As I look from my second-storey porch window through the green squirrel-shaken leaves to a courtyard full of playing kids, I thank the philanthropists and socialists of yesteryear and the honest soul-workers of today.
Back in the early 1900s, a group of wealthy business types and politicians wanting to help worthy working folk planned a community in Riverdale with lots of greenery to lift the spirits of proletarian kids.
The red-brick Tudor-style longhouses built around six courtyards were the first social housing in the country. But I'm not sure the charitable city fathers of a century ago would have approved of their creation turning into the Bain Co-op, with its artsy, lefty, independent-minded residents.
When I first moved here over 20 years ago, the courtyards were verboten, fenced and hedged in, their gates locked, even though architect Eden Smith intended otherwise. The elegant white plane trees that still hold sway over the street looked down then on well-groomed, untrodden lawns.
But the move to cooperative ownership and self-government popped the fences, sprang the hedges and spilled the play of children into their spacious and shady interiors.
On hot summer evenings under the sky-wide foliage maples, ash and mighty poplars everyone's out with candles, smokes and wineglasses, the picnic tables placed end to end to form one potlatch long-table, encouraging conversation, gusto, romance and whole families out of their apartments and into the common air.
I don't want to make it sound like Shangri-La. Of course there are petty feuds and malignant struggles. Once a month the governing bodies meet and get locked into the same old debate: are we fractious or not? The answer is yes but all that, too, becomes common ground.
Our plethora of councils and committees is a fertile training ground where struggles and strugglers sharpen one another's skills ad infinitum. It's a training arena for incipient politicians and social movers. Both Marilyn Churley and local NDP candidate Peter Tabuns, a co-op founder, cut their teeth here, you might say.
If, like me, you mostly want to stay out of that (my tendency to scream!), there's a glut of gardens to walk through. One cannot help in summer but be uplifted by the smorgasbord of flowers and foliage: sunflowers, cosmos, big orange squash flowers like grammophone speakers, and let's not forget the forget-me-nots.
And once a year, right outside my window, there's a First Nations drumming and dance circle quite appropriate considering we live a few hundred yards from the site of the most ancient First Nations village in Toronto, at the corner of Withrow and Broadview.
In the community centre replete with sound system, big windows and kitchen, we hold a once-a-month café so that everyone from local child poets to beat-boxing seniors may get up and perform or confess.
And then there's the task exchange. Our children get to witness and participate in the small movements of a no-money economy. My teenager, for instance, has excelled at math this year because he gets volunteer tutoring from a neighbour.
I'm allowed to get away with singing at the street festival, but my partner has done the full toil and splendour of committee work.
Both the well-off and the financially challenged live here side by side. Some people pay full market rent and others are helped by rent-geared-to-income subsidies courtesy of provincial and federal governments, without which we could not have afforded to raise a family here in Toronto.
Contrary to the current propaganda about single-parent families, single mothers here seem to consistently raise upstanding, well-motivated citizens. And couplings that would have been cause for wonder, mockery or even legal action in the all-white Scarborough I grew up in pass without notice or comment at the Bain.
Of course, none of this means home if you have incompatible neighbours. But I happen to have the greatest bunch of people in the world around me. Visually stunning, if they don't mind me saying, and such great laundry. I'd much rather live here than in Rosedale. Lucky and I know it.