Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Cheap Entertainment - An Ode to Kingston Road

     The Scarborough section of Kingston Road is not only my regular commute route, but is a major source of sightseeing entertainment for what would otherwise be repetitive to-ing and fro-ing on weekdays. The section I see most, from the bridge over the Rouge River valley to St. Clair, if it were a person, would be that slutty, edgy girl we whispered about in high school. She's a fast ride, flashy but not pretty, kinda dirty, and although you'll go there, you don't want to be seen by anyone. Try as you might to have better success with her classier sister, the 401, Highway 2's way easier.
     It's the contrasts and the unexpected that provide the shock-value entertainment. It's a reality tv buffet as you drive along. The gentrified West Hill types live on the edge of denial and a stone's throw from a raft of hourly-rate motels, such as the Howard Johnson's, posing as an "inn" and the Maple Leaf Motel with its "Honeymoon Special". The Starbucks patio is dotted with chain-smoking, Tim Horton's cup-toting folk who you can tell from an intersection away are not the usual "Bux" demographic. There is a brazen scrabbling for survival evident all around. Skinny hookers pretend to hitch-hike. I was initially puzzled by their broad-daylight business model, until I realized opportunity knocks for these ladies 24/7, not just at night.
     The businesses along the way offer insight as well. The Decent Funiture store (no, that's not a typo) offers dinnet (again, not a typo) sets and mattresses. Surprisingly, Crack Master is a glass repair shop, which I suppose makes sense, although I tend to alternate between images of a drug dealer and that of a big ol' plumber butt. The Loan Arranger is a car dealership, most likely for folks with more concerns about money than what kind of vehicle they need.  Spas on this stretch are not anything like Ste. Anne's. Blinds drawn, their signs tout "European Attendants" rather than listing manicures/pedicures, waxing etc. I suspect the only waxing going on is that of someone's Johnson. Off-Track Betting, the bank where a police horse was shot dead a few years ago, the Buddhist temple that was firebombed twice last year; there are stories being told all along this street, every second of the day.
     Don't get me wrong, it's not all seedy. Consider the sea of tulips planted alongside the road, by a group of homeowners in Orchard Park, seemingly for the enjoyment of the commuters. And some of Toronto's best audio video retailers are found along this stretch. G & G Electronics and Musonic both do booming businesses, pardon the pun. Indeed, there are pockets of normal, including Guildwood where as newlyweds, my husband and I lived in a nice condo right on Kingston Road. And there are signs of improvement, lots of townhome developments and positive changes, although I would require some persuasion to buy one of the end units in the thick of the action. Hopefully the family scene depicted on the builder's bill-board will play out for the soon-to-be occupants of this development, in harmony with their ghetto-fabulous Galloway neighbours. Ice cream cones and wide-open-mouth smiles all around for everyone. But hey, if Habitat For Humanity can successfully build and integrate a mixed Protestant/Catholic neighbourhood in Northern Ireland, anything is possible here.
     Occasionally I'll see regular folk walking their dogs or out for a run, but other times I'll see helmet-less, cigarette-smoking young men on bicycles, riding along the sidewalks, dressed like Trailer Park Boys cliches. I fight the urge to yell out the window, "Wear a helmet and get off the sidewalk!" Better to mind my own business, you don't know how someone might react.
     As traffic slows, my automatic reflex always is to hit the "door locks" button. Looking beyond the vehicles of fellow Kingston Road commuters, I scan the faces at the bus stop. We are all doing the same thing. We wait patiently, we commute wearily, cautiously optimistic and hopeful for better things for ourselves and our families. We're not so different after all. 


  1. Bang on description! You see so much more than I see when I am travelling that stretch of Kingston road.

    There is always the waiting for someone to decide to cross the street right in front of you.

    And what about the beggar walking up and down between the rows of cars. I also have to wonder if he has taken lessons from "the shaky lady" downtown. Such a "cynic"; but, hey, that is what living in Toroto has made me. LOL

    I am so happy that my car doors lock automatically as soon as I put the transmission into "drive". I never drive with my windows down on this stretch of road, one never knows when someone will try to do a "grab n rub" or worse.

    Personally, without my audio books, the "trip-ing" to and from work would be a less pleasant journey.

    Enjoyed your article. Keep up the writing.

  2. ha ha that was bang on...every spot u mention I see on a daily basis. I almost hit one of the trailer park boys crossing the street (not at a light)this morning. Only thing different for me...I hit the door locks I'm not as bold as you when it comes to the crack whores at 7:00am; pretty close to Crack Master now that I think about it.

    Thanks for the laugh fast laine from lainey7.