An Evolutionary example of the times

Billy –
Thank you for your kind comments about my writing style.  Though at times I’ve felt like ‘unsubscribing’ (from Substack) as I gnash my teeth at the storms raging outside while you endure your tropical indulgences, I realize that so often you have been the inspiration to writing down my own thoughts and/or reactions to the day.  My yin to your yang so to speak.  And, like all exercises, good for the brain in this instance as well as the soul.  I shall persevere, if you can stand it!

March 3, 2023
Toronto, Ontario

This is not a tale of Darwinian evolution but rather, a sign of the times of how life evolves or devolves, depending on your point of view, in these days of ‘indulgence’.

Back in the 1920, the Creeds family started a fur business that eventually evolved first into a fur cleaning and storage establishment, then expanded to include high-end dry-cleaning. Come Spring, the matrons of Forest Hill and Rosedale would deposit their fur stoles and mink coats at Creeds’ art-deco building on Davenport Avenue where they would be lovingly cared for until the temperatures dropped with the onset of winter.  Gentlemen’s fine linen shirts, ladies’ silk dresses and just about any type of formal wear, especially those pertaining to weddings, were also laundered and stored at Creeds.  I remember accompanying my mother to pick up her silk scarves and my father’s silk cravats which were deemed too fine to be sent to, God forbid, an ‘ordinary’ dry cleaner.  Ones silk undergarments however, were always washed at home by hand!  As I grew older and added the odd silk piece of clothing to my wardrobe, I felt it was an indulgence too far, not to mention expensive, to follow in my mother’s footsteps.  Besides, as a child of the ’60s and if asked by my rebellious peers, I would probably have not admitted even owning such items.

One day, sometime in the early ‘90s when condo mania started to rear its ugly head in Toronto, the Creeds building was sold to make way from some urban monstrosity, but they didn’t move more than a few blocks to the West and set up shop again on Dupont.  As it happens, this location was only a couple of blocks from my house and in recent years during the summer months, my neighbour, Mario and I had early morning walks together and often liked to ‘indulge’ afterwards in a coffee at Creeds’ coffee bar which they had added to their repertoire.  However, we did this not so much for the coffee or the pastries which were unexceptional or that we wanted the caché of having ‘coffee at Creeds’, but because we liked to sit on their store-front patio and watch Rosedale matrons trying to navigate their high-end sports Mercedes or Audis into Creeds’ very small, narrow parking lot, and God help them if they had a honking great SUV!  Used to the wide driveways of their assorted mansions was poor preparation for such manoeuvring and sometimes they would just give up and leave their vehicle in the centre of the lot, successfully blocking in all the other cars.  This act of entitlement would occasionally end in an upper-class cat fight, especially if the blocked-in victim was old Rosedale, and the blocker was ‘new money’, uttered in hushed tones, of course.  Forget those mixed martial arts tournaments!  They don’t even come close to two women duking it out in the most unladylike fashion in the forecourt at Creeds.  It was not so much that they came to physical blows, though we did witness some hair pulling once, it was the delicious verbal assaults that ensued.  It involved a no-holds-barred display of ranting against one’s antecedents, the shabbiness of one’s attire if it wasn’t designer-label or if one’s shoes/bags either didn’t match or were not the latest fashion.  I kid you not!  I have heard these accusations flung around in fury, which speaks to an excessive knowledge of the world of haute couture.  Me, I wouldn’t know a Prada if it slapped me in the face!!  Anyway, it was a guaranteed form of entertainment which Mario and I vicariously enjoyed while drinking our improbably overpriced lattés.

Then, once more, the inevitable Toronto plague of more condo construction caught up with Creeds and again, they upped sticks and moved but this time just a block away into the ground floor space of a brand new condo building.  Here, in this establishment, a Studio apartment, as in one room encompassing a bathroom then open-concept kitchen and living space including where one sleeps, costs a mere $1.2 million – really! and which at that price will guarantee Creeds a live-in clientele.  Sadly, there is no outside patio, though you can still have coffee while perching on stools in front of their ground-floor windows that face the endless traffic on Dupont, but the anticipation of witnessing some high-end fisticuffs is missing.

However, the other day following a brisk walk and needing to warm up, Mario and I tried out their new establishment, more out of curiosity than out of a sense of nostalgia, and what a shock we had.  Yes, they were still selling over-priced lattés etc., but to our amazement, the rest of the quite sizeable space had been turned into a food emporium.  We enquired if one could still have dry-cleaning done and could store one’s furs, to which we were pointed in the direction of a rather dimly lit corner of the building where a small pick-up and drop-off counter could be seen.  But for the rest, it was all about the groceries, and these were not your average comestibles, with many being branded with a Creeds exclusive label on such items as meat pies, soy milk, salad dressing, tea and bespoke breads etc.  Not for the faint of heart or those strapped for cash, and you know you’ve wandered into dangerous territory when some things had no price attached.  As the adage goes:  if you have to ask the price, then you can’t afford it.

Just for fun, we decided to do an imaginary grocery shop and as I went round pretending to select fruit, veggies, meat, bread, yogurt, cheeses (these latter being eye-poppingly expensive as in brie at a mere $26 per 100grams!) etc., Mario used his phone to do a running tally.  After putting about 15 items into my pretend trolley, all of them things that I would normally buy each week, our total came to a staggering $320, and this is without selecting any of the produce that had no price tags.  The bill averaged out to slightly over $21 per item!  Good grief!  But for those with that kind of dosh, and if designer food is as important as one’s Dior, Hermes, Valentino or whoever is all the latest fashion rage, well, aren’t they the luck ones.  I was sorely tempted to ask one of the ladies who was filling up her cart if she had any idea how far that amount of money would go to feeding a family of 4 who were struggling in today’s unfriendly economic climate to even put food on the table?  But then, having seen the Forest Hill wrath first hand, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be subject to a hair-pulling match (not that I have much to pull) nor would my attire withstand a full-on dressing down, if you’ll pardon the pun!

And finally, you might well ask; what happened to the parking lot, the original source of our amusement?  Well, at the rear of the condo there is now a designated Creeds parking area of well marked and widely spaced slots where no to-ing and fro-ing is required and the well-heeled ladies of Toronto will not have to pull out their cell phones to video the outbreaks of spite and spittle to be forwarded to their Bay Street lawyers.  However, for me and Mario, we will miss these outbursts and will have to look for our entertainments elsewhere.

The snow has started to fall as I have been writing and the Toronto weather mavens are predicting this winter’s highest snow fall at somewhere between 25 to 30cm by morning.  Perhaps, like the ground hogs, we shall hibernate until the spring, and if provisions run low, I can put on my cross-country skis and nip down to Creeds for a few goodies, it now being our closest grocery stores and TG, I still have a fur coat so I can arrive in style.  No problem parking my skis either!!  Paul however, may object to having to mortgage the house to indulge in such extravagances!!

Until then,
Cheers and hugs,