We just finished this spirited conversation about places in Toronto she doesn’t know, or believe, exist.
Actually, it started when I mentioned I was going to miss tomorrow’s annual Nuit Blanche event in Toronto. I went last year, and it was pretty good. But I have a wedding to go to the same night, so I don’t think traipsing around the city with (a) a change of clothes or (b) a dress and a pair of heels if I don’t take said change of clothes, is going to happen.
I added, “And I really wanted to go see the art exhibit they’re putting on inside Lower Bay St. Station.” The last time they opened it was for the Doors Open event back in the spring.
So my mom was asking all these questions, like where the lower station was actually located, where did it lead to, what was its original use, etc. And she said that, many years ago, a former co-worker had told her about the station, but she didn’t believe him and told him he was making it up.
So then I mentioned, “Well, there’s lots of places like that around Toronto. Take for instance that place, the Matador.”
Anyone in my age bracket or below, who knows their city well, knows what I’m talking about.
The Coles Notes version for the rest of you: The Matador is probably the longest-standing, dive-iest booze-can our great city has to offer. It used to be a dancehall during WWII, then a bowling alley in the early 1960s before two women bought it and remade it as a country music bar. Over the years, it’s played host to musicians, bikers, Harrison Ford, etc. Leonard Cohen has written a song about it.
Its most recent incarnation, however, has been the constantly raided, non-licensed after-hours establishment its patrons know and love.
The latest development, via this article: the city is trying to buy the place from the owners, tear it down and put up a parking lot, which some advocates say would be great for the YMCA diagonally across the intersection from it.
People who think it’s an institution are up in arms and want to try anything they can to stop the possibly impending buyout and demolition.
The co-owners are tired and about ready to sell … but have rejected the city’s offer.
My brother thinks it’s a dump and tearing it down is overdue. (He also drives a Volkswagen and extols the virtue of all digital devices Apple Inc., so you know where his heart lies.)
I’ve had this burning desire to go there and actually get inside. The closest I got was sometime in 2004, when I made it almost as far as the front door, to find out it was “closed” because cops were circling the area. So I KNOW it exists.
I’ve told my mother on another occasion about this place. But it was like telling her I saw The Great Pumpkin.
And here’s the kicker: way back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, she lived a couple of blocks away from this place. And she passed it to and from work everyday.
For five. Entire. Years.
She can name every OTHER building on every other corner of this particular intersection.
Except this one.
Which, for the moment, makes me her fantastical-liar-crack-smoking-first-born child.
Tonight, I tried again. She didn’t believe me. Surprise. She told me what was in the area, and I told her where this place was. Nuh-uh. She opened the Yellow Pages, which comes with handy maps of the city. Nuttin’.
I introduced her to the world of Google Maps and showed her where the building is situated. And then where SHE used to live. I showed her a picture of the sign, for crying out loud. The SIGN. It’s old, rusty and dilapidated enough for her to recognize.
“Well, it kind of looks familiar,” she said. (Insert forehead smack here.)
I even read part of an article, where people who live, like, 10 doors down know about the place and its reputation for being, well … quiet for a booze-can.
So I made my case. Although now my mom – who considers midtown Yonge and Eglinton “downtown” – wants to take a field excursion to see for herself if this place is for real. I think she’s joking. She says she’s going call her friend, who used to live nearby. But she probably won’t know, either.
But if she’s not kidding, I want to go with her, if only for (1) safety reasons, ’cause I don’t want her falling in a dumpster somewhere, and (2) to see the look on her face so I know I’ve won the argument.
Yes, I’m petty. But I’m RIGHT.
It also goes to show why we need to leave our neighbourhoods and explore our city more often.
(Image courtesy of Spacing Toronto. I hope it’s okay, guys.)