You Say Ni Hao
A Saturday in early Spring. Sunny, warm, but cool and damp in the shadows and under the clouds, the soil heavy with water, the streets dusted with cherry blossoms. A day made for a drift. In some other time, some other place, some other altogether, on order of the duly drafted President of the Republic, with the unanimous consent of the Union of Drifters & Idlers, today would be a holiday.
We marked the occasion anyway. In no hurry -a prerequisite for such perambulations- we set out. Our destination, decidedly imprecise: West, by Northwestish.
We improvised a path through quiet, tree-lined streets, across busy thoroughfares, past resting warehouses, over train lines and into deserted alleyways. Time slowed to a dawdling pace punctuated by numerous pit stops to take in the eclectic juxtapositions: a old house lost in a flurry of improbable additions next to a tiny, sharply modern laneway bungalow; a near-wild garden with a mattress frame gate across from a completely paved-over back yard; an enormous, property-straddling rusted structure of remarkable vintage and unclear purpose; a bit of cryptic graffito.
We walked on. A zig at Gore, a zag at Keefer and with the sun in my eyes I stopped in my tracks. I took in the street slopping west, lined by a hodgepodge of buildings of the indistinctly functional variety. Two blocks away, where the decline met fill, a kink in the grid, the Canadian Chinese Monument standing abeam the street, framed by the Sun Yat-sen Park -itself framed by the silhouetted forest of glass and steel towers further west.
I stood looking at this real-time portrait for a time. Perhaps it was just the day -the sunlight, the indulgent company, the mild dose of intoxicants- but on this day I felt the low-level voltage of an alignment -of geography, scale, and history, of the contrast and the link between the over there and the right here: a highly unlikely balance born of anarchy.
Just a few paces on towards Main and this delicate symmetry vanishes completely. The result of a slight change in angle? A modest dimming of the light?
At the corner, the source of the disruption: the unmistakable signs of the impending reality of twin out-of-scale and out-of-place structures that will flank Keefer; a couple of over-sized, angular boils that will indelibly mark the illnesses’ relentless spread East. Far from complete, but already sucking energy.
“Ni Hao,” announce the hoarding to the South.
I say goodbye.