Toronto: Swatow

toronto I’m at the Swatow for a bowl of hot and sour soup. Mark and Alison introduced me to the Swatow thirty years ago. I’ve been here so many times through the years with Mark and/or Alison, David and Kathleen, Wayne…

As it happens, I ran into Alison on the street this morning. First time I’ve seen her in maybe ten years. Her daughter Lydia is in grade ten. Just got her nose pierced.

And later in the day I dropped by Mark’s place. First time I’ve seen him in maybe five years. His oldest, Noah, is in grade seven, already shopping for a highschool, still super excited about trains.

Toronto: Monarch Park

toronto We are suffering through one of the hottest summers in memory. Catherine calls me to say that, although her local pool is supposed to close at 6:00 PM, they are extending the hours to 10:00 PM to help the neighbourhood cope with the heat. She and her son Ben are going to spend the evening there and she asks me if i’d like to join them.  I take the TTC from my apartment near Bathurst and St Clair and meet them at Monarch Park.

Catherine, Ben and I live in a house just the other side of the tracks from Monarch Park. It is the dead of winter and Ben and I decide to go tobogganing in the park. There is a hill behind the pool that is only about 20 feet tall but surprisingly steep. Immediately upon reaching the bottom your sled is propelled up a facing incline which aborts your momentum but allows you to end your run with a sharp u-turn.  Ben and I take the tunnel under the tracks to reach the park. We keep an eye out for one of our three cats who are always exploring the neighbourhood. Their names are Luna, Beasty and Fuzzball.

There are a dozen dogs playing in the fall leaves on our toboggan hill.

Ben will be 27 years old at the end of the year. He left his PhD at McGill and spent the better part of a year living on a sailboat while sailing from New Brunswick to the Bahamas. He sold the boat in Miami and flew to Vancouver where he bought a bicycle. He then rode the bicycle to Halifax. “67 days, one broken spoke, ten flat tires, and one car crash.”

Toronto: Victory Cafe

toronto I’m standing outside the Victory giving John a hard time about his wedding plans. I’m being inconsiderate and unreasonable. John has just told me they have found a priest and a church. I’m mortified. “But John, you guys aren’t Christian and religion is evil. How can you do this?” John patiently explains about Anne’s family and their expectations. He also talks about Liberation Theology in Latin America as evidence that religion isn’t necessarily evil. I am having none of it.

I am honoured to read at John’s wedding. I sit by the lake practicing my lines. “These days you might feel a shaft of light make its way across your face.”

Near the church there is a man with a foot in Coldwater. He is enshrined in a small painting, given to Wayne.

Preamble

Ten Cities: The Past Is Present is an invitation for the past to engage in dialogue with the present. Wayne Johnston is visiting ten sites in each of ten cities that have had a formative impact on his life. The encounters are captured through writing that might be described as prose poetry, creative nonfiction or postcard stories. The text is supplemented with a drawing in each site.