Doc debut stew
Cathy Crowe has helped a hell of a lot of people during her 13 years as a street nurse.
But there wasn't much she could do for former Tent City resident Dri after a presentation of Street Nurse, a documentary about Crowe's work shown at the Bloor Cinema December 27. The night was the fifth of six Toronto Public Space Committee (TPSC) fundraisers entitled The Streets Are Alive.
As Dri made his way to the stage to take his place in a post-screening panel discussion, he was clearly inebriated and stumbled, mumbling, "I'm not drunk, I'm just a little old."
The three-quarters-full Bloor was treated to a much more clear-headed Dri in Shelley Saywell 's documentary. In one light-hearted moment as he's being interviewed, a cellphone rings. It's his, and he takes the call. "I'm doing a documentary," he tells the person on the other end.
But it isn't just the ravages of alcohol that distinguish the sober Dri on film from the present-day skeleton: his voice is croakier and his appearance much more ragged, showing the effects of the homelessness Crowe can do nothing about.
But she's trying, and that's the point of the documentary, in which Crowe recalls that she'd wanted to follow her mother into nursing since she was five years old. The film tracks Crowe as she makes her way through the streets looking for those she can help, and introduces us to her daughter, who worries so much about her mother, it's as if they've switched roles.
People Crowe has helped, like Byrd , who cherishes his AM radio, also figure in the film. "All I care about is the weather," he says. "I mean, I care about Afghanistan and stuff like that, but all I really care about is the weather!"
During the discussion afterwards, someone asks what we can expect in January's federal election. Crowe is blunt: none of the party leaders has a strategy to address homelessness.
For Dri, who says we will be here next year making the same demands, the time for solutions may be getting short.
Trippy, dippy TTC
Instead of Bose ads or billboards pushing iPods, the Toronto Public Space Committee hopes banana-coloured vehicles will greet you at your subway, bus or streetcar stop one day soon.
What The TTC Could Be , as the TPSC's campaign is dubbed, asked artists and school kids to envision a different kind of public transit environment than the commercial-advertising-dominated one we ride now.
In their dream future, watermelons, art-deco-inspired designs, psychedelic nature scenes and seascapes adorn streetcars and subway cars. More than 200 of these ideas are on display through Sunday (January 8) at Xpace (303 Augusta) in Kensington Market.
Says the TPSC's Dave Meslin , "This is to show by example an alternative transit system that can get people to realize how different the TTC could look."
But don't expect TTC chair Howard Moscoe to jump through hoops to push the new artwork. While he's all for public art, it doesn't pay for transit operations.
"If it becomes a choice between keeping up with repairs or public art, keeping up with repairs takes priority," says Moscoe.
In late November, the TTC approved $1.5 million in funding over three years for the Arts On Track project to revamp three stations.
Meslin points out that the $14 million advertising contract with Viacom runs out in 2007, and the TTC should start looking to art inspired by Torontonians, not more ads.
TTC spokesperson Marilyn Bolton says the TPSC and the public in general will have an opportunity to suggest improvements to the system at its annual forum on service. "It sounds like an interesting project," she says.