Open Book Toronto crushes on Stroll

By Becky Toyne
Open Book Toronto
June 2 2010

It’s been a while since I’ve had a huge crush on a book, but on May 18, along with the civic-minded masses at Lula Lounge, I was introduced to Stroll. A smart, adventurous, literate-yet-outdoorsy city boy, Stroll knows both its history and its way around town, and advocates “dressing to impress” wherever one wanders. My stilettos and I were instantly hooked — even as we mentally calculated the cost of the heel-tip replacements from all the walking we were about to do.

Stroll, by Spacing editor and Eye Weekly columnist Shawn Micallef, is a collection of essays about walks around Toronto. Its addictive spirit of exploration encourages you to walk both with your feet and your eyes, and to actually think about all the stuff you look at every day but never really see ...

As I meander my way through the book I am adding my own notes and scribbles to the margins, and my own literary bring-alongs to the checklists of what to pack and wear that open each essay. To think of In the Skin of a Lion when the Prince Edward Viaduct is in view goes without saying, but how about pausing at King and Church on Stroll’s “Downtown East End Zigzag” to imagine Jeb Hallam’s 1855 apothecary from Redhill’s Consolation? ... While engrossed in Micallef’s “CN Tower” essay, imagine if the world’s second-tallest freestanding structure just wasn’t there any more, as Darren O’Donnell did in Your Secrets Sleep With Me.

Just as the walks in Stroll intersect with one another, the whole concept of the book intersects with so many real and imagined stories of the city. Reading is generally a stationary activity, and yet in this case the point is to take the words for a walk, and to revisit stories, both personal and published, of the city in which we live.

There is something oneiric about walking through Toronto and its clusters of “Little Somethings” in summer, particularly after dark. If the weather so far this year is any indication, we’re in for a hot sticky few months ahead. So grab Stroll, pack some fictional friends from Toronto past, present and future, and go exploring. Don’t forget to dress to impress. Even if you don’t encounter a handsome stranger, your sharp outfit won’t be for naught. Toronto is always worth getting dolled up for. As is Stroll, of course. I can’t promise not to be jealous, but I bet pretty soon you’ll have a crush on him too.

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