#30DaysOfBiking Day 6 – Love Negotiation

The weather seems to be all over the place these days. On my sixth day the temperature was back up to 12°C but the wind was quite strong from the west – no doubt a hint as to what might be coming for day 7.

Today I choose another downtown destination. This one in the Yorkville neighbourhood of Toronto. If you want to buy fancy designer clothes, a Ferrari or Maserati, this is the place to go. Yorkville is southwest of our apartment so there are a few different ways I could go. For variety I head west then south instead of the more common south then west that uses busier roads.

Today is one of the days where I don’t want to go out. Though there isn’t any particular reason, I’m not feeling excited about riding – or really about anything. But as I mentioned in the previous entry, the point is to go out anyway. Hopefully the “Doorstep Mile” – that stretch between my apartment and the road – is the hardest part of the ride.

Though it’s warm when I get outside, there’s a really strong wind. Next to our big highrise there’s always a big wind so if I’m lucky it will end a block or two away. But once I get on my way, I find the wind is still there, coming from the west right in my face. In years past I would take headwinds almost personally. They hold you back and taunt you with roars in your ears while remaining completely invisible to anyone inside a car. “Why is that cyclist going so slow?” they must think while I’m fighting as if I’m climbing a steep hill. Lately, though, it’s just part of the ride. Hating it won’t make it go away. And just like a hill, there will likely be a point where I turn and the wind will be at my back helping me along.

I leave my neighbourhood of highrises, pass quickly along a busy road through a mixed industrial/commercial neighbourhood and then am plunged into the thick of Leaside: large expensive single-family homes. We share our government representation with them and this makes for a tricky balance. The wants and needs of a lower income neighbourhood filled with highrises are often very different from one of the more wealthy neighbourhoods in the city. At the municipal level our wards are even stranger. The same person represents our neighbourhood where in 2016 the median household income was around $50,000/year as Drake who was worth $60 million back in 2016. I do wonder if our voices are being diluted a bit.

On the way to today’s destination I passed another one of the last “Moose in the City” – this one is Florence Moosengale who has been sitting outside Integracare since 2000. The staff there routinely change her outfit. Today she has a comfy looking fuzzy onesie.

Back in 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic even she took precautions.

Traffic was pretty heavy but respectful, giving me space and sometimes even deliberately letting me go ahead without passing me despite the fact that I was pushing into a stiff headwind and barely managing 20 km/hr.

Soon I’m at Yonge Street – one of the main roads and by some measures, the longest street in North America. It is, as you can imagine, quite busy. Years back I would avoid it as busy wide roads, especially with on-street parking mean a tight squeeze for cyclists as drivers zoom by, giving barely any space as you dodge opening car doors.

During the pandemic, though, many new bike lanes opened including a pilot test on a large part of Yonge Street. The lanes got a ton of use and in February the pilot program was made permanent. The ride down Yonge is now much more pleasant and feels much safer.

Yonge Street bike lanes leading downtown

The ride was downhill almost all the way, a nice relaxing trip into the city. A block or two before the tallest highrise in the photo above my GPS told me to turn right. Unfortunately I turned too early and ended up on the wrong road and I could see I was getting farther away from my destination. I turned around and cut through a small park. As I entered the park I saw eyes peering at me above a hedge.

A small inscription on the bottom right said “Gordon Lightfoot” and had the initials of the artist which I couldn’t easily make out. I can see the resemblence

It makes sense that Gordon Lightfoot would be looking at me from here as he lived and played in Yorkville back in the early days of his career when Yorkville was less a playground for the super rich and more of a bohemian neighbourhood where hippies went to bars and coffeehouses to watch the likes of Gordon Lightfoot and Joni Mitchell.

He wrote this song when he was living there. I only recently learned that he wrote it about how he was jealous of his girlfriend, Cathy Smith, who would tend bar in the neighbourhood. The eventually did break up, though – she would go on to be John Belushi’s girlfriend and who would later admit to killing him by administering his fatal overdose.

As it turns out, he and I share a city councillor as he lives on the same street as Drake.

I finally make it to the destination: “Love Negotiation” by the artists Gillie and Marc. Of the two characters they say: “The artists are best known for their beloved characters, Rabbitwoman and Dogman, who tell the autobiographical tale of two opposites coming together to become best friends and soul mates. As unlikely animal kingdom companions, the Rabbit and the Dog stand for diversity and acceptance through love.”

There is something really striking about the image. Of course the image of natural enemies sitting and relaxing across from each other is really compelling and I like that. The colours also are really beautiful and the shine on them gives it a bit of an otherworldly image. I really like it and hope to see more of their work.

From here I turn toward home and as promised, the headwind becomes a tailwind. At the same time I notice that somewhere along the ride my bad mood has disappeared. Now I’m enjoying riding in the city, taking in the sights and enjoying seeing people out in the world. It’s times like this I think back to my teenage self, who grew up in a town of around 2,000 people and dreamed of living in a place like this. Today I’m doing something that feels completely normal, going for a bike ride to look for public art. But 40 years ago this would’ve seemed like living the dream. And in reality, I know it is.

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