My neighbourhood is an interesting place. Run down rooming houses full of run down people sit side-by-side beautifully renovated Victorian and Edwardian homes with $15,000 stoves in the kitchen. We have a high end toy/gift shop but the swankest coffee chain is Coffee Time – we don’t even rate a Tim’s. A seasonal, local, nose-to-tail restaurant looks out across Queen West at a community drop-in centre and soup kitchen. Rich ladies with sweaters over their shoulders emerge from vintage Jaguars to cruise the junque shops while trying to avoid used condoms and syringes on the sidewalk.
Sitting in the front window of Rhino, our local watering hole, it’s interesting to watch this diversity wander by.
Across the street at Public Butter, a vintage clothing shop, a rack of plaid jackets sits on the sidewalk. Priced as much as a new one from somewhere like Mark’s Work Wearhouse, they’re meant for the hipsters putting together outfits featuring the latest flavour of ironic. They’re less ironic when a pair of rocker guys, complete with mullets, walk past the rack, wearing those same jackets with utter seriousness.
Over an hour at lunch we witness the whole world walk past that huge window. The Indian ladies in their weekday saris, bundled up in a winter jacket and big puffy sneakers because it’s too cold for sandals. The rockabilly guy with his cool mutt-looking dog that would happily ride in the back of his de rigeur pick-up truck, but also walking a Chihuahua-like purse puppy that so doesn’t fit with the rest of his persona. Smiling Tibetan ladies in traditional dress, or the occasional Tibetan monk from the monastery a few blocks away. A Gothed-up woman with a toddler, heading to the Cadillac Lounge for lunch. There’s also the usual string of down-and-out folks; the guy holding up his pants by the waistband as he walks, the confused looking kid with Down’s Syndrome, the hard-looking girl in the tight pants, and a tighter hairdo, pushing a baby stroller and scowling at the world. Rough looking people of both sexes pushing dilapidated shopping buggies full of empty beer bottles. A woman in niquab, undisturbed in this neighbourhood full of Afghani immigrants where seeing someone in a full burqa isn’t rare.
Hipsters abound. They’re like cockroaches. Still believing that Parkdale is/will be the next hot new neighbourhood, like Williamsburg in NYC or something. There’s a selection of irreverent hats for the guys, usually worn out of season – when it’s 12′C and overcast, neither a toque or a white straw fedora are appropriate headgear – and some version of the douchbag scarf and/or patterned rubber wellies for the gals.
It rained this morning, so we see at least a dozen pairs of rubber boots pass by as we sip our beer, variations including plaid and pink polka dots, despite the fact that the trend is so two years ago. Toronto is well past the era when it earned the name “Muddy York”, and even with the fun patterns, these ladies look as if they expect to have to traverse a Scottish moor in a hurricane. It almost feels like an obligation now – like all these girls realize they spent too much money on a novelty item but that they’ve got to get their money’s worth out of the things despite looking utterly foolish.
Thankfully there’s a whole bunch of just plain old regular folks. “Normal” people we’d call them back in the 80s, to denote a lack of outstanding physical characteristics. No traditional dress, no facial piercings, no “desperate to be cool” stylistic choices. Not good or bad, weird or boring, one way or the other. They balance out the rough and the sleek. They’re a buffer between those trying to survive and trying to be hip.
Lunch ends and we head out, walking past that some window ourselves, joining the parade of Parkdale characters, wondering where exactly we’d fall in the window shopping assessment of stereotypes and styles.