Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Hello Little Italy!

I have spent more than my fair share of time on College Street: enjoying the excellent chicken sandwiches at the Riviera Bakery, beers & panzerotto's on the patio of the Cafe Dip, fish sandwiches at the Fish Store, pasta at the Standard Club, or just making my way to and from the West End Y. I love the neighbourhood. But before I moved, I realized that it is going to be a very different experience from what I was used to.

I loved Kensington Market too: all the fresh produce, European Meats, amazing cheese shops, bulk food, Jumbo Empanada, car free Sundays, the Winter Solstice Festival of Lights - there is always something going on. My condo overlooked a quiet residential street with 3 storey colourful houses and big trees. But I never talked to any of the neighbours on Nassau. Mere steps from the hustle of Chinatown & the bustle of Grossman's Tavern, it just wasn't that kind of neighbourhood.

Just before I moved, I went for a morning run past the new house, to take a photo for my curious family & friends. It was just after 7 a.m., and I paused only slightly across the street, when out came the curious neighbour to the north, defending his turf. Great, I thought, the new house comes with a concierge. I went over to introduce myself as his new neighbour. He smiled and said: prego. He seemed slightly startled when I shook his hand, but he waved back as I ran away, likely wondering what he was in for. A neighbour who runs for no purpose.

I really have no idea what he was thinking. But I can see that he is a very friendly and extremely house-proud man. This neighbourhood is full of both Italian & Portuguese families with roots in the trades & construction. Mostly retired, they have oodles of time and tons of skills to customize the facades and interiors of their homes. Their perfectly manicured yards are swept and hosed daily. Will I be able to keep up with their maintenance schedules? I have to go to work, after all. Should we join the trend and have our front garden covered in brick on concrete? Am I just another "Canadian", ruining the neighbourhood?

Our houses are only a few inches apart, so without a doubt, these people are going to become a part of my life. I'm now a part of a neighbourhood, where people stand at the end of sidewalk and chat with each other in a variety of languages, and where the ice cream truck passes every day at 5:10 p.m. This is way better than the Little Italy that I thought I was moving into.

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