Into the City

Toronto, summer – 1970 something.

I lived in a bedsit in Rosedale. I was straight out of school and the city was an exciting, noisy place. The Zumburger on the corner of Bloor and Yonge was where we would meet.

In those days Yonge St was grubby and colourful. I loved it. I can remember the smell of it in the heat of the summer: car exhausts, food cooking, patchouli oil, marijuana and incense. I used to go to the Riverboat in Yorkville to hear music – Don McLean played his new song American Pie and Tim Hardin took three of us in with him, when we couldn’t afford the entrance fee. Tim became a friend and a few years later when he visited us in England and was trying to kick his heroin habit, I would buy him his Collis Brown medicine from every chemist in town. He drank the bottles down in one.

To get into the city I would sometimes by-pass the subway and walk along Bloor St. past a dark and intimate bar that looked like the kind of sophisticated place that I might want to explore in another time of my life. But then I was a scornful young hippy – bare feet, patched jeans and a good deal of embroidered cheescloth. When a few of us went to see BB King at the CBC studios we were relegated to the back row because we looked too disreputable. Being disapproved of was something we positively courted.

As I walked into the centre of Toronto on hot nights, it felt as though my life was lighting up, along with the city – and that’s where the song comes from.

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