Iâ€™M SO MAD
Toronto is home, I have never had such an adoration for a place. Every time I leave this city, my fondness for it grows stronger. Although Drake is questionable, he has a few bangers and his embracement of Toronto and its identity is what makes me love some of his music. Low-key, I play Drake’s Know Yourself every time I return to this city. I am the second generation in my family to grow up in Toronto. My grandmother was a refugee from the former Czechoslovakia post Second World War. Like many refugees, she came to Toronto where her sponsoring paternal Aunt and her community resided in the downtown. In the 1950s, Toronto became the hub to many Eastern Europeans who survived the horrors of World War 2. The downtown consisted of many industrial buildings and workers’ housing. Spadina Avenue became the heart of the textile industry where many Holocaust Survivors set up shop. My grandmother’s relations worked in this industry as seamstresses in the textile district- King Street West and Spadina Avenue. My grandmother bought her first home on Denison Avenue and Dundas Street West before the local government expropriated her home to build Ryerson Public School. She and her family would later move west to Jane Street then later to Etobicoke. Decades later my mom would relocate to the downtown core where I grew up. For the first decade of my life, I lived on Dovercourt Road. Over the course of my life it is unbelievable to see how this particular neighbourhood has changed. In the 1990s the downtown was cheap and artists moved into these reasonably priced accommodations. Artists, like my parents, were definitely a part of the first wave of creative class that contributed to the current gentrification of the Trinity-Bellwoods and the surrounding neighbourhoods. It is part of the reason why there has been a transformation of Toronto’s inner city that has displaced so many people to the outskirts furthering its socio-economic polarization. My experience growing up in the city was that you usually do not meet too many kids in your own neighbourhood, or at least there were not many in mine. It was shocking to meet Phat in University, as there are very few people my own age that I knew who had grown up in the Trinity-Bellwoods area. I am sure our paths crossed at some point during our youth without us realizing it. We may have been playing in the bushes in Trinity-Bellwoods Park together with all the other kids or maybe we could have been in Nova Era Bakery at the same time bothering our parents to buy us a custard tart-whether it was faith or luck, we met during my first month of university as young adults. As our friendship grew it was interesting to reflect on our memories of the area and how they converge and diverge with our different experiences. As young adults, it was disheartening to see our childhood wiped away and replaced by artisanal everything or a scaled down suburban food chain restaurant or corporate store. The seedy history of the area and the cultural institutes it once held were being replaced with another bar or restaurant populated by the new homogenous middle class or as the condominium advertisements state young dynamic professionals who live in the area. It outraged both of us, that this was what our city was becoming. It is a complex emotional hypocrisy to try and process, I am so mad that this city has been destroying the landmarks of my childhood but I do love me some vegan quinoa onion rings. I definitely do contribute to the next cycle of gentrification in the area, and the creation of this zine is something a participating member of the creative class would do. However, we hope that this zine archives our memories from our childhoods before they fade and encourages others to externalize their feelings of displacement and how Toronto is changing.
My parents took over the convince store after my grandparents decided to retire. Hong Phat Variety has been my home for 21 years, and has been apart of my family for over 30 years. As Vietnamese Canadians, my our family resided around queen and ossington, where a strong Portuguese and Vietnamese community grew. The area had a lot of bakeries, and car dealerships, as well as karaoke bars and pho restaurants. We’re the only store on the block with a metal gate because people used to break into our store and steal stuff when my grandparents were the owners. We since have changed it to an electrical one since the old one was falling apart. It’s really weird growing up here, I don’t necessarily have neighbours. I never really had friends either growing up since there weren’t that many families. The only person who I knew had the same similar experiences, around my age, was my sister. At times it felt like we were unfortunate to live here, especially when all our relatives lived in bigger houses and had pools and multiple cars. I never really appreciated living downtown until highschool. From there I started to love where I came from, the upbringing I had in my neighbourhood. I never realized how lucky I was, since all I ever wanted growing up was a suburban upbringing. However, understanding the neighbourhood more started making me hate it. Frankies the Burger Resturant and my store are the only places left (that have been here for 20 years plus) on the block. It’s weird seeing these new boutiques and galleries opening up. When the Shoppers on Ossington opened up, it really terrified all of us. It meant we would loose a majority of the customers, meaning much slower business. My parents were lucky to have bought the house back when it was much cheaper. If we were renting, our family would have probably moved out already. It makes me upset because this house was the cheapest place my family could afford when trying to find a place to raise my sister and I, and now they’ve spiked the prices so high that families like mine could never afford. I think it’s harder on my mom, knowing that the businesses and friends she made over the years closing down and moving out. And now she’s constantly being surrounded by younger, hipper, and wealthier businesses. Even the pho restaurants have changed, where it used to be a 5$ bowl for pho, with a lot of Vietnamese and Portuguese construction workers, now is the go to food for middle class white creatives looking for something cheap and fast. I think on our block, we’re definitely the odd ones out. Meeting Marienka was really something new. She walked into studio, and just came up to me and striked up a conversation. At first I just though she was really just trying to get votes or any student recognition for student politics. But once I was in third year, I started to get to know her more, and to realize that she’s actually a really cool person. Also the fact that she actually grew up in my area, which was insane. She was the first person I’ve ever met to have grown up in my neighbourhood. Learning about this, led to our mutual love for Toronto. I think she’s the only person I know who loves Toronto as much as I do. Because overall Toronto is really dope. And it’s great to share these experiences and memories with someone who understands them. Like yeah the TTC has its issues, and sure gentrification makes me incredibly mad, but I’ve enjoyed too many night rides on the streetcar listening to Beach House, and artisanal bread. Toronto is cool, and the city has always been such a support system to my development. It will always be my home, and will deep down always be kinda better than everywhere else.
Classic Variety Before I changed schools, my grandma would walk me to school every day. We would walk along queen, and turn at the corner, where this convince store was. The owner sold really good beef patties, and had a cool moustache. My family and theirs were friends. Havenâ€™t met them since.
Saint Johnâ€™s Lutheran Church This was the church my grandparents, who were political refugees, were married in and I was baptized there. When I was a kid, we would attend church service there and Sunday School. I was a part of a boy gang in Sunday School, we would mostly run around the church playing hide and seek. The population of the church consisted mostly of Eritrean and older Eastern Europeans. On Sundays, after service we would congregate in the basement feasting on classic church coffee and injera an East African flatbread. Sadly the church would close due to unsafe conditions as a result of the buildingâ€™s ill maintenance. A decade later I would walk by the church and pop in as the doors were no longer barred shut. As I entered, I was greeted by a member of the new congregation and offered hot pot.
Superior Sausage Company My grandpa loved a good sausage. He used to make these sausage and egg sandwiches on Portuguese bread from the bakery on ossington. I never really went into this store, but I remembered him always telling me where he got his sausages after driving me home from choir practice.
Superior Sausage Company When my mom bought sausage, sauerkraut, and raspberry syrup it meant that it was either Easter or Christmas time. These items were used for our traditional Slovak dinner that we had during these religious holidays. Superior Sausage Company was run by 4 Polish sisters; sadly, the store has recently closed after serving the community for decades and the sisters all retired. Our traditional feast has altered in flavour as the ingredients are more challenging to actually acquire. I miss their sausage! :(
210 Ossington My dad use to go here to rent out these VCR of Vietnamese variety shows, or Vietnamese Dramas. It was a video shop full of illegal movies, porn, and the latest â€œViet Sun.â€? I used to go here with my dad while he would look through the dusty catalogue binder of videos. The space was merely just a counter, with towering stacks of cassettes. I never got a long with the owners kid. He was older, but probably a gemini.
Trinity Bellwoods Park Trinity Bellwoods was one of the parks of my childhood. This was where you would go to play with your school and neighbourhood homies for hours. The bushes that divided two of the three playgrounds were used as a maze. It was the best hiding spot for hide and seek and could transform into the wilderness when 6 year-olds would pretend to be either in search of magical creatures or fending for themselves in the wild.
Phat Le @p.le.arch Marienka B-K @mbb_k