I headed to the Toronto Indie Arts Market today to check out some of the wares. As anticipated, I did buy anything for Christmas presents. I did however buy some great hand-made beer soap and a wallet from brewersCRAP, a company that recycles ¬†brewing materials – the wallet is made from an old malt bag, and the soap has spent grain in it as an exfoliant. Can’t wait to use it.

I also got to meet Sheryl Kirby, who I have twittered and emailed back and forth with. She’s one of the driving forces behind Beer and Buttertarts, the new food zine that bought one of my memoir pieces. She had a proof copy of the initial issue; it felt slightly surreal but incredible to hold the tangible piece and to see my name in print on page 26.

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One of the most interesting things about the Indie Arts Market was the venue. The Gladstone Hotel was built in the late 1800’s and has been in continuous operation every since.

Like many hotels, it’s seen it’s share of hard times. I used to deliver Meals on Wheels there in the 80’s, and always hated going in. It was basically a flop house by this point with all the smells and disrepair that go with that designation. The old gentleman I delivered to had a room on the third floor, and was blind as a result of complications due to diabetes. He had been a musician with one of the more famous big bands in the forties and fifties and had drank his money and his health away. He was lonely, and wanted to talk. I would have loved to stay and talk with him, but the strong smell of old urine and black mould made my eyes water and I always beat as hasty retreat as I could back down the wide wooden stairs. I lived in the neighbourhood and occasionally would join some of the other old guys int he cowboy bar for nickel draft. Not because I liked the bar or the cowboy music or the beer, but the price was right.

I knew the place had been bought and had undergone major renovations. The company that bought it had renovated other old buildings, but this was the first that still had residents in it. There was a documentary made about this period, Last Call at the Gladstone Hotel that is “…¬†a riveting and extraordinary human portrait of the effects of urban renewal upon the poor and the unintentional roles artists play in the process of gentrification.” I’m going to watch the full version this week.

Now the place is lovely. The manually-operated Victorian elevator has been fully restored – the brass glints as it slides slowly between floors. Each room is unique, designed by local artists. There are permanent and temporary art installations in the lobby, the stairwell and other public spaces, and original features like wood floors and trim, brass fixtures and wooden columns have been wonderfully restored.

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It really is visually lovely, and I enjoyed comparing it to my memories while I talked with the artisans at the Indie Arts Market. But frankly, the smug hipsters at the check-in desk annoyed me, and the smug well-to-do moms seemed to make a job of blocking my way with their SUV strollers, and good lord man, where the hell did you find plaid skinny pants that clashed so horribly with that slightly-too-small plaid jacket, all put so artfully together with that fedora to look just so?

It’s just not my aesthetic. I’m more a run-down bar with old guys and cheap draft kind of girl in the end.