While the hordes were out tasting the Danforth (mmm, hot pavement!) last weekend (August 10 to 12), a wee flock was sampling the temporary scene created in alleys and garages around Trinity Bellwoods Park.
Had AlleyJaunt been promoted by a bank, as Nuit Blanche was, crowds of media-primed culture consumers would have overwhelmed what was essentially a very sweet and relaxed grassroots event.
Naturally cranky in the killer sunshine, as I ride through the park I think to myself how aesthetically revolting the male and female versions of summer mating plumage are: exposed expanses of boxer shorts and bra parts.
Then I run right into artist Shannon Gerard's cart of crocheted willies and boobs, packaged with large graphics of a man handling his testicles and a woman her breasts. The serious purpose behind the work that non-prudes would call "whimsical" is cancer detection. You're invited to find the lump in the handmade body parts.
AlleyJaunt's 32-site route is clearly chalked on the pavement and marked on poles up and down alleys from Bellwoods west to Roxton. The garages are lent by their owners to the festival, and one participant says some people consider it a good excuse to clean up their garage every year. (This is the fifth.)
In a Volkswagen camper van I find the Poetry Caravanserai. If the red curtain is tied back, one or two may enter the lovely lair created by Simla Civelek, who is reclining on pillows dressed in a spangly belly dancing costume.
She offers a scrolled menu from which one can choose up to three poems, from "amuse-bouches" through entrees and dessert. I select an entree of Eyes Of Ashes Woman and a dessert that asks What Happened To My Patience? Civelek doesn't read, but recites her poems by heart. The first is the tale of her relationship to another woman of course I mean The Other Woman. After, I accept a piece of Turkish delight from a silvery salver.
I can't tell whether the fellow sitting in a lawn chair across from the garage stuffed with cars and a Fiat sign is part of the Jaunt or not. He says not, but that could be part of the act, I reason in my overly wily way.
I could even spend ages hanging off the tin can dangling from what used to be called a telephone pole. Tin Can Alley's instructions tell you to pull the wire taut, put the can to your ear and listen. I swoon to the sounds of a 78 record that fill the tin through some miracle that recalls Les Paul's childhood experiments.
A bike comes in handy when pursuing the Toy Theatre puppeteer and accordionist all the way back down to the park from the Cardboard Heart Imagination Laboratory near College, where everyone is welcome to work on sets, sounds and scripts.
Unofficial sights include lots of sunflowers, a flattened, dried rat in a style popular in many local alleys, giant thimbleberries overhanging a fence, and children inside a huge, generator-powered inflated cage no doubt meant to be fun.
I hang around fascinated for a long time at number 21, Steve Lyons's spot. His garage faces a yard across the alley filled with fruit trees and an old Mercedes. Lyons, at the front of the garage, had painted that scene onto a pane of glass while watching a video image screening at the back of the garage of both the yard and the glass, superimposed.
The cutest old green metal garage contains snapshots of Iraq. Visitors mostly assume that Nadia Kurd and Riaz Mehmood took the photos themselves, but they were, in fact, downloaded from the Internet.
I just miss the member of the Three Rocks Collective who has been playing guitar all day while selling his portraits on stones. June Carter's Arm (her face was too difficult to portray) and Angry Kitty Wells have not yet sold.
My final stop is in an unnamed but dog-soiled park north of Dundas and Roxton. Members of Dear Toronto have hand-knitted dozens of envelopes and hung them along with writing paper on clotheslines.
Notes of all sorts are hanging, protesting things like library cutbacks and the $2 million spent on lighting the CN Tower when we need to see the stars. But touchingly, most of the notes nestled in knitting are like AlleyJaunt itself love letters to hard-to-love Toronto.