Being there at least once a week for my shift at WORN, Roncesvales and Parkdale have become my new hood. It’s an oddly mixed neighbourhood, to phrase it politely. It’s always surprising, when you’re making your way to the WORN house in your cute little outfit, to pass a shirtless man muttering to himself or a woman on her porch screeching into her cell phone “I KNOW HE’S NOT YOUR FUCKING KID OKAY!” But, as they said in the bizarre BBC teleplay Abigail’s Party, another word for mixed is ‘cosmopolitan’ and it’s from the tossing of people together like a salad that a city’s dynamism derives from.
With some coaxing, I agreed to work the WORN table at the Parkdale Bazaar, a craft, vintage, jewellery, and ‘zine fair on Saturday. Through a complex set of circumstances which, from fear of getting in trouble with the Toronto police I will not recount here, I ended up alone at the table for most of the morning. I had a stack of fresh magazines, a box of pins (WORN loves its pins) and my collection of past issues to read during down time, because I theorized that it wouldn’t look very good me reading anything else at the WORN table.
I was directly in the glare of the morning sun and I felt like an amateur when I noticed that the woman beside me, selling hand-sewn baby bibs and such, had brought a giant black umbrella. (She also had an adorable baby who wore black and yellow-striped leggings and became obsessed with trying to wedge open a suitcase with its key). I just had a bottle of water to stave off the dehydration and sunstroke, but I also didn’t want to drink too fast because then I would have to pee and I had no one to watch the table.
Having no one to sub in also prevented me from visiting the other tables as early as I would have liked. My table was on a stretch I called ‘paper alley’ because beside me were two guys who were selling news-print ‘zines (and had Alice Cooper-ish props, like animal skulls, black candles and incense) and across from me was another ‘zine seller, an artist with abstract prints and an illustrator with his posters hanging on string on the brick wall. His work had the bold yet lyrical quality of classic covers of The New Yorker, an aesthetic which has a dear place in my heart. But, for the time being, I was stuck at my table.
Luckily, I had good friends. Dervla visited with her visiting Australian friend, and Jess Bartram, an honourary WORNETTE by this point, brought me a lemonata and sat with me for more than an hour. She is very excited about her upcoming show at the Freedom Clothing Collective. But I also made new connections: Nicole Varney, who makes feathered headdresses, gushed over WORN and I described our upcoming article about vintage eyeglass frames to cat-eye-wearing Samantha Cutrara, who makes kitschy accessories and postcards. Both said that buying a copy from me would depend on how much money they made, and Samantha joked about the products at these fairs often just end up traded between the participants.
Just like with the parents involved in kids’ sports leagues or toddler beauty pageants, craft fairs are as much for the sellers as the buyers.
The only annoying incident was when a guy in a Hawaiian shirt engaged me in a very lengthy discussion about fashion, the magazine and Norah Jones in a polka-dot dress he may or may not have imagined, until he walked over and talked to the abstract artist for twice as long.
When the fabulous Chelsea showed up in the afternoon, I had a chance to pee, buy samosas and pagoras from an Indian convenience store (three dollars for five pieces!) and finally got a chance to walk around. I approached the illustrator across the ‘paper alley’ from me.
“I really like your stuff,” I told him, picking out a scene of a Victorian tower freckled with snow to buy. “It reminds me of New Yorker covers.”
“They’re my main inspiration, man,” he said. “For both my art and my writing.”
His name is Jack Dylan (Jack Dylan—Famous Artist, his hilariously deadpan business card states) and he’s done illustrations for publications like The Globe and Mail, The Walrus and Toronto Life, as well as doing advertisements for the Pop Montreal Festival and a clothing line in Japan. What really won me over was him explaining that he’d start works sometimes without having a client in mind, having even sent one to The New Yorker with a card that said something like “a humble submission”. It’s like us writers who feel like we have to keep blogging, even if we don’t know what we’ll end up using it for or if anyone’s even reading it, just to keep writing.
“You’re packing up already?” I asked Chelsea.
“Max, it’s five o’clock and spitting rain,” she answered. “Everyone’s leaving. You’ve been here since ten!”
“I guess…” I said.
When I got home, before changing my sweaty clothes, having a shower or drinking three large glasses of water, I looked up my new friends’ websites.