MY FIRST HOME
The Lovely Dump Above Is Where I Was Baptized.
According to my mother.
A Roman Catholic priest from St. Helen’s Parish performed the ritual at home and not at the church because I was too sick.
I’m not convinced this wasn’t an exorcism.
Okay, that’s just blasphemous, but the truth – folklore – is also a little suspect, too.
Whether or not, there was concern of my imminent demise – witness home Baptism – is as uncertain and bewildering as the shenanigans of the trifecta of conspirators engaged in creating falsified Church documents.
As with most great works of fiction, my Baptism Certificate doesn’t mention any of this.
It also doesn’t reference the identity of my real father.
“So, Way-To-Go – Thumbs Up – to the Catholic Church, Mom and Papa.”
For putting me on a ‘50 Year Hunt for The Father Who Wasn’t’.
AND THIS …
Well, There Was A Fire … And The Scene Of An Epic Battle With A Big, Bad Hairy Bastard.
It didn’t end well.
Not a Hallmark Card moment.
“I wish I was the arsonist responsible for burning the barn down.”
But, I wasn’t.
THIRD FLOOR FLAT
Entrapped Above A Seedy Storefront At The Corner Of Brock Avenue And Dundas Street West in Parkdale.
The sallow west end neighborhood of Toronto, which has morphed – regressed – through numerous incarnations of depravity, decay and neglect since 1879.
I can’t remember much about the apartment beyond sketchy, squalor and being destitute.
And, that’s quite okay.
It was and remains an unforgettable Sh!t Hole.
Birthplace Of My Fabulous Life.
A FAINT RECOLLECTION
To Satisfy My Curiosity And Quash-To-Smithereens All Romantic Notions My Childhood Was Idyllic.
“Woe is Not Me.”
Never was. I’m not bitter. Never been.
I was a reflective, insightful and wildly imaginative kid.
How I figured life the first dozen years …
Finding my way alone, content in simple pleasures.
A pencil and paper – my go to treasure – tools of liberty and freedom to create whatever I aspired.
“Dreams of the improbable with an uncensored imagination nurtured a preoccupation of Grand Escapism to a better time and place – anywhere but the present – consumed me.”
HOPE & FAITH
… Divine Sustenance Filled The Cavity Of My Small Soul That I Couldn’t Find In Fantasy.
And, yes, occasionally, I’d be Mad as Hades at the world.
Frustrated, confused and disconnected as any marginalized youth could be through the unknowable Why? and Why Not? in Life.
Contrarian by nature.
Naiveté was lost – innocence usurped – by pre-school …
Bliss wasn’t available.
Ignorance was not advised.
Would Inevitably Find Me A Bunch Of Years Later.
Slapped me hard into awakening my sense of awareness and acceptance, emotionally, spiritually.
Defined My Purpose and My Being.
“Much, too much, longer than the average bear to learn there are goodies in them picnic baskets, Boo-Boo.”
There’s no shortcuts to Redemption.
You’ve got to work for it.
Even The Forgettable One’s Are Better Than None.
Perhaps, respectfully, not to everyone.
One I could do without.
“A Small Mercy Of Awareness Over Ignorance … A Triumph Of Forgiveness Over Hate … Love Over Fear … I Am Forever Grateful In Knowing I Was Not Alone And Have Never Been.”
There’s not much I would change about my childhood if I could.
Except The Lies.
All Good Now.
BACK TO THE DIVE …
Graffiti Is Tagged Across Its Brown Exoskeleton.
How it looks today.
This isn’t a Happy Accident the way Bob Ross scratched oil paint across a stretched canvas to make forests, streams and mountains pop to life.
I like it. Color. Movement. Expression.
Spruces up the joint.
Could’ve Used A Couple Coats Way Back In The Day.
Fumigation would’ve helped, too.
You’ll See …
To Inquire With The Current
Slum Lord Building Owner If Its For Sale.
I’m certain I can’t afford it; Toronto’s hyper-inflated Real Estate Market being what it is these days.
It sits like much of the quasi derelict Hogtown properties in a state of perennial pre-gentrification – Starbucking – primed for redevelopment.
Boutique condos. Gastro-bars. Hipster Barber Shop. Art Gallery.
A hub for the Fear Of Missing Out & The Must-Be-Seen scene.
SPEAKING OF RAT BASTARDS
‘Papa Lothario’ – You May Recall: The Father Who Wasn’t – The Cowardice Cad With A Convenient Penchant For Fiduciary Amnesia (i.e. Neglecting Child Support)?
Well, not that Rat Prick …
Another whiskered, pointy-nosed, slinky-tailed, sneaky … Big, Bad, Hairy Bastard … referenced above.
Literally, a rat.
Living with us.
He wasn’t a pet as far as I could tell.
This Rat Had Taken A Special Liking To My Face.
“Just enough to jump on it from the medicine cabinet.”
… and, scratch, gnaw, nibble … bite … the upper bridge of my nose.
There’s the thinnest trace of a fading white scar barely perceptible under the space between two brows.
This Was Not From Cage Fighting.
Or, playing with Buffy.
Or, the time in 6th Grade when I picked up a pair of Nunchuks and nearly Bruce Lee’d my face into a pulpy mess.
Wasn’t My Choice.
It was someone else’s …
I’m not blaming.
Okay, I’m pointing fingers at Papa Lothario, but he’s gone and that’s that.
THE BENEFITS OF BEING FIRST WORLD POOR
Welfare. Government Housing. Social Assistance.
You learn to fight back.
Do what’s necessary even when it isn’t pretty.
Ph.D. in Street.
You’re no fool.
Being resourceful, cunning, adaptive … comes naturally.
Hand Me Down’s … Never Getting’s …
Could be worse.
“There’s a bad stench of a societal stigma, which lingers for a couple decades … until you pull yourself up and make a little something of yourself.”
Self-Esteem goes to crap.
Then you feel good.
Generational Poverty Is A Not-So-Silent Killer.
It’s not for everyone.
Survival is the journey.
The End Game.
There’s No Almost …
Drugs. Alcohol. Crime. Abuse. Neglect. Fear.
A HABITUAL INCONVENIENCE
We Moved No Fewer Than
Four Five Times By My 12th Birthday.
Each successive domicile only slightly less of a dump than the previous.
Another 3rd floor walk-up a few clicks away is where we ended up settling the longest.
A one-bedroom flat housing just the Five of Us.
We lived above Parkdale Furs – a furrier storefront and backroom sweatshop – where my mother stitched pelts of Sable, Mink and Chinchilla into morbidly grotesque coats, jackets, capes and other opulent obsessions of the rich ladies patronizing the shop.
I hated the place for a few good enough reasons:
One, its where I nearly lost the tip of my finger in an industrial-sized floor fan, best recounted here in The 7 Dumbest Things I’ve Ever Done
Two, the suffocating stale air … hence the fan.
Three, it was creepy …
Skinned hides of animals.
ACROSS THE STREET WE MOVED
As In … Right. Across. The. Street.
To a converted Police Station, which unremarkably, looked exactly like an unconverted Police Station.
Made into sterile apartments. With a kitchen.
My fondest memory there was observing a Working Girl – clad sparingly in red – lose her black garter on the corner.
Perhaps, its where my Curiosity of Whores came to be.
And, my unspeakable dislike for the song, Lady In Red.
MY FAVORITE DUMP
An Eastern-Bloc Inspired ‘Maisonette’ In Government Housing … Plopped On A Plot Of Scrub Annexed From A Power (Hydro) Field (*)
We’d migrated northwest to Suburbia. Shangra-La. Strip Malls.
The Joy of Communal Poverty and shared cohabitation in a Village of Juvenile Delinquents, assorted Drug Dealers, Alcoholic Adults …
And, a few Good Folks that I don’t remember as well.
NOT A FUN FACT: CONFESSION DIGRESSION
Living Near Power Lines – Electromagnetic Fields (*) – Are Known To Cause A Horde Of Negative Health Effects.
Leukemia. Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS). Alzheimer’s disease. Breast cancer. Miscarriage, birth defects and reproductive problems. Decreased libido. Fatigue. Depression. Blood diseases. Hormonal imbalances. Heart disease. Neuro-degenerative diseases. Sleeping disorders.
City Planners, Private Developers, Builders and Other Irresponsible, Avaricious Opportunists Void of Concern And Conscience … Lining Your Pockets:
All Lives Matter Equally.
“Inhabitable Land is not scarce on the World’s 2nd Largest Land Mass with a Population Density of 3.5 Heartbeats per Kilometer.”
1 IN 5
Children Live In Conditions Of Poverty In Canada And The USA!
Nearly 17 Million Impoverished Children in two of the world’s most economically developed countries.
One-Third of Food Bank users across Canada are Children.
1 in 7 Children use shelters.
Globally, more than 1 Billion Children in Extreme Poverty.
To get All The Way out.
As my siblings did.
We don’t talk about it much these days.
Looking Back, Remember When …
Maybe We Should.