It's Downtown, Man

Since January, we have been living in the center of a populous metropolis. Clearly populous metropolises (or is it metropolii?) are a rather poor choice to take upon residence at the time of a global pandemic. Clearly our move was rather poorly timed. But it sort of happened.

The way-too-short-term stay

We spent our Christmas with Bill. After Christmas, we drove to Canada from Indiana, with Ammu cat, and what worldly possessions we could fit in our hatchback car.

We were going to stay in a room in some guy’s house in a Toronto suburb for a month maybe, while we look for a long-term place to stay. Our host had originally told us that we were all welcome to use kitchen and living area, and Ammu was free to be wherever she wants to be, for our host’s children like cats.

On New Year’s eve, a woman our host was dating moved in, and started a proxy war. Long story short: we vacated that place the next day, and moved into the first apartment we found downtown.

View of the concrete jungle.

I have not lived in a city in a very long time. Various reports suggest that Toronto is nice, lively, multi-cultural, with much to do and explore. Some friends live a couple of city blocks away, and some other friends live a few kilometers away.

Things looked good. Until it didn’t.

It’s downtown, man

Rainy January night.

One night in January, we were walking to our friends’ apartment, with the friends in question, and with their toddler in a stroller. We stopped at a convenience store on our way, picked up some stuff, and stood on the line at the checkout counter to pay for the stuff.

A man with a fresh open wound on his face entered the store, blood gushing forcefully from the wound, like a fountain. He wanted to show his wound to the man who was at the counter, who apparently had caused the damage.

Shouting and pushing and shoving ensued. The rest of us stood there watching, unsure what to do. I offered to call 911, but a woman who was working in the store pleaded not to do so. She was afraid, and wanted the trouble to go away by itself.

We had not witnessed what happened a few minutes before: the now-wounded man had grabbed two sandwiches from this store and had made a run. The store worker who was now being pushed had tried to stop this terrible burglary with a baseball bat. Some of the beatings fell on the assailed man’s face. The assailed man threw the sandwiches on the floor, threw a few curses around, and stomped out.

Moments later, after the bleeding started and upon realizing what the hell just happened to his face, he came back. He let everyone in the store know of the crime that has just been committed, and stomped back into the night again.

A woman walked in, saw the mess and the startled faces in the store, and burst out laughing: “it’s downtown, man!”

Another store worker quietly brought out a bucket and a mop, and started to clean up the mess.

We left the store, shaken. What did we just witness? Did all that happen just for two sandwiches? Couldn’t they have let the man go with the damn sandwiches? Perhaps the store worker is from a kind of place where shoplifters are routinely handled in this manner, swiftly and violently?

Later that night, when we were walking back home, we saw a cop car outside the store, so presumably rule of law eventually got involved in the matter.

I wish I had the good sense to call someone to help the wounded man, but I did not do that at the heat of the moment. I just stood there and watched the whole thing like an idiot. Perhaps I should not have.

I have been walking

I chatted up a couple of photographers I met on the street. One of them told me about the abundance of nature trails and wildlife in Toronto. He showed me a picture of a howling coyote that he had taken one early morning, from fairly close quarters.

I have taken to the trails since then. I have seen plenty of birds. I have seen some tortoises. I have also seen an occasional raccoon or two, Toronto’s infamous nemesis. I have not seen a single coyote, howling or otherwise, so far. I continued walking. It seemed to be good way to orient myself in the new surroundings.

On the same day I met those photographers, on a long walk home, I was delighted to chance upon a building that houses Toronto Camera Club. The club holds (or rather: used to hold) regular meetings, they have a dark room, and some training for members that are darkroom rookies.

I was hoping to join them and maybe learn darkroom printing, but alas.

Late March snow day.
March: fish in former brickworks pond.
April: Tulips and scillas.

And then the masks came on

I believe masks started appearing in January. I remember feeling rather weird about them. There was reports of some epidemic going on in China. Should we worry yet? Why should we?

What did the mask people know that the non-mask people did not? That an abundance of caution is always a good thing? That the virus will eventually make its way to this side of the planet?

April: month of the shutdown.

Throughout the winter, I had been preparing myself to grow cranky by spring time. In the spring, I would grow cranky about not having a garden or a yard to care for. Little did I suspect that I could grow cranky about other things too, such as having to stay within the confinements of the apartment, and the uncertainty of the whole thing.

April: empty University of Toronto campus.
April: empty street.

Of late I have stopped going on my long walks. There are crankier people out there. I do not like meeting them. Who would have thought that going to the grocery store would be such a stressful experience?

Ammu cat dislikes confinement

Ammu in the new digs.

Ammu cat has never lived in an apartment. She always had access to some stomping grounds. In Atlanta, as a kitten, she spent all her time outside. After moving to the midwest from the south, year after year, she would patiently stay indoors all winter. And then, throughout the rest of the year, she would spend all day and sometimes all nights outside, coming and going as she pleased.

She still wants to do that. She would wake me up in the morning way too early for my liking, get her food, and then lead me to the door, demanding to be let out.

I’m sorry, Ammu, but you can’t go outside here. There’s an epidemic out there, and worse, there are cranky people out there and I do not want you to meet them.

You wait until we move out of here, to a house with a yard, away from this madness, where you and I can stomp to our hearts’ content.

(Posted on May 10, 2020.)