Sunday, May 27, 2007
Long Walk, 2007 -- 23 km
Spring arrives and again, it's time for the annual long walk. Joining me on the walk was Antonia, and we set for ourselves a newsworthy destination: the estate of Conrad Moffat Black, Baron Black of Crossharbour. He's on trial in Chicago these days and probably not feeling his best, so our mission was to deliver some flowers to his home. And so, the trip began ...
Yonge & Sheppard, looking north up Yonge.
Our starting point was Don Mills & Sheppard, at the end of the new subway line in the parking garage at Fairview Mall (where I played Santa for three Xmas seasons). From there, we walked westward along Sheppard towards North York Centre. Condos are still sprouting all along Sheppard (intensification was one of the requirements for the new subway). We detoured north to pass Mel Lastman Square, then walked south on Yonge and stopped for a coffee.
If you live in North York, we found the guy who stole your lawnmower.
After walking south and under the 401, we started to think about the mission: flowers for Conrad.
(above, left) North York is the home of a special dish, the BBQ CHIKEN. (above, right) Zack waits, hoping for flowers.
At Yonge and York Mills, we stopped at the gas station to look for flowers. There were no flowers. We considered buying him a cheap cigar or maybe the latest issue of FHM. Zack wanted Doritos.
(above, left) I was worried; they never have flowers gas stations. (above, right) Antonia confirmed our worst fears, there were no flowers.
From the gas station, we continued on to Hogg's Hollow. Many of the once-modest homes have been torn down and replaced by houses built by people who seem to treat everything in their lives -- children, dogs, trees, geese, goats -- like hood ornaments.
The new construction proved one thing: money can buy a lot of things, but an ounce of taste ain't one of them. We considered pilfering a horse statue (above, left) for Conrad but it just wasn't 'right'. The brand new "log cabin" was the only new house that impressed Antonia.
Our detour led us to a dead end. There was no route through to Bayview and we would have to walk all the way back to Yonge. Without flowers. We were putting in a lot of legwork for Lord Black.
A lucky break!
After making our escape, we found a flower store on Yonge. Keeping things simple, we found the cheapest flowers possible and bought a bouquet of yellow tulips for $3.99. Obviously, we expected Black to be in Chicago and doubted the flowers would even get to him.
We walked east, to Glendon College and then up Bayview. Reaching our destination on foot was more complicated than we expected ...
(above, left) The migrant workers who usually pose in this spot don't work on weekends. (above, right) Zack give the flowers his final approval.
A family of cut-outs on the lawn of one of the houses waved to us and we almost felt at home in the enclave of the cash-non-poor. The rich are very friendly (unless you ask them to support government policies that benefit all Canadians, like funding health care). We counted down the addresses until ...
Disappointment: the gate was locked and no view of the house.
We reached the Black estate and it was the only house not visible from the street. And the gate was locked. We took a moment to rest our sore knees and feet.
(above, left) Zack likes flowers and wanted to keep them for himself. (above, right) Once again, Black finds himself on the wrong side of the law.
We left the flowers in the gate and started walking south, hoping to find a short cut back to Bayview. It didn't look promising, so we turned back and started to retrace our route ...
Almost a paparazzi.
But when we reached Conrad's gate, it had opened and there was a big, black car about to pull out. We stopped for a moment, expecting either a service vehicle or a security guard coming to get the flowers. Instead, the car pulled out in front of us and Conrad Black and Barbara Amiel were seated in the back seat. The driver waved, drove over our flowers and whizzed off. I dug into my bag and pulled out my camera but only managed to snap a shot as they rounded the corner (the camera is old, slow, failing and can't focus properly).
"Brett, you wouldn't make a very good photo journalist," Antonia said dryly.
I imagine Conrad and Babs were taking a drive over to Prince's house for some drinks with the Purple One and Sheila E.
Sore and tired, we dragged ourselves back to Bayview and from there, to Yonge & Eglinton where we celebrated a good walk with street sausages. The simple joy of the sausages made me think of poor Conrad Black and how much energy he'd invested in pompous materialism and superficial status. And what did it get him? A court date and the threat of a lengthy prison term.
And it made me think of Marge's lecture at the end of Fargo:
And for what? For a little bit of money. There's more to life than money, you know. Don't you know that?... And here ya are, and it's a beautiful day...
Eating our sausages, warm & safe, we thought of all the fun friends we met on the trip to Conrad Black's.
Previously: 2005 Long Walk
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