Storefronts are filling up with what those out of the know might call used clothing shops. Actually, they're boutique-style galleries specializing in curated shows of "vintage" wearables. Same crap, bigger price tags. It's when the rag moguls accost me in the street that it's simply too much.
I just knew the white guy in the Jiffy Pop hat was going to bug me. "Nice jacket." Of course, he didn't stop there. "Wanna sell it?" I tried to ignore him. He followed me, continuing with his filthy suggestion.
As he was getting into his Land Rover, I heard him on his cell. "Yeah, it's red and white...."
I'm no conspiracy theorist. He was definitely describing the leather number with the lightning bolt I got directly from somebody who swears it's identical to the one Evel Knievel wore to ride off a cliff in Colorado.
Sure enough, as I was bending to pick flowers in the backyard of the abandoned house that fell down, I heard another voice behind me. "How are you doing today?" My immediate reaction was, It's a cop. In a way, it was. A store clerk - sorry, "clothing gallery associate" - sent by the boss to try to talk me out of my magic jacket.
Maybe he's on commission, I thought. I calmly explained that money is the root of all evil. Money folks have ruined the neighbourhood, and their propositions are lousy with offensive assumptions.
Of course, everyone has their price. I might have considered, say, two grand. But not then. I was in mourning for my beautiful and stylish Aunt Mary, the artist, who wore second-foot - so to speak- lucite heels into her 80s.
I had taken a load of clothes, including Bing Crosby shoes, to a shmatta salon just the day before to buy gin for her wake. I got $50 for stuff that will fetch many times that. But in this instance, no one was pressuring me to sell my own clothes for roughly the same price they used to charge at Buy the Pound.
Downtown Toronto is poorer since the loss of Buy the Pound on Adelaide East, which was sold off to make way for much-needed condominiums. The outlet, which was run by Goodwill Industries, formerly the Crippled Civilians or Crips, had a Hades-like atmosphere.
But even there I wasn't much of a shopper. Mostly I find stuff hanging on fences, like my other jacket from the Edmonton Journal. My winter boots were laying on a lawn.
The Pound was more a place of worship where I went to look at the congregation for as long as my allergies would permit. It was frequented by a rich crop of eccentrics with the perseverance and imagination to see the possibilities in piles of dross. Where did they go?
To Emblem Court? That's where the Pound went. To get there, you must go to Kennedy station. Kennedy station is dark and dingy with an escalator laying in pieces on the floor. At first I think the pictures on the staircase are part of some government-funded art project. In fact, they're ads for a bank. A bit disconcerting to be stepping on a giant baby's face.
The driver of the 57 bus wheels out of the station so fast that kids go "Whee!" We turn up Midland and whiz past single-family homes, apartment towers and plazas, a factory outlet for Royal Doulton wedding china, ducts and smokestacks belonging to Atlantic Recycling ("We saved 9,300 trees today").
Beyond the stop for the Midland RT and just north of the 401, you have to be watching to jump off at Emblem Court, a dead end that's called something else on the east side of the street.
On the corner, I recognize the name of Bedessee Imports, a company that sells cricket equipment and Caribbean products. I have their calendar, which features Jesus pointing at his bleeding heart and lists holidays like Dhulendi and Pongal, with a picture of Marshall's Sardines "with original Scottish taste." Something for everyone. Just like the old Pound.
Rather a desolate location. A few tractor trailers sit on the road. There's no sidewalk, but ditches line both sides. A Goodwill truck barrels past as I jump aside. It feels like industrial Mexico - industrial anywhere, I guess. Water flowing in a drainage ditch attracts birds. On the embankment, bright red apples decorate a hardy little tree. The Umbra plastics factory is at the end of the road. A freight train rolls by to the north.
The Goodwill Community Outlet doesn't look any bigger than the old Buy the Pound. But it does look very empty. Through a glass partition you can see a warehouse three or four times as big as the Adelaide space. On the retail side jazz music plays like in a real store.
It's very depressing. I listlessly pick at a few garments, not old, but new seconds. A lot of the stuff has tags from its last appearance on a Goodwill rack. There are a few shoes, unlike the vast footwear maze of the old place.
A gal stands on a chair in front of a mirror to try on clothes - a collector type. It's still $1.99 for a pound, 99 cents after 100. I suppose you could find stuff here, but everyday devotion at this location is out of the question for the ex-devotees.
The VP of marketing for Goodwill, Mitzi Hunter, says later the company sold its former property "to ensure it is able to serve its mission to the community' and to "create cleaner, brighter facilities and more efficiencies. There are communities in need in the Scarborough area,' she says, pointing out that downtowners now have a new store at Bloor and Sherbourne.
But taking the back way out through the industrial zone feels even less safe than the way in, especially for a woman. I guess I should've known better heading all the way up here.
It's like when they closed the racetrack on Queen Street in the 90s. Those characters never followed the horses way out to Woodbine near the airport. The Pound and the old track were distinctly part of an urban fabric that the desolation of the burbs has made impossible to recreate.