. It is interesting to note that though he had absolutely zero symptoms he did come up positive after his boss had also tested positive. My colleague, however, tested negative. The transmission of this virus is very mysterious.
I had a plan to pick up take-out in our old neighbourhood after my last delivery and the best way to get there was via Croft Street. This one has always been full of artwork. Many of the old pieces were still there, most relatively intact. There were a few new ones as well.
Further north on Croft is a large mural on a cinder block wall opposite a pair of homes:
The poem says:
Did you know Monty the cat?
King of croft and all that
(Ask your dog!)
(Ask your Cat.)
Did you give him a pet
Once you had met?
Or tickle his soft silken tum-tum?
Did he tell you his tale in articulate meow
and share his affection with a rub of his brow?
If so, then we truly must thank you
His loss here has left us really quite blue
but remembering all of those of YOU
Who knew how to share a sweet kindness true,
Who would pause on the way,
In midst of each day
To offer wee beastie affectionate feasty
– In memory of Monty – thank you
One day when we lived nearby, I was showing a friend of ours who was visiting from Australia around the neighbourhood. We stopped to read the poem and as we did, a woman came out from one of the houses. She invited us in, fed us snacks and told us about her cat Monty that really was well known and loved in the neighbourhood and after he passed, people in the neighbourhood painted a mural in his memory. Since that time, some of the mural was vandalized and then while the picture of Monty and the poem appear to be original, much of the rest of the mural is all new.
I like that I live in a place where a cat can be loved enough that even though it’s been almost ten years since he’s been gone, he’s still loved and remembered by people here.