click for larger. original image from an “ugliest intersections” feature, here. galleria to the left, macdonalsh to the right.
I was back not two hours and already frustrated with the Duff-ring bus. Waiting for what felt like hours, sandwiched between tall, traffic-dirtied snowbanks, while five or six buses passed in sequence across the street, going the other way. When my bus finally came, of course, it was too packed to get on — a crush of bargain shoppers, women with baby carriages, kids with hockey sticks and nylon bags bulging with equipment, cussing to each other and yapping into cellphones.
Everything was the same. There were the same dudes, parked behind the McDonald’s around the way, their souped-up Mazdas (sub-woof in the trunk, momo rims and a tinted windshield, eh bro!) blasting music with bass so heavy it rattled the windows, the frame, the entire depressing block. Shit-talking dudes with cigarettes hanging out their mouths, spitting, pacing, staring at girls, but mostly just cursing and flexing hard. When I was younger, guys like these wore their hair slicked back, dark and greasy. Now they had buzz cuts and fades, their bright leather bombers looking more hip hop than FOB. Some of them had graduated from hatchbacks to SUVs or Escalades. Probably sold drugs for Pino around the way. Probably still lived with their moms, too.
Across the parking lot from their Friday night ritual was the Galleria — the mall of lost souls. Old Portuguese men killed time from morning to dusk here, shifting from bench to bench, conversation to conversation, sometimes people watching or staring into space. Far from the Old Country and the lively cafes and public squares where they used to gather, they made do with the drab, faded brown interior and florecent lighting of the Galleria. The orange glow from the Price Chopper grocery store by the entrance was their substitute for sun, their secret weapon against the year-round S.A.D. that seemed to affect the neighbourhood. So much grey, so much asphalt, so much grime and gloom…
The same tired food stand sold stale corndogs and Italian sodas. The same lottery kiosk run by the same Korean family still had a line of customers blocking up too much of the hall, each hoping anxiously for a piece of the next big prize — something, anything to help them escape this. To ease their tired expressions, sloped shoulders, aching backs, holey winter boots, scuffed jackets, grown-out roots, waning patience, and grumpy, perpetually displeased children. Too much sugar in the diet. Veggies aren’t so fresh at the Price Chop.
Zellers used to be the big draw at this mall, Where The Lowest Price Is The Law, according to the old tag line. Clothing, canned food, greeting cards, bedding, toys, DVDs, soaps and medication for less. The aisles used to be teeming with shoppers, their carts filled and their kids tugging at their sleeves for more, screeching in portuglish or enguluese, maaaaheeeng, mãe mãe, eu quero this one, pleeease?
Since the Walmart opened down on Bloor at that much nicer, much bigger mall years ago, the Galleria, and Zellers, have emptied out dramatically. Except for the old Portuguese men wandering the halls and taking up bench space, the orange glow of the discount grocery store, and the sad-faced lottery ticket hopefuls, this place feels like a ghost town. The Dupont or Duff-ring bus is still the only way out.