I live on a quaint side street off Kingston Road. Unlike the section that's abundantly treed, my part, closer to Kingston, is rather barren. So I tried to animate the front yard.
First I put up a turquoise blue sign for my studio. Then I fashioned a locomotive out of an old furnace that my landlady had junked. The children stopped by daily to admire the rusty hull.
By and by, word got back to me that my yard art was making the neighbourhood look like a farm. Someone complained about the blue sign. A city official dutifully arrived and ordered it removed. He said it was an issue of zoning.
Shortly thereafter, my landlady became distraught over the use of the reclaimed metal. So I let the locomotive be whistled away.
But I wasn't done beautifying my treeless neck of the woods. I thought a dash of colour would break up the grey monotony and arouse the eye's pleasure. So I gave a 9-foot post holding up my street sign a purple wash.
Amongst the countless sullen grey necks lining the street, there suddenly flashed a vital stem. Bright and happy, it cheered the street flow. The neighbourhood dogs started dragging their masters to their new favourite spot to bask and let go in its glow.
Its days were numbered, however, for how can a flower grow amidst Toronto's vision of order?
Recently a city vehicle pulled up beside the purple post. Two men with high-visibility vests popped out, finished their sandwiches and, to my chagrin, ripped out the entire post from the concrete. They remounted the street sign on a neighbouring post and poured fresh concrete over the hole. A less informed citizen would never know that a purple stem had ever grown here.
For a city like Toronto, bland uniformity should not be the recipe.
A while later I found myself at the nearby studio of a French-born sculptor who'd opened his doors for a five-day viewing of his work.
He related to me an artful forecast: that Toronto has been selected as North America's next cultural centre. The U.S.'s behaviour will completely isolate it from the world, Montreal can't be the it city because it's French, and the West Coast just doesn't measure up.
So that leaves us.
He added that some Buddhist temples in the Far East made the forecast, too. His opinion is that Toronto has the seedling to be controversial, that being the root for good culture.
Interestingly, a group of British researchers have been arguing that the West's growing obesity problem is linked with graffiti.
Their study shows that city-dwellers living in areas with little greenery and high levels of graffiti (and litter) are 50 per cent more likely to be obese than those living in pleasant areas with lots of greenery.
This leaves me wondering: was it the residents on the tree-abundant, green, safe side of my street who called the authorities to remove the pole, afraid that the lifestyle of the comparitively less affluent part of Kingston Road will spill across their front doors? After all, I did hear that I'm making the neighbourhood look like a farm.