I guess "hip urban downtown freestyle boutique loft condo concept investment opportunity that carries like big rent" is somebody's idea of affordable.
Not mine, of course. That's why a quarter-century later in dreams I keep going back to King Street. I was lucky enough to enjoy the early 1980s on the third floor of an 1880s house on King between Speedy and Midas Muffler shops.
Rent was $175/month, with a $5 annual increase. Cheap housing is the foundation of all happiness.
At the Big House, none of us ever answered the door. But somehow, on two occasions, people from the city got Alex to respond to the ringing of our bell. The first time they took him to the morgue to view on video, which was a novelty then the body of a man we knew as Joe.
The second time Alex answered was fatal for the house. Inspectors, who would never set foot in a private residence, produced a sheaf of mostly bogus infractions to force the closure of our home, the second-last rooming house in the area.
Looking further back to when I was in high school, houses were practically free. I probably could have bought one with babysitting money. But ownership has no appeal. There is so much emphasis on TV-watching and home decorating in North America because the public realm is a hideous, boring and menacing place ruled by cars.
The greed wave of the 1980s and 90s wiped out the sweet life and initiated this tense and tedious era of accommodation anxiety. Stress as a lifestyle has been imposed on those of us who have never seen its attraction.
Once upon a time, financially unfortunate people, spinsters and bachelors, artistes and bohemians could live with dignity and style in hotels. Simone de Beauvoir was forever switching hotels in Paris just to get the perfect set-up.
Smart New Yorkers lived in a responsibility-free suite of rooms where cooking meant shaking cocktails. The last economical residential hotels in New York became dumps for the victims of a dysfunctional welfare system.
In dour Toronto, the burden of home ownership was the ideal, and hotels were rare. The rooms and film noir bars of the Spadina Hotel were torn up to cram in bunk beds for young people who carry backpacks because they want to, not because they have no homes. The old Drake is gone. The "flophouse chic' of the new one is doublespeak for "you need a credit card."
I stayed one interesting night in the Victoria Hotel on Yonge Street before its upgrade to the Hotel Victoria. A good hotel is not only cheap but legit. With a front desk. They take messages and screen visitors. They might let you have a friend up, and some rooms might rent by the hour, but drug dealers are barred. There are clean sheets (once a week) and a clean towel or two every couple of days if staff are not too slack.
Maids must be trained. At the long-gone Midori in San Francisco's Tenderloin, I learned how to live in a hotel. The maid learned not to assume I was through with my newspapers. We got used to each other. They knew I got up late. I knew what time they left.
That movie where Marilyn Monroe ties up and gags the kid she's supposed to be minding so she can make time with Richard Widmark is set in a hotel. A speaker in each room pipes in music from the Roundup Room nightclub downstairs.
The Patricia, on Hastings near Main in Vancouver, was a bit like that. I used to open my window and listen to the band through the ventilator shaft. They played my favourite song, Sea Of Heartbreak, which made me dress up and go downstairs, where the bandleader asked if I was an artist and invited me to Seattle.
Living in a hotel means you don't need to buy furniture, rent a phone or pay bills other than your daily or weekly rent, and you have the true luxury of personal privacy.
In a hotel, if your neighbours are a pain you can always get different ones, move to another room, another floor another address even. It's important to get the desk clerks to like you. Living alone in a hotel can be less lonely than living alone in an apartment.
There are still hotel rooms that rent for $10 or less. Problem is, they're in far distant lands. Here, in this jumped-up developers' gold-rush town, it's time to get serious.
Eviction numbers are rocketing. Nothing left to do but squat the condos! Pathetic Toronto is always trumpeting its international status. Squatting is very London. A high percentage of T.O. condos are owned by absentee investors.
Just carry an ugly little pocket-sized dog, snub everyone else in the building and you're home free.
Number of eviction applications filed with the Ontario Rental Housing Tribunal in 2001: 60,853
Percentage of eviction applications granted with no hearing between 1998 and 2001: 57