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  • Sunday morning:

    Quiet, not a morning neighbourhood, at least on the street. The street is mine. Small treasures dolly out in the urban solitude.

    The breeze is fine, a hot day to come, but the morning is cool enough to feel a chill on my bare T-shirt sleeves.

    "Nice and cool," I say to the older woman, grey hair in a ponytail, who comes up from her basement stairs with a broom and begins to sweep her walk, which is bare of leaves. She gives me a smile. All right, then.

    On I walk.

    On a main north-south street, a slim fun by her fine eyes young woman steps jauntily out of a doorway tucked beside a laundromat and it is the smell of fresh chocolate muffins she is carrying on a gold-edged round tray which precedes her.

    A tray of warm muffins, maybe three dozen. "Smells good," I say. She laughs. Gee, make me a muffin offer babe. I won't refuse.

    Alas. No muffin dice. Me and my shiny red water bottle make our way.

    The big Italian coffee joint is empty. Ah. Empty tables, empty patio. Those empty chairs, awaiting assignments and assignations and collected whispers.

    Whoops. No. Not empty. One couple. I glance at them as I pass by. Yeah, I know them. The way you know people in a city you don't know but who are familiars. Oh, that couple. Both small build, maybe later 40's, maybe older but look younger. Never see them in winter. Do they go away? Never see them, inside the Italian joint. Always summer, always on the patio. Always he has a laptop, she has a book, or a large bound something.

    In a city you're forced to make up stories. Otherwise I'd know who they are and where they are showing or playing or came back from, or who they are related to. My family has lived in Toronto for six and seven generations now.

    By the 1950's, I had two dozen aunts and uncles all born in T.O. and dozens of cousins, and my parents were becoming known for their maps and I can't remember a day of my childhood or youth in T.O., when I spent a day not knowing just about everyone I ran into. The stories I absorbed were elaborations and exaggerations but they were all about people I knew, people I was related to, or whom people I was related to knew.

    After years away, coming back to this hometown city of mine, I am still working out how you tell stories if you are the fish in the sea, about the fish and about the sea. I can't be the icthyologist. Which of us can in our born home place? The trick is somehow to ignore the fact that as you walk around you are dragging roots so deep they run 100 blocks long.

    So: that couple. The ones who look low-key and arty. Architects? City planners? Teachers of media studies? I like them. They seem at ease with each other at the table. The early birds. Every day. But only in late spring and summer.

    On in the quiet. Big wide roads. Under the train bridge, up the hill. Strange guy standing down in his basement doorwell staring at me from across the street. Just me, just you. Oh well, fare thee well, brother.

    A stop at the graffiti wall, which is getting leprosy. A snap or two. A thought about how that word 'leprosy' stuck in my head from Ken Stansbury's pieces on his urban art wild bureaucracy capers.

    At the corner, glory be.

    Here comes a swell looking car. Vintage.

    Grace be praised.

    The wide street is empty, as if for a movie set. The orange paint on the car must be custom, it's a soft orange, coral.

    GTO it says on the front left indented grille. It is moving my way, proud and smooth and owning it. 1968? 1967? I'm betting '66. Sleek and '66. Alone on the road.

    Two chubby-faced guys inside. Bless you, my brothers. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the GTO. The driver makes the wide turn with no show-off squeal. You betcha.

    On I walk.

    A nice-looking gent in rimless glasses but a sheepskin jacket too warm for 20 degrees Celcius (68 F) and way brand new or newly polished way too white sneakers is walking a full-sized chocolate brown poodle across the street. We keep pace across two lanes of traffic. One more: just me, just you.

    Down, almost home.

    Bonus: at my corner, at the Russian Orthodox Church, a man about 45 years of age, tall, fair hair, in a long blond ponytail, light brown polo shirt, light slacks, carries his blue, pink and yellow fluorescent psychedelic motorcycle helmet under his left armpit, and with his right hand crosses himself ritually on the steps of the church.

    The breeze comes up.

    Not even 9:30 a.m. yet.

    Bagels ahoy and the big Sunday paper.

    (As the cement leprosy silently eats away the bug graffito.)

    (Photo by Susan)
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