Daydreams of the past


David MacFarlane goes walking down the street and into the past at The Walrus. As I was walking down Spadina Avenue in Toronto early one summer morning, I saw two workmen. They were replacing the old sign for a Vietnamese restaurant. One man stood at the top of a ladder. The other was below, looking up from the sidewalk with all the furious concentration of someone who doesn’t want anybody to get the idea that he’s not doing anything.

 I'd thought of this restaurant as a new addition to the neighbourhood. But as I passed, I realized it wasn’t new at all. I’d been walking by it for years. I am old enough now to lose track of these things. Evidently, it was old enough to need a new sign.I like walking along Spadina on summer mornings. Later in the day, the wide sidewalks become so busy that, partly as a matter of navigation, I am preoccupied by the eddies of people around the Chinese stalls of live crab and bok choy, and the fruits I wouldn’t begin to know how to eat. But earlier in the day, I can entertain a longer perspective, and, as a result, the eastern sunlight takes on an antique quality. It’s possible to experience the jumbled streetscape in a way that’s not so different from how someone might have seen it while heading to Kensington Market to buy groceries on a summer morning in the 1940s.

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