Well we’re movin’ on up,
To the [west] side.
To a deluxe apartment in the sky.
Movin’ on up,
To the [west] side.
We finally got a piece of the pie.
[Adobo] don’t fry in the kitchen;
[Bagels] don’t burn on the grill.
Took a whole lotta [flyin’],
Just to get up that hill.
Now we’re up in the big leagues,
Gettin’ our turn at bat.
As long as we live, it’s you and me baby,
There ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.
— A slightly modified version of the theme from The Jeffersons
Last Wednesday, after six years of life in the house I liked to call “Big Trouble in Little China”, three guys from Tippet-Richardson loaded my stuff (as well as some detritus from various housemates) onto a red truck and made the journey represented in the map below:
Click the image to see the full Google map.
See that big green mass in the lower left-hand corner? That’s how big High Park is. Click the image to see the full satellite photo.
I went to high school at De La Salle College “Oaklands” in the 80’s, during the era in which a guy with a goofy name — “Keanu? What the hell kind of a name is that?” — played defence for the hockey team so well that he was nicknamed “The Wall”. (He has since earned the nickname for his acting.) I took advantage of the school’s location and ended up in the usual adolescent hangout neighbourhoods in the city’s core, starting with the Eaton Centre and eventually working my way to Queen Street West.
In high school, Queen West and the surrounding areas were almost magical to me. It was the home of geek meccas such as the computer store Batteries Included, electronics shops such as Arkon Electronics and Active Surplus (only Active Surplus remains today, and in a smaller location), the science fiction store Bakka (where a young Cory Doctorow worked) and several comic book stores, including the legendary Silver Snail. Steve’s Music Store, and more importantly, its keyboard department, was also located on Queen West. I developed my penchant for wearing blazers and vests in the shops of Queen West, at new clothing stores like Fab (now occupied by Lush) and vintage places like Groovy (which is still in the same location). My sister’s friends and mine moved in the same circles, and we often partied en masse in the area’s clubs. Queen West was a home-away-from-home, and I promised myself that I’d live there someday.
In 1999, my sister Eileen, her then-fiance Richard and I were looking for a place in which to live. I lived with her in a condo at the corner of Yonge and Carlton, and they asked me to live with them as my sister and I get along quite well and hey — there’s nothing like a third renter with a profession to keep the living standards up to Eisenhower-era levels.
While the Yonge/Carlton location was quite good (central and right on top of a subway station) and the condo had great amenities, the place lacked a certain something. Yonge Street, for those of you not familiar with Accordion City, is the main drag, packed with fast food chains, dollar stores, “grey-market” electronics and camera shops and a couple of places to buy porn. If your life’s goal is to eat burgers, pizza and sushi and purchase DVDs and machines that play them, it could be heaven. I had different plans.
We lucked out. Eileen noticed a small ad in the Toronto Star for a place in the Queen/Spadina area and phoned the number. She made an appointment to see the place and when she saw it, she called my cell phone immediately.
“You’d better see this place as soon as possible,” she said.
“How soon?” I asked. “I’m, uh, wooing.” I was in the Annex — not far away from the house — enjoying a coffee with a charming young lady whom I was trying to save from a boyfriend who’d long passed his “sell-by date”.
“Joe, this place will let you woo like no other. Take a look now.”
Dude, I was SO the guy in the doorway, yo.
I know my sister well enough to know to take her recommendations seriously. I bade my young lady friend farewell and biked over to the house my sister was raving about. After a quick look about the house — 15-foot ceilings in the living and dining room, interesting planes and angles in the ceiling, hardwood floors, exposed brick wall — I looked at the landlord and quoted Homer Simpson: “I have only two questions: How much? and Give it to me!“
In my six years at that house, I have lived in every bedroom. When we first moved in, Richard and Eileen took the upstairs bedroom, while I used the downstairs rooms. Initially, I slept in the smaller bedroom and used the larger one as my office. Later, when I stopped working for myself and started working for OpenCola, I put my bed in the larger bedroom and the office in the smaller one. When Richard and Eileen moved out in 2001, I moved to the upstairs bedroom, with its hardwood floor and south wall made entirely of glass.
The house served me well. It was stumbling distance from several of my regular haunts: Tequila Bookworm (where I met The Waitress), the Bovine Sex Club (the original home of Kickass Karaoke), Velvet Underground (where I danced every Saturday night) and Amato Pizza, which became my designated late-night busking area. It was the site of many legendary parties, including the one with the hot tub on an army truck.
The neighbours from across the street still haven’t forgiven me for this one.
The house landed me an appearance on Love By Design, a home decorating show disguised as a “Dating Game”-type show in which a woman chooses her date based on three guys’ houses. Most importantly, it was nice enough to impress my lovely finacee, who must’ve been relieved that I didn’t live in a “hacker hole” with nothing but computers, empty pizza boxes and my own filth. (Worry not: the computer gear is there; it’s all just tastefully ensconced.)
Although I loved the place, it was time to leave. I’m getting married in September and my housemate Rob is getting married in October. While having two married couples living under the same roof with a single roommate would make for a great sitcom, I think that it would be quite unworkable in real life.
I notified our landlords of our plan to move out. They live in the UK, which would make it difficult for them to find new tenants for the place. They came up with the idea of paying me a nice sum to place ads, show the place and screen potential tenants. After showing the place to about 30 groups of people, I made a recommendation and the landlords agreed. On Wednesday, I met up with one of the landlords and the new tenant, during which time I handed over my keys and garage door opener.
“Wow,” said the landlord, “it actually looked bigger with the furniture in it.”
It was true — there’s something about the design of the place that has that effect.
Before I left, I kissed my fingers and pressed them against the brick wall in the living room. I then locked up the house for the last time, took the last of my stuff to the car and drove away.
I’ll miss that house.