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Friday, 8 April 2016

the 'College/Spadina vortex'

Hi David,
A quick reply - I'm finding in my late 60s that if I leave an email reply waiting too long, well, it may never get answered. The downside is that I sometimes freak out new correspondents with too many quick replies & questions  ;  )

One of the friends/contacts I forwarded your project to thinks they may have known Sharon in Toronto. A description of her would help them clarify if this is the same person, & might be of some help with your research.

Yes, I met Brian Purdy a few times, including featuring him as a reader at the Main Street Library Poetry Series I ran in Toronto from 1979 to 1985. I also featured his half sister, Sharon Berg, at another one of these readings.

Yes, please go ahead & contact Peter Rowe. A direct, personal request from you may be the final bit of persuasion Peter needs. Have you considered my suggestion of having a phone call with him? Peter may be reluctant to write a description of those years, but he sure can talk about them in a colourful & vibrant way!

It's good that William took you to visit Grossman's Tavern. It's part of an artistic/bohemian cultural vortex, which is just starting to dissolve as I write this. Across the street is El Mocambo, the nightclub where the Stones recorded their live album many decades ago (this was when Margaret Trudeau, the wife of our then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau & father of our current PM, Justin Trudeau, was running wild with the Stones).

Half a block away, across the divide of College Street, is the Waverley Hotel where Milton Acorn lived most of his final years in abject conditions. Next to the Waverley is the notorious Silver Dollar Bar, which still features alternative music (e.g. new, not yet famous bands). North up Spadina Avenue & around the corner on the next major street, Bloor Street, was The Brunswick House, home of the blues in the upstairs bar.

I spent several nights when I was younger pub crawling among these notorious haunts. A beer or 2 at El Mo, maybe a visit to The In Town (where black Americans congregated - kind of an update of the underground railroad in the era of Jim Crow in the U.S.). A pint at Grossman's, back to the Silver Dollar to watch a haggard stripper, then up to Bloor to close the evening above The Brunswick House singing (in my mind!) along with some famous blues player.


Lots more memories of the Spadina Avenue vortex!!! For several years I was a politko in The Canadian Liberation Movement, & our headquarters was at College & Spadina - a few doors from ElMo. A few years later, in 1978/80, I went to George Brown for my chef's papers (Nassau Street - little side street a few doors from ElMo - which leads to Kensington Market).

I received the first Milton Acorn People's Poet Award at Grossman's - think that was 1987. A few years before a doc was made of the poets I published with my small press, Unfinished Monument Press. I remember filming at Grossman's & being very drunk & singing in the alleyway (what else - Stones, "I'm just sitting on a fence")!!!  I'm very camera shy, but somehow I was twice filmed at Grossman's - for the UnMon doc & when I received the Acorn Award. We premiered the doc at The Brunswick House - where else (met a girlfriend that night, Laurie Henderson, she lived with me for a tempestuous year after that).  

Even wrote a poem about the College Streetcar - shit, I even titled my 1979 chapbook 'College Streetcar Runs All Night'. Jeez, never realized the extent that area affected my life  ;  )

better close & make morning coffee ...

peace & poetry power!

p.s. really like your art!!! It reminds me of the spiritual carvings at nearby Petroglyphs Provincial Park - I did somethign simiilar, combining elements of First Nations glyph carving with some 'zen Japanese' influence on the sacred rock face at my ZenRiver Gardens retreat. I sold the retreat at the end of last summer to a new caretaker/guardian. I'll see if I can find a pic.