Thursday, December 13, 2007

holiday lights

i had forgotten that people here decorate their construction sites with holiday lights. i particularly like the lopsided Charlie-Brown Christmas tree that is leaning on the second floor of the Art Gallery of Ontario's site on Dundas here in Toronto. this evening it surprised me nearly as much as my all-time favourite weird tree location: the completely-decorated & illuminated small tree in the tunnel in New York underneath the Hudson River...which you should be able to glimpse on the PATH train between Union Square and Jersey City.

Monday, December 10, 2007


recently, Toronto poet Kevin Irie invited me for a walk through one of Toronto's most exclusive neighbourhoods--the legendary Wychwood. he told me it was a 19th-century artists' enclave--so i wasn't expecting mansions, or private tennis courts. but anyone who has been to Wychwood knows that this place is a very unique take on the artist life, snuck into a woodsy hill near Bathurst and St-Claire. the park was founded by landscape painter Marmaduke Matthews in the 1870s, but most of the houses were built post-1907. many were designed by the architect Eden Smith, who saw himself as an upholder of the William Morris Arts and Crafts tradition. so the houses for the most part are timbered and many-gabled, and though they ought to be unbearably twee, they're actually marvellous. (Smith also built low-cost housing in a similar style...i'd love to see some of those, to compare.)

Marshall McLuhan lived here from 1968 until the end of his life (i wouldn't mind his house, near the pond...) and innumerable Toronto novels have been set here--i just read Russell Smith's very funny Muriella Pent. i hope the park is haunted by all sorts of artistic ghosts, even ones who never lived's certainly the most romantic place in Toronto, and despite its air of private property, anybody at all can wander through these winding streets, admiring the gardens and contemplating the illusive nature of fame.

Friday, December 07, 2007


no one likes to admit they're wrong...and i'm no exception. i hated the Royal Ontario Museum's crystal. i hated the sketches, i ridiculed the construction delays, i criticized the expense...and now that i've been to see the completed building? i have to admit that i really like it.

what made me change my mind is that just recently i was walking down Bloor. it was raining. it was twilight--that unattractive grey colour that Toronto does all-too-well. and there suddenly was the Crystal, illuminated, dramatic, and yes--really exciting. the sheer exhuberance of the angles made me want to go inside the building, even though i hadn't planned to make a stop at all. isn't that what architecture is supposed to do--make people want to walk into a building?
architect Daniel Libeskind has created someting beautiful and strange. it remains to be seen if the curatorial eye at the ROM can match the excitement of the new building (the current Canada Collects exhibit is fascinating but lacks coherence). but now i'm really looking forward to seeing what develops at the reinvigourated space.

if you haven't been by yet, you might want to schedule your visit for later in the month, when the dinosaur exhibit reopens...