Parkdale: Parkdale Library

As the weather improves and the pandemic situation gets better – or at least more manageable, Sage and I are scheduling more and more library visits.

On Sunday we step out the door on our way to today’s library. After several nice days, the weather has taken a turn for the worse. It’s quite a bit cooler and the rain is steady. We huddle in a bus stop and it isn’t long before we realize today we’re going to experience a pheonomenon we fortunately only experience rarely. I’ve taken to calling it “Bad Transit Karma”. In our family vernacular, “Transit Karma” is exhibited in how well transit works for us on a given day. A good Transit Karma day is one in which the bus arrives right when we get to the stop, the subway arrives when the bus drops us off and so on. Every connection is perfectly timed and there’s no delays. It feels like you’re just steadily walking – walking into a bus, out of the bus, into a subway and then into the next bus.

The opposite, of course, is what happens on a bad Transit Karma day. Today the bus has left and we have ten minutes to wait for the next one. The first subway connection is not bad – just 2-3 minutes. The next subway connection takes over ten minutes (3-5 is normal). Then, when we surface we find that due to construction, the streetcar has been replaced by a bus that turns back half way to our destination where we can switch to the streetcar. There we wait another ten minutes in the rain for the streetcar that takes us to the destination.

As we ride down Queen Street, it’s noticeable how many boarded up shop fronts there are. The business landscape is changing. Rents everywhere are rising for residential and commercial real estate and that’s forcing many people out who weren’t already forced out by the pandemic downturn. I suspect also that many of the older residents, vulnerable people, some mentally ill and treated by the nearby Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, others newly arrived in Canada may find businesses that could afford the rent out of range for them even as rent control keeps many of their rents affordable. Still, since the last time I visited the neighbourhood well before the pandemic, there’s a noticeable gentrification already well underway. I’m not sure how this will end but I do hope that something is done as often the path out of a gentrified neighbourhood for many is to the suburbs where transit availability makes living in a food desert far from transit-accessible grocery stores and fresh food very difficult. Now it’s been made further difficult by the fact that even in the suburbs, rents have gone up significantly. With a new mayor on the way this summer, my hope is that whomever takes on the job does something to address the huge failure in addressing social issues.

We get off the streetcar at Dufferin and Queen and I’m surprised to see that the West End Food Co-op is now gone. Years ago that is where I went for several cooking workshops including the one that got me started on making my own sauerkraut and kimchi and canning my own jam. They really engaged with people in the neighbourhood including setting up a program where people could work in exchange for fresh food from the farmer’s market instead of cash which could significantly reduce their social assistance payments that were already low. I hope someone is able to fill that huge gap.

As we’ve been to this neighbourhood a number of times we wanted to try somewhere we haven’t been before, we end up at a restaurant called Molkagtez. I am not sure how new it is but as I haven’t been to Parkdale for a while, anything five years old or less is new to me. It’s been a long time since we’ve had Mexican food so Sage and I are glad to have some.

I will reveal my “east end bias” now: Though we arrive at nearly 1:30 PM, we’re given breakfast menus – no lunch is served yet. I’m not sure if my assumption is true or not, I definitely think of the west end as a younger, more party-oriented area where someone is likely to wake up after noon on Sunday and be ready for breakfast. Still, breakfast sounds good. We order and soon a bowl of chips and a couple of salsas arrive:

Both are quite good though the green, likely tomatillo-based is both our favourite and the chips taste freshly made.

My food, huevos divorciados arrives: two eggs served on corn tortillas with red and green salsa with refried beans and potatoes on the side is delicious – good flavour balance though the salsas could have been a bit spicier. But I do understand that the average Canadian’s palate would not agree with me on that.

Sage is not a fan of eggs and so she orders sopes with chorizo sausage and cheese. Sopes are also made of corn, but unlike tortillas, they’re thicker and have a bit of a rim on them to hold the fillings in.

Hers was also delicious – it has been too long since we had Mexican food and I really was glad to have it.

When we ask for the cheque, our server asks how Sgae and I know each other. When Sage tells them we’ve been married for thirty years she is amazed and responds “Still dating! I love it!” It is very sweet, but inside I’m thinking “Duh! Why would you spend your life with someone you didn’t want to have adventures with every day because you love spending time with them?”

Now well fed, we head back out into the rain which has not let up one bit. Fortunately the library is just a few doors down.

As many libraries in North America are getting pressure from the religious right to limit or eliminate not only LGBTQ2S+ programming but content as well, some going so far as to eliminate funding for libraries rather than include it, I’m pleased to see this flag on the window as I enter:

To be honest, while I knew about the rainbow flag, I didn’t know about this updated version. A search tells me this: “The Intersex–Inclusive Pride flag was designed by Valentino Vecchietti. Vecchietti’s design includes the intersex yellow and purple circle added next to the transgender blue, pink, and white colours. Yellow has long been seen as an intersex colour representing those who do not fit the binary. The purple circle represents the wholeness of the intersex community free from colours like blue and pink that are commonly seen as male and female, respectfully.”

Growing up the library was a safe place for me and I was a cis white boy though a bit non-conforming for where I grew up. I’m really happy to see this being expanded in our library system. I’ve said it many times and I’ll keep saying it: Libraries have books and share them but that’s only a tiny part of what they do for a community. No matter who you are, as long as you are peaceful they say “You are welcome and safe here.”

Here’s another example of that I saw in the washroom inside:

Anyone who lives in a city (or even outside the city) knows we’re dealing with an epidemic of opiod use. While many view this as the result of a character flaw, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The paths leading there are many, passing through things as difficult as violence and abuse in childhood to unexpected things like a traffic accident that brought chronic pain and a oxycontin prescription. I’ve tried to leave many bad and mostly innocuous habits like coffee drinking behind and found it incredibly difficult (I still drink 2-3 cups of coffee/day and often lapse into more). Getting out of an opiod addiction is even more difficult as the same things that make it useful for pain relief make it incredibly addictive.

So to see an acknowledgement of this in the form of a needle disposal box (to keep things safer for all of us) and a note reminding people to respond if there’s a knock on the door – the flip side of which is that if someone overdoses in the bathroom and can’t respond then they need help.

Inside, there’s everything from a large adult literacy collection to light therapy lamps to help with seasonal depression. A new (to me) feature there I see is the Rita Cox Black and Caribbean Heritage Collection – over 18,000 books, DVDs, CDs, newspapers and magazines for adults, children, and teens. Materials focus on the Black and Caribbean historical and cultural experience, with a special emphasis on Canadian content.

Another unique feature of this library is the musical instrument library where you can borrow an instrument for up to three weeks (and renew that twice). There are a ton of different ones available:

This is one of the coolest things in our library system, I think. Canadian musician, Sara MacLachlan came for a visit also and left an autographed guitar behind. (I’m pretty sure that’s not available to borrow)

Other than photos like the above with a very narrow focus and no identifiable humans, I avoid taking photos in the library. However, especially for those out of town who can’t visit I wanted to share a couple of photos from Google (including the photographer credits). More are available here if you would like to see.

I pick up a few books for myself and then Sage and I are back off into the rain – and a few more errands for the day including a couple of stops for a bit of shopping. While we have a wonderful time, it’s worth noting that my Transit Karma remains terrible and doesn’t get better until the next day when I have a perfect commute to work, making every connection on time without a wait. If anyone has some insight as to how one can get better Transit Karma, please let me know. *laughing*

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