Never be afraid to get dirty, but be sufficiently sure-footed to avoid the abyss of contamination.


Last month, a friend showed me photos she had taken of graffiti in Berlin. It was interesting to see these images, and some of the murals were spectacular. Unlike the designated Graffiti Wall in Athens, Ohio, Berlin’s city scratches appeared to be omnipresent. Perhaps due to some strange cognitive anomaly, I became acutely aware of Toronto’s graffiti this week.

Past trips to the city had taken me to the whitewashed surroundings of The Beaches, CN Tower, and Casa Loma. While those experiences had been exciting at the time, I wanted an unsterilized view of the city, so on Wednesday, Justin led me on an unauthorized tour. 

In a few hours, the pristine Toronto in my mind was marked with new and interesting features. These markings extended beyond the walls of the men’s washroom at the Drake Hotel into the streets of the city. While walking through the many residential neighborhoods interspersed among commercial districts, we noticed a house that had been partially converted into a store. We sampled the unique potato-based desserts of Koreatown and saw the machine that produced them. Koreatown gave way to The Annex, where Honest Ed Mirvish’s flamboyant antics made him a local celebrity. 

Chain stores didn’t disappear completely, but we stumbled upon independent businesses like Ten Editions Books. Unlike the carefully stacked walls of Barnes and Noble, many of the rare and used books at Ten Editions littered the floors or could be found in small towers of cardboard boxes. After sifting through these piles, we left with a few gems.

Throughout the trek, we passed several walls filled with graffiti. When Justin noticed me taking a photo of one of the city’s many murals, he led me to a series of alleyways produced by Style In Progress, which plans to paint over much of its own wall art this Sunday. It will be interesting to see what replaces the following graffiti:

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