Friday, May 23, 2008

Wherever you see a Coffee Time, you see a bad neighbourhood, given that the good people at Coffee Time set up shop exclusively at the questionable intersections of Toronto. Tim Hortons is everywhere and Starbucks and Second Cup cater to the richer parts of town, but someone needs to cater to the people who can pay Tim Hortons prices but would rather sit somewhere dingier and rat-infested. Wherever there is a Coffee Time, there is a crack den or homeless shelter not too far away, and the insides of the establishment will be populated with the tired and huddled masses yearning to breathe free if not for the smoke inside and their various ailments, warts and so on. I'm sure I'm not the first to come up with a Correlative Theory of Coffee Time Creepiness, which I first postulated with eyes agape at the now-vanished Coffee Time at College and Spadina.

Someday, future generations will have no idea that the high-end Tim Hortons in that spot was once a large coffee shop with two tables but space for thirty, along with a smoking room populated by centenarian amputees, who looked old enough to have taken part in the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837, along with the indigent and the crack-addicted, who used that shop as their own personal crack den. What I found most surreal about the place was that people, decent, honest people, worked behind the counter there, including the overnight shift since Coffee Times are open 24 hours.

Name a less-than-desirable intersection in Toronto, and there is a Coffee Time there, and that is only where you find Coffee Times. You can find one at Parliament and Wellesley, Dundas and Jarvis, Queen and Parliament (for those unfamiliar with the area, neither Queen nor Parliament retain much sway at this intersection) and, of course, once at the granddaddy of them all, College and Spadina.

Today I walked roughly 6 km from Bloor and Dundas to Queen and Bathurst, leisurely taking in the skeeze of Bloor and Dundas and the urban blight and artistic absurdity and vanity of Parkdale. Parkdale is an area that has seen worse days, if you consider hipsters wearing ridiculous clothing hanging outside pathetic art galleries to be a form of progress over crack-addicted prostitutes. I saw no less than five Coffee Times on this walk, passing close by another two, and passing about 3-4 shops that were former Coffee Time franchises. A former acquaintance discusses the propensity of Coffee Time franchises to cut ties with the mother ship with the flimsiest of rebranding efforts here.

When Coffee Times past and present began to give way to Starbucks, most prominently at Dovercourt, where I saw a Starbucks, an obnoxious twit with a pink mohawk and a gigantic hummer, I knew that urban blight had given way to urban vanity and that the adventure was over. Yes, the art galleries and the Starbucks and the cheap lofts replacing the by-the-hour motel at Queen and Ossington are good for the economy or something or other, but it's actually more interesting over by Queen and Lansdowne, where a fragile-looking pimp runs his business half in a streetcar shelter and half inside a convenience store. Unsurprisingly, there are seven Coffee Times within a mile of his operation.

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