Written this past Friday…
This intersection is miles away from the house where I grew up, but I have a good memory and a strange affinity for this crossroads from my childhood. Maybe it’s because Dufferin was a major access route for the CNE, or maybe King and Dufferin are two important streets in the city, but their meeting isn’t as iconic as, say, Bloor and Yonge. Maybe it’s the streetcar tracks (it usually is the streetcar tracks), that is just one curve shy from a grand union. Far more than the intersection needs, really, since Dufferin only got streetcar service when the CNE was in operation and, since the mid 1990s, not even then. But I remember this intersection.
Today, it appears to be resisting the forces which are upscaling and gentrifying Queen West. The businesses have changed and become decidedly more multicultural. There’s a Shawarma place across the street from where I’m writing this, an Amato Pizza and Wings place, and a place for Asian noodles.
But the area is still down on its heels, somewhat. The walls are grimy, the paint is peeling, and there’s litter on the sidewalk. Even so, an eclectic mix of people move about. A young mother buys her children breakfast at McDonalds. A young professional texts. And as seems common for McDonalds restaurants across the continent, a gathering of old people congregate at one of the tables.
Looking at this intersection today, I realize that it’s the centre, the heart of the old Parkdale neighbourhood in the way that Queen West perhaps is not. The McDonald’s has been here as long as I can remember. A Burger King and a Quiznos offers competition, but the locals gravitate here. Have clearly gravitated here for decades. This is the place to shop, the place to get prescriptions filled, and the place to meet your neighbours.
It’s not presenting its best face to the outside world because it doesn’t have to. This isn’t an intersection for the tourists. It’s for the locals. And in that respect, it’s a more honest centre than perhaps many other intersections in the City of Toronto.